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Title: Democracy in America — Volume 1
Author: Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1805-1859
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Alexis De Tocqueville

Translated by Henry Reeve

Book One


Special Introduction By Hon. John T. Morgan

In the eleven years that separated the Declaration of the Independence
of the United States from the completion of that act in the ordination
of our written Constitution, the great minds of America were bent upon
the study of the principles of government that were essential to the
preservation of the liberties which had been won at great cost and with
heroic labors and sacrifices. Their studies were conducted in view of
the imperfections that experience had developed in the government of the
Confederation, and they were, therefore, practical and thorough.

When the Constitution was thus perfected and established, a new form of
government was created, but it was neither speculative nor experimental
as to the principles on which it was based. If they were true
principles, as they were, the government founded upon them was destined
to a life and an influence that would continue while the liberties it
was intended to preserve should be valued by the human family. Those
liberties had been wrung from reluctant monarchs in many contests,
in many countries, and were grouped into creeds and established in
ordinances sealed with blood, in many great struggles of the people.
They were not new to the people. They were consecrated theories, but
no government had been previously established for the great purpose of
their preservation and enforcement. That which was experimental in our
plan of government was the question whether democratic rule could be so
organized and conducted that it would not degenerate into license and
result in the tyranny of absolutism, without saving to the people the
power so often found necessary of repressing or destroying their enemy,
when he was found in the person of a single despot.

When, in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville came to study Democracy in America,
the trial of nearly a half-century of the working of our system had been
made, and it had been proved, by many crucial tests, to be a government
of "liberty regulated by law," with such results in the development of
strength, in population, wealth, and military and commercial power, as
no age had ever witnessed.

[See Alexis De Tocqueville]

De Tocqueville had a special inquiry to prosecute, in his visit to
America, in which his generous and faithful soul and the powers of his
great intellect were engaged in the patriotic effort to secure to the
people of France the blessings that Democracy in America had ordained
and established throughout nearly the entire Western Hemisphere. He had
read the story of the French Revolution, much of which had been recently
written in the blood of men and women of great distinction who were
his progenitors; and had witnessed the agitations and terrors of the
Restoration and of the Second Republic, fruitful in crime and sacrifice,
and barren of any good to mankind.

He had just witnessed the spread of republican government through all
the vast continental possessions of Spain in America, and the loss of
her great colonies. He had seen that these revolutions were accomplished
almost without the shedding of blood, and he was filled with anxiety to
learn the causes that had placed republican government, in France, in
such contrast with Democracy in America.

De Tocqueville was scarcely thirty years old when he began his studies
of Democracy in America. It was a bold effort for one who had no special
training in government, or in the study of political economy, but he
had the example of Lafayette in establishing the military foundation of
these liberties, and of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton,
all of whom were young men, in building upon the Independence of the
United States that wisest and best plan of general government that was
ever devised for a free people.

He found that the American people, through their chosen representatives
who were instructed by their wisdom and experience and were supported
by their virtues--cultivated, purified and ennobled by self-reliance and
the love of God--had matured, in the excellent wisdom of their counsels,
a new plan of government, which embraced every security for their
liberties and equal rights and privileges to all in the pursuit of
happiness. He came as an honest and impartial student and his great
commentary, like those of Paul, was written for the benefit of all
nations and people and in vindication of truths that will stand for
their deliverance from monarchical rule, while time shall last.

A French aristocrat of the purest strain of blood and of the most
honorable lineage, whose family influence was coveted by crowned heads;
who had no quarrel with the rulers of the nation, and was secure
against want by his inherited estates; was moved by the agitations
that compelled France to attempt to grasp suddenly the liberties and
happiness we had gained in our revolution and, by his devout love
of France, to search out and subject to the test of reason the
basic principles of free government that had been embodied in our
Constitution. This was the mission of De Tocqueville, and no mission
was ever more honorably or justly conducted, or concluded with greater
eclat, or better results for the welfare of mankind.

His researches were logical and exhaustive. They included every phase of
every question that then seemed to be apposite to the great inquiry he
was making.

The judgment of all who have studied his commentaries seems to have been
unanimous, that his talents and learning were fully equal to his task.
He began with the physical geography of this country, and examined the
characteristics of the people, of all races and conditions, their social
and religious sentiments, their education and tastes; their industries,
their commerce, their local governments, their passions and prejudices,
and their ethics and literature; leaving nothing unnoticed that might
afford an argument to prove that our plan and form of government was
or was not adapted especially to a peculiar people, or that it would be
impracticable in any different country, or among any different people.

The pride and comfort that the American people enjoy in the great
commentaries of De Tocqueville are far removed from the selfish
adulation that comes from a great and singular success. It is the
consciousness of victory over a false theory of government which has
afflicted mankind for many ages, that gives joy to the true American, as
it did to De Tocqueville in his great triumph.

When De Tocqueville wrote, we had lived less than fifty years under our
Constitution. In that time no great national commotion had occurred that
tested its strength, or its power of resistance to internal strife, such
as had converted his beloved France into fields of slaughter torn by
tempests of wrath.

He had a strong conviction that no government could be ordained that
could resist these internal forces, when, they are directed to its
destruction by bad men, or unreasoning mobs, and many then believed, as
some yet believe, that our government is unequal to such pressure, when
the assault is thoroughly desperate.

Had De Tocqueville lived to examine the history of the United States
from 1860 to 1870, his misgivings as to this power of self-preservation
would, probably, have been cleared off. He would have seen that, at
the end of the most destructive civil war that ever occurred, when
animosities of the bitterest sort had banished all good feeling from
the hearts of our people, the States of the American Union, still in
complete organization and equipped with all their official entourage,
aligned themselves in their places and took up the powers and duties of
local government in perfect order and without embarrassment. This would
have dispelled his apprehensions, if he had any, about the power of the
United States to withstand the severest shocks of civil war. Could he
have traced the further course of events until they open the portals of
the twentieth century, he would have cast away his fears of our
ability to restore peace, order, and prosperity, in the face of any
difficulties, and would have rejoiced to find in the Constitution of the
United States the remedy that is provided for the healing of the nation.

De Tocqueville examined, with the care that is worthy the importance
of the subject, the nature and value of the system of "local
self-government," as we style this most important feature of our plan,
and (as has often happened) when this or any subject has become a matter
of anxious concern, his treatment of the questions is found to have been
masterly and his preconceptions almost prophetic.

We are frequently indebted to him for able expositions and true
doctrines relating to subjects that have slumbered in the minds of the
people until they were suddenly forced on our attention by unexpected

In his introductory chapter, M. De Tocqueville says: "Amongst the novel
objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United
States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of
conditions." He referred, doubtless, to social and political conditions
among the people of the white race, who are described as "We, the
people," in the opening sentence of the Constitution. The last three
amendments of the Constitution have so changed this, that those who were
then negro slaves are clothed with the rights of citizenship, including
the right of suffrage. This was a political party movement, intended to
be radical and revolutionary, but it will, ultimately, react because it
has not the sanction of public opinion.

If M. De Tocqueville could now search for a law that would negative this
provision in its effect upon social equality, he would fail to find it.
But he would find it in the unwritten law of the natural aversion of the
races. He would find it in public opinion, which is the vital force in
every law in a free government. This is a subject that our Constitution
failed to regulate, because it was not contemplated by its authors. It
is a question that will settle itself, without serious difficulty. The
equality in the suffrage, thus guaranteed to the negro race, alone--for
it was not intended to include other colored races--creates a new phase
of political conditions that M. De Tocqueville could not foresee.
Yet, in his commendation of the local town and county governments,
he applauds and sustains that elementary feature of our political
organization which, in the end, will render harmless this wide departure
from the original plan and purpose of American Democracy. "Local
Self-Government," independent of general control, except for general
purposes, is the root and origin of all free republican government, and
is the antagonist of all great political combinations that threaten the
rights of minorities. It is the public opinion formed in the independent
expressions of towns and other small civil districts that is the
real conservatism of free government. It is equally the enemy of that
dangerous evil, the corruption of the ballot-box, from which it is now
apprehended that one of our greatest troubles is to arise.

The voter is selected, under our laws, because he has certain physical
qualifications--age and sex. His disqualifications, when any are
imposed, relate to his education or property, and to the fact that he
has not been convicted of crime. Of all men he should be most directly
amenable to public opinion.

The test of moral character and devotion to the duties of good
citizenship are ignored in the laws, because the courts can seldom deal
with such questions in a uniform and satisfactory way, under rules that
apply alike to all. Thus the voter, selected by law to represent himself
and four other non-voting citizens, is often a person who is unfit for
any public duty or trust. In a town government, having a small area of
jurisdiction, where the voice of the majority of qualified voters is
conclusive, the fitness of the person who is to exercise that high
representative privilege can be determined by his neighbors and
acquaintances, and, in the great majority of cases, it will be decided
honestly and for the good of the country. In such meetings, there is
always a spirit of loyalty to the State, because that is loyalty to
the people, and a reverence for God that gives weight to the duties and
responsibilities of citizenship.

M. De Tocqueville found in these minor local jurisdictions the
theoretical conservatism which, in the aggregate, is the safest reliance
of the State. So we have found them, in practice, the true protectors
of the purity of the ballot, without which all free government will
degenerate into absolutism.

In the future of the Republic, we must encounter many difficult and
dangerous situations, but the principles established in the Constitution
and the check upon hasty or inconsiderate legislation, and upon
executive action, and the supreme arbitrament of the courts, will be
found sufficient for the safety of personal rights, and for the safety
of the government, and the prophetic outlook of M. De Tocqueville will
be fully realized through the influence of Democracy in America. Each
succeeding generation of Americans will find in the pure and impartial
reflections of De Tocqueville a new source of pride in our institutions
of government, and sound reasons for patriotic effort to preserve
them and to inculcate their teachings. They have mastered the power of
monarchical rule in the American Hemisphere, freeing religion from all
shackles, and will spread, by a quiet but resistless influence,
through the islands of the seas to other lands, where the appeals of
De Tocqueville for human rights and liberties have already inspired the
souls of the people.

Hon. John T. Morgan

Special Introduction By Hon. John J. Ingalls

Nearly two-thirds of a century has elapsed since the appearance of
"Democracy in America," by Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de Tocqueville, a
French nobleman, born at Paris, July 29, 1805.

Bred to the law, he exhibited an early predilection for philosophy and
political economy, and at twenty-two was appointed judge-auditor at the
tribunal of Versailles.

In 1831, commissioned ostensibly to investigate the penitentiary system
of the United States, he visited this country, with his friend, Gustave
de Beaumont, travelling extensively through those parts of the Republic
then subdued to settlement, studying the methods of local, State, and
national administration, and observing the manners and habits, the daily
life, the business, the industries and occupations of the people.

"Democracy in America," the first of four volumes upon "American
Institutions and their Influence," was published in 1835. It was
received at once by the scholars and thinkers of Europe as a profound,
impartial, and entertaining exposition of the principles of popular,
representative self-government.

Napoleon, "The mighty somnambulist of a vanished dream," had abolished
feudalism and absolutism, made monarchs and dynasties obsolete, and
substituted for the divine right of kings the sovereignty of the people.

Although by birth and sympathies an aristocrat, M. de Tocqueville
saw that the reign of tradition and privilege at last was ended. He
perceived that civilization, after many bloody centuries, had entered a
new epoch. He beheld, and deplored, the excesses that had attended the
genesis of the democratic spirit in France, and while he loved liberty,
he detested the crimes that had been committed in its name. Belonging
neither to the class which regarded the social revolution as an
innovation to be resisted, nor to that which considered political
equality the universal panacea for the evils of humanity, he resolved
by personal observation of the results of democracy in the New World
to ascertain its natural consequences, and to learn what the nations of
Europe had to hope or fear from its final supremacy.

That a youth of twenty-six should entertain a design so broad and bold
implies singular intellectual intrepidity. He had neither model
nor precedent. The vastness and novelty of the undertaking increase
admiration for the remarkable ability with which the task was performed.

Were literary excellence the sole claim of "Democracy in America" to
distinction, the splendor of its composition alone would entitle it to
high place among the masterpieces of the century. The first chapter,
upon the exterior form of North America, as the theatre upon which the
great drama is to be enacted, for graphic and picturesque description
of the physical characteristics of the continent is not surpassed
in literature: nor is there any subdivision of the work in which the
severest philosophy is not invested with the grace of poetry, and the
driest statistics with the charm of romance. Western emigration seemed
commonplace and prosaic till M. de Tocqueville said, "This gradual and
continuous progress of the European race toward the Rocky Mountains has
the solemnity of a providential event; it is like a deluge of men rising
unabatedly, and daily driven onward by the hand of God!"

The mind of M. de Tocqueville had the candor of the photographic camera.
It recorded impressions with the impartiality of nature. The image was
sometimes distorted, and the perspective was not always true, but he
was neither a panegyrist, nor an advocate, nor a critic. He observed
American phenomena as illustrations, not as proof nor arguments; and
although it is apparent that the tendency of his mind was not wholly
favorable to the democratic principle, yet those who dissent from his
conclusions must commend the ability and courage with which they are

Though not originally written for Americans, "Democracy in America" must
always remain a work of engrossing and constantly increasing interest to
citizens of the United States as the first philosophic and comprehensive
view of our society, institutions, and destiny. No one can rise even
from the most cursory perusal without clearer insight and more patriotic
appreciation of the blessings of liberty protected by law, nor without
encouragement for the stability and perpetuity of the Republic. The
causes which appeared to M. de Tocqueville to menace both, have gone.
The despotism of public opinion, the tyranny of majorities, the absence
of intellectual freedom which seemed to him to degrade administration
and bring statesmanship, learning, and literature to the level of the
lowest, are no longer considered. The violence of party spirit has
been mitigated, and the judgment of the wise is not subordinated to the
prejudices of the ignorant.

Other dangers have come. Equality of conditions no longer exists.
Prophets of evil predict the downfall of democracy, but the student
of M. de Tocqueville will find consolation and encouragement in the
reflection that the same spirit which has vanquished the perils of
the past, which he foresaw, will be equally prepared for the
responsibilities of the present and the future.

The last of the four volumes of M. de Tocqueville's work upon American
institutions appeared in 1840.

In 1838 he was chosen member of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences. In 1839 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He became
a member of the French Academy in 1841. In 1848 he was in the Assembly,
and from June 2nd to October 31st he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The coup d'etat of December 2, 1851 drove him from the public service.
In 1856 he published "The Old Regime and the Revolution." He died at
Cannes, April 15, 1859, at the age of fifty-four.

Hon. John J. Ingalls

Introductory Chapter

Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay
in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general
equality of conditions. I readily discovered the prodigious influence
which this primary fact exercises on the whole course of society, by
giving a certain direction to public opinion, and a certain tenor to
the laws; by imparting new maxims to the governing powers, and peculiar
habits to the governed. I speedily perceived that the influence of this
fact extends far beyond the political character and the laws of the
country, and that it has no less empire over civil society than over
the Government; it creates opinions, engenders sentiments, suggests the
ordinary practices of life, and modifies whatever it does not produce.
The more I advanced in the study of American society, the more I
perceived that the equality of conditions is the fundamental fact from
which all others seem to be derived, and the central point at which all
my observations constantly terminated.

I then turned my thoughts to our own hemisphere, where I imagined that
I discerned something analogous to the spectacle which the New World
presented to me. I observed that the equality of conditions is daily
progressing towards those extreme limits which it seems to have reached
in the United States, and that the democracy which governs the American
communities appears to be rapidly rising into power in Europe. I hence
conceived the idea of the book which is now before the reader.

It is evident to all alike that a great democratic revolution is
going on amongst us; but there are two opinions as to its nature and
consequences. To some it appears to be a novel accident, which as such
may still be checked; to others it seems irresistible, because it is the
most uniform, the most ancient, and the most permanent tendency which is
to be found in history. Let us recollect the situation of France seven
hundred years ago, when the territory was divided amongst a small number
of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of
the inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family
inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by
which man could act on man, and landed property was the sole source of
power. Soon, however, the political power of the clergy was founded, and
began to exert itself: the clergy opened its ranks to all classes, to
the poor and the rich, the villein and the lord; equality penetrated
into the Government through the Church, and the being who as a serf must
have vegetated in perpetual bondage took his place as a priest in the
midst of nobles, and not infrequently above the heads of kings.

The different relations of men became more complicated and more numerous
as society gradually became more stable and more civilized. Thence the
want of civil laws was felt; and the order of legal functionaries soon
rose from the obscurity of the tribunals and their dusty chambers, to
appear at the court of the monarch, by the side of the feudal barons in
their ermine and their mail. Whilst the kings were ruining themselves
by their great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources
by private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by commerce.
The influence of money began to be perceptible in State affairs. The
transactions of business opened a new road to power, and the financier
rose to a station of political influence in which he was at once
flattered and despised. Gradually the spread of mental acquirements, and
the increasing taste for literature and art, opened chances of success
to talent; science became a means of government, intelligence led to
social power, and the man of letters took a part in the affairs of the
State. The value attached to the privileges of birth decreased in the
exact proportion in which new paths were struck out to advancement. In
the eleventh century nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth
it might be purchased; it was conferred for the first time in 1270;
and equality was thus introduced into the Government by the aristocracy

In the course of these seven hundred years it sometimes happened that in
order to resist the authority of the Crown, or to diminish the power of
their rivals, the nobles granted a certain share of political rights to
the people. Or, more frequently, the king permitted the lower orders
to enjoy a degree of power, with the intention of repressing the
aristocracy. In France the kings have always been the most active and
the most constant of levellers. When they were strong and ambitious they
spared no pains to raise the people to the level of the nobles; when
they were temperate or weak they allowed the people to rise above
themselves. Some assisted the democracy by their talents, others by
their vices. Louis XI and Louis XIV reduced every rank beneath the
throne to the same subjection; Louis XV descended, himself and all his
Court, into the dust.

As soon as land was held on any other than a feudal tenure, and
personal property began in its turn to confer influence and power, every
improvement which was introduced in commerce or manufacture was a fresh
element of the equality of conditions. Henceforward every new discovery,
every new want which it engendered, and every new desire which craved
satisfaction, was a step towards the universal level. The taste for
luxury, the love of war, the sway of fashion, and the most superficial
as well as the deepest passions of the human heart, co-operated to
enrich the poor and to impoverish the rich.

From the time when the exercise of the intellect became the source of
strength and of wealth, it is impossible not to consider every addition
to science, every fresh truth, and every new idea as a germ of power
placed within the reach of the people. Poetry, eloquence, and memory,
the grace of wit, the glow of imagination, the depth of thought, and all
the gifts which are bestowed by Providence with an equal hand, turned
to the advantage of the democracy; and even when they were in the
possession of its adversaries they still served its cause by throwing
into relief the natural greatness of man; its conquests spread,
therefore, with those of civilization and knowledge, and literature
became an arsenal where the poorest and the weakest could always find
weapons to their hand.

In perusing the pages of our history, we shall scarcely meet with a
single great event, in the lapse of seven hundred years, which has not
turned to the advantage of equality. The Crusades and the wars of the
English decimated the nobles and divided their possessions; the erection
of communities introduced an element of democratic liberty into the
bosom of feudal monarchy; the invention of fire-arms equalized the
villein and the noble on the field of battle; printing opened the same
resources to the minds of all classes; the post was organized so as to
bring the same information to the door of the poor man's cottage and to
the gate of the palace; and Protestantism proclaimed that all men are
alike able to find the road to heaven. The discovery of America offered
a thousand new paths to fortune, and placed riches and power within
the reach of the adventurous and the obscure. If we examine what has
happened in France at intervals of fifty years, beginning with the
eleventh century, we shall invariably perceive that a twofold revolution
has taken place in the state of society. The noble has gone down on the
social ladder, and the roturier has gone up; the one descends as the
other rises. Every half century brings them nearer to each other, and
they will very shortly meet.

Nor is this phenomenon at all peculiar to France. Whithersoever we turn
our eyes we shall witness the same continual revolution throughout the
whole of Christendom. The various occurrences of national existence have
everywhere turned to the advantage of democracy; all men have aided it
by their exertions: those who have intentionally labored in its cause,
and those who have served it unwittingly; those who have fought for
it and those who have declared themselves its opponents, have all
been driven along in the same track, have all labored to one end, some
ignorantly and some unwillingly; all have been blind instruments in the
hands of God.

The gradual development of the equality of conditions is therefore a
providential fact, and it possesses all the characteristics of a divine
decree: it is universal, it is durable, it constantly eludes all human
interference, and all events as well as all men contribute to its
progress. Would it, then, be wise to imagine that a social impulse which
dates from so far back can be checked by the efforts of a generation? Is
it credible that the democracy which has annihilated the feudal system
and vanquished kings will respect the citizen and the capitalist? Will
it stop now that it has grown so strong and its adversaries so weak?
None can say which way we are going, for all terms of comparison are
wanting: the equality of conditions is more complete in the Christian
countries of the present day than it has been at any time or in any part
of the world; so that the extent of what already exists prevents us from
foreseeing what may be yet to come.

The whole book which is here offered to the public has been written
under the impression of a kind of religious dread produced in the
author's mind by the contemplation of so irresistible a revolution,
which has advanced for centuries in spite of such amazing obstacles, and
which is still proceeding in the midst of the ruins it has made. It is
not necessary that God himself should speak in order to disclose to
us the unquestionable signs of His will; we can discern them in the
habitual course of nature, and in the invariable tendency of events: I
know, without a special revelation, that the planets move in the orbits
traced by the Creator's finger. If the men of our time were led by
attentive observation and by sincere reflection to acknowledge that the
gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the
past and future of their history, this solitary truth would confer the
sacred character of a Divine decree upon the change. To attempt to
check democracy would be in that case to resist the will of God; and
the nations would then be constrained to make the best of the social lot
awarded to them by Providence.

The Christian nations of our age seem to me to present a most alarming
spectacle; the impulse which is bearing them along is so strong that it
cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so rapid that it cannot be guided:
their fate is in their hands; yet a little while and it may be so no
longer. The first duty which is at this time imposed upon those who
direct our affairs is to educate the democracy; to warm its faith,
if that be possible; to purify its morals; to direct its energies;
to substitute a knowledge of business for its inexperience, and an
acquaintance with its true interests for its blind propensities; to
adapt its government to time and place, and to modify it in compliance
with the occurrences and the actors of the age. A new science of
politics is indispensable to a new world. This, however, is what we
think of least; launched in the middle of a rapid stream, we obstinately
fix our eyes on the ruins which may still be described upon the shore we
have left, whilst the current sweeps us along, and drives us backwards
towards the gulf.

In no country in Europe has the great social revolution which I have
been describing made such rapid progress as in France; but it has always
been borne on by chance. The heads of the State have never had any
forethought for its exigencies, and its victories have been obtained
without their consent or without their knowledge. The most powerful, the
most intelligent, and the most moral classes of the nation have never
attempted to connect themselves with it in order to guide it. The people
has consequently been abandoned to its wild propensities, and it has
grown up like those outcasts who receive their education in the
public streets, and who are unacquainted with aught but the vices and
wretchedness of society. The existence of a democracy was seemingly
unknown, when on a sudden it took possession of the supreme power.
Everything was then submitted to its caprices; it was worshipped as the
idol of strength; until, when it was enfeebled by its own excesses, the
legislator conceived the rash project of annihilating its power, instead
of instructing it and correcting its vices; no attempt was made to fit
it to govern, but all were bent on excluding it from the government.

The consequence of this has been that the democratic revolution has been
effected only in the material parts of society, without that concomitant
change in laws, ideas, customs, and manners which was necessary to
render such a revolution beneficial. We have gotten a democracy, but
without the conditions which lessen its vices and render its natural
advantages more prominent; and although we already perceive the evils it
brings, we are ignorant of the benefits it may confer.

While the power of the Crown, supported by the aristocracy, peaceably
governed the nations of Europe, society possessed, in the midst of its
wretchedness, several different advantages which can now scarcely be
appreciated or conceived. The power of a part of his subjects was an
insurmountable barrier to the tyranny of the prince; and the monarch,
who felt the almost divine character which he enjoyed in the eyes of
the multitude, derived a motive for the just use of his power from the
respect which he inspired. High as they were placed above the people,
the nobles could not but take that calm and benevolent interest in
its fate which the shepherd feels towards his flock; and without
acknowledging the poor as their equals, they watched over the destiny of
those whose welfare Providence had entrusted to their care. The people
never having conceived the idea of a social condition different from its
own, and entertaining no expectation of ever ranking with its chiefs,
received benefits from them without discussing their rights. It grew
attached to them when they were clement and just, and it submitted
without resistance or servility to their exactions, as to the inevitable
visitations of the arm of God. Custom, and the manners of the time,
had moreover created a species of law in the midst of violence, and
established certain limits to oppression. As the noble never suspected
that anyone would attempt to deprive him of the privileges which
he believed to be legitimate, and as the serf looked upon his own
inferiority as a consequence of the immutable order of nature, it is
easy to imagine that a mutual exchange of good-will took place between
two classes so differently gifted by fate. Inequality and wretchedness
were then to be found in society; but the souls of neither rank of men
were degraded. Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased
by the habit of obedience, but by the exercise of a power which they
believe to be illegal and by obedience to a rule which they consider
to be usurped and oppressive. On one side was wealth, strength, and
leisure, accompanied by the refinements of luxury, the elegance of
taste, the pleasures of wit, and the religion of art. On the other was
labor and a rude ignorance; but in the midst of this coarse and ignorant
multitude it was not uncommon to meet with energetic passions, generous
sentiments, profound religious convictions, and independent virtues. The
body of a State thus organized might boast of its stability, its power,
and, above all, of its glory.

But the scene is now changed, and gradually the two ranks mingle; the
divisions which once severed mankind are lowered, property is divided,
power is held in common, the light of intelligence spreads, and the
capacities of all classes are equally cultivated; the State becomes
democratic, and the empire of democracy is slowly and peaceably
introduced into the institutions and the manners of the nation. I can
conceive a society in which all men would profess an equal attachment
and respect for the laws of which they are the common authors; in which
the authority of the State would be respected as necessary, though not
as divine; and the loyalty of the subject to its chief magistrate would
not be a passion, but a quiet and rational persuasion. Every individual
being in the possession of rights which he is sure to retain, a kind of
manly reliance and reciprocal courtesy would arise between all classes,
alike removed from pride and meanness. The people, well acquainted
with its true interests, would allow that in order to profit by the
advantages of society it is necessary to satisfy its demands. In this
state of things the voluntary association of the citizens might supply
the individual exertions of the nobles, and the community would be alike
protected from anarchy and from oppression.

I admit that, in a democratic State thus constituted, society will not
be stationary; but the impulses of the social body may be regulated and
directed forwards; if there be less splendor than in the halls of an
aristocracy, the contrast of misery will be less frequent also; the
pleasures of enjoyment may be less excessive, but those of comfort will
be more general; the sciences may be less perfectly cultivated, but
ignorance will be less common; the impetuosity of the feelings will be
repressed, and the habits of the nation softened; there will be more
vices and fewer crimes. In the absence of enthusiasm and of an
ardent faith, great sacrifices may be obtained from the members of a
commonwealth by an appeal to their understandings and their experience;
each individual will feel the same necessity for uniting with his
fellow-citizens to protect his own weakness; and as he knows that if
they are to assist he must co-operate, he will readily perceive that his
personal interest is identified with the interest of the community. The
nation, taken as a whole, will be less brilliant, less glorious, and
perhaps less strong; but the majority of the citizens will enjoy a
greater degree of prosperity, and the people will remain quiet, not
because it despairs of amelioration, but because it is conscious of the
advantages of its condition. If all the consequences of this state of
things were not good or useful, society would at least have appropriated
all such as were useful and good; and having once and for ever
renounced the social advantages of aristocracy, mankind would enter into
possession of all the benefits which democracy can afford.

But here it may be asked what we have adopted in the place of those
institutions, those ideas, and those customs of our forefathers which
we have abandoned. The spell of royalty is broken, but it has not been
succeeded by the majesty of the laws; the people has learned to despise
all authority, but fear now extorts a larger tribute of obedience than
that which was formerly paid by reverence and by love.

I perceive that we have destroyed those independent beings which were
able to cope with tyranny single-handed; but it is the Government
that has inherited the privileges of which families, corporations, and
individuals have been deprived; the weakness of the whole community has
therefore succeeded that influence of a small body of citizens, which,
if it was sometimes oppressive, was often conservative. The division
of property has lessened the distance which separated the rich from the
poor; but it would seem that the nearer they draw to each other, the
greater is their mutual hatred, and the more vehement the envy and the
dread with which they resist each other's claims to power; the notion of
Right is alike insensible to both classes, and Force affords to both the
only argument for the present, and the only guarantee for the future.
The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their
faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted
the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions, without
understanding the science which controls it, and his egotism is no less
blind than his devotedness was formerly. If society is tranquil, it is
not because it relies upon its strength and its well-being, but because
it knows its weakness and its infirmities; a single effort may cost it
its life; everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy
enough to seek the cure; the desires, the regret, the sorrows, and the
joys of the time produce nothing that is visible or permanent, like the
passions of old men which terminate in impotence.

We have, then, abandoned whatever advantages the old state of things
afforded, without receiving any compensation from our present condition;
we have destroyed an aristocracy, and we seem inclined to survey its
ruins with complacency, and to fix our abode in the midst of them.

The phenomena which the intellectual world presents are not less
deplorable. The democracy of France, checked in its course or abandoned
to its lawless passions, has overthrown whatever crossed its path, and
has shaken all that it has not destroyed. Its empire on society has
not been gradually introduced or peaceably established, but it has
constantly advanced in the midst of disorder and the agitation of a
conflict. In the heat of the struggle each partisan is hurried beyond
the limits of his opinions by the opinions and the excesses of his
opponents, until he loses sight of the end of his exertions, and holds a
language which disguises his real sentiments or secret instincts. Hence
arises the strange confusion which we are witnessing. I cannot recall to
my mind a passage in history more worthy of sorrow and of pity than the
scenes which are happening under our eyes; it is as if the natural bond
which unites the opinions of man to his tastes and his actions to
his principles was now broken; the sympathy which has always been
acknowledged between the feelings and the ideas of mankind appears to
be dissolved, and all the laws of moral analogy to be dissolved, and all
the laws of moral analogy to be abolished.

Zealous Christians may be found amongst us whose minds are nurtured in
the love and knowledge of a future life, and who readily espouse
the cause of human liberty as the source of all moral greatness.
Christianity, which has declared that all men are equal in the sight of
God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the
eye of the law. But, by a singular concourse of events, religion is
entangled in those institutions which democracy assails, and it is not
unfrequently brought to reject the equality it loves, and to curse that
cause of liberty as a foe which it might hallow by its alliance.

By the side of these religious men I discern others whose looks are
turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the partisans of
liberty, not only as the source of the noblest virtues, but more
especially as the root of all solid advantages; and they sincerely
desire to extend its sway, and to impart its blessings to mankind. It
is natural that they should hasten to invoke the assistance of religion,
for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality,
nor morality without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of
their adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it
openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it.

In former ages slavery has been advocated by the venal and
slavish-minded, whilst the independent and the warm-hearted were
struggling without hope to save the liberties of mankind. But men of
high and generous characters are now to be met with, whose opinions are
at variance with their inclinations, and who praise that servility which
they have themselves never known. Others, on the contrary, speak in
the name of liberty, as if they were able to feel its sanctity and its
majesty, and loudly claim for humanity those rights which they have
always disowned. There are virtuous and peaceful individuals whose
pure morality, quiet habits, affluence, and talents fit them to be the
leaders of the surrounding population; their love of their country is
sincere, and they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to its
welfare, but they confound the abuses of civilization with its benefits,
and the idea of evil is inseparable in their minds from that of novelty.

Not far from this class is another party, whose object is to materialize
mankind, to hit upon what is expedient without heeding what is just,
to acquire knowledge without faith, and prosperity apart from virtue;
assuming the title of the champions of modern civilization, and placing
themselves in a station which they usurp with insolence, and from
which they are driven by their own unworthiness. Where are we then?
The religionists are the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty
attack religion; the high-minded and the noble advocate subjection,
and the meanest and most servile minds preach independence; honest and
enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men without
patriotism and without principles are the apostles of civilization and
of intelligence. Has such been the fate of the centuries which have
preceded our own? and has man always inhabited a world like the present,
where nothing is linked together, where virtue is without genius, and
genius without honor; where the love of order is confounded with a taste
for oppression, and the holy rites of freedom with a contempt of law;
where the light thrown by conscience on human actions is dim, and
where nothing seems to be any longer forbidden or allowed, honorable
or shameful, false or true? I cannot, however, believe that the Creator
made man to leave him in an endless struggle with the intellectual
miseries which surround us: God destines a calmer and a more certain
future to the communities of Europe; I am unacquainted with His designs,
but I shall not cease to believe in them because I cannot fathom them,
and I had rather mistrust my own capacity than His justice.

There is a country in the world where the great revolution which I am
speaking of seems nearly to have reached its natural limits; it has
been effected with ease and simplicity, say rather that this country
has attained the consequences of the democratic revolution which we
are undergoing without having experienced the revolution itself. The
emigrants who fixed themselves on the shores of America in the beginning
of the seventeenth century severed the democratic principle from all
the principles which repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and
transplanted it unalloyed to the New World. It has there been allowed to
spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in the laws
by influencing the manners of the country.

It appears to me beyond a doubt that sooner or later we shall arrive,
like the Americans, at an almost complete equality of conditions. But I
do not conclude from this that we shall ever be necessarily led to draw
the same political consequences which the Americans have derived from
a similar social organization. I am far from supposing that they have
chosen the only form of government which a democracy may adopt; but the
identity of the efficient cause of laws and manners in the two countries
is sufficient to account for the immense interest we have in becoming
acquainted with its effects in each of them.

It is not, then, merely to satisfy a legitimate curiosity that I have
examined America; my wish has been to find instruction by which we may
ourselves profit. Whoever should imagine that I have intended to write a
panegyric will perceive that such was not my design; nor has it been
my object to advocate any form of government in particular, for I am
of opinion that absolute excellence is rarely to be found in any
legislation; I have not even affected to discuss whether the social
revolution, which I believe to be irresistible, is advantageous or
prejudicial to mankind; I have acknowledged this revolution as a fact
already accomplished or on the eve of its accomplishment; and I have
selected the nation, from amongst those which have undergone it, in
which its development has been the most peaceful and the most complete,
in order to discern its natural consequences, and, if it be possible, to
distinguish the means by which it may be rendered profitable. I confess
that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy
itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its
passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its

In the first part of this work I have attempted to show the tendency
given to the laws by the democracy of America, which is abandoned almost
without restraint to its instinctive propensities, and to exhibit the
course it prescribes to the Government and the influence it exercises on
affairs. I have sought to discover the evils and the advantages which
it produces. I have examined the precautions used by the Americans to
direct it, as well as those which they have not adopted, and I have
undertaken to point out the causes which enable it to govern society.
I do not know whether I have succeeded in making known what I saw in
America, but I am certain that such has been my sincere desire, and that
I have never, knowingly, moulded facts to ideas, instead of ideas to

Whenever a point could be established by the aid of written documents,
I have had recourse to the original text, and to the most authentic and
approved works. I have cited my authorities in the notes, and anyone may
refer to them. Whenever an opinion, a political custom, or a remark on
the manners of the country was concerned, I endeavored to consult the
most enlightened men I met with. If the point in question was important
or doubtful, I was not satisfied with one testimony, but I formed my
opinion on the evidence of several witnesses. Here the reader must
necessarily believe me upon my word. I could frequently have quoted names
which are either known to him, or which deserve to be so, in proof of
what I advance; but I have carefully abstained from this practice. A
stranger frequently hears important truths at the fire-side of his host,
which the latter would perhaps conceal from the ear of friendship;
he consoles himself with his guest for the silence to which he is
restricted, and the shortness of the traveller's stay takes away all
fear of his indiscretion. I carefully noted every conversation of this
nature as soon as it occurred, but these notes will never leave my
writing-case; I had rather injure the success of my statements than
add my name to the list of those strangers who repay the generous
hospitality they have received by subsequent chagrin and annoyance.

I am aware that, notwithstanding my care, nothing will be easier than
to criticise this book, if anyone ever chooses to criticise it. Those
readers who may examine it closely will discover the fundamental idea
which connects the several parts together. But the diversity of the
subjects I have had to treat is exceedingly great, and it will not be
difficult to oppose an isolated fact to the body of facts which I quote,
or an isolated idea to the body of ideas I put forth. I hope to be read
in the spirit which has guided my labors, and that my book may be judged
by the general impression it leaves, as I have formed my own judgment
not on any single reason, but upon the mass of evidence. It must not be
forgotten that the author who wishes to be understood is obliged to push
all his ideas to their utmost theoretical consequences, and often to
the verge of what is false or impracticable; for if it be necessary
sometimes to quit the rules of logic in active life, such is not the
case in discourse, and a man finds that almost as many difficulties
spring from inconsistency of language as usually arise from
inconsistency of conduct.

I conclude by pointing out myself what many readers will consider
the principal defect of the work. This book is written to favor no
particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no designs
of serving or attacking any party; I have undertaken not to see
differently, but to look further than parties, and whilst they are
busied for the morrow I have turned my thoughts to the Future.

Chapter I: Exterior Form Of North America

Chapter Summary

North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining towards the
Pole, the other towards the Equator--Valley of the Mississippi--Traces
of the Revolutions of the Globe--Shore of the Atlantic Ocean where the
English Colonies were founded--Difference in the appearance of North
and of South America at the time of their Discovery--Forests of
North America--Prairies--Wandering Tribes of Natives--Their outward
appearance, manners, and language--Traces of an unknown people.

Exterior Form Of North America

North America presents in its external form certain general features
which it is easy to discriminate at the first glance. A sort of
methodical order seems to have regulated the separation of land and
water, mountains and valleys. A simple, but grand, arrangement is
discoverable amidst the confusion of objects and the prodigious variety
of scenes. This continent is divided, almost equally, into two vast
regions, one of which is bounded on the north by the Arctic Pole, and
by the two great oceans on the east and west. It stretches towards the
south, forming a triangle whose irregular sides meet at length below
the great lakes of Canada. The second region begins where the other
terminates, and includes all the remainder of the continent. The one
slopes gently towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator.

The territory comprehended in the first region descends towards the
north with so imperceptible a slope that it may almost be said to form
a level plain. Within the bounds of this immense tract of country there
are neither high mountains nor deep valleys. Streams meander through it
irregularly: great rivers mix their currents, separate and meet again,
disperse and form vast marshes, losing all trace of their channels
in the labyrinth of waters they have themselves created; and thus, at
length, after innumerable windings, fall into the Polar Seas. The great
lakes which bound this first region are not walled in, like most of
those in the Old World, between hills and rocks. Their banks are flat,
and rise but a few feet above the level of their waters; each of them
thus forming a vast bowl filled to the brim. The slightest change in the
structure of the globe would cause their waters to rush either towards
the Pole or to the tropical sea.

The second region is more varied on its surface, and better suited for
the habitation of man. Two long chains of mountains divide it from one
extreme to the other; the Alleghany ridge takes the form of the shores
of the Atlantic Ocean; the other is parallel with the Pacific. The space
which lies between these two chains of mountains contains 1,341,649
square miles. *a Its surface is therefore about six times as great as
that of France. This vast territory, however, forms a single valley,
one side of which descends gradually from the rounded summits of the
Alleghanies, while the other rises in an uninterrupted course towards
the tops of the Rocky Mountains. At the bottom of the valley flows an
immense river, into which the various streams issuing from the mountains
fall from all parts. In memory of their native land, the French formerly
called this river the St. Louis. The Indians, in their pompous language,
have named it the Father of Waters, or the Mississippi.

[Footnote a: Darby's "View of the United States."]

The Mississippi takes its source above the limit of the two great
regions of which I have spoken, not far from the highest point of the
table-land where they unite. Near the same spot rises another river, *b
which empties itself into the Polar seas. The course of the Mississippi
is at first dubious: it winds several times towards the north, from
whence it rose; and at length, after having been delayed in lakes and
marshes, it flows slowly onwards to the south. Sometimes quietly gliding
along the argillaceous bed which nature has assigned to it, sometimes
swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters 2,500 miles in its course.
*c At the distance of 1,364 miles from its mouth this river attains an
average depth of fifteen feet; and it is navigated by vessels of
300 tons burden for a course of nearly 500 miles. Fifty-seven large
navigable rivers contribute to swell the waters of the Mississippi;
amongst others, the Missouri, which traverses a space of 2,500 miles;
the Arkansas of 1,300 miles, the Red River 1,000 miles, four whose
course is from 800 to 1,000 miles in length, viz., the Illinois, the
St. Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a countless
multitude of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary

[Footnote b: The Red River.]

[Footnote c: Warden's "Description of the United States."]

The valley which is watered by the Mississippi seems formed to be the
bed of this mighty river, which, like a god of antiquity, dispenses both
good and evil in its course. On the shores of the stream nature displays
an inexhaustible fertility; in proportion as you recede from its banks,
the powers of vegetation languish, the soil becomes poor, and the plants
that survive have a sickly growth. Nowhere have the great convulsions
of the globe left more evident traces than in the valley of the
Mississippi; the whole aspect of the country shows the powerful effects
of water, both by its fertility and by its barrenness. The waters of
the primeval ocean accumulated enormous beds of vegetable mould in the
valley, which they levelled as they retired. Upon the right shore of the
river are seen immense plains, as smooth as if the husbandman had
passed over them with his roller. As you approach the mountains the soil
becomes more and more unequal and sterile; the ground is, as it were,
pierced in a thousand places by primitive rocks, which appear like the
bones of a skeleton whose flesh is partly consumed. The surface of the
earth is covered with a granite sand and huge irregular masses of stone,
among which a few plants force their growth, and give the appearance of
a green field covered with the ruins of a vast edifice. These stones and
this sand discover, on examination, a perfect analogy with those which
compose the arid and broken summits of the Rocky Mountains. The flood
of waters which washed the soil to the bottom of the valley afterwards
carried away portions of the rocks themselves; and these, dashed and
bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left scattered like wrecks
at their feet. *d The valley of the Mississippi is, upon the whole, the
most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by God for man's abode; and yet
it may be said that at present it is but a mighty desert.

[Footnote d: See Appendix, A.]

On the eastern side of the Alleghanies, between the base of these
mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, there lies a long ridge of rocks and
sand, which the sea appears to have left behind as it retired. The mean
breadth of this territory does not exceed one hundred miles; but it is
about nine hundred miles in length. This part of the American continent
has a soil which offers every obstacle to the husbandman, and its
vegetation is scanty and unvaried.

Upon this inhospitable coast the first united efforts of human industry
were made. The tongue of arid land was the cradle of those English
colonies which were destined one day to become the United States of
America. The centre of power still remains here; whilst in the backwoods
the true elements of the great people to whom the future control of the
continent belongs are gathering almost in secrecy together.

When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the West Indies,
and afterwards on the coast of South America, they thought themselves
transported into those fabulous regions of which poets had sung. The sea
sparkled with phosphoric light, and the extraordinary transparency of
its waters discovered to the view of the navigator all that had hitherto
been hidden in the deep abyss. *e Here and there appeared little islands
perfumed with odoriferous plants, and resembling baskets of flowers
floating on the tranquil surface of the ocean. Every object which met
the sight, in this enchanting region, seemed prepared to satisfy the
wants or contribute to the pleasures of man. Almost all the trees were
loaded with nourishing fruits, and those which were useless as food
delighted the eye by the brilliancy and variety of their colors. In
groves of fragrant lemon-trees, wild figs, flowering myrtles, acacias,
and oleanders, which were hung with festoons of various climbing plants,
covered with flowers, a multitude of birds unknown in Europe displayed
their bright plumage, glittering with purple and azure, and mingled
their warbling with the harmony of a world teeming with life and motion.
*f Underneath this brilliant exterior death was concealed. But the air
of these climates had so enervating an influence that man, absorbed by
present enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future.

[Footnote e: Malte Brun tells us (vol. v. p. 726) that the water of the
Caribbean Sea is so transparent that corals and fish are discernible at
a depth of sixty fathoms. The ship seemed to float in air, the navigator
became giddy as his eye penetrated through the crystal flood, and beheld
submarine gardens, or beds of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among
tufts and thickets of seaweed.]

[Footnote f: See Appendix, B.]

North America appeared under a very different aspect; there everything
was grave, serious, and solemn: it seemed created to be the domain of
intelligence, as the South was that of sensual delight. A turbulent and
foggy ocean washed its shores. It was girt round by a belt of granite
rocks, or by wide tracts of sand. The foliage of its woods was dark and
gloomy, for they were composed of firs, larches, evergreen oaks, wild
olive-trees, and laurels. Beyond this outer belt lay the thick shades
of the central forest, where the largest trees which are produced in
the two hemispheres grow side by side. The plane, the catalpa, the
sugar-maple, and the Virginian poplar mingled their branches with those
of the oak, the beech, and the lime. In these, as in the forests of the
Old World, destruction was perpetually going on. The ruins of vegetation
were heaped upon each other; but there was no laboring hand to remove
them, and their decay was not rapid enough to make room for the
continual work of reproduction. Climbing plants, grasses, and other
herbs forced their way through the mass of dying trees; they crept along
their bending trunks, found nourishment in their dusty cavities, and
a passage beneath the lifeless bark. Thus decay gave its assistance to
life, and their respective productions were mingled together. The depths
of these forests were gloomy and obscure, and a thousand rivulets,
undirected in their course by human industry, preserved in them a
constant moisture. It was rare to meet with flowers, wild fruits, or
birds beneath their shades. The fall of a tree overthrown by age,
the rushing torrent of a cataract, the lowing of the buffalo, and the
howling of the wind were the only sounds which broke the silence of

To the east of the great river, the woods almost disappeared; in their
stead were seen prairies of immense extent. Whether Nature in her
infinite variety had denied the germs of trees to these fertile plains,
or whether they had once been covered with forests, subsequently
destroyed by the hand of man, is a question which neither tradition nor
scientific research has been able to resolve.

These immense deserts were not, however, devoid of human inhabitants.
Some wandering tribes had been for ages scattered among the forest
shades or the green pastures of the prairie. From the mouth of the St.
Lawrence to the delta of the Mississippi, and from the Atlantic to the
Pacific Ocean, these savages possessed certain points of resemblance
which bore witness of their common origin; but at the same time they
differed from all other known races of men: *g they were neither white
like the Europeans, nor yellow like most of the Asiatics, nor black like
the negroes. Their skin was reddish brown, their hair long and shining,
their lips thin, and their cheekbones very prominent. The languages
spoken by the North American tribes are various as far as regarded their
words, but they were subject to the same grammatical rules. These rules
differed in several points from such as had been observed to govern the
origin of language. The idiom of the Americans seemed to be the product
of new combinations, and bespoke an effort of the understanding of which
the Indians of our days would be incapable. *h

[Footnote g: With the progress of discovery some resemblance has been
found to exist between the physical conformation, the language, and
the habits of the Indians of North America, and those of the Tongous,
Mantchous, Mongols, Tartars, and other wandering tribes of Asia. The
land occupied by these tribes is not very distant from Behring's Strait,
which allows of the supposition, that at a remote period they gave
inhabitants to the desert continent of America. But this is a point
which has not yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun,
vol. v.; the works of Humboldt; Fischer, "Conjecture sur l'Origine des
Americains"; Adair, "History of the American Indians."]

[Footnote h: See Appendix, C.]

The social state of these tribes differed also in many respects from all
that was seen in the Old World. They seemed to have multiplied freely
in the midst of their deserts without coming in contact with other races
more civilized than their own. Accordingly, they exhibited none of those
indistinct, incoherent notions of right and wrong, none of that deep
corruption of manners, which is usually joined with ignorance and
rudeness among nations which, after advancing to civilization, have
relapsed into a state of barbarism. The Indian was indebted to no one
but himself; his virtues, his vices, and his prejudices were his own
work; he had grown up in the wild independence of his nature.

If, in polished countries, the lowest of the people are rude and
uncivil, it is not merely because they are poor and ignorant, but that,
being so, they are in daily contact with rich and enlightened men.
The sight of their own hard lot and of their weakness, which is
daily contrasted with the happiness and power of some of their
fellow-creatures, excites in their hearts at the same time the
sentiments of anger and of fear: the consciousness of their inferiority
and of their dependence irritates while it humiliates them. This state
of mind displays itself in their manners and language; they are at once
insolent and servile. The truth of this is easily proved by observation;
the people are more rude in aristocratic countries than elsewhere, in
opulent cities than in rural districts. In those places where the rich
and powerful are assembled together the weak and the indigent feel
themselves oppressed by their inferior condition. Unable to perceive a
single chance of regaining their equality, they give up to despair, and
allow themselves to fall below the dignity of human nature.

This unfortunate effect of the disparity of conditions is not observable
in savage life: the Indians, although they are ignorant and poor, are
equal and free. At the period when Europeans first came among them
the natives of North America were ignorant of the value of riches, and
indifferent to the enjoyments which civilized man procures to himself
by their means. Nevertheless there was nothing coarse in their
demeanor; they practised an habitual reserve and a kind of aristocratic
politeness. Mild and hospitable when at peace, though merciless in
war beyond any known degree of human ferocity, the Indian would expose
himself to die of hunger in order to succor the stranger who asked
admittance by night at the door of his hut; yet he could tear in pieces
with his hands the still quivering limbs of his prisoner. The famous
republics of antiquity never gave examples of more unshaken courage,
more haughty spirits, or more intractable love of independence than were
hidden in former times among the wild forests of the New World. *i The
Europeans produced no great impression when they landed upon the shores
of North America; their presence engendered neither envy nor fear. What
influence could they possess over such men as we have described? The
Indian could live without wants, suffer without complaint, and pour out
his death-song at the stake. *j Like all the other members of the great
human family, these savages believed in the existence of a better world,
and adored under different names, God, the creator of the universe.
Their notions on the great intellectual truths were in general simple
and philosophical. *k

[Footnote i: We learn from President Jefferson's "Notes upon Virginia,"
p. 148, that among the Iroquois, when attacked by a superior force, aged
men refused to fly or to survive the destruction of their country; and
they braved death like the ancient Romans when their capital was sacked
by the Gauls. Further on, p. 150, he tells us that there is no example
of an Indian who, having fallen into the hands of his enemies, begged
for his life; on the contrary, the captive sought to obtain death at the
hands of his conquerors by the use of insult and provocation.]

[Footnote j: See "Histoire de la Louisiane," by Lepage Dupratz;
Charlevoix, "Histoire de la Nouvelle France"; "Lettres du Rev. G.
Hecwelder;" "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society," v. I;
Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," pp. 135-190. What is said by Jefferson
is of especial weight, on account of the personal merit of the writer,
of his peculiar position, and of the matter-of-fact age in which he

[Footnote k: See Appendix, D.]

Although we have here traced the character of a primitive people, yet it
cannot be doubted that another people, more civilized and more advanced
in all respects, had preceded it in the same regions.

An obscure tradition which prevailed among the Indians to the north of
the Atlantic informs us that these very tribes formerly dwelt on
the west side of the Mississippi. Along the banks of the Ohio, and
throughout the central valley, there are frequently found, at this day,
tumuli raised by the hands of men. On exploring these heaps of earth to
their centre, it is usual to meet with human bones, strange instruments,
arms and utensils of all kinds, made of metal, or destined for purposes
unknown to the present race. The Indians of our time are unable to give
any information relative to the history of this unknown people. Neither
did those who lived three hundred years ago, when America was first
discovered, leave any accounts from which even an hypothesis could be
formed. Tradition--that perishable, yet ever renewed monument of the
pristine world--throws no light upon the subject. It is an undoubted
fact, however, that in this part of the globe thousands of our
fellow-beings had lived. When they came hither, what was their origin,
their destiny, their history, and how they perished, no one can tell.
How strange does it appear that nations have existed, and afterwards so
completely disappeared from the earth that the remembrance of their very
names is effaced; their languages are lost; their glory is vanished like
a sound without an echo; though perhaps there is not one which has not
left behind it some tomb in memory of its passage! The most durable
monument of human labor is that which recalls the wretchedness and
nothingness of man.

Although the vast country which we have been describing was inhabited
by many indigenous tribes, it may justly be said at the time of its
discovery by Europeans to have formed one great desert. The Indians
occupied without possessing it. It is by agricultural labor that man
appropriates the soil, and the early inhabitants of North America
lived by the produce of the chase. Their implacable prejudices, their
uncontrolled passions, their vices, and still more perhaps their savage
virtues, consigned them to inevitable destruction. The ruin of these
nations began from the day when Europeans landed on their shores; it has
proceeded ever since, and we are now witnessing the completion of it.
They seem to have been placed by Providence amidst the riches of the New
World to enjoy them for a season, and then surrender them. Those coasts,
so admirably adapted for commerce and industry; those wide and deep
rivers; that inexhaustible valley of the Mississippi; the whole
continent, in short, seemed prepared to be the abode of a great nation,
yet unborn.

In that land the great experiment was to be made, by civilized man, of
the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for
the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable,
were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by
the history of the past.

Chapter II: Origin Of The Anglo-Americans--Part I

Chapter Summary

Utility of knowing the origin of nations in order to understand their
social condition and their laws--America the only country in which the
starting-point of a great people has been clearly observable--In what
respects all who emigrated to British America were similar--In what they
differed--Remark applicable to all Europeans who established themselves
on the shores of the New World--Colonization of Virginia--Colonization
of New England--Original character of the first inhabitants of New
England--Their arrival--Their first laws--Their social contract--Penal
code borrowed from the Hebrew legislation--Religious fervor--Republican
spirit--Intimate union of the spirit of religion with the spirit of

Origin Of The Anglo-Americans, And Its Importance In Relation To Their
Future Condition.

After the birth of a human being his early years are obscurely spent in
the toils or pleasures of childhood. As he grows up the world receives
him, when his manhood begins, and he enters into contact with his
fellows. He is then studied for the first time, and it is imagined
that the germ of the vices and the virtues of his maturer years is then
formed. This, if I am not mistaken, is a great error. We must begin
higher up; we must watch the infant in its mother's arms; we must see
the first images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror
of his mind; the first occurrences which he witnesses; we must hear the
first words which awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and stand by
his earliest efforts, if we would understand the prejudices, the habits,
and the passions which will rule his life. The entire man is, so to
speak, to be seen in the cradle of the child.

The growth of nations presents something analogous to this: they all
bear some marks of their origin; and the circumstances which accompanied
their birth and contributed to their rise affect the whole term of their
being. If we were able to go back to the elements of states, and to
examine the oldest monuments of their history, I doubt not that we
should discover the primal cause of the prejudices, the habits, the
ruling passions, and, in short, of all that constitutes what is called
the national character; we should then find the explanation of certain
customs which now seem at variance with the prevailing manners; of such
laws as conflict with established principles; and of such incoherent
opinions as are here and there to be met with in society, like those
fragments of broken chains which we sometimes see hanging from the vault
of an edifice, and supporting nothing. This might explain the destinies
of certain nations, which seem borne on by an unknown force to ends of
which they themselves are ignorant. But hitherto facts have been wanting
to researches of this kind: the spirit of inquiry has only come upon
communities in their latter days; and when they at length contemplated
their origin, time had already obscured it, or ignorance and pride
adorned it with truth-concealing fables.

America is the only country in which it has been possible to witness
the natural and tranquil growth of society, and where the influences
exercised on the future condition of states by their origin is clearly
distinguishable. At the period when the peoples of Europe landed in the
New World their national characteristics were already completely formed;
each of them had a physiognomy of its own; and as they had already
attained that stage of civilization at which men are led to study
themselves, they have transmitted to us a faithful picture of their
opinions, their manners, and their laws. The men of the sixteenth
century are almost as well known to us as our contemporaries. America,
consequently, exhibits in the broad light of day the phenomena which the
ignorance or rudeness of earlier ages conceals from our researches.
Near enough to the time when the states of America were founded, to be
accurately acquainted with their elements, and sufficiently removed from
that period to judge of some of their results, the men of our own day
seem destined to see further than their predecessors into the series of
human events. Providence has given us a torch which our forefathers did
not possess, and has allowed us to discern fundamental causes in the
history of the world which the obscurity of the past concealed from
them. If we carefully examine the social and political state of America,
after having studied its history, we shall remain perfectly convinced
that not an opinion, not a custom, not a law, I may even say not an
event, is upon record which the origin of that people will not explain.
The readers of this book will find the germ of all that is to follow in
the present chapter, and the key to almost the whole work.

The emigrants who came, at different periods to occupy the territory now
covered by the American Union differed from each other in many respects;
their aim was not the same, and they governed themselves on different
principles. These men had, however, certain features in common, and
they were all placed in an analogous situation. The tie of language is
perhaps the strongest and the most durable that can unite mankind. All
the emigrants spoke the same tongue; they were all offsets from the same
people. Born in a country which had been agitated for centuries by the
struggles of faction, and in which all parties had been obliged in
their turn to place themselves under the protection of the laws, their
political education had been perfected in this rude school, and they
were more conversant with the notions of right and the principles of
true freedom than the greater part of their European contemporaries. At
the period of their first emigrations the parish system, that fruitful
germ of free institutions, was deeply rooted in the habits of the
English; and with it the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people had
been introduced into the bosom of the monarchy of the House of Tudor.

The religious quarrels which have agitated the Christian world were then
rife. England had plunged into the new order of things with headlong
vehemence. The character of its inhabitants, which had always been
sedate and reflective, became argumentative and austere. General
information had been increased by intellectual debate, and the mind
had received a deeper cultivation. Whilst religion was the topic of
discussion, the morals of the people were reformed. All these national
features are more or less discoverable in the physiognomy of those
adventurers who came to seek a new home on the opposite shores of the

Another remark, to which we shall hereafter have occasion to recur, is
applicable not only to the English, but to the French, the Spaniards,
and all the Europeans who successively established themselves in the New
World. All these European colonies contained the elements, if not the
development, of a complete democracy. Two causes led to this result. It
may safely be advanced, that on leaving the mother-country the emigrants
had in general no notion of superiority over one another. The happy and
the powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of
equality among men than poverty and misfortune. It happened, however,
on several occasions, that persons of rank were driven to America
by political and religious quarrels. Laws were made to establish a
gradation of ranks; but it was soon found that the soil of America was
opposed to a territorial aristocracy. To bring that refractory land into
cultivation, the constant and interested exertions of the owner himself
were necessary; and when the ground was prepared, its produce was found
to be insufficient to enrich a master and a farmer at the same time.
The land was then naturally broken up into small portions, which the
proprietor cultivated for himself. Land is the basis of an aristocracy,
which clings to the soil that supports it; for it is not by privileges
alone, nor by birth, but by landed property handed down from generation
to generation, that an aristocracy is constituted. A nation may present
immense fortunes and extreme wretchedness, but unless those fortunes are
territorial there is no aristocracy, but simply the class of the rich
and that of the poor.

All the British colonies had then a great degree of similarity at the
epoch of their settlement. All of them, from their first beginning,
seemed destined to witness the growth, not of the aristocratic liberty
of their mother-country, but of that freedom of the middle and lower
orders of which the history of the world had as yet furnished no
complete example.

In this general uniformity several striking differences were however
discernible, which it is necessary to point out. Two branches may be
distinguished in the Anglo-American family, which have hitherto grown
up without entirely commingling; the one in the South, the other in the

Virginia received the first English colony; the emigrants took
possession of it in 1607. The idea that mines of gold and silver are
the sources of national wealth was at that time singularly prevalent in
Europe; a fatal delusion, which has done more to impoverish the nations
which adopted it, and has cost more lives in America, than the united
influence of war and bad laws. The men sent to Virginia *a were seekers
of gold, adventurers, without resources and without character, whose
turbulent and restless spirit endangered the infant colony, *b and
rendered its progress uncertain. The artisans and agriculturists arrived
afterwards; and, although they were a more moral and orderly race of
men, they were in nowise above the level of the inferior classes in
England. *c No lofty conceptions, no intellectual system, directed the
foundation of these new settlements. The colony was scarcely established
when slavery was introduced, *d and this was the main circumstance which
has exercised so prodigious an influence on the character, the laws, and
all the future prospects of the South. Slavery, as we shall afterwards
show, dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with
idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the
powers of the mind, and benumbs the activity of man. The influence of
slavery, united to the English character, explains the manners and the
social condition of the Southern States.

[Footnote a: The charter granted by the Crown of England in 1609
stipulated, amongst other conditions, that the adventurers should pay
to the Crown a fifth of the produce of all gold and silver mines. See
Marshall's "Life of Washington," vol. i. pp. 18-66.] [Footnote b: A
large portion of the adventurers, says Stith ("History of Virginia"),
were unprincipled young men of family, whom their parents were glad to
ship off, discharged servants, fraudulent bankrupts, or debauchees; and
others of the same class, people more apt to pillage and destroy than
to assist the settlement, were the seditious chiefs, who easily led this
band into every kind of extravagance and excess. See for the history of
Virginia the following works:--

"History of Virginia, from the First Settlements in the year 1624," by

"History of Virginia," by William Stith.

"History of Virginia, from the Earliest Period," by Beverley.]

[Footnote c: It was not till some time later that a certain number of
rich English capitalists came to fix themselves in the colony.]

[Footnote d: Slavery was introduced about the year 1620 by a Dutch
vessel which landed twenty negroes on the banks of the river James. See

In the North, the same English foundation was modified by the most
opposite shades of character; and here I may be allowed to enter into
some details. The two or three main ideas which constitute the basis
of the social theory of the United States were first combined in the
Northern English colonies, more generally denominated the States of
New England. *e The principles of New England spread at first to the
neighboring states; they then passed successively to the more distant
ones; and at length they imbued the whole Confederation. They now extend
their influence beyond its limits over the whole American world. The
civilization of New England has been like a beacon lit upon a hill,
which, after it has diffused its warmth around, tinges the distant
horizon with its glow.

[Footnote e: The States of New England are those situated to the east of
the Hudson; they are now six in number: 1, Connecticut; 2, Rhode Island;
3, Massachusetts; 4, Vermont; 5, New Hampshire; 6, Maine.]

The foundation of New England was a novel spectacle, and all the
circumstances attending it were singular and original. The large
majority of colonies have been first inhabited either by men without
education and without resources, driven by their poverty and their
misconduct from the land which gave them birth, or by speculators
and adventurers greedy of gain. Some settlements cannot even boast so
honorable an origin; St. Domingo was founded by buccaneers; and the
criminal courts of England originally supplied the population of

The settlers who established themselves on the shores of New England all
belonged to the more independent classes of their native country. Their
union on the soil of America at once presented the singular phenomenon
of a society containing neither lords nor common people, neither rich
nor poor. These men possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater
mass of intelligence than is to be found in any European nation of
our own time. All, without a single exception, had received a good
education, and many of them were known in Europe for their talents and
their acquirements. The other colonies had been founded by adventurers
without family; the emigrants of New England brought with them the best
elements of order and morality--they landed in the desert accompanied
by their wives and children. But what most especially distinguished them
was the aim of their undertaking. They had not been obliged by necessity
to leave their country; the social position they abandoned was one to
be regretted, and their means of subsistence were certain. Nor did
they cross the Atlantic to improve their situation or to increase their
wealth; the call which summoned them from the comforts of their homes
was purely intellectual; and in facing the inevitable sufferings of
exile their object was the triumph of an idea.

The emigrants, or, as they deservedly styled themselves, the Pilgrims,
belonged to that English sect the austerity of whose principles had
acquired for them the name of Puritans. Puritanism was not merely a
religious doctrine, but it corresponded in many points with the most
absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency which
had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the Government
of the mother-country, and disgusted by the habits of a society opposed
to the rigor of their own principles, the Puritans went forth to seek
some rude and unfrequented part of the world, where they could live
according to their own opinions, and worship God in freedom.

A few quotations will throw more light upon the spirit of these pious
adventures than all we can say of them. Nathaniel Morton, *f the
historian of the first years of the settlement, thus opens his subject:

[Footnote f: "New England's Memorial," p. 13; Boston, 1826. See also
"Hutchinson's History," vol. ii. p. 440.]

"Gentle Reader,--I have for some length of time looked upon it as a duty
incumbent, especially on the immediate successors of those that have had
so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations
of God's goodness, viz., the first beginners of this Plantation in New
England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that
behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not onely otherwise but
so plentifully in the Sacred Scriptures: that so, what we have seen,
and what our fathers have told us (Psalm lxxviii. 3, 4), we may not hide
from our children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the
Lord; that especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children
of Jacob his chosen (Psalm cv. 5, 6), may remember his marvellous
works in the beginning and progress of the planting of New England, his
wonders and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into
this wilderness; that he cast out the heathen, and planted it; that he
made room for it and caused it to take deep root; and it filled the land
(Psalm lxxx. 8, 9). And not onely so, but also that he hath guided his
people by his strength to his holy habitation and planted them in the
mountain of his inheritance in respect of precious Gospel enjoyments:
and that as especially God may have the glory of all unto whom it
is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those
blessed Saints that were the main instruments and the beginning of this
happy enterprise."

It is impossible to read this opening paragraph without an involuntary
feeling of religious awe; it breathes the very savor of Gospel
antiquity. The sincerity of the author heightens his power of language.
The band which to his eyes was a mere party of adventurers gone forth
to seek their fortune beyond seas appears to the reader as the germ of a
great nation wafted by Providence to a predestined shore.

The author thus continues his narrative of the departure of the first

"So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, *g which had been
their resting-place for above eleven years; but they knew that they were
pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things,
but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God
hath prepared for them a city (Heb. xi. 16), and therein quieted their
spirits. When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all
things ready; and such of their friends as could not come with them
followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt,
and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep
with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse,
and other real expressions of true Christian love. The next day they
went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the
sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and
prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye,
and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch
strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from
tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that
were thus loth to depart, their Reverend Pastor falling down on his
knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with
most fervent prayers unto the Lord and his blessing; and then, with
mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another,
which proved to be the last leave to many of them."

[Footnote g: The emigrants were, for the most part, godly Christians
from the North of England, who had quitted their native country because
they were "studious of reformation, and entered into covenant to walk
with one another according to the primitive pattern of the Word of God."
They emigrated to Holland, and settled in the city of Leyden in 1610,
where they abode, being lovingly respected by the Dutch, for many years:
they left it in 1620 for several reasons, the last of which was, that
their posterity would in a few generations become Dutch, and so lose
their interest in the English nation; they being desirous rather
to enlarge His Majesty's dominions, and to live under their natural
prince.--Translator's Note.]

The emigrants were about 150 in number, including the women and the
children. Their object was to plant a colony on the shores of the
Hudson; but after having been driven about for some time in the Atlantic
Ocean, they were forced to land on that arid coast of New England which
is now the site of the town of Plymouth. The rock is still shown on
which the pilgrims disembarked. *h

[Footnote h: This rock is become an object of veneration in the United
States. I have seen bits of it carefully preserved in several towns of
the Union. Does not this sufficiently show how entirely all human power
and greatness is in the soul of man? Here is a stone which the feet of
a few outcasts pressed for an instant, and this stone becomes famous; it
is treasured by a great nation, its very dust is shared as a relic: and
what is become of the gateways of a thousand palaces?]

"But before we pass on," continues our historian, "let the reader
with me make a pause and seriously consider this poor people's present
condition, the more to be raised up to admiration of God's goodness
towards them in their preservation: for being now passed the vast
ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectation, they had now
no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no
houses, or much less towns to repair unto to seek for succour: and for
the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country
know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms,
dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full
of wilde beasts, and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were,
they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save
upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in
respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand
in appearance with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country full of
woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew; if they looked
behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was
now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of
the world."

It must not be imagined that the piety of the Puritans was of a merely
speculative kind, or that it took no cognizance of the course of worldly
affairs. Puritanism, as I have already remarked, was scarcely less a
political than a religious doctrine. No sooner had the emigrants landed
on the barren coast described by Nathaniel Morton than it was their
first care to constitute a society, by passing the following Act:

"In the name of God. Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal
subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, etc., etc., Having
undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith,
and the honour of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first
colony in the northern parts of Virginia; Do by these presents solemnly
and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and
combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better
ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid: and by
virtue hereof do enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws,
ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as
shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the
Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience," etc. *i

[Footnote i: The emigrants who founded the State of Rhode Island in
1638, those who landed at New Haven in 1637, the first settlers in
Connecticut in 1639, and the founders of Providence in 1640, began in
like manner by drawing up a social contract, which was acceded to by all
the interested parties. See "Pitkin's History," pp. 42 and 47.]

This happened in 1620, and from that time forwards the emigration went
on. The religious and political passions which ravaged the British
Empire during the whole reign of Charles I drove fresh crowds of
sectarians every year to the shores of America. In England the
stronghold of Puritanism was in the middle classes, and it was from the
middle classes that the majority of the emigrants came. The population
of New England increased rapidly; and whilst the hierarchy of rank
despotically classed the inhabitants of the mother-country, the colony
continued to present the novel spectacle of a community homogeneous in
all its parts. A democracy, more perfect than any which antiquity had
dreamt of, started in full size and panoply from the midst of an ancient
feudal society.

Chapter II: Origin Of The Anglo-Americans--Part II

The English Government was not dissatisfied with an emigration which
removed the elements of fresh discord and of further revolutions. On the
contrary, everything was done to encourage it, and great exertions were
made to mitigate the hardships of those who sought a shelter from the
rigor of their country's laws on the soil of America. It seemed as
if New England was a region given up to the dreams of fancy and the
unrestrained experiments of innovators.

The English colonies (and this is one of the main causes of their
prosperity) have always enjoyed more internal freedom and more political
independence than the colonies of other nations; but this principle of
liberty was nowhere more extensively applied than in the States of New

It was generally allowed at that period that the territories of the
New World belonged to that European nation which had been the first to
discover them. Nearly the whole coast of North America thus became a
British possession towards the end of the sixteenth century. The means
used by the English Government to people these new domains were of
several kinds; the King sometimes appointed a governor of his own
choice, who ruled a portion of the New World in the name and under the
immediate orders of the Crown; *j this is the colonial system adopted by
other countries of Europe. Sometimes grants of certain tracts were made
by the Crown to an individual or to a company, *k in which case all the
civil and political power fell into the hands of one or more persons,
who, under the inspection and control of the Crown, sold the lands and
governed the inhabitants. Lastly, a third system consisted in allowing a
certain number of emigrants to constitute a political society under the
protection of the mother-country, and to govern themselves in whatever
was not contrary to her laws. This mode of colonization, so remarkably
favorable to liberty, was only adopted in New England. *l

[Footnote j: This was the case in the State of New York.]

[Footnote k: Maryland, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were
in this situation. See "Pitkin's History," vol. i. pp. 11-31.]

[Footnote l: See the work entitled "Historical Collection of State
Papers and other authentic Documents intended as materials for a History
of the United States of America, by Ebenezer Hasard. Philadelphia,
1792," for a great number of documents relating to the commencement
of the colonies, which are valuable from their contents and their
authenticity: amongst them are the various charters granted by the King
of England, and the first acts of the local governments.

See also the analysis of all these charters given by Mr. Story, Judge
of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Introduction to his
"Commentary on the Constitution of the United States." It results from
these documents that the principles of representative government and
the external forms of political liberty were introduced into all the
colonies at their origin. These principles were more fully acted upon in
the North than in the South, but they existed everywhere.]

In 1628 *m a charter of this kind was granted by Charles I to the
emigrants who went to form the colony of Massachusetts. But, in general,
charters were not given to the colonies of New England till they had
acquired a certain existence. Plymouth, Providence, New Haven, the State
of Connecticut, and that of Rhode Island *n were founded without the
co-operation and almost without the knowledge of the mother-country.
The new settlers did not derive their incorporation from the seat of
the empire, although they did not deny its supremacy; they constituted
a society of their own accord, and it was not till thirty or forty
years afterwards, under Charles II. that their existence was legally
recognized by a royal charter.

[Footnote m: See "Pitkin's History," p, 35. See the "History of the
Colony of Massachusetts Bay," by Hutchinson, vol. i. p. 9.] [Footnote n:
See "Pitkin's History," pp. 42, 47.]

This frequently renders its it difficult to detect the link which
connected the emigrants with the land of their forefathers in studying
the earliest historical and legislative records of New England. They
exercised the rights of sovereignty; they named their magistrates,
concluded peace or declared war, made police regulations, and enacted
laws as if their allegiance was due only to God. *o Nothing can be more
curious and, at the same time more instructive, than the legislation of
that period; it is there that the solution of the great social problem
which the United States now present to the world is to be found.

[Footnote o: The inhabitants of Massachusetts had deviated from the
forms which are preserved in the criminal and civil procedure of
England; in 1650 the decrees of justice were not yet headed by the royal
style. See Hutchinson, vol. i. p. 452.]

Amongst these documents we shall notice, as especially characteristic,
the code of laws promulgated by the little State of Connecticut in 1650.
*p The legislators of Connecticut *q begin with the penal laws, and,
strange to say, they borrow their provisions from the text of Holy Writ.
"Whosoever shall worship any other God than the Lord," says the preamble
of the Code, "shall surely be put to death." This is followed by ten or
twelve enactments of the same kind, copied verbatim from the books of
Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Blasphemy, sorcery, adultery, *r
and rape were punished with death; an outrage offered by a son to his
parents was to be expiated by the same penalty. The legislation of a
rude and half-civilized people was thus applied to an enlightened and
moral community. The consequence was that the punishment of death was
never more frequently prescribed by the statute, and never more rarely
enforced towards the guilty.

[Footnote p: Code of 1650, p. 28; Hartford, 1830.]

[Footnote q: See also in "Hutchinson's History," vol. i. pp. 435,
456, the analysis of the penal code adopted in 1648 by the Colony of
Massachusetts: this code is drawn up on the same principles as that of

[Footnote r: Adultery was also punished with death by the law of
Massachusetts: and Hutchinson, vol. i. p. 441, says that several persons
actually suffered for this crime. He quotes a curious anecdote on
this subject, which occurred in the year 1663. A married woman had had
criminal intercourse with a young man; her husband died, and she married
the lover. Several years had elapsed, when the public began to suspect
the previous intercourse of this couple: they were thrown into prison,
put upon trial, and very narrowly escaped capital punishment.]

The chief care of the legislators, in this body of penal laws, was the
maintenance of orderly conduct and good morals in the community: they
constantly invaded the domain of conscience, and there was scarcely a
sin which was not subject to magisterial censure. The reader is aware of
the rigor with which these laws punished rape and adultery; intercourse
between unmarried persons was likewise severely repressed. The judge was
empowered to inflict a pecuniary penalty, a whipping, or marriage *s on
the misdemeanants; and if the records of the old courts of New Haven may
be believed, prosecutions of this kind were not unfrequent. We find
a sentence bearing date the first of May, 1660, inflicting a fine and
reprimand on a young woman who was accused of using improper language,
and of allowing herself to be kissed. *t The Code of 1650 abounds in
preventive measures. It punishes idleness and drunkenness with severity.
*u Innkeepers are forbidden to furnish more than a certain quantity of
liquor to each consumer; and simple lying, whenever it may be injurious,
*v is checked by a fine or a flogging. In other places, the legislator,
entirely forgetting the great principles of religious toleration which
he had himself upheld in Europe, renders attendance on divine service
compulsory, *w and goes so far as to visit with severe punishment, **
and even with death, the Christians who chose to worship God according
to a ritual differing from his own. *x Sometimes indeed the zeal of his
enactments induces him to descend to the most frivolous particulars:
thus a law is to be found in the same Code which prohibits the use
of tobacco. *y It must not be forgotten that these fantastical and
vexatious laws were not imposed by authority, but that they were
freely voted by all the persons interested, and that the manners of the
community were even more austere and more puritanical than the laws.
In 1649 a solemn association was formed in Boston to check the worldly
luxury of long hair. *z

[Footnote s: Code of 1650, p. 48. It seems sometimes to have happened
that the judges superadded these punishments to each other, as is seen
in a sentence pronounced in 1643 (p. 114, "New Haven Antiquities"), by
which Margaret Bedford, convicted of loose conduct, was condemned to be
whipped, and afterwards to marry Nicholas Jemmings, her accomplice.]

[Footnote t: "New Haven Antiquities," p. 104. See also "Hutchinson's
History," for several causes equally extraordinary.]

[Footnote u: Code of 1650, pp. 50, 57.]

[Footnote v: Ibid., p. 64.]

[Footnote w: Ibid., p. 44.]

[Footnote *: This was not peculiar to Connecticut. See, for instance,
the law which, on September 13, 1644, banished the Anabaptists from the
State of Massachusetts. ("Historical Collection of State Papers," vol.
i. p. 538.) See also the law against the Quakers, passed on October 14,
1656: "Whereas," says the preamble, "an accursed race of heretics called
Quakers has sprung up," etc. The clauses of the statute inflict a
heavy fine on all captains of ships who should import Quakers into
the country. The Quakers who may be found there shall be whipped and
imprisoned with hard labor. Those members of the sect who should defend
their opinions shall be first fined, then imprisoned, and finally driven
out of the province.--"Historical Collection of State Papers," vol. i.
p. 630.]

[Footnote x: By the penal law of Massachusetts, any Catholic priest who
should set foot in the colony after having been once driven out of it
was liable to capital punishment.]

[Footnote y: Code of 1650, p. 96.]

[Footnote z: "New England's Memorial," p. 316. See Appendix, E.]

These errors are no doubt discreditable to human reason; they attest the
inferiority of our nature, which is incapable of laying firm hold upon
what is true and just, and is often reduced to the alternative of two
excesses. In strict connection with this penal legislation, which bears
such striking marks of a narrow sectarian spirit, and of those religious
passions which had been warmed by persecution and were still fermenting
among the people, a body of political laws is to be found, which, though
written two hundred years ago, is still ahead of the liberties of
our age. The general principles which are the groundwork of modern
constitutions--principles which were imperfectly known in Europe, and
not completely triumphant even in Great Britain, in the seventeenth
century--were all recognized and determined by the laws of New England:
the intervention of the people in public affairs, the free voting of
taxes, the responsibility of authorities, personal liberty, and trial
by jury, were all positively established without discussion. From these
fruitful principles consequences have been derived and applications have
been made such as no nation in Europe has yet ventured to attempt.

In Connecticut the electoral body consisted, from its origin, of the
whole number of citizens; and this is readily to be understood, *a when
we recollect that this people enjoyed an almost perfect equality of
fortune, and a still greater uniformity of opinions. *b In Connecticut,
at this period, all the executive functionaries were elected, including
the Governor of the State. *c The citizens above the age of sixteen were
obliged to bear arms; they formed a national militia, which appointed
its own officers, and was to hold itself at all times in readiness to
march for the defence of the country. *d

[Footnote a: Constitution of 1638, p. 17.]

[Footnote b: In 1641 the General Assembly of Rhode Island unanimously
declared that the government of the State was a democracy, and that the
power was vested in the body of free citizens, who alone had the right
to make the laws and to watch their execution.--Code of 1650, p. 70.]

[Footnote c: "Pitkin's History," p. 47.]

[Footnote d: Constitution of 1638, p. 12.]

In the laws of Connecticut, as well as in all those of New England,
we find the germ and gradual development of that township independence
which is the life and mainspring of American liberty at the present
day. The political existence of the majority of the nations of Europe
commenced in the superior ranks of society, and was gradually and
imperfectly communicated to the different members of the social body.
In America, on the other hand, it may be said that the township was
organized before the county, the county before the State, the State
before the Union. In New England townships were completely and
definitively constituted as early as 1650. The independence of the
township was the nucleus round which the local interests, passions,
rights, and duties collected and clung. It gave scope to the activity
of a real political life most thoroughly democratic and republican. The
colonies still recognized the supremacy of the mother-country; monarchy
was still the law of the State; but the republic was already established
in every township. The towns named their own magistrates of every kind,
rated themselves, and levied their own taxes. *e In the parish of New
England the law of representation was not adopted, but the affairs of
the community were discussed, as at Athens, in the market-place, by a
general assembly of the citizens.

[Footnote e: Code of 1650, p. 80.]

In studying the laws which were promulgated at this first era of the
American republics, it is impossible not to be struck by the remarkable
acquaintance with the science of government and the advanced theory of
legislation which they display. The ideas there formed of the duties
of society towards its members are evidently much loftier and more
comprehensive than those of the European legislators at that time:
obligations were there imposed which were elsewhere slighted. In the
States of New England, from the first, the condition of the poor was
provided for; *f strict measures were taken for the maintenance of
roads, and surveyors were appointed to attend to them; *g registers
were established in every parish, in which the results of public
deliberations, and the births, deaths, and marriages of the citizens
were entered; *h clerks were directed to keep these registers; *i
officers were charged with the administration of vacant inheritances,
and with the arbitration of litigated landmarks; and many others were
created whose chief functions were the maintenance of public order in
the community. *j The law enters into a thousand useful provisions for
a number of social wants which are at present very inadequately felt in
France. [Footnote f: Ibid., p. 78.]

[Footnote g: Ibid., p. 49.]

[Footnote h: See "Hutchinson's History," vol. i. p. 455.]

[Footnote i: Code of 1650, p. 86.]

[Footnote j: Ibid., p. 40.]

But it is by the attention it pays to Public Education that the original
character of American civilization is at once placed in the clearest
light. "It being," says the law, "one chief project of Satan to keep
men from the knowledge of the Scripture by persuading from the use of
tongues, to the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of
our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our
endeavors. . . ." *k Here follow clauses establishing schools in every
township, and obliging the inhabitants, under pain of heavy fines, to
support them. Schools of a superior kind were founded in the same manner
in the more populous districts. The municipal authorities were bound to
enforce the sending of children to school by their parents; they were
empowered to inflict fines upon all who refused compliance; and in case
of continued resistance society assumed the place of the parent, took
possession of the child, and deprived the father of those natural rights
which he used to so bad a purpose. The reader will undoubtedly have
remarked the preamble of these enactments: in America religion is the
road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man to
civil freedom.

[Footnote k: Ibid., p. 90.]

If, after having cast a rapid glance over the state of American society
in 1650, we turn to the condition of Europe, and more especially to that
of the Continent, at the same period, we cannot fail to be struck
with astonishment. On the Continent of Europe, at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, absolute monarchy had everywhere triumphed over the
ruins of the oligarchical and feudal liberties of the Middle Ages. Never
were the notions of right more completely confounded than in the midst
of the splendor and literature of Europe; never was there less political
activity among the people; never were the principles of true freedom
less widely circulated; and at that very time those principles, which
were scorned or unknown by the nations of Europe, were proclaimed in
the deserts of the New World, and were accepted as the future creed of
a great people. The boldest theories of the human reason were put into
practice by a community so humble that not a statesman condescended to
attend to it; and a legislation without a precedent was produced
offhand by the imagination of the citizens. In the bosom of this
obscure democracy, which had as yet brought forth neither generals, nor
philosophers, nor authors, a man might stand up in the face of a free
people and pronounce the following fine definition of liberty. *l

[Footnote l: Mather's "Magnalia Christi Americana," vol. ii. p. 13.
This speech was made by Winthrop; he was accused of having committed
arbitrary actions during his magistracy, but after having made
the speech of which the above is a fragment, he was acquitted by
acclamation, and from that time forwards he was always re-elected
governor of the State. See Marshal, vol. i. p. 166.]

"Nor would I have you to mistake in the point of your own liberty.
There is a liberty of a corrupt nature which is effected both by men
and beasts to do what they list, and this liberty is inconsistent with
authority, impatient of all restraint; by this liberty 'sumus omnes
deteriores': 'tis the grand enemy of truth and peace, and all the
ordinances of God are bent against it. But there is a civil, a moral, a
federal liberty which is the proper end and object of authority; it is
a liberty for that only which is just and good: for this liberty you are
to stand with the hazard of your very lives and whatsoever crosses it is
not authority, but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained in a
way of subjection to authority; and the authority set over you will, in
all administrations for your good, be quietly submitted unto by all but
such as have a disposition to shake off the yoke and lose their true
liberty, by their murmuring at the honor and power of authority."

The remarks I have made will suffice to display the character of
Anglo-American civilization in its true light. It is the result (and
this should be constantly present to the mind of two distinct elements),
which in other places have been in frequent hostility, but which in
America have been admirably incorporated and combined with one another.
I allude to the spirit of Religion and the spirit of Liberty.

The settlers of New England were at the same time ardent sectarians
and daring innovators. Narrow as the limits of some of their religious
opinions were, they were entirely free from political prejudices. Hence
arose two tendencies, distinct but not opposite, which are constantly
discernible in the manners as well as in the laws of the country.

It might be imagined that men who sacrificed their friends, their
family, and their native land to a religious conviction were absorbed
in the pursuit of the intellectual advantages which they purchased at
so dear a rate. The energy, however, with which they strove for the
acquirement of wealth, moral enjoyment, and the comforts as well as
liberties of the world, is scarcely inferior to that with which they
devoted themselves to Heaven.

Political principles and all human laws and institutions were moulded
and altered at their pleasure; the barriers of the society in which they
were born were broken down before them; the old principles which had
governed the world for ages were no more; a path without a turn and
a field without an horizon were opened to the exploring and ardent
curiosity of man: but at the limits of the political world he checks
his researches, he discreetly lays aside the use of his most formidable
faculties, he no longer consents to doubt or to innovate, but carefully
abstaining from raising the curtain of the sanctuary, he yields with
submissive respect to truths which he will not discuss. Thus, in the
moral world everything is classed, adapted, decided, and foreseen; in
the political world everything is agitated, uncertain, and disputed:
in the one is a passive, though a voluntary, obedience; in the other an
independence scornful of experience and jealous of authority.

These two tendencies, apparently so discrepant, are far from
conflicting; they advance together, and mutually support each other.
Religion perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the
faculties of man, and that the political world is a field prepared by
the Creator for the efforts of the intelligence. Contented with the
freedom and the power which it enjoys in its own sphere, and with the
place which it occupies, the empire of religion is never more surely
established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by
aught beside its native strength. Religion is no less the companion of
liberty in all its battles and its triumphs; the cradle of its infancy,
and the divine source of its claims. The safeguard of morality is
religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge
of freedom. *m

[Footnote m: See Appendix, F.]

Reasons Of Certain Anomalies Which The Laws And Customs Of The
Anglo-Americans Present

Remains of aristocratic institutions in the midst of a complete
democracy--Why?--Distinction carefully to be drawn between what is of
Puritanical and what is of English origin.

The reader is cautioned not to draw too general or too absolute an
inference from what has been said. The social condition, the religion,
and the manners of the first emigrants undoubtedly exercised an immense
influence on the destiny of their new country. Nevertheless they were
not in a situation to found a state of things solely dependent on
themselves: no man can entirely shake off the influence of the past, and
the settlers, intentionally or involuntarily, mingled habits and notions
derived from their education and from the traditions of their country
with those habits and notions which were exclusively their own. To form
a judgment on the Anglo-Americans of the present day it is therefore
necessary to distinguish what is of Puritanical and what is of English

Laws and customs are frequently to be met with in the United States
which contrast strongly with all that surrounds them. These laws seem to
be drawn up in a spirit contrary to the prevailing tenor of the American
legislation; and these customs are no less opposed to the tone of
society. If the English colonies had been founded in an age of darkness,
or if their origin was already lost in the lapse of years, the problem
would be insoluble.

I shall quote a single example to illustrate what I advance. The
civil and criminal procedure of the Americans has only two means of
action--committal and bail. The first measure taken by the magistrate
is to exact security from the defendant, or, in case of refusal, to
incarcerate him: the ground of the accusation and the importance of the
charges against him are then discussed. It is evident that a legislation
of this kind is hostile to the poor man, and favorable only to the
rich. The poor man has not always a security to produce, even in a
civil cause; and if he is obliged to wait for justice in prison, he is
speedily reduced to distress. The wealthy individual, on the contrary,
always escapes imprisonment in civil causes; nay, more, he may readily
elude the punishment which awaits him for a delinquency by breaking his
bail. So that all the penalties of the law are, for him, reducible
to fines. *n Nothing can be more aristocratic than this system of
legislation. Yet in America it is the poor who make the law, and they
usually reserve the greatest social advantages to themselves. The
explanation of the phenomenon is to be found in England; the laws of
which I speak are English, *o and the Americans have retained them,
however repugnant they may be to the tenor of their legislation and the
mass of their ideas. Next to its habits, the thing which a nation
is least apt to change is its civil legislation. Civil laws are only
familiarly known to legal men, whose direct interest it is to maintain
them as they are, whether good or bad, simply because they themselves
are conversant with them. The body of the nation is scarcely acquainted
with them; it merely perceives their action in particular cases; but it
has some difficulty in seizing their tendency, and obeys them without
premeditation. I have quoted one instance where it would have been easy
to adduce a great number of others. The surface of American society is,
if I may use the expression, covered with a layer of democracy, from
beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep.

[Footnote n: Crimes no doubt exist for which bail is inadmissible, but
they are few in number.]

[Footnote o: See Blackstone; and Delolme, book I chap. x.]

Chapter III: Social Conditions Of The Anglo-Americans

Chapter Summary

A Social condition is commonly the result of circumstances, sometimes of
laws, oftener still of these two causes united; but wherever it exists,
it may justly be considered as the source of almost all the laws, the
usages, and the ideas which regulate the conduct of nations; whatever
it does not produce it modifies. It is therefore necessary, if we would
become acquainted with the legislation and the manners of a nation, to
begin by the study of its social condition.

The Striking Characteristic Of The Social Condition Of The
Anglo-Americans In Its Essential Democracy.

The first emigrants of New England--Their equality--Aristocratic laws
introduced in the South--Period of the Revolution--Change in the law
of descent--Effects produced by this change--Democracy carried to its
utmost limits in the new States of the West--Equality of education.

Many important observations suggest themselves upon the social condition
of the Anglo-Americans, but there is one which takes precedence of all
the rest. The social condition of the Americans is eminently democratic;
this was its character at the foundation of the Colonies, and is still
more strongly marked at the present day. I have stated in the preceding
chapter that great equality existed among the emigrants who settled on
the shores of New England. The germ of aristocracy was never planted in
that part of the Union. The only influence which obtained there was that
of intellect; the people were used to reverence certain names as the
emblems of knowledge and virtue. Some of their fellow-citizens acquired
a power over the rest which might truly have been called aristocratic,
if it had been capable of transmission from father to son.

This was the state of things to the east of the Hudson: to the
south-west of that river, and in the direction of the Floridas, the case
was different. In most of the States situated to the south-west of the
Hudson some great English proprietors had settled, who had imported
with them aristocratic principles and the English law of descent. I have
explained the reasons why it was impossible ever to establish a powerful
aristocracy in America; these reasons existed with less force to the
south-west of the Hudson. In the South, one man, aided by slaves, could
cultivate a great extent of country: it was therefore common to see rich
landed proprietors. But their influence was not altogether aristocratic
as that term is understood in Europe, since they possessed no
privileges; and the cultivation of their estates being carried on by
slaves, they had no tenants depending on them, and consequently no
patronage. Still, the great proprietors south of the Hudson constituted
a superior class, having ideas and tastes of its own, and forming the
centre of political action. This kind of aristocracy sympathized with
the body of the people, whose passions and interests it easily embraced;
but it was too weak and too short-lived to excite either love or hatred
for itself. This was the class which headed the insurrection in the
South, and furnished the best leaders of the American revolution.

At the period of which we are now speaking society was shaken to
its centre: the people, in whose name the struggle had taken place,
conceived the desire of exercising the authority which it had acquired;
its democratic tendencies were awakened; and having thrown off the yoke
of the mother-country, it aspired to independence of every kind. The
influence of individuals gradually ceased to be felt, and custom and law
united together to produce the same result.

But the law of descent was the last step to equality. I am surprised
that ancient and modern jurists have not attributed to this law a
greater influence on human affairs. *a It is true that these laws belong
to civil affairs; but they ought nevertheless to be placed at the head
of all political institutions; for, whilst political laws are only the
symbol of a nation's condition, they exercise an incredible influence
upon its social state. They have, moreover, a sure and uniform manner of
operating upon society, affecting, as it were, generations yet unborn.

[Footnote a: I understand by the law of descent all those laws whose
principal object is to regulate the distribution of property after the
death of its owner. The law of entail is of this number; it certainly
prevents the owner from disposing of his possessions before his death;
but this is solely with the view of preserving them entire for the heir.
The principal object, therefore, of the law of entail is to regulate the
descent of property after the death of its owner: its other provisions
are merely means to this end.]

Through their means man acquires a kind of preternatural power over the
future lot of his fellow-creatures. When the legislator has regulated
the law of inheritance, he may rest from his labor. The machine once put
in motion will go on for ages, and advance, as if self-guided, towards a
given point. When framed in a particular manner, this law unites, draws
together, and vests property and power in a few hands: its tendency is
clearly aristocratic. On opposite principles its action is still more
rapid; it divides, distributes, and disperses both property and power.
Alarmed by the rapidity of its progress, those who despair of arresting
its motion endeavor to obstruct it by difficulties and impediments;
they vainly seek to counteract its effect by contrary efforts; but it
gradually reduces or destroys every obstacle, until by its incessant
activity the bulwarks of the influence of wealth are ground down to the
fine and shifting sand which is the basis of democracy. When the law of
inheritance permits, still more when it decrees, the equal division of
a father's property amongst all his children, its effects are of two
kinds: it is important to distinguish them from each other, although
they tend to the same end.

In virtue of the law of partible inheritance, the death of every
proprietor brings about a kind of revolution in property; not only do
his possessions change hands, but their very nature is altered, since
they are parcelled into shares, which become smaller and smaller at each
division. This is the direct and, as it were, the physical effect of the
law. It follows, then, that in countries where equality of inheritance
is established by law, property, and especially landed property, must
have a tendency to perpetual diminution. The effects, however, of such
legislation would only be perceptible after a lapse of time, if the law
was abandoned to its own working; for supposing the family to consist of
two children (and in a country people as France is the average number
is not above three), these children, sharing amongst them the fortune of
both parents, would not be poorer than their father or mother.

But the law of equal division exercises its influence not merely upon
the property itself, but it affects the minds of the heirs, and brings
their passions into play. These indirect consequences tend powerfully
to the destruction of large fortunes, and especially of large domains.
Among nations whose law of descent is founded upon the right of
primogeniture landed estates often pass from generation to generation
without undergoing division, the consequence of which is that family
feeling is to a certain degree incorporated with the estate. The family
represents the estate, the estate the family; whose name, together with
its origin, its glory, its power, and its virtues, is thus perpetuated
in an imperishable memorial of the past and a sure pledge of the future.

When the equal partition of property is established by law, the intimate
connection is destroyed between family feeling and the preservation of
the paternal estate; the property ceases to represent the family; for
as it must inevitably be divided after one or two generations, it
has evidently a constant tendency to diminish, and must in the end be
completely dispersed. The sons of the great landed proprietor, if they
are few in number, or if fortune befriends them, may indeed entertain
the hope of being as wealthy as their father, but not that of possessing
the same property as he did; the riches must necessarily be composed of
elements different from his.

Now, from the moment that you divest the landowner of that interest in
the preservation of his estate which he derives from association, from
tradition, and from family pride, you may be certain that sooner or
later he will dispose of it; for there is a strong pecuniary interest in
favor of selling, as floating capital produces higher interest than real
property, and is more readily available to gratify the passions of the

Great landed estates which have once been divided never come together
again; for the small proprietor draws from his land a better revenue, in
proportion, than the large owner does from his, and of course he sells
it at a higher rate. *b The calculations of gain, therefore, which
decide the rich man to sell his domain will still more powerfully
influence him against buying small estates to unite them into a large

[Footnote b: I do not mean to say that the small proprietor cultivates
his land better, but he cultivates it with more ardor and care; so that
he makes up by his labor for his want of skill.]

What is called family pride is often founded upon an illusion of
self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself, as it
were, in his great-grandchildren. Where the esprit de famille ceases
to act individual selfishness comes into play. When the idea of family
becomes vague, indeterminate, and uncertain, a man thinks of his
present convenience; he provides for the establishment of his succeeding
generation, and no more. Either a man gives up the idea of perpetuating
his family, or at any rate he seeks to accomplish it by other means
than that of a landed estate. Thus not only does the law of partible
inheritance render it difficult for families to preserve their ancestral
domains entire, but it deprives them of the inclination to attempt it,
and compels them in some measure to co-operate with the law in their own

The law of equal distribution proceeds by two methods: by acting upon
things, it acts upon persons; by influencing persons, it affects things.
By these means the law succeeds in striking at the root of landed
property, and dispersing rapidly both families and fortunes. *c

[Footnote c: Land being the most stable kind of property, we find, from
time to time, rich individuals who are disposed to make great sacrifices
in order to obtain it, and who willingly forfeit a considerable part of
their income to make sure of the rest. But these are accidental cases.
The preference for landed property is no longer found habitually in any
class but among the poor. The small landowner, who has less information,
less imagination, and fewer passions than the great one, is generally
occupied with the desire of increasing his estate: and it often happens
that by inheritance, by marriage, or by the chances of trade, he is
gradually furnished with the means. Thus, to balance the tendency which
leads men to divide their estates, there exists another, which incites
them to add to them. This tendency, which is sufficient to prevent
estates from being divided ad infinitum, is not strong enough to create
great territorial possessions, certainly not to keep them up in the same

Most certainly it is not for us Frenchmen of the nineteenth century,
who daily witness the political and social changes which the law
of partition is bringing to pass, to question its influence. It is
perpetually conspicuous in our country, overthrowing the walls of our
dwellings and removing the landmarks of our fields. But although it has
produced great effects in France, much still remains for it to do. Our
recollections, opinions, and habits present powerful obstacles to its

In the United States it has nearly completed its work of destruction,
and there we can best study its results. The English laws concerning the
transmission of property were abolished in almost all the States at
the time of the Revolution. The law of entail was so modified as not
to interrupt the free circulation of property. *d The first generation
having passed away, estates began to be parcelled out, and the change
became more and more rapid with the progress of time. At this moment,
after a lapse of a little more than sixty years, the aspect of society
is totally altered; the families of the great landed proprietors are
almost all commingled with the general mass. In the State of New York,
which formerly contained many of these, there are but two who still keep
their heads above the stream, and they must shortly disappear. The sons
of these opulent citizens are become merchants, lawyers, or physicians.
Most of them have lapsed into obscurity. The last trace of hereditary
ranks and distinctions is destroyed--the law of partition has reduced
all to one level. [Footnote d: See Appendix, G.]

I do not mean that there is any deficiency of wealthy individuals in the
United States; I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has
taken stronger hold on the affections of men, and where the profounder
contempt is expressed for the theory of the permanent equality of
property. But wealth circulates with inconceivable rapidity, and
experience shows that it is rare to find two succeeding generations in
the full enjoyment of it.

This picture, which may perhaps be thought to be overcharged, still
gives a very imperfect idea of what is taking place in the new States
of the West and South-west. At the end of the last century a few bold
adventurers began to penetrate into the valleys of the Mississippi, and
the mass of the population very soon began to move in that direction:
communities unheard of till then were seen to emerge from the wilds:
States whose names were not in existence a few years before claimed
their place in the American Union; and in the Western settlements we may
behold democracy arrived at its utmost extreme. In these States,
founded off-hand, and, as it were, by chance, the inhabitants are but
of yesterday. Scarcely known to one another, the nearest neighbors
are ignorant of each other's history. In this part of the American
continent, therefore, the population has not experienced the influence
of great names and great wealth, nor even that of the natural
aristocracy of knowledge and virtue. None are there to wield that
respectable power which men willingly grant to the remembrance of a life
spent in doing good before their eyes. The new States of the West are
already inhabited, but society has no existence among them. *e

[Footnote e: This may have been true in 1832, but is not so in 1874,
when great cities like Chicago and San Francisco have sprung up in
the Western States. But as yet the Western States exert no powerful
influence on American society.---Translator's Note.]

It is not only the fortunes of men which are equal in America; even
their requirements partake in some degree of the same uniformity. I do
not believe that there is a country in the world where, in proportion
to the population, there are so few uninstructed and at the same time
so few learned individuals. Primary instruction is within the reach of
everybody; superior instruction is scarcely to be obtained by any. This
is not surprising; it is in fact the necessary consequence of what we
have advanced above. Almost all the Americans are in easy circumstances,
and can therefore obtain the first elements of human knowledge.

In America there are comparatively few who are rich enough to live
without a profession. Every profession requires an apprenticeship, which
limits the time of instruction to the early years of life. At fifteen
they enter upon their calling, and thus their education ends at the age
when ours begins. Whatever is done afterwards is with a view to some
special and lucrative object; a science is taken up as a matter of
business, and the only branch of it which is attended to is such as
admits of an immediate practical application. In America most of the
rich men were formerly poor; most of those who now enjoy leisure were
absorbed in business during their youth; the consequence of which is,
that when they might have had a taste for study they had no time for it,
and when time is at their disposal they have no longer the inclination.

There is no class, then, in America, in which the taste for intellectual
pleasures is transmitted with hereditary fortune and leisure, and by
which the labors of the intellect are held in honor. Accordingly there
is an equal want of the desire and the power of application to these

A middle standard is fixed in America for human knowledge. All approach
as near to it as they can; some as they rise, others as they descend.
Of course, an immense multitude of persons are to be found who entertain
the same number of ideas on religion, history, science, political
economy, legislation, and government. The gifts of intellect proceed
directly from God, and man cannot prevent their unequal distribution.
But in consequence of the state of things which we have here represented
it happens that, although the capacities of men are widely different, as
the Creator has doubtless intended they should be, they are submitted to
the same method of treatment.

In America the aristocratic element has always been feeble from its
birth; and if at the present day it is not actually destroyed, it is at
any rate so completely disabled that we can scarcely assign to it any
degree of influence in the course of affairs. The democratic principle,
on the contrary, has gained so much strength by time, by events, and by
legislation, as to have become not only predominant but all-powerful.
There is no family or corporate authority, and it is rare to find even
the influence of individual character enjoy any durability.

America, then, exhibits in her social state a most extraordinary
phenomenon. Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune
and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in their strength, than
in any other country of the world, or in any age of which history has
preserved the remembrance.

Political Consequences Of The Social Condition Of The Anglo-Americans

The political consequences of such a social condition as this are easily
deducible. It is impossible to believe that equality will not eventually
find its way into the political world as it does everywhere else. To
conceive of men remaining forever unequal upon one single point, yet
equal on all others, is impossible; they must come in the end to be
equal upon all. Now I know of only two methods of establishing equality
in the political world; every citizen must be put in possession of
his rights, or rights must be granted to no one. For nations which are
arrived at the same stage of social existence as the Anglo-Americans, it
is therefore very difficult to discover a medium between the sovereignty
of all and the absolute power of one man: and it would be vain to deny
that the social condition which I have been describing is equally liable
to each of these consequences.

There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites
men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to
elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in
the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak
to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to
prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom. Not that those
nations whose social condition is democratic naturally despise liberty;
on the contrary, they have an instinctive love of it. But liberty is not
the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol:
they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and if they miss
their aim resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can
satisfy them except equality, and rather than lose it they resolve to

On the other hand, in a State where the citizens are nearly on an
equality, it becomes difficult for them to preserve their independence
against the aggressions of power. No one among them being strong
enough to engage in the struggle with advantage, nothing but a general
combination can protect their liberty. And such a union is not always to
be found.

From the same social position, then, nations may derive one or the other
of two great political results; these results are extremely different
from each other, but they may both proceed from the same cause.

The Anglo-Americans are the first nations who, having been exposed
to this formidable alternative, have been happy enough to escape
the dominion of absolute power. They have been allowed by their
circumstances, their origin, their intelligence, and especially by their
moral feeling, to establish and maintain the sovereignty of the people.

Chapter IV: The Principle Of The Sovereignty Of The People In America

Chapter Summary

It predominates over the whole of society in America--Application
made of this principle by the Americans even before their
Revolution--Development given to it by that Revolution--Gradual and
irresistible extension of the elective qualification.

The Principle Of The Sovereignty Of The People In America

Whenever the political laws of the United States are to be discussed,
it is with the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people that we must
begin. The principle of the sovereignty of the people, which is to be
found, more or less, at the bottom of almost all human institutions,
generally remains concealed from view. It is obeyed without being
recognized, or if for a moment it be brought to light, it is hastily
cast back into the gloom of the sanctuary. "The will of the nation" is
one of those expressions which have been most profusely abused by the
wily and the despotic of every age. To the eyes of some it has been
represented by the venal suffrages of a few of the satellites of power;
to others by the votes of a timid or an interested minority; and some
have even discovered it in the silence of a people, on the supposition
that the fact of submission established the right of command.

In America the principle of the sovereignty of the people is not either
barren or concealed, as it is with some other nations; it is recognized
by the customs and proclaimed by the laws; it spreads freely, and
arrives without impediment at its most remote consequences. If there
be a country in the world where the doctrine of the sovereignty of
the people can be fairly appreciated, where it can be studied in its
application to the affairs of society, and where its dangers and its
advantages may be foreseen, that country is assuredly America.

I have already observed that, from their origin, the sovereignty of the
people was the fundamental principle of the greater number of British
colonies in America. It was far, however, from then exercising as much
influence on the government of society as it now does. Two obstacles,
the one external, the other internal, checked its invasive progress. It
could not ostensibly disclose itself in the laws of colonies which were
still constrained to obey the mother-country: it was therefore obliged
to spread secretly, and to gain ground in the provincial assemblies, and
especially in the townships.

American society was not yet prepared to adopt it with all its
consequences. The intelligence of New England, and the wealth of the
country to the south of the Hudson (as I have shown in the preceding
chapter), long exercised a sort of aristocratic influence, which tended
to retain the exercise of social authority in the hands of a few. The
public functionaries were not universally elected, and the citizens were
not all of them electors. The electoral franchise was everywhere placed
within certain limits, and made dependent on a certain qualification,
which was exceedingly low in the North and more considerable in the

The American revolution broke out, and the doctrine of the sovereignty
of the people, which had been nurtured in the townships and
municipalities, took possession of the State: every class was enlisted
in its cause; battles were fought, and victories obtained for it, until
it became the law of laws.

A no less rapid change was effected in the interior of society, where
the law of descent completed the abolition of local influences.

At the very time when this consequence of the laws and of the revolution
was apparent to every eye, victory was irrevocably pronounced in favor
of the democratic cause. All power was, in fact, in its hands, and
resistance was no longer possible. The higher orders submitted without
a murmur and without a struggle to an evil which was thenceforth
inevitable. The ordinary fate of falling powers awaited them; each
of their several members followed his own interests; and as it was
impossible to wring the power from the hands of a people which they
did not detest sufficiently to brave, their only aim was to secure its
good-will at any price. The most democratic laws were consequently voted
by the very men whose interests they impaired; and thus, although the
higher classes did not excite the passions of the people against their
order, they accelerated the triumph of the new state of things; so
that by a singular change the democratic impulse was found to be most
irresistible in the very States where the aristocracy had the firmest
hold. The State of Maryland, which had been founded by men of rank,
was the first to proclaim universal suffrage, and to introduce the most
democratic forms into the conduct of its government.

When a nation modifies the elective qualification, it may easily be
foreseen that sooner or later that qualification will be entirely
abolished. There is no more invariable rule in the history of society:
the further electoral rights are extended, the greater is the need of
extending them; for after each concession the strength of the democracy
increases, and its demands increase with its strength. The ambition of
those who are below the appointed rate is irritated in exact proportion
to the great number of those who are above it. The exception at last
becomes the rule, concession follows concession, and no stop can be made
short of universal suffrage.

At the present day the principle of the sovereignty of the people has
acquired, in the United States, all the practical development which the
imagination can conceive. It is unencumbered by those fictions which
have been thrown over it in other countries, and it appears in every
possible form according to the exigency of the occasion. Sometimes the
laws are made by the people in a body, as at Athens; and sometimes its
representatives, chosen by universal suffrage, transact business in its
name, and almost under its immediate control.

In some countries a power exists which, though it is in a degree foreign
to the social body, directs it, and forces it to pursue a certain track.
In others the ruling force is divided, being partly within and partly
without the ranks of the people. But nothing of the kind is to be seen
in the United States; there society governs itself for itself. All power
centres in its bosom; and scarcely an individual is to be meet with
who would venture to conceive, or, still less, to express, the idea of
seeking it elsewhere. The nation participates in the making of its laws
by the choice of its legislators, and in the execution of them by the
choice of the agents of the executive government; it may almost be said
to govern itself, so feeble and so restricted is the share left to the
administration, so little do the authorities forget their popular origin
and the power from which they emanate. *a [Footnote a: See Appendix, H.]

Chapter V: Necessity Of Examining The Condition Of The States--Part I

Necessity Of Examining The Condition Of The States Before That Of The
Union At Large.

It is proposed to examine in the following chapter what is the form of
government established in America on the principle of the sovereignty of
the people; what are its resources, its hindrances, its advantages, and
its dangers. The first difficulty which presents itself arises from the
complex nature of the constitution of the United States, which consists
of two distinct social structures, connected and, as it were, encased
one within the other; two governments, completely separate and almost
independent, the one fulfilling the ordinary duties and responding to
the daily and indefinite calls of a community, the other circumscribed
within certain limits, and only exercising an exceptional authority over
the general interests of the country. In short, there are twenty-four
small sovereign nations, whose agglomeration constitutes the body of the
Union. To examine the Union before we have studied the States would
be to adopt a method filled with obstacles. The form of the Federal
Government of the United States was the last which was adopted; and
it is in fact nothing more than a modification or a summary of those
republican principles which were current in the whole community before
it existed, and independently of its existence. Moreover, the Federal
Government is, as I have just observed, the exception; the Government
of the States is the rule. The author who should attempt to exhibit the
picture as a whole before he had explained its details would necessarily
fall into obscurity and repetition.

The great political principles which govern American society at this
day undoubtedly took their origin and their growth in the State. It
is therefore necessary to become acquainted with the State in order to
possess a clue to the remainder. The States which at present compose
the American Union all present the same features, as far as regards the
external aspect of their institutions. Their political or administrative
existence is centred in three focuses of action, which may not inaptly
be compared to the different nervous centres which convey motion to the
human body. The township is the lowest in order, then the county, and
lastly the State; and I propose to devote the following chapter to the
examination of these three divisions.

The American System Of Townships And Municipal Bodies

Why the Author begins the examination of the political institutions with
the township--Its existence in all nations--Difficulty of establishing
and preserving municipal independence--Its importance--Why the Author
has selected the township system of New England as the main topic of his

It is not undesignedly that I begin this subject with the Township.
The village or township is the only association which is so perfectly
natural that wherever a number of men are collected it seems to
constitute itself.

The town, or tithing, as the smallest division of a community, must
necessarily exist in all nations, whatever their laws and customs
may be: if man makes monarchies and establishes republics, the first
association of mankind seems constituted by the hand of God. But
although the existence of the township is coeval with that of man, its
liberties are not the less rarely respected and easily destroyed. A
nation is always able to establish great political assemblies, because
it habitually contains a certain number of individuals fitted by their
talents, if not by their habits, for the direction of affairs. The
township is, on the contrary, composed of coarser materials, which are
less easily fashioned by the legislator. The difficulties which attend
the consolidation of its independence rather augment than diminish with
the increasing enlightenment of the people. A highly civilized community
spurns the attempts of a local independence, is disgusted at its
numerous blunders, and is apt to despair of success before the
experiment is completed. Again, no immunities are so ill protected from
the encroachments of the supreme power as those of municipal bodies in
general: they are unable to struggle, single-handed, against a strong
or an enterprising government, and they cannot defend their cause with
success unless it be identified with the customs of the nation and
supported by public opinion. Thus until the independence of townships is
amalgamated with the manners of a people it is easily destroyed, and
it is only after a long existence in the laws that it can be thus
amalgamated. Municipal freedom is not the fruit of human device; it
is rarely created; but it is, as it were, secretly and spontaneously
engendered in the midst of a semi-barbarous state of society.
The constant action of the laws and the national habits, peculiar
circumstances, and above all time, may consolidate it; but there is
certainly no nation on the continent of Europe which has experienced
its advantages. Nevertheless local assemblies of citizens constitute
the strength of free nations. Town-meetings are to liberty what primary
schools are to science; they bring it within the people's reach, they
teach men how to use and how to enjoy it. A nation may establish
a system of free government, but without the spirit of municipal
institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty. The transient
passions and the interests of an hour, or the chance of circumstances,
may have created the external forms of independence; but the despotic
tendency which has been repelled will, sooner or later, inevitably
reappear on the surface.

In order to explain to the reader the general principles on which the
political organization of the counties and townships of the United
States rests, I have thought it expedient to choose one of the States of
New England as an example, to examine the mechanism of its constitution,
and then to cast a general glance over the country. The township and the
county are not organized in the same manner in every part of the Union;
it is, however, easy to perceive that the same principles have guided
the formation of both of them throughout the Union. I am inclined to
believe that these principles have been carried further in New England
than elsewhere, and consequently that they offer greater facilities to
the observations of a stranger. The institutions of New England form
a complete and regular whole; they have received the sanction of time,
they have the support of the laws, and the still stronger support of the
manners of the community, over which they exercise the most prodigious
influence; they consequently deserve our attention on every account.

Limits Of The Township

The township of New England is a division which stands between the
commune and the canton of France, and which corresponds in general to
the English tithing, or town. Its average population is from two to
three thousand; *a so that, on the one hand, the interests of its
inhabitants are not likely to conflict, and, on the other, men capable
of conducting its affairs are always to be found among its citizens.

[Footnote a: In 1830 there were 305 townships in the State of
Massachusetts, and 610,014 inhabitants, which gives an average of about
2,000 inhabitants to each township.]

Authorities Of The Township In New England

The people the source of all power here as elsewhere--Manages its own
affairs--No corporation--The greater part of the authority vested in the
hands of the Selectmen--How the Selectmen act--Town-meeting--Enumeration
of the public officers of the township--Obligatory and remunerated

In the township, as well as everywhere else, the people is the only
source of power; but in no stage of government does the body of citizens
exercise a more immediate influence. In America the people is a master
whose exigencies demand obedience to the utmost limits of possibility.

In New England the majority acts by representatives in the conduct
of the public business of the State; but if such an arrangement be
necessary in general affairs, in the townships, where the legislative
and administrative action of the government is in more immediate contact
with the subject, the system of representation is not adopted. There is
no corporation; but the body of electors, after having designated its
magistrates, directs them in everything that exceeds the simple and
ordinary executive business of the State. *b

[Footnote b: The same rules are not applicable to the great towns, which
generally have a mayor, and a corporation divided into two bodies; this,
however, is an exception which requires the sanction of a law.--See the
Act of February 22, 1822, for appointing the authorities of the city
of Boston. It frequently happens that small towns as well as cities
are subject to a peculiar administration. In 1832, 104 townships in the
State of New York were governed in this manner.--Williams' Register.]

This state of things is so contrary to our ideas, and so different from
our customs, that it is necessary for me to adduce some examples to
explain it thoroughly.

The public duties in the township are extremely numerous and minutely
divided, as we shall see further on; but the larger proportion of
administrative power is vested in the hands of a small number of
individuals, called "the Selectmen." *c The general laws of the State
impose a certain number of obligations on the selectmen, which they may
fulfil without the authorization of the body they represent, but which
they can only neglect on their own responsibility. The law of the State
obliges them, for instance, to draw up the list of electors in their
townships; and if they omit this part of their functions, they are
guilty of a misdemeanor. In all the affairs, however, which are
determined by the town-meeting, the selectmen are the organs of the
popular mandate, as in France the Maire executes the decree of the
municipal council. They usually act upon their own responsibility, and
merely put in practice principles which have been previously recognized
by the majority. But if any change is to be introduced in the existing
state of things, or if they wish to undertake any new enterprise, they
are obliged to refer to the source of their power. If, for instance, a
school is to be established, the selectmen convoke the whole body of
the electors on a certain day at an appointed place; they explain the
urgency of the case; they give their opinion on the means of satisfying
it, on the probable expense, and the site which seems to be most
favorable. The meeting is consulted on these several points; it adopts
the principle, marks out the site, votes the rate, and confides the
execution of its resolution to the selectmen.

[Footnote c: Three selectmen are appointed in the small townships, and
nine in the large ones. See "The Town-Officer," p. 186. See also the
principal laws of the State of Massachusetts relative to the selectmen:

Act of February 20, 1786, vol. i. p. 219; February 24, 1796, vol. i. p.
488; March 7, 1801, vol. ii. p. 45; June 16, 1795, vol. i. p. 475; March
12, 1808, vol. ii. p. 186; February 28, 1787, vol. i. p. 302; June 22,
1797, vol. i. p. 539.]

The selectmen have alone the right of calling a town-meeting, but they
may be requested to do so: if ten citizens are desirous of submitting
a new project to the assent of the township, they may demand a general
convocation of the inhabitants; the selectmen are obliged to comply, but
they have only the right of presiding at the meeting. *d

[Footnote d: See Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 150, Act of March 25,

The selectmen are elected every year in the month of April or of May.
The town-meeting chooses at the same time a number of other municipal
magistrates, who are entrusted with important administrative functions.
The assessors rate the township; the collectors receive the rate. A
constable is appointed to keep the peace, to watch the streets, and to
forward the execution of the laws; the town-clerk records all the town
votes, orders, grants, births, deaths, and marriages; the treasurer
keeps the funds; the overseer of the poor performs the difficult task of
superintending the action of the poor-laws; committee-men are
appointed to attend to the schools and to public instruction; and the
road-surveyors, who take care of the greater and lesser thoroughfares
of the township, complete the list of the principal functionaries.
They are, however, still further subdivided; and amongst the municipal
officers are to be found parish commissioners, who audit the expenses
of public worship; different classes of inspectors, some of whom are
to direct the citizens in case of fire; tithing-men, listers, haywards,
chimney-viewers, fence-viewers to maintain the bounds of property,
timber-measurers, and sealers of weights and measures. *e

[Footnote e: All these magistrates actually exist; their different
functions are all detailed in a book called "The Town-Officer," by Isaac
Goodwin, Worcester, 1827; and in the "Collection of the General Laws of
Massachusetts," 3 vols., Boston, 1823.]

There are nineteen principal officers in a township. Every inhabitant
is constrained, on the pain of being fined, to undertake these different
functions; which, however, are almost all paid, in order that the poorer
citizens may be able to give up their time without loss. In general the
American system is not to grant a fixed salary to its functionaries.
Every service has its price, and they are remunerated in proportion to
what they have done.

Existence Of The Township

Every one the best judge of his own interest--Corollary of the principle
of the sovereignty of the people--Application of those doctrines in the
townships of America--The township of New England is sovereign in
all that concerns itself alone: subject to the State in all other
matters--Bond of the township and the State--In France the Government
lends its agent to the Commune--In America the reverse occurs.

I have already observed that the principle of the sovereignty of the
people governs the whole political system of the Anglo-Americans. Every
page of this book will afford new instances of the same doctrine. In
the nations by which the sovereignty of the people is recognized every
individual possesses an equal share of power, and participates alike in
the government of the State. Every individual is, therefore, supposed
to be as well informed, as virtuous, and as strong as any of his
fellow-citizens. He obeys the government, not because he is inferior to
the authorities which conduct it, or that he is less capable than his
neighbor of governing himself, but because he acknowledges the utility
of an association with his fellow-men, and because he knows that no such
association can exist without a regulating force. If he be a subject
in all that concerns the mutual relations of citizens, he is free and
responsible to God alone for all that concerns himself. Hence arises the
maxim that every one is the best and the sole judge of his own private
interest, and that society has no right to control a man's actions,
unless they are prejudicial to the common weal, or unless the common
weal demands his co-operation. This doctrine is universally admitted in
the United States. I shall hereafter examine the general influence which
it exercises on the ordinary actions of life; I am now speaking of the
nature of municipal bodies.

The township, taken as a whole, and in relation to the government of the
country, may be looked upon as an individual to whom the theory I
have just alluded to is applied. Municipal independence is therefore a
natural consequence of the principle of the sovereignty of the people in
the United States: all the American republics recognize it more or less;
but circumstances have peculiarly favored its growth in New England.

In this part of the Union the impulsion of political activity was given
in the townships; and it may almost be said that each of them originally
formed an independent nation. When the Kings of England asserted their
supremacy, they were contented to assume the central power of the State.
The townships of New England remained as they were before; and although
they are now subject to the State, they were at first scarcely dependent
upon it. It is important to remember that they have not been invested
with privileges, but that they have, on the contrary, forfeited a
portion of their independence to the State. The townships are only
subordinate to the State in those interests which I shall term social,
as they are common to all the citizens. They are independent in all
that concerns themselves; and amongst the inhabitants of New England
I believe that not a man is to be found who would acknowledge that the
State has any right to interfere in their local interests. The towns
of New England buy and sell, sue or are sued, augment or diminish
their rates, without the slightest opposition on the part of the
administrative authority of the State.

They are bound, however, to comply with the demands of the community. If
the State is in need of money, a town can neither give nor withhold the
supplies. If the State projects a road, the township cannot refuse to
let it cross its territory; if a police regulation is made by the State,
it must be enforced by the town. A uniform system of instruction is
organized all over the country, and every town is bound to establish the
schools which the law ordains. In speaking of the administration of the
United States I shall have occasion to point out the means by which the
townships are compelled to obey in these different cases: I here merely
show the existence of the obligation. Strict as this obligation is,
the government of the State imposes it in principle only, and in its
performance the township resumes all its independent rights. Thus,
taxes are voted by the State, but they are levied and collected by the
township; the existence of a school is obligatory, but the township
builds, pays, and superintends it. In France the State-collector
receives the local imposts; in America the town-collector receives the
taxes of the State. Thus the French Government lends its agents to the
commune; in America the township is the agent of the Government. This
fact alone shows the extent of the differences which exist between the
two nations.

Public Spirit Of The Townships Of New England

How the township of New England wins the affections of its
inhabitants--Difficulty of creating local public spirit in
Europe--The rights and duties of the American township favorable to
it--Characteristics of home in the United States--Manifestations of
public spirit in New England--Its happy effects.

In America, not only do municipal bodies exist, but they are kept alive
and supported by public spirit. The township of New England possesses
two advantages which infallibly secure the attentive interest of
mankind, namely, independence and authority. Its sphere is indeed small
and limited, but within that sphere its action is unrestrained; and
its independence gives to it a real importance which its extent and
population may not always ensure.

It is to be remembered that the affections of men generally lie on the
side of authority. Patriotism is not durable in a conquered nation. The
New Englander is attached to his township, not only because he was born
in it, but because it constitutes a social body of which he is a member,
and whose government claims and deserves the exercise of his sagacity.
In Europe the absence of local public spirit is a frequent subject of
regret to those who are in power; everyone agrees that there is no surer
guarantee of order and tranquility, and yet nothing is more difficult to
create. If the municipal bodies were made powerful and independent,
the authorities of the nation might be disunited and the peace of the
country endangered. Yet, without power and independence, a town may
contain good subjects, but it can have no active citizens. Another
important fact is that the township of New England is so constituted
as to excite the warmest of human affections, without arousing the
ambitious passions of the heart of man. The officers of the country are
not elected, and their authority is very limited. Even the State is
only a second-rate community, whose tranquil and obscure administration
offers no inducement sufficient to draw men away from the circle
of their interests into the turmoil of public affairs. The federal
government confers power and honor on the men who conduct it; but
these individuals can never be very numerous. The high station of the
Presidency can only be reached at an advanced period of life, and the
other federal functionaries are generally men who have been favored
by fortune, or distinguished in some other career. Such cannot be the
permanent aim of the ambitious. But the township serves as a centre for
the desire of public esteem, the want of exciting interests, and
the taste for authority and popularity, in the midst of the ordinary
relations of life; and the passions which commonly embroil society
change their character when they find a vent so near the domestic hearth
and the family circle.

In the American States power has been disseminated with admirable skill
for the purpose of interesting the greatest possible number of persons
in the common weal. Independently of the electors who are from time to
time called into action, the body politic is divided into innumerable
functionaries and officers, who all, in their several spheres, represent
the same powerful whole in whose name they act. The local administration
thus affords an unfailing source of profit and interest to a vast number
of individuals.

The American system, which divides the local authority among so many
citizens, does not scruple to multiply the functions of the town
officers. For in the United States it is believed, and with truth,
that patriotism is a kind of devotion which is strengthened by ritual
observance. In this manner the activity of the township is continually
perceptible; it is daily manifested in the fulfilment of a duty or the
exercise of a right, and a constant though gentle motion is thus kept up
in society which animates without disturbing it.

The American attaches himself to his home as the mountaineer clings to
his hills, because the characteristic features of his country are there
more distinctly marked than elsewhere. The existence of the townships
of New England is in general a happy one. Their government is suited
to their tastes, and chosen by themselves. In the midst of the profound
peace and general comfort which reign in America the commotions of
municipal discord are unfrequent. The conduct of local business is easy.
The political education of the people has long been complete; say rather
that it was complete when the people first set foot upon the soil. In
New England no tradition exists of a distinction of ranks; no portion of
the community is tempted to oppress the remainder; and the abuses which
may injure isolated individuals are forgotten in the general contentment
which prevails. If the government is defective (and it would no doubt
be easy to point out its deficiencies), the fact that it really emanates
from those it governs, and that it acts, either ill or well, casts
the protecting spell of a parental pride over its faults. No term of
comparison disturbs the satisfaction of the citizen: England formerly
governed the mass of the colonies, but the people was always sovereign
in the township where its rule is not only an ancient but a primitive

The native of New England is attached to his township because it is
independent and free: his co-operation in its affairs ensures his
attachment to its interest; the well-being it affords him secures his
affection; and its welfare is the aim of his ambition and of his
future exertions: he takes a part in every occurrence in the place; he
practises the art of government in the small sphere within his reach;
he accustoms himself to those forms which can alone ensure the steady
progress of liberty; he imbibes their spirit; he acquires a taste for
order, comprehends the union or the balance of powers, and collects
clear practical notions on the nature of his duties and the extent of
his rights.

The Counties Of New England

The division of the countries in America has considerable analogy with
that of the arrondissements of France. The limits of the counties are
arbitrarily laid down, and the various districts which they contain have
no necessary connection, no common tradition or natural sympathy; their
object is simply to facilitate the administration of justice.

The extent of the township was too small to contain a system of judicial
institutions; each county has, however, a court of justice, *f a sheriff
to execute its decrees, and a prison for criminals. There are certain
wants which are felt alike by all the townships of a county; it is
therefore natural that they should be satisfied by a central authority.
In the State of Massachusetts this authority is vested in the hands of
several magistrates, who are appointed by the Governor of the State,
with the advice *g of his council. *h The officers of the county have
only a limited and occasional authority, which is applicable to certain
predetermined cases. The State and the townships possess all the power
requisite to conduct public business. The budget of the county is drawn
up by its officers, and is voted by the legislature, but there is no
assembly which directly or indirectly represents the county. It has,
therefore, properly speaking, no political existence.

[Footnote f: See the Act of February 14, 1821, Laws of Massachusetts,
vol. i. p. 551.]

[Footnote g: See the Act of February 20, 1819, Laws of Massachusetts,
vol. ii. p. 494.]

[Footnote h: The council of the Governor is an elective body.] A twofold
tendency may be discerned in the American constitutions, which impels
the legislator to centralize the legislative and to disperse the
executive power. The township of New England has in itself an
indestructible element of independence; and this distinct existence
could only be fictitiously introduced into the county, where its
utility has not been felt. But all the townships united have but
one representation, which is the State, the centre of the national
authority: beyond the action of the township and that of the nation,
nothing can be said to exist but the influence of individual exertion.

Administration In New England

Administration not perceived in America--Why?--The Europeans believe
that liberty is promoted by depriving the social authority of some of
its rights; the Americans, by dividing its exercise--Almost all the
administration confined to the township, and divided amongst the
town-officers--No trace of an administrative body to be perceived,
either in the township or above it--The reason of this--How it happens
that the administration of the State is uniform--Who is empowered to
enforce the obedience of the township and the county to the law--The
introduction of judicial power into the administration--Consequence
of the extension of the elective principle to all functionaries--The
Justice of the Peace in New England--By whom appointed--County officer:
ensures the administration of the townships--Court of Sessions--Its
action--Right of inspection and indictment disseminated like the other
administrative functions--Informers encouraged by the division of fines.

Nothing is more striking to an European traveller in the United States
than the absence of what we term the Government, or the Administration.
Written laws exist in America, and one sees that they are daily
executed; but although everything is in motion, the hand which gives the
impulse to the social machine can nowhere be discovered. Nevertheless,
as all peoples are obliged to have recourse to certain grammatical
forms, which are the foundation of human language, in order to express
their thoughts; so all communities are obliged to secure their existence
by submitting to a certain dose of authority, without which they fall a
prey to anarchy. This authority may be distributed in several ways, but
it must always exist somewhere.

There are two methods of diminishing the force of authority in a nation:
The first is to weaken the supreme power in its very principle, by
forbidding or preventing society from acting in its own defence under
certain circumstances. To weaken authority in this manner is what is
generally termed in Europe to lay the foundations of freedom. The second
manner of diminishing the influence of authority does not consist in
stripping society of any of its rights, nor in paralyzing its efforts,
but in distributing the exercise of its privileges in various hands,
and in multiplying functionaries, to each of whom the degree of power
necessary for him to perform his duty is entrusted. There may be nations
whom this distribution of social powers might lead to anarchy; but in
itself it is not anarchical. The action of authority is indeed thus
rendered less irresistible and less perilous, but it is not totally

The revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and
dignified taste for freedom, and not of a vague or ill-defined craving
for independence. It contracted no alliance with the turbulent passions
of anarchy; but its course was marked, on the contrary, by an attachment
to whatever was lawful and orderly.

It was never assumed in the United States that the citizen of a free
country has a right to do whatever he pleases; on the contrary, social
obligations were there imposed upon him more various than anywhere
else. No idea was ever entertained of attacking the principles or of
contesting the rights of society; but the exercise of its authority was
divided, to the end that the office might be powerful and the officer
insignificant, and that the community should be at once regulated
and free. In no country in the world does the law hold so absolute a
language as in America, and in no country is the right of applying it
vested in so many hands. The administrative power in the United States
presents nothing either central or hierarchical in its constitution,
which accounts for its passing, unperceived. The power exists, but its
representative is not to be perceived.

We have already seen that the independent townships of New England
protect their own private interests; and the municipal magistrates
are the persons to whom the execution of the laws of the State is most
frequently entrusted. *i Besides the general laws, the State sometimes
passes general police regulations; but more commonly the townships and
town officers, conjointly with justices of the peace, regulate the minor
details of social life, according to the necessities of the different
localities, and promulgate such enactments as concern the health of the
community, and the peace as well as morality of the citizens. *j Lastly,
these municipal magistrates provide, of their own accord and without
any delegated powers, for those unforeseen emergencies which frequently
occur in society. *k

[Footnote i: See "The Town-Officer," especially at the words Selectmen,
Assessors, Collectors, Schools, Surveyors of Highways. I take one
example in a thousand: the State prohibits travelling on the Sunday; the
tything-men, who are town-officers, are specially charged to keep watch
and to execute the law. See the Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 410.

The selectmen draw up the lists of electors for the election of the
Governor, and transmit the result of the ballot to the Secretary of the
State. See Act of February 24, 1796: Id., vol. i. p. 488.]

[Footnote j: Thus, for instance, the selectmen authorize the
construction of drains, point out the proper sites for slaughter-houses
and other trades which are a nuisance to the neighborhood. See the Act
of June 7, 1785: Id., vol. i. p. 193.]

[Footnote k: The selectmen take measures for the security of the public
in case of contagious diseases, conjointly with the justices of the
peace. See Act of June 22, 1797, vol. i. p. 539.]

It results from what we have said that in the State of Massachusetts the
administrative authority is almost entirely restricted to the township,
*l but that it is distributed among a great number of individuals.
In the French commune there is properly but one official functionary,
namely, the Maire; and in New England we have seen that there are
nineteen. These nineteen functionaries do not in general depend upon
one another. The law carefully prescribes a circle of action to each of
these magistrates; and within that circle they have an entire right to
perform their functions independently of any other authority. Above the
township scarcely any trace of a series of official dignitaries is to be
found. It sometimes happens that the county officers alter a decision of
the townships or town magistrates, *m but in general the authorities
of the county have no right to interfere with the authorities of the
township, *n except in such matters as concern the county.

[Footnote l: I say almost, for there are various circumstances in the
annals of a township which are regulated by the justice of the peace in
his individual capacity, or by the justices of the peace assembled in
the chief town of the county; thus licenses are granted by the justices.
See the Act of February 28, 1787, vol. i. p. 297.]

[Footnote m: Thus licenses are only granted to such persons as can
produce a certificate of good conduct from the selectmen. If the
selectmen refuse to give the certificate, the party may appeal to the
justices assembled in the Court of Sessions, and they may grant the
license. See Act of March 12, 1808, vol. ii. p. 186.

The townships have the right to make by-laws, and to enforce them by
fines which are fixed by law; but these by-laws must be approved by the
Court of Sessions. See Act of March 23, 1786, vol. i. p. 254.]

[Footnote n: In Massachusetts the county magistrates are frequently
called upon to investigate the acts of the town magistrates; but it will
be shown further on that this investigation is a consequence, not of
their administrative, but of their judicial power.]

The magistrates of the township, as well as those of the county, are
bound to communicate their acts to the central government in a very
small number of predetermined cases. *o But the central government is
not represented by an individual whose business it is to publish police
regulations and ordinances enforcing the execution of the laws; to keep
up a regular communication with the officers of the township and
the county; to inspect their conduct, to direct their actions, or to
reprimand their faults. There is no point which serves as a centre to
the radii of the administration.

[Footnote o: The town committees of schools are obliged to make an
annual report to the Secretary of the State on the condition of the
school. See Act of March 10, 1827, vol. iii. p. 183.]

Chapter V: Necessity Of Examining The Condition Of The States--Part II

What, then, is the uniform plan on which the government is conducted,
and how is the compliance of the counties and their magistrates or the
townships and their officers enforced? In the States of New England the
legislative authority embraces more subjects than it does in France; the
legislator penetrates to the very core of the administration; the law
descends to the most minute details; the same enactment prescribes
the principle and the method of its application, and thus imposes a
multitude of strict and rigorously defined obligations on the secondary
functionaries of the State. The consequence of this is that if all
the secondary functionaries of the administration conform to the law,
society in all its branches proceeds with the greatest uniformity: the
difficulty remains of compelling the secondary functionaries of the
administration to conform to the law. It may be affirmed that, in
general, society has only two methods of enforcing the execution of
the laws at its disposal: a discretionary power may be entrusted to a
superior functionary of directing all the others, and of cashiering them
in case of disobedience; or the courts of justice may be authorized to
inflict judicial penalties on the offender: but these two methods are
not always available.

The right of directing a civil officer presupposes that of cashiering
him if he does not obey orders, and of rewarding him by promotion if he
fulfils his duties with propriety. But an elected magistrate can neither
be cashiered nor promoted. All elective functions are inalienable until
their term is expired. In fact, the elected magistrate has nothing
either to expect or to fear from his constituents; and when all
public offices are filled by ballot there can be no series of official
dignities, because the double right of commanding and of enforcing
obedience can never be vested in the same individual, and because the
power of issuing an order can never be joined to that of inflicting a
punishment or bestowing a reward.

The communities therefore in which the secondary functionaries of
the government are elected are perforce obliged to make great use of
judicial penalties as a means of administration. This is not evident at
first sight; for those in power are apt to look upon the institution
of elective functionaries as one concession, and the subjection of
the elected magistrate to the judges of the land as another. They
are equally averse to both these innovations; and as they are more
pressingly solicited to grant the former than the latter, they accede
to the election of the magistrate, and leave him independent of the
judicial power. Nevertheless, the second of these measures is the only
thing that can possibly counterbalance the first; and it will be found
that an elective authority which is not subject to judicial power will,
sooner or later, either elude all control or be destroyed. The courts of
justice are the only possible medium between the central power and the
administrative bodies; they alone can compel the elected functionary
to obey, without violating the rights of the elector. The extension of
judicial power in the political world ought therefore to be in the exact
ratio of the extension of elective offices: if these two institutions
do not go hand in hand, the State must fall into anarchy or into

It has always been remarked that habits of legal business do not render
men apt to the exercise of administrative authority. The Americans have
borrowed from the English, their fathers, the idea of an institution
which is unknown upon the continent of Europe: I allude to that of
the Justices of the Peace. The Justice of the Peace is a sort of mezzo
termine between the magistrate and the man of the world, between the
civil officer and the judge. A justice of the peace is a well-informed
citizen, though he is not necessarily versed in the knowledge of the
laws. His office simply obliges him to execute the police regulations of
society; a task in which good sense and integrity are of more avail than
legal science. The justice introduces into the administration a certain
taste for established forms and publicity, which renders him a most
unserviceable instrument of despotism; and, on the other hand, he is not
blinded by those superstitions which render legal officers unfit members
of a government. The Americans have adopted the system of the English
justices of the peace, but they have deprived it of that aristocratic
character which is discernible in the mother-country. The Governor of
Massachusetts *p appoints a certain number of justices of the peace in
every county, whose functions last seven years. *q He further designates
three individuals from amongst the whole body of justices who form in
each county what is called the Court of Sessions. The justices take a
personal share in public business; they are sometimes entrusted with
administrative functions in conjunction with elected officers, *r they
sometimes constitute a tribunal, before which the magistrates summarily
prosecute a refractory citizen, or the citizens inform against the
abuses of the magistrate. But it is in the Court of Sessions that they
exercise their most important functions. This court meets twice a year
in the county town; in Massachusetts it is empowered to enforce the
obedience of the greater number *s of public officers. *t It must be
observed, that in the State of Massachusetts the Court of Sessions is
at the same time an administrative body, properly so called, and a
political tribunal. It has been asserted that the county is a purely
administrative division. The Court of Sessions presides over that small
number of affairs which, as they concern several townships, or all the
townships of the county in common, cannot be entrusted to any one of
them in particular. *u In all that concerns county business the duties
of the Court of Sessions are purely administrative; and if in its
investigations it occasionally borrows the forms of judicial procedure,
it is only with a view to its own information, *v or as a guarantee to
the community over which it presides. But when the administration of the
township is brought before it, it always acts as a judicial body, and in
some few cases as an official assembly.

[Footnote p: We shall hereafter learn what a Governor is: I shall
content myself with remarking in this place that he represents the
executive power of the whole State.]

[Footnote q: See the Constitution of Massachusetts, chap. II. sect. 1.
Section 9; chap. III. Section 3.]

[Footnote r: Thus, for example, a stranger arrives in a township from
a country where a contagious disease prevails, and he falls ill. Two
justices of the peace can, with the assent of the selectmen, order the
sheriff of the county to remove and take care of him.--Act of June 22,
1797, vol. i. p. 540.

In general the justices interfere in all the important acts of the
administration, and give them a semi-judicial character.] [Footnote s: I
say the greater number, because certain administrative misdemeanors are
brought before ordinary tribunals. If, for instance, a township
refuses to make the necessary expenditure for its schools or to name
a school-committee, it is liable to a heavy fine. But this penalty is
pronounced by the Supreme Judicial Court or the Court of Common Pleas.
See Act of March 10, 1827, Laws of Massachusetts, vol. iii. p. 190. Or
when a township neglects to provide the necessary war-stores.--Act of
February 21, 1822: Id., vol. ii. p. 570.]

[Footnote t: In their individual capacity the justices of the peace
take a part in the business of the counties and townships.] [Footnote u:
These affairs may be brought under the following heads:--1. The erection
of prisons and courts of justice. 2. The county budget, which is
afterwards voted by the State. 3. The distribution of the taxes so
voted. 4. Grants of certain patents. 5. The laying down and repairs of
the country roads.]

[Footnote v: Thus, when a road is under consideration, almost all
difficulties are disposed of by the aid of the jury.]

The first difficulty is to procure the obedience of an authority as
entirely independent of the general laws of the State as the
township is. We have stated that assessors are annually named by the
town-meetings to levy the taxes. If a township attempts to evade the
payment of the taxes by neglecting to name its assessors, the Court of
Sessions condemns it to a heavy penalty. *w The fine is levied on each
of the inhabitants; and the sheriff of the county, who is the officer of
justice, executes the mandate. Thus it is that in the United States the
authority of the Government is mysteriously concealed under the forms of
a judicial sentence; and its influence is at the same time fortified by
that irresistible power with which men have invested the formalities of

[Footnote w: See Act of February 20, 1786, Laws of Massachusetts, vol.
i. p. 217.]

These proceedings are easy to follow and to understand. The demands
made upon a township are in general plain and accurately defined; they
consist in a simple fact without any complication, or in a principle
without its application in detail. *x But the difficulty increases when
it is not the obedience of the township, but that of the town officers
which is to be enforced. All the reprehensible actions of which a public
functionary may be guilty are reducible to the following heads:

[Footnote x: There is an indirect method of enforcing the obedience of
a township. Suppose that the funds which the law demands for the
maintenance of the roads have not been voted, the town surveyor is
then authorized, ex officio, to levy the supplies. As he is personally
responsible to private individuals for the state of the roads, and
indictable before the Court of Sessions, he is sure to employ the
extraordinary right which the law gives him against the township. Thus
by threatening the officer the Court of Sessions exacts compliance from
the town. See Act of March 5, 1787, Id., vol. i. p. 305.]

He may execute the law without energy or zeal;

He may neglect to execute the law;

He may do what the law enjoins him not to do.

The last two violations of duty can alone come under the cognizance of
a tribunal; a positive and appreciable fact is the indispensable
foundation of an action at law. Thus, if the selectmen omit to fulfil
the legal formalities usual at town elections, they may be condemned
to pay a fine; *y but when the public officer performs his duty without
ability, and when he obeys the letter of the law without zeal or energy,
he is at least beyond the reach of judicial interference. The Court of
Sessions, even when it is invested with its official powers, is in this
case unable to compel him to a more satisfactory obedience. The fear of
removal is the only check to these quasi-offences; and as the Court
of Sessions does not originate the town authorities, it cannot
remove functionaries whom it does not appoint. Moreover, a perpetual
investigation would be necessary to convict the officer of negligence or
lukewarmness; and the Court of Sessions sits but twice a year and then
only judges such offences as are brought before its notice. The only
security of that active and enlightened obedience which a court of
justice cannot impose upon public officers lies in the possibility of
their arbitrary removal. In France this security is sought for in powers
exercised by the heads of the administration; in America it is sought
for in the principle of election.

[Footnote y: Laws of Massachusetts, vol. ii. p. 45.]

Thus, to recapitulate in a few words what I have been showing: If a
public officer in New England commits a crime in the exercise of his
functions, the ordinary courts of justice are always called upon to pass
sentence upon him. If he commits a fault in his official capacity, a
purely administrative tribunal is empowered to punish him; and, if the
affair is important or urgent, the judge supplies the omission of the
functionary. *z Lastly, if the same individual is guilty of one of
those intangible offences of which human justice has no cognizance, he
annually appears before a tribunal from which there is no appeal, which
can at once reduce him to insignificance and deprive him of his charge.
This system undoubtedly possesses great advantages, but its execution is
attended with a practical difficulty which it is important to point out.

[Footnote z: If, for instance, a township persists in refusing to name
its assessors, the Court of Sessions nominates them; and the magistrates
thus appointed are invested with the same authority as elected officers.
See the Act quoted above, February 20, 1787.]

I have already observed that the administrative tribunal, which is
called the Court of Sessions, has no right of inspection over the town
officers. It can only interfere when the conduct of a magistrate is
specially brought under its notice; and this is the delicate part of the
system. The Americans of New England are unacquainted with the office
of public prosecutor in the Court of Sessions, *a and it may readily be
perceived that it could not have been established without difficulty.
If an accusing magistrate had merely been appointed in the chief town of
each county, and if he had been unassisted by agents in the townships,
he would not have been better acquainted with what was going on in the
county than the members of the Court of Sessions. But to appoint agents
in each township would have been to centre in his person the most
formidable of powers, that of a judicial administration. Moreover,
laws are the children of habit, and nothing of the kind exists in the
legislation of England. The Americans have therefore divided the offices
of inspection and of prosecution, as well as all the other functions
of the administration. Grand jurors are bound by the law to apprise the
court to which they belong of all the misdemeanors which may have been
committed in their county. *b There are certain great offences which are
officially prosecuted by the States; *c but more frequently the task of
punishing delinquents devolves upon the fiscal officer, whose province
it is to receive the fine: thus the treasurer of the township is charged
with the prosecution of such administrative offences as fall under his
notice. But a more special appeal is made by American legislation to
the private interest of the citizen; *d and this great principle is
constantly to be met with in studying the laws of the United States.
American legislators are more apt to give men credit for intelligence
than for honesty, and they rely not a little on personal cupidity for
the execution of the laws. When an individual is really and sensibly
injured by an administrative abuse, it is natural that his personal
interest should induce him to prosecute. But if a legal formality be
required, which, however advantageous to the community, is of small
importance to individuals, plaintiffs may be less easily found; and
thus, by a tacit agreement, the laws may fall into disuse. Reduced by
their system to this extremity, the Americans are obliged to encourage
informers by bestowing on them a portion of the penalty in certain
cases, *e and to insure the execution of the laws by the dangerous
expedient of degrading the morals of the people. The only administrative
authority above the county magistrates is, properly speaking, that of
the Government.

[Footnote a: I say the Court of Sessions, because in common courts
there is a magistrate who exercises some of the functions of a public

[Footnote b: The grand-jurors are, for instance, bound to inform the
court of the bad state of the roads.--Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p.

[Footnote c: If, for instance, the treasurer of the county holds back
his accounts.--Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 406.] [Footnote d:
Thus, if a private individual breaks down or is wounded in consequence
of the badness of a road, he can sue the township or the county for
damages at the sessions.--Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 309.]

[Footnote e: In cases of invasion or insurrection, if the town-officers
neglect to furnish the necessary stores and ammunition for the militia,
the township may be condemned to a fine of from $200 to $500. It may
readily be imagined that in such a case it might happen that no one
cared to prosecute; hence the law adds that all the citizens may indict
offences of this kind, and that half of the fine shall belong to the
plaintiff. See Act of March 6, 1810, vol. ii. p. 236. The same clause
is frequently to be met with in the law of Massachusetts. Not only are
private individuals thus incited to prosecute the public officers,
but the public officers are encouraged in the same manner to bring the
disobedience of private individuals to justice. If a citizen refuses to
perform the work which has been assigned to him upon a road, the
road surveyor may prosecute him, and he receives half the penalty for
himself. See the Laws above quoted, vol. i. p. 308.]

General Remarks On The Administration Of The United States Differences
of the States of the Union in their system of administration--Activity
and perfection of the local authorities decrease towards the
South--Power of the magistrate increases; that of the elector
diminishes--Administration passes from the township to the
county--States of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania--Principles of
administration applicable to the whole Union--Election of public
officers, and inalienability of their functions--Absence of gradation of
ranks--Introduction of judicial resources into the administration.

I have already premised that, after having examined the constitution of
the township and the county of New England in detail, I should take
a general view of the remainder of the Union. Townships and a local
activity exist in every State; but in no part of the confederation is a
township to be met with precisely similar to those of New England. The
more we descend towards the South, the less active does the business of
the township or parish become; the number of magistrates, of functions,
and of rights decreases; the population exercises a less immediate
influence on affairs; town meetings are less frequent, and the subjects
of debate less numerous. The power of the elected magistrate is
augmented and that of the elector diminished, whilst the public spirit
of the local communities is less awakened and less influential. *f These
differences may be perceived to a certain extent in the State of New
York; they are very sensible in Pennsylvania; but they become less
striking as we advance to the northwest. The majority of the emigrants
who settle in the northwestern States are natives of New England, and
they carry the habits of their mother country with them into that which
they adopt. A township in Ohio is by no means dissimilar from a township
in Massachusetts.

[Footnote f: For details see the Revised Statutes of the State of New
York, part i. chap. xi. vol. i. pp. 336-364, entitled, "Of the Powers,
Duties, and Privileges of Towns."

See in the Digest of the Laws of Pennsylvania, the words Assessors,
Collector, Constables, Overseer of the Poor, Supervisors of Highways;
and in the Acts of a general nature of the State of Ohio, the Act of
February 25, 1834, relating to townships, p. 412; besides the peculiar
dispositions relating to divers town-officers, such as Township's Clerk,
Trustees, Overseers of the Poor, Fence Viewers, Appraisers of Property,
Township's Treasurer, Constables, Supervisors of Highways.]

We have seen that in Massachusetts the mainspring of public
administration lies in the township. It forms the common centre of the
interests and affections of the citizens. But this ceases to be the case
as we descend to States in which knowledge is less generally diffused,
and where the township consequently offers fewer guarantees of a wise
and active administration. As we leave New England, therefore, we find
that the importance of the town is gradually transferred to the county,
which becomes the centre of administration, and the intermediate power
between the Government and the citizen. In Massachusetts the business of
the county is conducted by the Court of Sessions, which is composed of
a quorum named by the Governor and his council; but the county has no
representative assembly, and its expenditure is voted by the national
legislature. In the great State of New York, on the contrary, and in
those of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the inhabitants of each county choose
a certain number of representatives, who constitute the assembly of the
county. *g The county assembly has the right of taxing the inhabitants
to a certain extent; and in this respect it enjoys the privileges of a
real legislative body: at the same time it exercises an executive power
in the county, frequently directs the administration of the townships,
and restricts their authority within much narrower bounds than in

[Footnote g: See the Revised Statutes of the State of New York, part i.
chap. xi. vol. i. p. 340. Id. chap. xii. p. 366; also in the Acts of
the State of Ohio, an act relating to county commissioners, February 25,
1824, p. 263. See the Digest of the Laws of Pennsylvania, at the words
County-rates and Levies, p. 170. In the State of New York each township
elects a representative, who has a share in the administration of the
county as well as in that of the township.]

Such are the principal differences which the systems of county and town
administration present in the Federal States. Were it my intention to
examine the provisions of American law minutely, I should have to point
out still further differences in the executive details of the several
communities. But what I have already said may suffice to show the
general principles on which the administration of the United States
rests. These principles are differently applied; their consequences
are more or less numerous in various localities; but they are always
substantially the same. The laws differ, and their outward features
change, but their character does not vary. If the township and the
county are not everywhere constituted in the same manner, it is at least
true that in the United States the county and the township are always
based upon the same principle, namely, that everyone is the best judge
of what concerns himself alone, and the most proper person to supply his
private wants. The township and the county are therefore bound to take
care of their special interests: the State governs, but it does not
interfere with their administration. Exceptions to this rule may be met
with, but not a contrary principle.

The first consequence of this doctrine has been to cause all the
magistrates to be chosen either by or at least from amongst the
citizens. As the officers are everywhere elected or appointed for a
certain period, it has been impossible to establish the rules of a
dependent series of authorities; there are almost as many independent
functionaries as there are functions, and the executive power is
disseminated in a multitude of hands. Hence arose the indispensable
necessity of introducing the control of the courts of justice over the
administration, and the system of pecuniary penalties, by which the
secondary bodies and their representatives are constrained to obey the
laws. This system obtains from one end of the Union to the other. The
power of punishing the misconduct of public officers, or of performing
the part of the executive in urgent cases, has not, however, been
bestowed on the same judges in all the States. The Anglo-Americans
derived the institution of justices of the peace from a common source;
but although it exists in all the States, it is not always turned to
the same use. The justices of the peace everywhere participate in the
administration of the townships and the counties, *h either as public
officers or as the judges of public misdemeanors, but in most of the
States the more important classes of public offences come under the
cognizance of the ordinary tribunals.

[Footnote h: In some of the Southern States the county courts are
charged with all the details of the administration. See the Statutes of
the State of Tennessee, arts. Judiciary, Taxes, etc.]

The election of public officers, or the inalienability of their
functions, the absence of a gradation of powers, and the introduction
of a judicial control over the secondary branches of the administration,
are the universal characteristics of the American system from Maine to
the Floridas. In some States (and that of New York has advanced most
in this direction) traces of a centralized administration begin to
be discernible. In the State of New York the officers of the central
government exercise, in certain cases, a sort of inspection or control
over the secondary bodies. *i

[Footnote i: For instance, the direction of public instruction centres
in the hands of the Government. The legislature names the members of
the University, who are denominated Regents; the Governor
and Lieutentant-Governor of the State are necessarily of the
number.--Revised Statutes, vol. i. p. 455. The Regents of the University
annually visit the colleges and academies, and make their report to
the legislature. Their superintendence is not inefficient, for several
reasons: the colleges in order to become corporations stand in need of
a charter, which is only granted on the recommendation of the Regents;
every year funds are distributed by the State for the encouragement of
learning, and the Regents are the distributors of this money. See chap.
xv. "Instruction," Revised Statutes, vol. i. p. 455.

The school-commissioners are obliged to send an annual report to the
Superintendent of the Republic.--Id. p. 488.

A similar report is annually made to the same person on the number and
condition of the poor.--Id. p. 631.]

At other times they constitute a court of appeal for the decision of
affairs. *j In the State of New York judicial penalties are less used
than in other parts as a means of administration, and the right of
prosecuting the offences of public officers is vested in fewer hands. *k
The same tendency is faintly observable in some other States; *l but in
general the prominent feature of the administration in the United States
is its excessive local independence.

[Footnote j: If any one conceives himself to be wronged by the
school-commissioners (who are town-officers), he can appeal to the
superintendent of the primary schools, whose decision is final.--Revised
Statutes, vol. i. p. 487.

Provisions similar to those above cited are to be met with from time to
time in the laws of the State of New York; but in general these attempts
at centralization are weak and unproductive. The great authorities of
the State have the right of watching and controlling the subordinate
agents, without that of rewarding or punishing them. The same individual
is never empowered to give an order and to punish disobedience; he
has therefore the right of commanding, without the means of exacting
compliance. In 1830 the Superintendent of Schools complained in
his Annual Report addressed to the legislature that several
school-commissioners had neglected, notwithstanding his application,
to furnish him with the accounts which were due. He added that if this
omission continued he should be obliged to prosecute them, as the law
directs, before the proper tribunals.]

[Footnote k: Thus the district-attorney is directed to recover all fines
below the sum of fifty dollars, unless such a right has been specially
awarded to another magistrate.--Revised Statutes, vol. i. p. 383.]

[Footnote l: Several traces of centralization may be discovered in
Massachusetts; for instance, the committees of the town-schools are
directed to make an annual report to the Secretary of State. See Laws of
Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 367.]

Of The State

I have described the townships and the administration; it now remains
for me to speak of the State and the Government. This is ground I may
pass over rapidly, without fear of being misunderstood; for all I have
to say is to be found in written forms of the various constitutions,
which are easily to be procured. These constitutions rest upon a simple
and rational theory; their forms have been adopted by all constitutional
nations, and are become familiar to us. In this place, therefore, it
is only necessary for me to give a short analysis; I shall endeavor
afterwards to pass judgment upon what I now describe.

Chapter V: Necessity Of Examining The Condition Of The States--Part III

Legislative Power Of The State

Division of the Legislative Body into two Houses--Senate--House of
Representatives--Different functions of these two Bodies.

The legislative power of the State is vested in two assemblies, the
first of which generally bears the name of the Senate. The Senate is
commonly a legislative body; but it sometimes becomes an executive
and judicial one. It takes a part in the government in several ways,
according to the constitution of the different States; *m but it is in
the nomination of public functionaries that it most commonly assumes an
executive power. It partakes of judicial power in the trial of certain
political offences, and sometimes also in the decision of certain civil
cases. *n The number of its members is always small. The other branch of
the legislature, which is usually called the House of Representatives,
has no share whatever in the administration, and only takes a part in
the judicial power inasmuch as it impeaches public functionaries before
the Senate. The members of the two Houses are nearly everywhere subject
to the same conditions of election. They are chosen in the same manner,
and by the same citizens. The only difference which exists between them
is, that the term for which the Senate is chosen is in general longer
than that of the House of Representatives. The latter seldom remain in
office longer than a year; the former usually sit two or three years.
By granting to the senators the privilege of being chosen for several
years, and being renewed seriatim, the law takes care to preserve in the
legislative body a nucleus of men already accustomed to public business,
and capable of exercising a salutary influence upon the junior members.

[Footnote m: In Massachusetts the Senate is not invested with any
administrative functions.]

[Footnote n: As in the State of New York.]

The Americans, plainly, did not desire, by this separation of the
legislative body into two branches, to make one house hereditary and the
other elective; one aristocratic and the other democratic. It was not
their object to create in the one a bulwark to power, whilst the
other represented the interests and passions of the people. The only
advantages which result from the present constitution of the United
States are the division of the legislative power and the consequent
check upon political assemblies; with the creation of a tribunal of
appeal for the revision of the laws.

Time and experience, however, have convinced the Americans that if these
are its only advantages, the division of the legislative power is still
a principle of the greatest necessity. Pennsylvania was the only one of
the United States which at first attempted to establish a single
House of Assembly, and Franklin himself was so far carried away by the
necessary consequences of the principle of the sovereignty of the people
as to have concurred in the measure; but the Pennsylvanians were soon
obliged to change the law, and to create two Houses. Thus the principle
of the division of the legislative power was finally established, and
its necessity may henceforward be regarded as a demonstrated truth. This
theory, which was nearly unknown to the republics of antiquity--which
was introduced into the world almost by accident, like so many other
great truths--and misunderstood by several modern nations, is at length
become an axiom in the political science of the present age.

[See Benjamin Franklin]

The Executive Power Of The State

Office of Governor in an American State--The place he occupies in
relation to the Legislature--His rights and his duties--His dependence
on the people.

The executive power of the State may with truth be said to be
represented by the Governor, although he enjoys but a portion of its
rights. The supreme magistrate, under the title of Governor, is the
official moderator and counsellor of the legislature. He is armed with
a veto or suspensive power, which allows him to stop, or at least to
retard, its movements at pleasure. He lays the wants of the country
before the legislative body, and points out the means which he thinks
may be usefully employed in providing for them; he is the natural
executor of its decrees in all the undertakings which interest the
nation at large. *o In the absence of the legislature, the Governor is
bound to take all necessary steps to guard the State against violent
shocks and unforeseen dangers. The whole military power of the State is
at the disposal of the Governor. He is the commander of the militia, and
head of the armed force. When the authority, which is by general consent
awarded to the laws, is disregarded, the Governor puts himself at
the head of the armed force of the State, to quell resistance, and to
restore order. Lastly, the Governor takes no share in the administration
of townships and counties, except it be indirectly in the nomination of
Justices of the Peace, which nomination he has not the power to cancel.
*p The Governor is an elected magistrate, and is generally chosen
for one or two years only; so that he always continues to be strictly
dependent upon the majority who returned him.

[Footnote o: Practically speaking, it is not always the Governor who
executes the plans of the Legislature; it often happens that the latter,
in voting a measure, names special agents to superintend the execution
of it.]

[Footnote p: In some of the States the justices of the peace are not
elected by the Governor.]

Political Effects Of The System Of Local Administration In The United

Necessary distinction between the general centralization of Government
and the centralization of the local administration--Local administration
not centralized in the United States: great general centralization of
the Government--Some bad consequences resulting to the United States
from the local administration--Administrative advantages attending
this order of things--The power which conducts the Government is less
regular, less enlightened, less learned, but much greater than in
Europe--Political advantages of this order of things--In the United
States the interests of the country are everywhere kept in view--Support
given to the Government by the community--Provincial institutions
more necessary in proportion as the social condition becomes more
democratic--Reason of this.

Centralization is become a word of general and daily use, without any
precise meaning being attached to it. Nevertheless, there exist two
distinct kinds of centralization, which it is necessary to discriminate
with accuracy. Certain interests are common to all parts of a nation,
such as the enactment of its general laws and the maintenance of its
foreign relations. Other interests are peculiar to certain parts of the
nation; such, for instance, as the business of different townships. When
the power which directs the general interests is centred in one place,
or vested in the same persons, it constitutes a central government.
In like manner the power of directing partial or local interests,
when brought together into one place, constitutes what may be termed a
central administration.

Upon some points these two kinds of centralization coalesce; but by
classifying the objects which fall more particularly within the province
of each of them, they may easily be distinguished. It is evident that a
central government acquires immense power when united to administrative
centralization. Thus combined, it accustoms men to set their own will
habitually and completely aside; to submit, not only for once, or upon
one point, but in every respect, and at all times. Not only, therefore,
does this union of power subdue them compulsorily, but it affects them
in the ordinary habits of life, and influences each individual, first
separately and then collectively.

These two kinds of centralization mutually assist and attract each
other; but they must not be supposed to be inseparable. It is impossible
to imagine a more completely central government than that which existed
in France under Louis XIV.; when the same individual was the author and
the interpreter of the laws, and the representative of France at home
and abroad, he was justified in asserting that the State was identified
with his person. Nevertheless, the administration was much less
centralized under Louis XIV. than it is at the present day.

In England the centralization of the government is carried to great
perfection; the State has the compact vigor of a man, and by the
sole act of its will it puts immense engines in motion, and wields or
collects the efforts of its authority. Indeed, I cannot conceive that
a nation can enjoy a secure or prosperous existence without a powerful
centralization of government. But I am of opinion that a central
administration enervates the nations in which it exists by incessantly
diminishing their public spirit. If such an administration succeeds
in condensing at a given moment, on a given point, all the disposable
resources of a people, it impairs at least the renewal of those
resources. It may ensure a victory in the hour of strife, but it
gradually relaxes the sinews of strength. It may contribute admirably
to the transient greatness of a man, but it cannot ensure the durable
prosperity of a nation.

If we pay proper attention, we shall find that whenever it is said
that a State cannot act because it has no central point, it is the
centralization of the government in which it is deficient. It is
frequently asserted, and we are prepared to assent to the proposition,
that the German empire was never able to bring all its powers into
action. But the reason was, that the State was never able to enforce
obedience to its general laws, because the several members of that great
body always claimed the right, or found the means, of refusing their
co-operation to the representatives of the common authority, even in the
affairs which concerned the mass of the people; in other words, because
there was no centralization of government. The same remark is applicable
to the Middle Ages; the cause of all the confusion of feudal society
was that the control, not only of local but of general interests, was
divided amongst a thousand hands, and broken up in a thousand different
ways; the absence of a central government prevented the nations of
Europe from advancing with energy in any straightforward course.

We have shown that in the United States no central administration and no
dependent series of public functionaries exist. Local authority has been
carried to lengths which no European nation could endure without
great inconvenience, and which has even produced some disadvantageous
consequences in America. But in the United States the centralization
of the Government is complete; and it would be easy to prove that the
national power is more compact than it has ever been in the old nations
of Europe. Not only is there but one legislative body in each State;
not only does there exist but one source of political authority;
but district assemblies and county courts have not in general been
multiplied, lest they should be tempted to exceed their administrative
duties, and interfere with the Government. In America the legislature
of each State is supreme; nothing can impede its authority; neither
privileges, nor local immunities, nor personal influence, nor even the
empire of reason, since it represents that majority which claims to be
the sole organ of reason. Its own determination is, therefore, the only
limit to this action. In juxtaposition to it, and under its immediate
control, is the representative of the executive power, whose duty it
is to constrain the refractory to submit by superior force. The only
symptom of weakness lies in certain details of the action of the
Government. The American republics have no standing armies to intimidate
a discontented minority; but as no minority has as yet been reduced to
declare open war, the necessity of an army has not been felt. *q The
State usually employs the officers of the township or the county to
deal with the citizens. Thus, for instance, in New England, the assessor
fixes the rate of taxes; the collector receives them; the town-treasurer
transmits the amount to the public treasury; and the disputes which may
arise are brought before the ordinary courts of justice. This method of
collecting taxes is slow as well as inconvenient, and it would prove a
perpetual hindrance to a Government whose pecuniary demands were large.
It is desirable that, in whatever materially affects its existence, the
Government should be served by officers of its own, appointed by itself,
removable at pleasure, and accustomed to rapid methods of proceeding.
But it will always be easy for the central government, organized as it
is in America, to introduce new and more efficacious modes of action,
proportioned to its wants. [Footnote q: [The Civil War of 1860-65
cruelly belied this statement, and in the course of the struggle the
North alone called two millions and a half of men to arms; but to the
honor of the United States it must be added that, with the cessation
of the contest, this army disappeared as rapidly as it had been
raised.--Translator's Note.]]

The absence of a central government will not, then, as has often been
asserted, prove the destruction of the republics of the New World;
far from supposing that the American governments are not sufficiently
centralized, I shall prove hereafter that they are too much so. The
legislative bodies daily encroach upon the authority of the Government,
and their tendency, like that of the French Convention, is to
appropriate it entirely to themselves. Under these circumstances the
social power is constantly changing hands, because it is subordinate to
the power of the people, which is too apt to forget the maxims of wisdom
and of foresight in the consciousness of its strength: hence arises its
danger; and thus its vigor, and not its impotence, will probably be the
cause of its ultimate destruction.

The system of local administration produces several different effects in
America. The Americans seem to me to have outstepped the limits of sound
policy in isolating the administration of the Government; for order,
even in second-rate affairs, is a matter of national importance. *r As
the State has no administrative functionaries of its own, stationed on
different points of its territory, to whom it can give a common impulse,
the consequence is that it rarely attempts to issue any general police
regulations. The want of these regulations is severely felt, and is
frequently observed by Europeans. The appearance of disorder which
prevails on the surface leads him at first to imagine that society is
in a state of anarchy; nor does he perceive his mistake till he has gone
deeper into the subject. Certain undertakings are of importance to the
whole State; but they cannot be put in execution, because there is no
national administration to direct them. Abandoned to the exertions of
the towns or counties, under the care of elected or temporary agents,
they lead to no result, or at least to no durable benefit.

[Footnote r: The authority which represents the State ought not, I
think, to waive the right of inspecting the local administration, even
when it does not interfere more actively. Suppose, for instance, that
an agent of the Government was stationed at some appointed spot in the
country, to prosecute the misdemeanors of the town and county officers,
would not a more uniform order be the result, without in any way
compromising the independence of the township? Nothing of the kind,
however, exists in America: there is nothing above the county-courts,
which have, as it were, only an incidental cognizance of the offences
they are meant to repress.]

The partisans of centralization in Europe are wont to maintain that the
Government directs the affairs of each locality better than the citizens
could do it for themselves; this may be true when the central power is
enlightened, and when the local districts are ignorant; when it is as
alert as they are slow; when it is accustomed to act, and they to obey.
Indeed, it is evident that this double tendency must augment with the
increase of centralization, and that the readiness of the one and the
incapacity of the others must become more and more prominent. But I deny
that such is the case when the people is as enlightened, as awake to its
interests, and as accustomed to reflect on them, as the Americans are. I
am persuaded, on the contrary, that in this case the collective strength
of the citizens will always conduce more efficaciously to the public
welfare than the authority of the Government. It is difficult to point
out with certainty the means of arousing a sleeping population, and of
giving it passions and knowledge which it does not possess; it is, I
am well aware, an arduous task to persuade men to busy themselves about
their own affairs; and it would frequently be easier to interest them
in the punctilios of court etiquette than in the repairs of their common
dwelling. But whenever a central administration affects to supersede
the persons most interested, I am inclined to suppose that it is either
misled or desirous to mislead. However enlightened and however skilful a
central power may be, it cannot of itself embrace all the details of the
existence of a great nation. Such vigilance exceeds the powers of man.
And when it attempts to create and set in motion so many complicated
springs, it must submit to a very imperfect result, or consume itself in
bootless efforts.

Centralization succeeds more easily, indeed, in subjecting the external
actions of men to a certain uniformity, which at least commands our
regard, independently of the objects to which it is applied, like those
devotees who worship the statue and forget the deity it represents.
Centralization imparts without difficulty an admirable regularity to the
routine of business; provides for the details of the social police
with sagacity; represses the smallest disorder and the most petty
misdemeanors; maintains society in a status quo alike secure from
improvement and decline; and perpetuates a drowsy precision in the
conduct of affairs, which is hailed by the heads of the administration
as a sign of perfect order and public tranquillity: *s in short, it
excels more in prevention than in action. Its force deserts it when
society is to be disturbed or accelerated in its course; and if once the
co-operation of private citizens is necessary to the furtherance of
its measures, the secret of its impotence is disclosed. Even whilst it
invokes their assistance, it is on the condition that they shall act
exactly as much as the Government chooses, and exactly in the manner it
appoints. They are to take charge of the details, without aspiring to
guide the system; they are to work in a dark and subordinate sphere, and
only to judge the acts in which they have themselves cooperated by their
results. These, however, are not conditions on which the alliance of
the human will is to be obtained; its carriage must be free and its
actions responsible, or (such is the constitution of man) the citizen
had rather remain a passive spectator than a dependent actor in schemes
with which he is unacquainted.

[Footnote s: China appears to me to present the most perfect instance of
that species of well-being which a completely central administration may
furnish to the nations among which it exists. Travellers assure us that
the Chinese have peace without happiness, industry without improvement,
stability without strength, and public order without public morality.
The condition of society is always tolerable, never excellent. I am
convinced that, when China is opened to European observation, it will
be found to contain the most perfect model of a central administration
which exists in the universe.]

It is undeniable that the want of those uniform regulations which
control the conduct of every inhabitant of France is not unfrequently
felt in the United States. Gross instances of social indifference and
neglect are to be met with, and from time to time disgraceful blemishes
are seen in complete contrast with the surrounding civilization. Useful
undertakings which cannot succeed without perpetual attention and
rigorous exactitude are very frequently abandoned in the end; for in
America, as well as in other countries, the people is subject to sudden
impulses and momentary exertions. The European who is accustomed to find
a functionary always at hand to interfere with all he undertakes has
some difficulty in accustoming himself to the complex mechanism of the
administration of the townships. In general it may be affirmed that the
lesser details of the police, which render life easy and comfortable,
are neglected in America; but that the essential guarantees of man in
society are as strong there as elsewhere. In America the power which
conducts the Government is far less regular, less enlightened, and less
learned, but an hundredfold more authoritative than in Europe. In no
country in the world do the citizens make such exertions for the common
weal; and I am acquainted with no people which has established schools
as numerous and as efficacious, places of public worship better suited
to the wants of the inhabitants, or roads kept in better repair.
Uniformity or permanence of design, the minute arrangement of details,
*t and the perfection of an ingenious administration, must not be sought
for in the United States; but it will be easy to find, on the other
hand, the symptoms of a power which, if it is somewhat barbarous, is
at least robust; and of an existence which is checkered with accidents
indeed, but cheered at the same time by animation and effort.

[Footnote t: A writer of talent, who, in the comparison which he has
drawn between the finances of France and those of the United States, has
proved that ingenuity cannot always supply the place of a knowledge of
facts, very justly reproaches the Americans for the sort of confusion
which exists in the accounts of the expenditure in the townships; and
after giving the model of a departmental budget in France, he adds:--"We
are indebted to centralization, that admirable invention of a great
man, for the uniform order and method which prevail alike in all the
municipal budgets, from the largest town to the humblest commune."
Whatever may be my admiration of this result, when I see the communes
of France, with their excellent system of accounts, plunged into
the grossest ignorance of their true interests, and abandoned to so
incorrigible an apathy that they seem to vegetate rather than to live;
when, on the other hand, I observe the activity, the information, and
the spirit of enterprise which keep society in perpetual labor, in those
American townships whose budgets are drawn up with small method and with
still less uniformity, I am struck by the spectacle; for to my mind the
end of a good government is to ensure the welfare of a people, and not
to establish order and regularity in the midst of its misery and its
distress. I am therefore led to suppose that the prosperity of the
American townships and the apparent confusion of their accounts, the
distress of the French communes and the perfection of their budget,
may be attributable to the same cause. At any rate I am suspicious of a
benefit which is united to so many evils, and I am not averse to an evil
which is compensated by so many benefits.]

Granting for an instant that the villages and counties of the United
States would be more usefully governed by a remote authority which
they had never seen than by functionaries taken from the midst of
them--admitting, for the sake of argument, that the country would be
more secure, and the resources of society better employed, if the whole
administration centred in a single arm--still the political advantages
which the Americans derive from their system would induce me to prefer
it to the contrary plan. It profits me but little, after all, that a
vigilant authority should protect the tranquillity of my pleasures
and constantly avert all dangers from my path, without my care or my
concern, if this same authority is the absolute mistress of my liberty
and of my life, and if it so monopolizes all the energy of existence
that when it languishes everything languishes around it, that when it
sleeps everything must sleep, that when it dies the State itself must

In certain countries of Europe the natives consider themselves as a kind
of settlers, indifferent to the fate of the spot upon which they live.
The greatest changes are effected without their concurrence and (unless
chance may have apprised them of the event) without their knowledge; nay
more, the citizen is unconcerned as to the condition of his village, the
police of his street, the repairs of the church or of the parsonage; for
he looks upon all these things as unconnected with himself, and as the
property of a powerful stranger whom he calls the Government. He has
only a life-interest in these possessions, and he entertains no notions
of ownership or of improvement. This want of interest in his own
affairs goes so far that, if his own safety or that of his children is
endangered, instead of trying to avert the peril, he will fold his arms,
and wait till the nation comes to his assistance. This same individual,
who has so completely sacrificed his own free will, has no natural
propensity to obedience; he cowers, it is true, before the pettiest
officer; but he braves the law with the spirit of a conquered foe
as soon as its superior force is removed: his oscillations between
servitude and license are perpetual. When a nation has arrived at this
state it must either change its customs and its laws or perish: the
source of public virtue is dry, and, though it may contain subjects,
the race of citizens is extinct. Such communities are a natural prey to
foreign conquests, and if they do not disappear from the scene of life,
it is because they are surrounded by other nations similar or inferior
to themselves: it is because the instinctive feeling of their country's
claims still exists in their hearts; and because an involuntary pride in
the name it bears, or a vague reminiscence of its bygone fame, suffices
to give them the impulse of self-preservation.

Nor can the prodigious exertions made by tribes in the defence of a
country to which they did not belong be adduced in favor of such a
system; for it will be found that in these cases their main incitement
was religion. The permanence, the glory, or the prosperity of the nation
were become parts of their faith, and in defending the country they
inhabited they defended that Holy City of which they were all citizens.
The Turkish tribes have never taken an active share in the conduct of
the affairs of society, but they accomplished stupendous enterprises as
long as the victories of the Sultan were the triumphs of the Mohammedan
faith. In the present age they are in rapid decay, because their
religion is departing, and despotism only remains. Montesquieu, who
attributed to absolute power an authority peculiar to itself, did it,
as I conceive, an undeserved honor; for despotism, taken by itself,
can produce no durable results. On close inspection we shall find
that religion, and not fear, has ever been the cause of the long-lived
prosperity of an absolute government. Whatever exertions may be made, no
true power can be founded among men which does not depend upon the free
union of their inclinations; and patriotism and religion are the only
two motives in the world which can permanently direct the whole of a
body politic to one end.

Laws cannot succeed in rekindling the ardor of an extinguished faith,
but men may be interested in the fate of their country by the laws. By
this influence the vague impulse of patriotism, which never abandons the
human heart, may be directed and revived; and if it be connected with
the thoughts, the passions, and the daily habits of life, it may be
consolidated into a durable and rational sentiment.

Let it not be said that the time for the experiment is already past; for
the old age of nations is not like the old age of men, and every fresh
generation is a new people ready for the care of the legislator.

It is not the administrative but the political effects of the local
system that I most admire in America. In the United States the interests
of the country are everywhere kept in view; they are an object of
solicitude to the people of the whole Union, and every citizen is as
warmly attached to them as if they were his own. He takes pride in the
glory of his nation; he boasts of its success, to which he conceives
himself to have contributed, and he rejoices in the general prosperity
by which he profits. The feeling he entertains towards the State is
analogous to that which unites him to his family, and it is by a kind of
egotism that he interests himself in the welfare of his country.

The European generally submits to a public officer because he represents
a superior force; but to an American he represents a right. In America
it may be said that no one renders obedience to man, but to justice
and to law. If the opinion which the citizen entertains of himself is
exaggerated, it is at least salutary; he unhesitatingly confides in his
own powers, which appear to him to be all-sufficient. When a private
individual meditates an undertaking, however directly connected it
may be with the welfare of society, he never thinks of soliciting the
co-operation of the Government, but he publishes his plan, offers to
execute it himself, courts the assistance of other individuals, and
struggles manfully against all obstacles. Undoubtedly he is often less
successful than the State might have been in his position; but in the
end the sum of these private undertakings far exceeds all that the
Government could have done.

As the administrative authority is within the reach of the citizens,
whom it in some degree represents, it excites neither their jealousy nor
their hatred; as its resources are limited, every one feels that he must
not rely solely on its assistance. Thus, when the administration thinks
fit to interfere, it is not abandoned to itself as in Europe; the duties
of the private citizens are not supposed to have lapsed because the
State assists in their fulfilment, but every one is ready, on the
contrary, to guide and to support it. This action of individual
exertions, joined to that of the public authorities, frequently performs
what the most energetic central administration would be unable to
execute. It would be easy to adduce several facts in proof of what I
advance, but I had rather give only one, with which I am more thoroughly
acquainted. *u In America the means which the authorities have at their
disposal for the discovery of crimes and the arrest of criminals are
few. The State police does not exist, and passports are unknown. The
criminal police of the United States cannot be compared to that of
France; the magistrates and public prosecutors are not numerous, and the
examinations of prisoners are rapid and oral. Nevertheless in no country
does crime more rarely elude punishment. The reason is, that every one
conceives himself to be interested in furnishing evidence of the act
committed, and in stopping the delinquent. During my stay in the United
States I witnessed the spontaneous formation of committees for the
pursuit and prosecution of a man who had committed a great crime in
a certain county. In Europe a criminal is an unhappy being who is
struggling for his life against the ministers of justice, whilst the
population is merely a spectator of the conflict; in America he is
looked upon as an enemy of the human race, and the whole of mankind is
against him.

[Footnote u: See Appendix, I.]

I believe that provincial institutions are useful to all nations, but
nowhere do they appear to me to be more indispensable than amongst a
democratic people. In an aristocracy order can always be maintained in
the midst of liberty, and as the rulers have a great deal to lose order
is to them a first-rate consideration. In like manner an aristocracy
protects the people from the excesses of despotism, because it always
possesses an organized power ready to resist a despot. But a democracy
without provincial institutions has no security against these evils. How
can a populace, unaccustomed to freedom in small concerns, learn to
use it temperately in great affairs? What resistance can be offered to
tyranny in a country where every private individual is impotent, and
where the citizens are united by no common tie? Those who dread the
license of the mob, and those who fear the rule of absolute power, ought
alike to desire the progressive growth of provincial liberties.

On the other hand, I am convinced that democratic nations are most
exposed to fall beneath the yoke of a central administration, for
several reasons, amongst which is the following. The constant tendency
of these nations is to concentrate all the strength of the Government
in the hands of the only power which directly represents the people,
because beyond the people nothing is to be perceived but a mass of equal
individuals confounded together. But when the same power is already
in possession of all the attributes of the Government, it can scarcely
refrain from penetrating into the details of the administration, and an
opportunity of doing so is sure to present itself in the end, as was
the case in France. In the French Revolution there were two impulses
in opposite directions, which must never be confounded--the one was
favorable to liberty, the other to despotism. Under the ancient monarchy
the King was the sole author of the laws, and below the power of the
sovereign certain vestiges of provincial institutions, half destroyed,
were still distinguishable. These provincial institutions were
incoherent, ill compacted, and frequently absurd; in the hands of
the aristocracy they had sometimes been converted into instruments of
oppression. The Revolution declared itself the enemy of royalty and of
provincial institutions at the same time; it confounded all that
had preceded it--despotic power and the checks to its abuses--in
indiscriminate hatred, and its tendency was at once to overthrow and
to centralize. This double character of the French Revolution is a fact
which has been adroitly handled by the friends of absolute power. Can
they be accused of laboring in the cause of despotism when they are
defending that central administration which was one of the great
innovations of the Revolution? *v In this manner popularity may be
conciliated with hostility to the rights of the people, and the secret
slave of tyranny may be the professed admirer of freedom.

[Footnote v: See Appendix K.]

I have visited the two nations in which the system of provincial liberty
has been most perfectly established, and I have listened to the opinions
of different parties in those countries. In America I met with men who
secretly aspired to destroy the democratic institutions of the Union; in
England I found others who attacked the aristocracy openly, but I
know of no one who does not regard provincial independence as a great
benefit. In both countries I have heard a thousand different causes
assigned for the evils of the State, but the local system was never
mentioned amongst them. I have heard citizens attribute the power and
prosperity of their country to a multitude of reasons, but they all
placed the advantages of local institutions in the foremost rank. Am
I to suppose that when men who are naturally so divided on religious
opinions and on political theories agree on one point (and that one
of which they have daily experience), they are all in error? The only
nations which deny the utility of provincial liberties are those which
have fewest of them; in other words, those who are unacquainted with the
institution are the only persons who pass a censure upon it.

Chapter VI: Judicial Power In The United States

Chapter Summary

The Anglo-Americans have retained the characteristics of judicial power
which are common to all nations--They have, however, made it a powerful
political organ--How--In what the judicial system of the Anglo-Americans
differs from that of all other nations--Why the American judges have the
right of declaring the laws to be unconstitutional--How they use this
right--Precautions taken by the legislator to prevent its abuse.

Judicial Power In The United States And Its Influence On Political

I have thought it essential to devote a separate chapter to the judicial
authorities of the United States, lest their great political importance
should be lessened in the reader's eyes by a merely incidental mention
of them. Confederations have existed in other countries beside America,
and republics have not been established upon the shores of the New
World alone; the representative system of government has been adopted
in several States of Europe, but I am not aware that any nation of
the globe has hitherto organized a judicial power on the principle now
adopted by the Americans. The judicial organization of the United States
is the institution which a stranger has the greatest difficulty
in understanding. He hears the authority of a judge invoked in the
political occurrences of every day, and he naturally concludes that
in the United States the judges are important political functionaries;
nevertheless, when he examines the nature of the tribunals, they offer
nothing which is contrary to the usual habits and privileges of those
bodies, and the magistrates seem to him to interfere in public affairs
of chance, but by a chance which recurs every day.

When the Parliament of Paris remonstrated, or refused to enregister an
edict, or when it summoned a functionary accused of malversation to its
bar, its political influence as a judicial body was clearly visible; but
nothing of the kind is to be seen in the United States. The Americans
have retained all the ordinary characteristics of judicial authority,
and have carefully restricted its action to the ordinary circle of its

The first characteristic of judicial power in all nations is the duty
of arbitration. But rights must be contested in order to warrant the
interference of a tribunal; and an action must be brought to obtain the
decision of a judge. As long, therefore, as the law is uncontested, the
judicial authority is not called upon to discuss it, and it may exist
without being perceived. When a judge in a given case attacks a law
relating to that case, he extends the circle of his customary duties,
without however stepping beyond it; since he is in some measure obliged
to decide upon the law in order to decide the case. But if he pronounces
upon a law without resting upon a case, he clearly steps beyond his
sphere, and invades that of the legislative authority.

The second characteristic of judicial power is that it pronounces on
special cases, and not upon general principles. If a judge in deciding
a particular point destroys a general principle, by passing a judgment
which tends to reject all the inferences from that principle, and
consequently to annul it, he remains within the ordinary limits of his
functions. But if he directly attacks a general principle without having
a particular case in view, he leaves the circle in which all nations
have agreed to confine his authority, he assumes a more important, and
perhaps a more useful, influence than that of the magistrate, but he
ceases to be a representative of the judicial power.

The third characteristic of the judicial power is its inability to act
unless it is appealed to, or until it has taken cognizance of an
affair. This characteristic is less general than the other two; but,
notwithstanding the exceptions, I think it may be regarded as essential.
The judicial power is by its nature devoid of action; it must be put in
motion in order to produce a result. When it is called upon to repress a
crime, it punishes the criminal; when a wrong is to be redressed, it is
ready to redress it; when an act requires interpretation, it is prepared
to interpret it; but it does not pursue criminals, hunt out wrongs,
or examine into evidence of its own accord. A judicial functionary who
should open proceedings, and usurp the censorship of the laws, would in
some measure do violence to the passive nature of his authority.

The Americans have retained these three distinguishing characteristics
of the judicial power; an American judge can only pronounce a decision
when litigation has arisen, he is only conversant with special cases,
and he cannot act until the cause has been duly brought before the
court. His position is therefore perfectly similar to that of the
magistrate of other nations; and he is nevertheless invested with
immense political power. If the sphere of his authority and his means of
action are the same as those of other judges, it may be asked whence he
derives a power which they do not possess. The cause of this difference
lies in the simple fact that the Americans have acknowledged the right
of the judges to found their decisions on the constitution rather than
on the laws. In other words, they have left them at liberty not to apply
such laws as may appear to them to be unconstitutional.

I am aware that a similar right has been claimed--but claimed in
vain--by courts of justice in other countries; but in America it is
recognized by all authorities; and not a party, nor so much as an
individual, is found to contest it. This fact can only be explained by
the principles of the American constitution. In France the constitution
is (or at least is supposed to be) immutable; and the received theory is
that no power has the right of changing any part of it. In England the
Parliament has an acknowledged right to modify the constitution; as,
therefore, the constitution may undergo perpetual changes, it does
not in reality exist; the Parliament is at once a legislative and a
constituent assembly. The political theories of America are more simple
and more rational. An American constitution is not supposed to be
immutable as in France, nor is it susceptible of modification by the
ordinary powers of society as in England. It constitutes a detached
whole, which, as it represents the determination of the whole people, is
no less binding on the legislator than on the private citizen, but
which may be altered by the will of the people in predetermined
cases, according to established rules. In America the constitution
may therefore vary, but as long as it exists it is the origin of all
authority, and the sole vehicle of the predominating force. *a

[Footnote a: [The fifth article of the original Constitution of the
United States provides the mode in which amendments of the Constitution
may be made. Amendments must be proposed by two-thirds of both Houses
of Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the
several States. Fifteen amendments of the Constitution have been made
at different times since 1789, the most important of which are the
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth, framed and ratified after the
Civil War. The original Constitution of the United States, followed
by these fifteen amendments, is printed at the end of this edition.
--Translator's Note, 1874.]]

It is easy to perceive in what manner these differences must act
upon the position and the rights of the judicial bodies in the three
countries I have cited. If in France the tribunals were authorized
to disobey the laws on the ground of their being opposed to the
constitution, the supreme power would in fact be placed in their hands,
since they alone would have the right of interpreting a constitution,
the clauses of which can be modified by no authority. They would
therefore take the place of the nation, and exercise as absolute a sway
over society as the inherent weakness of judicial power would allow them
to do. Undoubtedly, as the French judges are incompetent to declare a
law to be unconstitutional, the power of changing the constitution is
indirectly given to the legislative body, since no legal barrier would
oppose the alterations which it might prescribe. But it is better to
grant the power of changing the constitution of the people to men who
represent (however imperfectly) the will of the people, than to men who
represent no one but themselves.

It would be still more unreasonable to invest the English judges with
the right of resisting the decisions of the legislative body, since
the Parliament which makes the laws also makes the constitution; and
consequently a law emanating from the three powers of the State can in
no case be unconstitutional. But neither of these remarks is applicable
to America.

In the United States the constitution governs the legislator as much as
the private citizen; as it is the first of laws it cannot be modified
by a law, and it is therefore just that the tribunals should obey the
constitution in preference to any law. This condition is essential to
the power of the judicature, for to select that legal obligation
by which he is most strictly bound is the natural right of every

In France the constitution is also the first of laws, and the judges
have the same right to take it as the ground of their decisions, but
were they to exercise this right they must perforce encroach on rights
more sacred than their own, namely, on those of society, in whose name
they are acting. In this case the State-motive clearly prevails over the
motives of an individual. In America, where the nation can always reduce
its magistrates to obedience by changing its constitution, no danger of
this kind is to be feared. Upon this point, therefore, the political and
the logical reasons agree, and the people as well as the judges preserve
their privileges.

Whenever a law which the judge holds to be unconstitutional is argued
in a tribunal of the United States he may refuse to admit it as a rule;
this power is the only one which is peculiar to the American magistrate,
but it gives rise to immense political influence. Few laws can escape
the searching analysis of the judicial power for any length of time,
for there are few which are not prejudicial to some private interest or
other, and none which may not be brought before a court of justice by
the choice of parties, or by the necessity of the case. But from the
time that a judge has refused to apply any given law in a case, that law
loses a portion of its moral cogency. The persons to whose interests
it is prejudicial learn that means exist of evading its authority, and
similar suits are multiplied, until it becomes powerless. One of
two alternatives must then be resorted to: the people must alter the
constitution, or the legislature must repeal the law. The political
power which the Americans have intrusted to their courts of justice
is therefore immense, but the evils of this power are considerably
diminished by the obligation which has been imposed of attacking
the laws through the courts of justice alone. If the judge had been
empowered to contest the laws on the ground of theoretical generalities,
if he had been enabled to open an attack or to pass a censure on the
legislator, he would have played a prominent part in the political
sphere; and as the champion or the antagonist of a party, he would have
arrayed the hostile passions of the nation in the conflict. But when
a judge contests a law applied to some particular case in an obscure
proceeding, the importance of his attack is concealed from the public
gaze, his decision bears upon the interest of an individual, and if
the law is slighted it is only collaterally. Moreover, although it is
censured, it is not abolished; its moral force may be diminished, but
its cogency is by no means suspended, and its final destruction can only
be accomplished by the reiterated attacks of judicial functionaries. It
will readily be understood that by connecting the censorship of the
laws with the private interests of members of the community, and by
intimately uniting the prosecution of the law with the prosecution of
an individual, legislation is protected from wanton assailants, and from
the daily aggressions of party spirit. The errors of the legislator are
exposed whenever their evil consequences are most felt, and it is
always a positive and appreciable fact which serves as the basis of a

I am inclined to believe this practice of the American courts to be at
once the most favorable to liberty as well as to public order. If the
judge could only attack the legislator openly and directly, he would
sometimes be afraid to oppose any resistance to his will; and at other
moments party spirit might encourage him to brave it at every turn.
The laws would consequently be attacked when the power from which they
emanate is weak, and obeyed when it is strong. That is to say, when it
would be useful to respect them they would be contested, and when it
would be easy to convert them into an instrument of oppression they
would be respected. But the American judge is brought into the political
arena independently of his own will. He only judges the law because he
is obliged to judge a case. The political question which he is called
upon to resolve is connected with the interest of the suitors, and he
cannot refuse to decide it without abdicating the duties of his post.
He performs his functions as a citizen by fulfilling the precise duties
which belong to his profession as a magistrate. It is true that upon
this system the judicial censorship which is exercised by the courts of
justice over the legislation cannot extend to all laws indiscriminately,
inasmuch as some of them can never give rise to that exact species
of contestation which is termed a lawsuit; and even when such a
contestation is possible, it may happen that no one cares to bring
it before a court of justice. The Americans have often felt this
disadvantage, but they have left the remedy incomplete, lest they should
give it an efficacy which might in some cases prove dangerous. Within
these limits the power vested in the American courts of justice of
pronouncing a statute to be unconstitutional forms one of the most
powerful barriers which has ever been devised against the tyranny of
political assemblies.

Other Powers Granted To American Judges

The United States all the citizens have the right of indicting
public functionaries before the ordinary tribunals--How they use this
right--Art. 75 of the French Constitution of the An VIII--The Americans
and the English cannot understand the purport of this clause.

It is perfectly natural that in a free country like America all the
citizens should have the right of indicting public functionaries before
the ordinary tribunals, and that all the judges should have the power of
punishing public offences. The right granted to the courts of justice of
judging the agents of the executive government, when they have violated
the laws, is so natural a one that it cannot be looked upon as an
extraordinary privilege. Nor do the springs of government appear to
me to be weakened in the United States by the custom which renders all
public officers responsible to the judges of the land. The Americans
seem, on the contrary, to have increased by this means that respect
which is due to the authorities, and at the same time to have rendered
those who are in power more scrupulous of offending public opinion. I
was struck by the small number of political trials which occur in
the United States, but I had no difficulty in accounting for this
circumstance. A lawsuit, of whatever nature it may be, is always a
difficult and expensive undertaking. It is easy to attack a public man
in a journal, but the motives which can warrant an action at law must be
serious. A solid ground of complaint must therefore exist to induce
an individual to prosecute a public officer, and public officers are
careful not to furnish these grounds of complaint when they are afraid
of being prosecuted.

This does not depend upon the republican form of American institutions,
for the same facts present themselves in England. These two nations
do not regard the impeachment of the principal officers of State as a
sufficient guarantee of their independence. But they hold that the
right of minor prosecutions, which are within the reach of the whole
community, is a better pledge of freedom than those great judicial
actions which are rarely employed until it is too late.

In the Middle Ages, when it was very difficult to overtake offenders,
the judges inflicted the most dreadful tortures on the few who were
arrested, which by no means diminished the number of crimes. It has
since been discovered that when justice is more certain and more mild,
it is at the same time more efficacious. The English and the Americans
hold that tyranny and oppression are to be treated like any other crime,
by lessening the penalty and facilitating conviction.

In the year VIII of the French Republic a constitution was drawn up in
which the following clause was introduced: "Art. 75. All the agents of
the government below the rank of ministers can only be prosecuted for
offences relating to their several functions by virtue of a decree of
the Conseil d'Etat; in which the case the prosecution takes place before
the ordinary tribunals." This clause survived the "Constitution de l'An
VIII," and it is still maintained in spite of the just complaints of
the nation. I have always found the utmost difficulty in explaining its
meaning to Englishmen or Americans. They were at once led to conclude
that the Conseil d'Etat in France was a great tribunal, established in
the centre of the kingdom, which exercised a preliminary and somewhat
tyrannical jurisdiction in all political causes. But when I told them
that the Conseil d'Etat was not a judicial body, in the common sense of
the term, but an administrative council composed of men dependent on
the Crown, so that the king, after having ordered one of his servants,
called a Prefect, to commit an injustice, has the power of commanding
another of his servants, called a Councillor of State, to prevent the
former from being punished; when I demonstrated to them that the citizen
who has been injured by the order of the sovereign is obliged to solicit
from the sovereign permission to obtain redress, they refused to credit
so flagrant an abuse, and were tempted to accuse me of falsehood or
of ignorance. It frequently happened before the Revolution that a
Parliament issued a warrant against a public officer who had committed
an offence, and sometimes the proceedings were stopped by the authority
of the Crown, which enforced compliance with its absolute and despotic
will. It is painful to perceive how much lower we are sunk than our
forefathers, since we allow things to pass under the color of justice
and the sanction of the law which violence alone could impose upon them.

Chapter VII: Political Jurisdiction In The United States

Chapter Summary

Definition of political jurisdiction--What is understood by political
jurisdiction in France, in England, and in the United States--In America
the political judge can only pass sentence on public officers--He
more frequently passes a sentence of removal from office than a
penalty--Political jurisdiction as it exists in the United States
is, notwithstanding its mildness, and perhaps in consequence of that
mildness, a most powerful instrument in the hands of the majority.

Political Jurisdiction In The United States

I understand, by political jurisdiction, that temporary right of
pronouncing a legal decision with which a political body may be

In absolute governments no utility can accrue from the introduction of
extraordinary forms of procedure; the prince in whose name an offender
is prosecuted is as much the sovereign of the courts of justice as of
everything else, and the idea which is entertained of his power is of
itself a sufficient security. The only thing he has to fear is, that
the external formalities of justice should be neglected, and that his
authority should be dishonored from a wish to render it more absolute.
But in most free countries, in which the majority can never exercise the
same influence upon the tribunals as an absolute monarch, the judicial
power has occasionally been vested for a time in the representatives
of the nation. It has been thought better to introduce a temporary
confusion between the functions of the different authorities than to
violate the necessary principle of the unity of government.

England, France, and the United States have established this political
jurisdiction by law; and it is curious to examine the different
adaptations which these three great nations have made of the principle.
In England and in France the House of Lords and the Chambre des Paris *a
constitute the highest criminal court of their respective nations, and
although they do not habitually try all political offences, they are
competent to try them all. Another political body enjoys the right of
impeachment before the House of Lords: the only difference which exists
between the two countries in this respect is, that in England the
Commons may impeach whomsoever they please before the Lords, whilst in
France the Deputies can only employ this mode of prosecution against the
ministers of the Crown.

[Footnote a: [As it existed under the constitutional monarchy down to

In both countries the Upper House may make use of all the existing penal
laws of the nation to punish the delinquents.

In the United States, as well as in Europe, one branch of the
legislature is authorized to impeach and another to judge: the House
of Representatives arraigns the offender, and the Senate awards his
sentence. But the Senate can only try such persons as are brought before
it by the House of Representatives, and those persons must belong to the
class of public functionaries. Thus the jurisdiction of the Senate is
less extensive than that of the Peers of France, whilst the right of
impeachment by the Representatives is more general than that of the
Deputies. But the great difference which exists between Europe and
America is, that in Europe political tribunals are empowered to inflict
all the dispositions of the penal code, while in America, when they
have deprived the offender of his official rank, and have declared
him incapable of filling any political office for the future, their
jurisdiction terminates and that of the ordinary tribunals begins.

Suppose, for instance, that the President of the United States has
committed the crime of high treason; the House of Representatives
impeaches him, and the Senate degrades him; he must then be tried by
a jury, which alone can deprive him of his liberty or his life. This
accurately illustrates the subject we are treating. The political
jurisdiction which is established by the laws of Europe is intended to
try great offenders, whatever may be their birth, their rank, or their
powers in the State; and to this end all the privileges of the courts
of justice are temporarily extended to a great political assembly. The
legislator is then transformed into the magistrate; he is called upon
to admit, to distinguish, and to punish the offence; and as he exercises
all the authority of a judge, the law restricts him to the observance
of all the duties of that high office, and of all the formalities of
justice. When a public functionary is impeached before an English or a
French political tribunal, and is found guilty, the sentence deprives
him ipso facto of his functions, and it may pronounce him to be
incapable of resuming them or any others for the future. But in this
case the political interdict is a consequence of the sentence, and not
the sentence itself. In Europe the sentence of a political tribunal is
to be regarded as a judicial verdict rather than as an administrative
measure. In the United States the contrary takes place; and although the
decision of the Senate is judicial in its form, since the Senators
are obliged to comply with the practices and formalities of a court of
justice; although it is judicial in respect to the motives on which it
is founded, since the Senate is in general obliged to take an offence at
common law as the basis of its sentence; nevertheless the object of the
proceeding is purely administrative. If it had been the intention of
the American legislator to invest a political body with great judicial
authority, its action would not have been limited to the circle of
public functionaries, since the most dangerous enemies of the State may
be in the possession of no functions at all; and this is especially true
in republics, where party influence is the first of authorities, and
where the strength of many a reader is increased by his exercising no
legal power.

If it had been the intention of the American legislator to give
society the means of repressing State offences by exemplary punishment,
according to the practice of ordinary justice, the resources of the
penal code would all have been placed at the disposal of the political
tribunals. But the weapon with which they are intrusted is an imperfect
one, and it can never reach the most dangerous offenders, since men who
aim at the entire subversion of the laws are not likely to murmur at a
political interdict.

The main object of the political jurisdiction which obtains in the
United States is, therefore, to deprive the ill-disposed citizen of
an authority which he has used amiss, and to prevent him from ever
acquiring it again. This is evidently an administrative measure
sanctioned by the formalities of a judicial decision. In this matter
the Americans have created a mixed system; they have surrounded the act
which removes a public functionary with the securities of a political
trial; and they have deprived all political condemnations of their
severest penalties. Every link of the system may easily be traced from
this point; we at once perceive why the American constitutions subject
all the civil functionaries to the jurisdiction of the Senate, whilst
the military, whose crimes are nevertheless more formidable, are
exempted from that tribunal. In the civil service none of the American
functionaries can be said to be removable; the places which some of
them occupy are inalienable, and the others are chosen for a term which
cannot be shortened. It is therefore necessary to try them all in order
to deprive them of their authority. But military officers are
dependent on the chief magistrate of the State, who is himself a civil
functionary, and the decision which condemns him is a blow upon them

If we now compare the American and the European systems, we shall meet
with differences no less striking in the different effects which each of
them produces or may produce. In France and in England the jurisdiction
of political bodies is looked upon as an extraordinary resource, which
is only to be employed in order to rescue society from unwonted dangers.
It is not to be denied that these tribunals, as they are constituted in
Europe, are apt to violate the conservative principle of the balance of
power in the State, and to threaten incessantly the lives and liberties
of the subject. The same political jurisdiction in the United States is
only indirectly hostile to the balance of power; it cannot menace the
lives of the citizens, and it does not hover, as in Europe, over the
heads of the community, since those only who have submitted to its
authority on accepting office are exposed to the severity of its
investigations. It is at the same time less formidable and less
efficacious; indeed, it has not been considered by the legislators of
the United States as a remedy for the more violent evils of society, but
as an ordinary means of conducting the government. In this respect it
probably exercises more real influence on the social body in America
than in Europe. We must not be misled by the apparent mildness of the
American legislation in all that relates to political jurisdiction. It
is to be observed, in the first place, that in the United States the
tribunal which passes sentence is composed of the same elements,
and subject to the same influences, as the body which impeaches the
offender, and that this uniformity gives an almost irresistible impulse
to the vindictive passions of parties. If political judges in the United
States cannot inflict such heavy penalties as those of Europe, there is
the less chance of their acquitting a prisoner; and the conviction,
if it is less formidable, is more certain. The principal object of the
political tribunals of Europe is to punish the offender; the purpose
of those in America is to deprive him of his authority. A political
condemnation in the United States may, therefore, be looked upon as a
preventive measure; and there is no reason for restricting the judges to
the exact definitions of criminal law. Nothing can be more alarming than
the excessive latitude with which political offences are described in
the laws of America. Article II., Section 4, of the Constitution of the
United States runs thus:--"The President, Vice-President, and all
civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on
impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high
crimes and misdemeanors." Many of the Constitutions of the States
are even less explicit. "Public officers," says the Constitution
of Massachusetts, *b "shall be impeached for misconduct or
maladministration;" the Constitution of Virginia declares that all
the civil officers who shall have offended against the State, by
maladministration, corruption, or other high crimes, may be impeached by
the House of Delegates; in some constitutions no offences are
specified, in order to subject the public functionaries to an unlimited
responsibility. *c But I will venture to affirm that it is precisely
their mildness which renders the American laws most formidable in this
respect. We have shown that in Europe the removal of a functionary and
his political interdiction are the consequences of the penalty he is
to undergo, and that in America they constitute the penalty itself.
The consequence is that in Europe political tribunals are invested with
rights which they are afraid to use, and that the fear of punishing too
much hinders them from punishing at all. But in America no one hesitates
to inflict a penalty from which humanity does not recoil. To condemn a
political opponent to death, in order to deprive him of his power, is
to commit what all the world would execrate as a horrible assassination;
but to declare that opponent unworthy to exercise that authority, to
deprive him of it, and to leave him uninjured in life and limb, may be
judged to be the fair issue of the struggle. But this sentence, which it
is so easy to pronounce, is not the less fatally severe to the majority
of those upon whom it is inflicted. Great criminals may undoubtedly
brave its intangible rigor, but ordinary offenders will dread it as a
condemnation which destroys their position in the world, casts a blight
upon their honor, and condemns them to a shameful inactivity worse than
death. The influence exercised in the United States upon the progress
of society by the jurisdiction of political bodies may not appear to be
formidable, but it is only the more immense. It does not directly coerce
the subject, but it renders the majority more absolute over those in
power; it does not confer an unbounded authority on the legislator which
can be exerted at some momentous crisis, but it establishes a temperate
and regular influence, which is at all times available. If the power is
decreased, it can, on the other hand, be more conveniently employed and
more easily abused. By preventing political tribunals from inflicting
judicial punishments the Americans seem to have eluded the worst
consequences of legislative tyranny, rather than tyranny itself; and
I am not sure that political jurisdiction, as it is constituted in the
United States, is not the most formidable weapon which has ever been
placed in the rude grasp of a popular majority. When the American
republics begin to degenerate it will be easy to verify the truth
of this observation, by remarking whether the number of political
impeachments augments.*d

[Footnote b: Chap. I. sect. ii. Section 8.]

[Footnote c: See the constitutions of Illinois, Maine, Connecticut, and

[Footnote d: See Appendix, N.

[The impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868--which was resorted
to by his political opponents solely as a means of turning him out of
office, for it could not be contended that he had been guilty of high
crimes and misdemeanors, and he was in fact honorably acquitted and
reinstated in office--is a striking confirmation of the truth of this
remark.--Translator's Note, 1874.]]

Chapter VIII: The Federal Constitution--Part I

I have hitherto considered each State as a separate whole, and I have
explained the different springs which the people sets in motion, and the
different means of action which it employs. But all the States which I
have considered as independent are forced to submit, in certain cases,
to the supreme authority of the Union. The time is now come for me to
examine separately the supremacy with which the Union has been invested,
and to cast a rapid glance over the Federal Constitution.

Chapter Summary

Origin of the first Union--Its weakness--Congress appeals to the
constituent authority--Interval of two years between this appeal and the
promulgation of the new Constitution.

History Of The Federal Constitution

The thirteen colonies which simultaneously threw off the yoke of
England towards the end of the last century professed, as I have already
observed, the same religion, the same language, the same customs, and
almost the same laws; they were struggling against a common enemy; and
these reasons were sufficiently strong to unite them one to another, and
to consolidate them into one nation. But as each of them had enjoyed a
separate existence and a government within its own control, the peculiar
interests and customs which resulted from this system were opposed to
a compact and intimate union which would have absorbed the individual
importance of each in the general importance of all. Hence arose two
opposite tendencies, the one prompting the Anglo-Americans to unite,
the other to divide their strength. As long as the war with the
mother-country lasted the principle of union was kept alive by
necessity; and although the laws which constituted it were defective,
the common tie subsisted in spite of their imperfections. *a But no
sooner was peace concluded than the faults of the legislation became
manifest, and the State seemed to be suddenly dissolved. Each colony
became an independent republic, and assumed an absolute sovereignty. The
federal government, condemned to impotence by its constitution, and
no longer sustained by the presence of a common danger, witnessed the
outrages offered to its flag by the great nations of Europe, whilst it
was scarcely able to maintain its ground against the Indian tribes, and
to pay the interest of the debt which had been contracted during the
war of independence. It was already on the verge of destruction, when
it officially proclaimed its inability to conduct the government, and
appealed to the constituent authority of the nation. *b If America ever
approached (for however brief a time) that lofty pinnacle of glory
to which the fancy of its inhabitants is wont to point, it was at the
solemn moment at which the power of the nation abdicated, as it were,
the empire of the land. All ages have furnished the spectacle of a
people struggling with energy to win its independence; and the efforts
of the Americans in throwing off the English yoke have been considerably
exaggerated. Separated from their enemies by three thousand miles of
ocean, and backed by a powerful ally, the success of the United States
may be more justly attributed to their geographical position than to the
valor of their armies or the patriotism of their citizens. It would
be ridiculous to compare the American was to the wars of the French
Revolution, or the efforts of the Americans to those of the French when
they were attacked by the whole of Europe, without credit and without
allies, yet capable of opposing a twentieth part of their population to
the world, and of bearing the torch of revolution beyond their frontiers
whilst they stifled its devouring flame within the bosom of their
country. But it is a novelty in the history of society to see a great
people turn a calm and scrutinizing eye upon itself, when apprised by
the legislature that the wheels of government are stopped; to see it
carefully examine the extent of the evil, and patiently wait for two
whole years until a remedy was discovered, which it voluntarily adopted
without having wrung a tear or a drop of blood from mankind. At the time
when the inadequacy of the first constitution was discovered America
possessed the double advantage of that calm which had succeeded the
effervescence of the revolution, and of those great men who had led the
revolution to a successful issue. The assembly which accepted the task
of composing the second constitution was small; *c but George Washington
was its President, and it contained the choicest talents and the
noblest hearts which had ever appeared in the New World. This national
commission, after long and mature deliberation, offered to the
acceptance of the people the body of general laws which still rules
the Union. All the States adopted it successively. *d The new Federal
Government commenced its functions in 1789, after an interregnum of two
years. The Revolution of America terminated when that of France began.

[Footnote a: See the articles of the first confederation formed in 1778.
This constitution was not adopted by all the States until 1781. See also
the analysis given of this constitution in "The Federalist" from No. 15
to No. 22, inclusive, and Story's "Commentaries on the Constitution of
the United States," pp. 85-115.]

[Footnote b: Congress made this declaration on February 21, 1787.]

[Footnote c: It consisted of fifty-five members; Washington, Madison,
Hamilton, and the two Morrises were amongst the number.]

[Footnote d: It was not adopted by the legislative bodies, but
representatives were elected by the people for this sole purpose;
and the new constitution was discussed at length in each of these

Summary Of The Federal Constitution

Division of authority between the Federal Government and the States--The
Government of the States is the rule, the Federal Government the

The first question which awaited the Americans was intricate, and by no
means easy of solution: the object was so to divide the authority of
the different States which composed the Union that each of them should
continue to govern itself in all that concerned its internal prosperity,
whilst the entire nation, represented by the Union, should continue to
form a compact body, and to provide for the general exigencies of the
people. It was as impossible to determine beforehand, with any degree
of accuracy, the share of authority which each of two governments was to
enjoy, as to foresee all the incidents in the existence of a nation.

The obligations and the claims of the Federal Government were simple
and easily definable, because the Union had been formed with the express
purpose of meeting the general exigencies of the people; but the claims
and obligations of the States were, on the other hand, complicated and
various, because those Governments had penetrated into all the details
of social life. The attributes of the Federal Government were therefore
carefully enumerated and all that was not included amongst them
was declared to constitute a part of the privileges of the several
Governments of the States. Thus the government of the States remained
the rule, and that of the Confederation became the exception. *e

[Footnote e: See the Amendment to the Federal Constitution;
"Federalist," No. 32; Story, p. 711; Kent's "Commentaries," vol. i. p.

It is to be observed that whenever the exclusive right of regulating
certain matters is not reserved to Congress by the Constitution, the
States may take up the affair until it is brought before the National
Assembly. For instance, Congress has the right of making a general law
on bankruptcy, which, however, it neglects to do. Each State is then
at liberty to make a law for itself. This point has been established by
discussion in the law-courts, and may be said to belong more properly to

But as it was foreseen that, in practice, questions might arise as to
the exact limits of this exceptional authority, and that it would be
dangerous to submit these questions to the decision of the ordinary
courts of justice, established in the States by the States themselves,
a high Federal court was created, *f which was destined, amongst other
functions, to maintain the balance of power which had been established
by the Constitution between the two rival Governments. *g

[Footnote f: The action of this court is indirect, as we shall hereafter

[Footnote g: It is thus that "The Federalist," No. 45, explains the
division of supremacy between the Union and the States: "The powers
delegated by the Constitution to the Federal Government are few and
defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous
and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external
objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers
reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which,
in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the internal order and
prosperity of the State." I shall often have occasion to quote "The
Federalist" in this work. When the bill which has since become the
Constitution of the United States was submitted to the approval of
the people, and the discussions were still pending, three men, who
had already acquired a portion of that celebrity which they have since
enjoyed--John Jay, Hamilton, and Madison--formed an association with
the intention of explaining to the nation the advantages of the measure
which was proposed. With this view they published a series of articles
in the shape of a journal, which now form a complete treatise. They
entitled their journal "The Federalist," a name which has been retained
in the work. "The Federalist" is an excellent book, which ought to
be familiar to the statesmen of all countries, although it especially
concerns America.]

Prerogative Of The Federal Government

Power of declaring war, making peace, and levying general taxes vested
in the Federal Government--What part of the internal policy of the
country it may direct--The Government of the Union in some respects more
central than the King's Government in the old French monarchy.

The external relations of a people may be compared to those of private
individuals, and they cannot be advantageously maintained without the
agency of a single head of a Government. The exclusive right of making
peace and war, of concluding treaties of commerce, of raising armies,
and equipping fleets, was granted to the Union. *h The necessity of
a national Government was less imperiously felt in the conduct of the
internal policy of society; but there are certain general interests
which can only be attended to with advantage by a general authority. The
Union was invested with the power of controlling the monetary system, of
directing the post office, and of opening the great roads which were to
establish a communication between the different parts of the country. *i
The independence of the Government of each State was formally recognized
in its sphere; nevertheless, the Federal Government was authorized
to interfere in the internal affairs of the States *j in a few
predetermined cases, in which an indiscreet abuse of their independence
might compromise the security of the Union at large. Thus, whilst
the power of modifying and changing their legislation at pleasure was
preserved in all the republics, they were forbidden to enact ex post
facto laws, or to create a class of nobles in their community. *k
Lastly, as it was necessary that the Federal Government should be able
to fulfil its engagements, it was endowed with an unlimited power of
levying taxes. *l

[Footnote h: See Constitution, sect. 8; "Federalist," Nos. 41 and 42;
Kent's "Commentaries," vol. i. p. 207; Story, pp. 358-382; Ibid. pp.

[Footnote i: Several other privileges of the same kind exist, such
as that which empowers the Union to legislate on bankruptcy, to
grant patents, and other matters in which its intervention is clearly

[Footnote j: Even in these cases its interference is indirect. The Union
interferes by means of the tribunals, as will be hereafter shown.]

[Footnote k: Federal Constitution, sect. 10, art. I.]

[Footnote l: Constitution, sects. 8, 9, and 10; "Federalist," Nos.
30-36, inclusive, and 41-44; Kent's "Commentaries," vol. i. pp. 207 and
381; Story, pp. 329 and 514.]

In examining the balance of power as established by the Federal
Constitution; in remarking on the one hand the portion of sovereignty
which has been reserved to the several States, and on the other the
share of power which the Union has assumed, it is evident that the
Federal legislators entertained the clearest and most accurate notions
on the nature of the centralization of government. The United States
form not only a republic, but a confederation; nevertheless the
authority of the nation is more central than it was in several of the
monarchies of Europe when the American Constitution was formed. Take,
for instance, the two following examples.

Thirteen supreme courts of justice existed in France, which, generally
speaking, had the right of interpreting the law without appeal; and
those provinces which were styled pays d'etats were authorized to refuse
their assent to an impost which had been levied by the sovereign who
represented the nation. In the Union there is but one tribunal to
interpret, as there is one legislature to make the laws; and an impost
voted by the representatives of the nation is binding upon all the
citizens. In these two essential points, therefore, the Union exercises
more central authority than the French monarchy possessed, although the
Union is only an assemblage of confederate republics.

In Spain certain provinces had the right of establishing a system of
custom-house duties peculiar to themselves, although that privilege
belongs, by its very nature, to the national sovereignty. In America the
Congress alone has the right of regulating the commercial relations
of the States. The government of the Confederation is therefore more
centralized in this respect than the kingdom of Spain. It is true that
the power of the Crown in France or in Spain was always able to obtain
by force whatever the Constitution of the country denied, and that the
ultimate result was consequently the same; but I am here discussing the
theory of the Constitution.

Federal Powers

After having settled the limits within which the Federal Government
was to act, the next point was to determine the powers which it was to

Legislative Powers *m

[Footnote m: [In this chapter the author points out the essence of the
conflict between the seceding States and the Union which caused the
Civil War of 1861.]]

Division of the Legislative Body into two branches--Difference in the
manner of forming the two Houses--The principle of the independence of
the States predominates in the formation of the Senate--The principle
of the sovereignty of the nation in the composition of the House of
Representatives--Singular effects of the fact that a Constitution can
only be logical in the early stages of a nation.

The plan which had been laid down beforehand for the Constitutions of
the several States was followed, in many points, in the organization
of the powers of the Union. The Federal legislature of the Union
was composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives. A spirit of
conciliation prescribed the observance of distinct principles in
the formation of these two assemblies. I have already shown that two
contrary interests were opposed to each other in the establishment of
the Federal Constitution. These two interests had given rise to two
opinions. It was the wish of one party to convert the Union into a
league of independent States, or a sort of congress, at which the
representatives of the several peoples would meet to discuss certain
points of their common interests. The other party desired to unite
the inhabitants of the American colonies into one sole nation, and to
establish a Government which should act as the sole representative of
the nation, as far as the limited sphere of its authority would permit.
The practical consequences of these two theories were exceedingly

The question was, whether a league was to be established instead of a
national Government; whether the majority of the State, instead of the
majority of the inhabitants of the Union, was to give the law: for every
State, the small as well as the great, would then remain in the full
enjoyment of its independence, and enter the Union upon a footing of
perfect equality. If, however, the inhabitants of the United States were
to be considered as belonging to one and the same nation, it would be
just that the majority of the citizens of the Union should prescribe the
law. Of course the lesser States could not subscribe to the application
of this doctrine without, in fact, abdicating their existence in
relation to the sovereignty of the Confederation; since they would have
passed from the condition of a co-equal and co-legislative authority to
that of an insignificant fraction of a great people. But if the former
system would have invested them with an excessive authority, the
latter would have annulled their influence altogether. Under these
circumstances the result was, that the strict rules of logic were
evaded, as is usually the case when interests are opposed to arguments.
A middle course was hit upon by the legislators, which brought together
by force two systems theoretically irreconcilable.

The principle of the independence of the States prevailed in the
formation of the Senate, and that of the sovereignty of the nation
predominated in the composition of the House of Representatives. It
was decided that each State should send two senators to Congress, and a
number of representatives proportioned to its population. *n It results
from this arrangement that the State of New York has at the present day
forty representatives and only two senators; the State of Delaware
has two senators and only one representative; the State of Delaware
is therefore equal to the State of New York in the Senate, whilst the
latter has forty times the influence of the former in the House of
Representatives. Thus, if the minority of the nation preponderates in
the Senate,. it may paralyze the decisions of the majority represented
in the other House, which is contrary to the spirit of constitutional

[Footnote n: Every ten years Congress fixes anew the number of
representatives which each State is to furnish. The total number was 69
in 1789, and 240 in 1833. (See "American Almanac," 1834, p. 194.)
The Constitution decided that there should not be more than one
representative for every 30,000 persons; but no minimum was fixed
on. The Congress has not thought fit to augment the number of
representatives in proportion to the increase of population. The first
Act which was passed on the subject (April 14, 1792: see "Laws of the
United States," by Story, vol. i. p. 235) decided that there should be
one representative for every 33,000 inhabitants. The last Act, which was
passed in 1832, fixes the proportion at one for 48,000. The population
represented is composed of all the free men and of three-fifths of the

[The last Act of apportionment, passed February 2, 1872, fixes the
representation at one to 134,684 inhabitants. There are now (1875) 283
members of the lower House of Congress, and 9 for the States at large,
making in all 292 members. The old States have of course lost the
representatives which the new States have gained.--Translator's Note.]]

These facts show how rare and how difficult it is rationally and
logically to combine all the several parts of legislation. In the
course of time different interests arise, and different principles are
sanctioned by the same people; and when a general constitution is to
be established, these interests and principles are so many natural
obstacles to the rigorous application of any political system, with all
its consequences. The early stages of national existence are the only
periods at which it is possible to maintain the complete logic of
legislation; and when we perceive a nation in the enjoyment of this
advantage, before we hasten to conclude that it is wise, we should do
well to remember that it is young. When the Federal Constitution was
formed, the interests of independence for the separate States, and the
interest of union for the whole people, were the only two conflicting
interests which existed amongst the Anglo-Americans, and a compromise
was necessarily made between them.

It is, however, just to acknowledge that this part of the Constitution
has not hitherto produced those evils which might have been feared. All
the States are young and contiguous; their customs, their ideas, and
their exigencies are not dissimilar; and the differences which result
from their size or inferiority do not suffice to set their interests
at variance. The small States have consequently never been induced to
league themselves together in the Senate to oppose the designs of the
larger ones; and indeed there is so irresistible an authority in the
legitimate expression of the will of a people that the Senate could
offer but a feeble opposition to the vote of the majority of the House
of Representatives.

It must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that it was not in the
power of the American legislators to reduce to a single nation the
people for whom they were making laws. The object of the Federal
Constitution was not to destroy the independence of the States, but
to restrain it. By acknowledging the real authority of these secondary
communities (and it was impossible to deprive them of it), they
disavowed beforehand the habitual use of constraint in enforcing g the
decisions of the majority. Upon this principle the introduction of the
influence of the States into the mechanism of the Federal Government was
by no means to be wondered at, since it only attested the existence of
an acknowledged power, which was to be humored and not forcibly checked.

A Further Difference Between The Senate And The House Of Representatives

The Senate named by the provincial legislators, the Representatives
by the people--Double election of the former; single election of the
latter--Term of the different offices--Peculiar functions of each House.

The Senate not only differs from the other House in the principle which
it represents, but also in the mode of its election, in the term for
which it is chosen, and in the nature of its functions. The House of
Representatives is named by the people, the Senate by the legislators of
each State; the former is directly elected, the latter is elected by an
elected body; the term for which the representatives are chosen is only
two years, that of the senators is six. The functions of the House of
Representatives are purely legislative, and the only share it takes in
the judicial power is in the impeachment of public officers. The Senate
co-operates in the work of legislation, and tries those political
offences which the House of Representatives submits to its decision.
It also acts as the great executive council of the nation; the treaties
which are concluded by the President must be ratified by the Senate,
and the appointments he may make must be definitely approved by the same
body. *o

[Footnote o: See "The Federalist," Nos. 52-56, inclusive; Story,
pp. 199-314; Constitution of the United States, sects. 2 and 3.] The
Executive Power *p

[Footnote p: See "The Federalist," Nos. 67-77; Constitution of
the United States, art. 2; Story, p. 315, pp. 615-780; Kent's
"Commentaries," p. 255.]

Dependence of the President--He is elective and responsible--He is
free to act in his own sphere under the inspection, but not under
the direction, of the Senate--His salary fixed at his entry into
office--Suspensive veto.

The American legislators undertook a difficult task in attempting to
create an executive power dependent on the majority of the people, and
nevertheless sufficiently strong to act without restraint in its own
sphere. It was indispensable to the maintenance of the republican form
of government that the representative of the executive power should be
subject to the will of the nation.

The President is an elective magistrate. His honor, his property, his
liberty, and his life are the securities which the people has for the
temperate use of his power. But in the exercise of his authority he
cannot be said to be perfectly independent; the Senate takes cognizance
of his relations with foreign powers, and of the distribution of public
appointments, so that he can neither be bribed nor can he employ the
means of corruption. The legislators of the Union acknowledged that the
executive power would be incompetent to fulfil its task with dignity and
utility, unless it enjoyed a greater degree of stability and of strength
than had been granted to it in the separate States.

The President is chosen for four years, and he may be reelected; so that
the chances of a prolonged administration may inspire him with hopeful
undertakings for the public good, and with the means of carrying them
into execution. The President was made the sole representative of the
executive power of the Union, and care was taken not to render his
decisions subordinate to the vote of a council--a dangerous measure,
which tends at the same time to clog the action of the Government and
to diminish its responsibility. The Senate has the right of annulling
g certain acts of the President; but it cannot compel him to take any
steps, nor does it participate in the exercise of the executive power.

The action of the legislature on the executive power may be direct; and
we have just shown that the Americans carefully obviated this influence;
but it may, on the other hand, be indirect. Public assemblies which have
the power of depriving an officer of state of his salary encroach upon
his independence; and as they are free to make the laws, it is to be
feared lest they should gradually appropriate to themselves a portion
of that authority which the Constitution had vested in his hands. This
dependence of the executive power is one of the defects inherent in
republican constitutions. The Americans have not been able to counteract
the tendency which legislative assemblies have to get possession of the
government, but they have rendered this propensity less irresistible.
The salary of the President is fixed, at the time of his entering
upon office, for the whole period of his magistracy. The President is,
moreover, provided with a suspensive veto, which allows him to oppose
the passing of such laws as might destroy the portion of independence
which the Constitution awards him. The struggle between the President
and the legislature must always be an unequal one, since the latter is
certain of bearing down all resistance by persevering in its plans; but
the suspensive veto forces it at least to reconsider the matter, and,
if the motion be persisted in, it must then be backed by a majority of
two-thirds of the whole house. The veto is, in fact, a sort of appeal
to the people. The executive power, which, without this security, might
have been secretly oppressed, adopts this means of pleading its
cause and stating its motives. But if the legislature is certain of
overpowering all resistance by persevering in its plans, I reply, that
in the constitutions of all nations, of whatever kind they may be, a
certain point exists at which the legislator is obliged to have recourse
to the good sense and the virtue of his fellow-citizens. This point is
more prominent and more discoverable in republics, whilst it is more
remote and more carefully concealed in monarchies, but it always exists
somewhere. There is no country in the world in which everything can be
provided for by the laws, or in which political institutions can prove a
substitute for common sense and public morality.

Differences Between The Position Of The President Of The United States
And That Of A Constitutional King Of France

Executive power in the Northern States as limited and as partial as the
supremacy which it represents--Executive power in France as universal as
the supremacy it represents--The King a branch of the legislature--The
President the mere executor of the law--Other differences resulting from
the duration of the two powers--The President checked in the exercise
of the executive authority--The King independent in its
exercise--Notwithstanding these discrepancies France is more akin to
a republic than the Union to a monarchy--Comparison of the number of
public officers depending upon the executive power in the two countries.

The executive power has so important an influence on the destinies of
nations that I am inclined to pause for an instant at this portion of
my subject, in order more clearly to explain the part it sustains
in America. In order to form an accurate idea of the position of the
President of the United States, it may not be irrelevant to compare it
to that of one of the constitutional kings of Europe. In this comparison
I shall pay but little attention to the external signs of power, which
are more apt to deceive the eye of the observer than to guide his
researches. When a monarchy is being gradually transformed into a
republic, the executive power retains the titles, the honors, the
etiquette, and even the funds of royalty long after its authority has
disappeared. The English, after having cut off the head of one king
and expelled another from his throne, were accustomed to accost the
successor of those princes upon their knees. On the other hand, when a
republic falls under the sway of a single individual, the demeanor of
the sovereign is simple and unpretending, as if his authority was not
yet paramount. When the emperors exercised an unlimited control over
the fortunes and the lives of their fellow-citizens, it was customary to
call them Caesar in conversation, and they were in the habit of supping
without formality at their friends' houses. It is therefore necessary to
look below the surface.

The sovereignty of the United States is shared between the Union and the
States, whilst in France it is undivided and compact: hence arises the
first and the most notable difference which exists between the President
of the United States and the King of France. In the United States the
executive power is as limited and partial as the sovereignty of the
Union in whose name it acts; in France it is as universal as the
authority of the State. The Americans have a federal and the French a
national Government.

Chapter VIII: The Federal Constitution--Part II

This cause of inferiority results from the nature of things, but it is
not the only one; the second in importance is as follows: Sovereignty
may be defined to be the right of making laws: in France, the King
really exercises a portion of the sovereign power, since the laws have
no weight till he has given his assent to them; he is, moreover, the
executor of all they ordain. The President is also the executor of the
laws, but he does not really co-operate in their formation, since the
refusal of his assent does not annul them. He is therefore merely to be
considered as the agent of the sovereign power. But not only does
the King of France exercise a portion of the sovereign power, he also
contributes to the nomination of the legislature, which exercises the
other portion. He has the privilege of appointing the members of one
chamber, and of dissolving the other at his pleasure; whereas the
President of the United States has no share in the formation of the
legislative body, and cannot dissolve any part of it. The King has the
same right of bringing forward measures as the Chambers; a right which
the President does not possess. The King is represented in each assembly
by his ministers, who explain his intentions, support his opinions,
and maintain the principles of the Government. The President and his
ministers are alike excluded from Congress; so that his influence and
his opinions can only penetrate indirectly into that great body. The
King of France is therefore on an equal footing with the legislature,
which can no more act without him than he can without it. The President
exercises an authority inferior to, and depending upon, that of the

Even in the exercise of the executive power, properly so called--the
point upon which his position seems to be most analogous to that of
the King of France--the President labors under several causes of
inferiority. The authority of the King, in France, has, in the first
place, the advantage of duration over that of the President, and
durability is one of the chief elements of strength; nothing is either
loved or feared but what is likely to endure. The President of the
United States is a magistrate elected for four years; the King, in
France, is an hereditary sovereign. In the exercise of the executive
power the President of the United States is constantly subject to a
jealous scrutiny. He may make, but he cannot conclude, a treaty; he
may designate, but he cannot appoint, a public officer. *q The King of
France is absolute within the limits of his authority. The President of
the United States is responsible for his actions; but the person of the
King is declared inviolable by the French Charter. *r

[Footnote q: The Constitution had left it doubtful whether the President
was obliged to consult the Senate in the removal as well as in the
appointment of Federal officers. "The Federalist" (No. 77) seemed to
establish the affirmative; but in 1789 Congress formally decided that,
as the President was responsible for his actions, he ought not to
be forced to employ agents who had forfeited his esteem. See Kent's
"Commentaries", vol. i. p. 289.]

[Footnote r: [This comparison applied to the Constitutional King of
France and to the powers he held under the Charter of 1830, till the
overthrow of the monarchy in 1848.--Translator's Note.]]

Nevertheless, the supremacy of public opinion is no less above the head
of the one than of the other. This power is less definite, less evident,
and less sanctioned by the laws in France than in America, but in fact
it exists. In America, it acts by elections and decrees; in France it
proceeds by revolutions; but notwithstanding the different constitutions
of these two countries, public opinion is the predominant authority
in both of them. The fundamental principle of legislation--a principle
essentially republican--is the same in both countries, although its
consequences may be different, and its results more or less extensive.
Whence I am led to conclude that France with its King is nearer akin to
a republic than the Union with its President is to a monarchy.

In what I have been saying I have only touched upon the main points
of distinction; and if I could have entered into details, the contrast
would have been rendered still more striking. I have remarked that the
authority of the President in the United States is only exercised within
the limits of a partial sovereignty, whilst that of the King in France
is undivided. I might have gone on to show that the power of the King's
government in France exceeds its natural limits, however extensive
they may be, and penetrates in a thousand different ways into the
administration of private interests. Amongst the examples of this
influence may be quoted that which results from the great number
of public functionaries, who all derive their appointments from the
Government. This number now exceeds all previous limits; it amounts to
138,000 *s nominations, each of which may be considered as an element of
power. The President of the United States has not the exclusive right of
making any public appointments, and their whole number scarcely exceeds
12,000. *t

[Footnote s: The sums annually paid by the State to these officers
amount to 200,000,000 fr. ($40,000,000).]

[Footnote t: This number is extracted from the "National Calendar" for
1833. The "National Calendar" is an American almanac which contains the
names of all the Federal officers. It results from this comparison that
the King of France has eleven times as many places at his disposal as
the President, although the population of France is not much more than
double that of the Union.

[I have not the means of ascertaining the number of appointments now at
the disposal of the President of the United States, but his patronage
and the abuse of it have largely increased since 1833.--Translator's
Note, 1875.]]

Accidental Causes Which May Increase The Influence Of The Executive

External security of the Union--Army of six thousand men--Few ships--The
President has no opportunity of exercising his great prerogatives--In
the prerogatives he exercises he is weak.

If the executive government is feebler in America than in France, the
cause is more attributable to the circumstances than to the laws of the

It is chiefly in its foreign relations that the executive power of a
nation is called upon to exert its skill and its vigor. If the existence
of the Union were perpetually threatened, and if its chief interests
were in daily connection with those of other powerful nations, the
executive government would assume an increased importance in proportion
to the measures expected of it, and those which it would carry into
effect. The President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of
the army, but of an army composed of only six thousand men; he commands
the fleet, but the fleet reckons but few sail; he conducts the foreign
relations of the Union, but the United States are a nation without
neighbors. Separated from the rest of the world by the ocean, and too
weak as yet to aim at the dominion of the seas, they have no enemies,
and their interests rarely come into contact with those of any other
nation of the globe.

The practical part of a Government must not be judged by the theory
of its constitution. The President of the United States is in the
possession of almost royal prerogatives, which he has no opportunity of
exercising; and those privileges which he can at present use are very
circumscribed. The laws allow him to possess a degree of influence which
circumstances do not permit him to employ.

On the other hand, the great strength of the royal prerogative in
France arises from circumstances far more than from the laws. There
the executive government is constantly struggling against prodigious
obstacles, and exerting all its energies to repress them; so that it
increases by the extent of its achievements, and by the importance of
the events it controls, without modifying its constitution. If the laws
had made it as feeble and as circumscribed as it is in the Union, its
influence would very soon become still more preponderant.

Why The President Of The United States Does Not Require The Majority Of
The Two Houses In Order To Carry On The Government It is an established
axiom in Europe that a constitutional King cannot persevere in a
system of government which is opposed by the two other branches of the
legislature. But several Presidents of the United States have been known
to lose the majority in the legislative body without being obliged to
abandon the supreme power, and without inflicting a serious evil
upon society. I have heard this fact quoted as an instance of the
independence and the power of the executive government in America: a
moment's reflection will convince us, on the contrary, that it is a
proof of its extreme weakness.

A King in Europe requires the support of the legislature to enable him
to perform the duties imposed upon him by the Constitution, because
those duties are enormous. A constitutional King in Europe is not merely
the executor of the law, but the execution of its provisions devolves so
completely upon him that he has the power of paralyzing its influence
if it opposes his designs. He requires the assistance of the legislative
assemblies to make the law, but those assemblies stand in need of his
aid to execute it: these two authorities cannot subsist without each
other, and the mechanism of government is stopped as soon as they are at

In America the President cannot prevent any law from being passed, nor
can he evade the obligation of enforcing it. His sincere and zealous
co-operation is no doubt useful, but it is not indispensable, in the
carrying on of public affairs. All his important acts are directly or
indirectly submitted to the legislature, and of his own free authority
he can do but little. It is therefore his weakness, and not his power,
which enables him to remain in opposition to Congress. In Europe,
harmony must reign between the Crown and the other branches of the
legislature, because a collision between them may prove serious; in
America, this harmony is not indispensable, because such a collision is

Election Of The President

Dangers of the elective system increase in proportion to the extent of
the prerogative--This system possible in America because no powerful
executive authority is required--What circumstances are favorable to
the elective system--Why the election of the President does not cause
a deviation from the principles of the Government--Influence of the
election of the President on secondary functionaries.

The dangers of the system of election applied to the head of the
executive government of a great people have been sufficiently
exemplified by experience and by history, and the remarks I am about
to make refer to America alone. These dangers may be more or less
formidable in proportion to the place which the executive power
occupies, and to the importance it possesses in the State; and they may
vary according to the mode of election and the circumstances in which
the electors are placed. The most weighty argument against the election
of a chief magistrate is, that it offers so splendid a lure to private
ambition, and is so apt to inflame men in the pursuit of power, that
when legitimate means are wanting force may not unfrequently seize what
right denied.

It is clear that the greater the privileges of the executive authority
are, the greater is the temptation; the more the ambition of the
candidates is excited, the more warmly are their interests espoused by
a throng of partisans who hope to share the power when their patron has
won the prize. The dangers of the elective system increase, therefore,
in the exact ratio of the influence exercised by the executive power
in the affairs of State. The revolutions of Poland were not solely
attributable to the elective system in general, but to the fact that the
elected monarch was the sovereign of a powerful kingdom. Before we can
discuss the absolute advantages of the elective system we must make
preliminary inquiries as to whether the geographical position, the laws,
the habits, the manners, and the opinions of the people amongst whom
it is to be introduced will admit of the establishment of a weak
and dependent executive government; for to attempt to render the
representative of the State a powerful sovereign, and at the same time
elective, is, in my opinion, to entertain two incompatible designs. To
reduce hereditary royalty to the condition of an elective authority, the
only means that I am acquainted with are to circumscribe its sphere
of action beforehand, gradually to diminish its prerogatives, and to
accustom the people to live without its protection. Nothing, however, is
further from the designs of the republicans of Europe than this course:
as many of them owe their hatred of tyranny to the sufferings which they
have personally undergone, it is oppression, and not the extent of the
executive power, which excites their hostility, and they attack the
former without perceiving how nearly it is connected with the latter.

Hitherto no citizen has shown any disposition to expose his honor and
his life in order to become the President of the United States; because
the power of that office is temporary, limited, and subordinate. The
prize of fortune must be great to encourage adventurers in so desperate
a game. No candidate has as yet been able to arouse the dangerous
enthusiasm or the passionate sympathies of the people in his favor, for
the very simple reason that when he is at the head of the Government he
has but little power, but little wealth, and but little glory to share
amongst his friends; and his influence in the State is too small for
the success or the ruin of a faction to depend upon the elevation of an
individual to power.

The great advantage of hereditary monarchies is, that as the private
interest of a family is always intimately connected with the interests
of the State, the executive government is never suspended for a single
instant; and if the affairs of a monarchy are not better conducted than
those of a republic, at least there is always some one to conduct them,
well or ill, according to his capacity. In elective States, on the
contrary, the wheels of government cease to act, as it were, of their
own accord at the approach of an election, and even for some time
previous to that event. The laws may indeed accelerate the operation of
the election, which may be conducted with such simplicity and rapidity
that the seat of power will never be left vacant; but, notwithstanding
these precautions, a break necessarily occurs in the minds of the

At the approach of an election the head of the executive government is
wholly occupied by the coming struggle; his future plans are doubtful;
he can undertake nothing new, and the he will only prosecute with
indifference those designs which another will perhaps terminate. "I am
so near the time of my retirement from office," said President Jefferson
on the 21st of January, 1809 (six weeks before the election), "that I
feel no passion, I take no part, I express no sentiment. It appears
to me just to leave to my successor the commencement of those measures
which he will have to prosecute, and for which he will be responsible."

On the other hand, the eyes of the nation are centred on a single point;
all are watching the gradual birth of so important an event. The wider
the influence of the executive power extends, the greater and the
more necessary is its constant action, the more fatal is the term of
suspense; and a nation which is accustomed to the government, or, still
more, one used to the administrative protection of a powerful executive
authority would be infallibly convulsed by an election of this kind.
In the United States the action of the Government may be slackened with
impunity, because it is always weak and circumscribed. *u

[Footnote u: [This, however, may be a great danger. The period during
which Mr. Buchanan retained office, after the election of Mr. Lincoln,
from November, 1860, to March, 1861, was that which enabled the seceding
States of the South to complete their preparations for the Civil War,
and the Executive Government was paralyzed. No greater evil could befall
a nation.--Translator's Note.]]

One of the principal vices of the elective system is that it always
introduces a certain degree of instability into the internal and
external policy of the State. But this disadvantage is less sensibly
felt if the share of power vested in the elected magistrate is small. In
Rome the principles of the Government underwent no variation, although
the Consuls were changed every year, because the Senate, which was an
hereditary assembly, possessed the directing authority. If the elective
system were adopted in Europe, the condition of most of the monarchical
States would be changed at every new election. In America the President
exercises a certain influence on State affairs, but he does not conduct
them; the preponderating power is vested in the representatives of the
whole nation. The political maxims of the country depend therefore on
the mass of the people, not on the President alone; and consequently
in America the elective system has no very prejudicial influence on the
fixed principles of the Government. But the want of fixed principles is
an evil so inherent in the elective system that it is still extremely
perceptible in the narrow sphere to which the authority of the President

The Americans have admitted that the head of the executive power, who
has to bear the whole responsibility of the duties he is called upon to
fulfil, ought to be empowered to choose his own agents, and to remove
them at pleasure: the legislative bodies watch the conduct of the
President more than they direct it. The consequence of this arrangement
is, that at every new election the fate of all the Federal public
officers is in suspense. Mr. Quincy Adams, on his entry into office,
discharged the majority of the individuals who had been appointed by his
predecessor: and I am not aware that General Jackson allowed a single
removable functionary employed in the Federal service to retain
his place beyond the first year which succeeded his election. It
is sometimes made a subject of complaint that in the constitutional
monarchies of Europe the fate of the humbler servants of an
Administration depends upon that of the Ministers. But in elective
Governments this evil is far greater. In a constitutional monarchy
successive ministries are rapidly formed; but as the principal
representative of the executive power does not change, the spirit of
innovation is kept within bounds; the changes which take place are in
the details rather than in the principles of the administrative system;
but to substitute one system for another, as is done in America
every four years, by law, is to cause a sort of revolution. As to the
misfortunes which may fall upon individuals in consequence of this state
of things, it must be allowed that the uncertain situation of the
public officers is less fraught with evil consequences in America than
elsewhere. It is so easy to acquire an independent position in the
United States that the public officer who loses his place may be
deprived of the comforts of life, but not of the means of subsistence.

I remarked at the beginning of this chapter that the dangers of the
elective system applied to the head of the State are augmented or
decreased by the peculiar circumstances of the people which adopts it.
However the functions of the executive power may be restricted, it
must always exercise a great influence upon the foreign policy of the
country, for a negotiation cannot be opened or successfully carried
on otherwise than by a single agent. The more precarious and the more
perilous the position of a people becomes, the more absolute is the want
of a fixed and consistent external policy, and the more dangerous does
the elective system of the Chief Magistrate become. The policy of the
Americans in relation to the whole world is exceedingly simple; for it
may almost be said that no country stands in need of them, nor do they
require the co-operation of any other people. Their independence is
never threatened. In their present condition, therefore, the functions
of the executive power are no less limited by circumstances than by the
laws; and the President may frequently change his line of policy without
involving the State in difficulty or destruction.

Whatever the prerogatives of the executive power may be, the period
which immediately precedes an election and the moment of its duration
must always be considered as a national crisis, which is perilous in
proportion to the internal embarrassments and the external dangers of
the country. Few of the nations of Europe could escape the calamities
of anarchy or of conquest every time they might have to elect a new
sovereign. In America society is so constituted that it can stand
without assistance upon its own basis; nothing is to be feared from the
pressure of external dangers, and the election of the President is a
cause of agitation, but not of ruin.

Mode Of Election

Skill of the American legislators shown in the mode of election adopted
by them--Creation of a special electoral body--Separate votes of these
electors--Case in which the House of Representatives is called upon to
choose the President--Results of the twelve elections which have taken
place since the Constitution has been established.

Besides the dangers which are inherent in the system, many other
difficulties may arise from the mode of election, which may be obviated
by the precaution of the legislator. When a people met in arms on some
public spot to choose its head, it was exposed to all the chances of
civil war resulting from so martial a mode of proceeding, besides
the dangers of the elective system in itself. The Polish laws, which
subjected the election of the sovereign to the veto of a single
individual, suggested the murder of that individual or prepared the way
to anarchy.

In the examination of the institutions and the political as well as
social condition of the United States, we are struck by the admirable
harmony of the gifts of fortune and the efforts of man. The nation
possessed two of the main causes of internal peace; it was a new
country, but it was inhabited by a people grown old in the exercise of
freedom. America had no hostile neighbors to dread; and the American
legislators, profiting by these favorable circumstances, created a
weak and subordinate executive power which could without danger be made

It then only remained for them to choose the least dangerous of the
various modes of election; and the rules which they laid down upon this
point admirably correspond to the securities which the physical and
political constitution of the country already afforded. Their object was
to find the mode of election which would best express the choice of the
people with the least possible excitement and suspense. It was admitted
in the first place that the simple majority should be decisive; but
the difficulty was to obtain this majority without an interval of
delay which it was most important to avoid. It rarely happens that an
individual can at once collect the majority of the suffrages of a great
people; and this difficulty is enhanced in a republic of confederate
States, where local influences are apt to preponderate. The means by
which it was proposed to obviate this second obstacle was to delegate
the electoral powers of the nation to a body of representatives. This
mode of election rendered a majority more probable; for the fewer the
electors are, the greater is the chance of their coming to a final
decision. It also offered an additional probability of a judicious
choice. It then remained to be decided whether this right of election
was to be entrusted to a legislative body, the habitual representative
assembly of the nation, or whether an electoral assembly should be
formed for the express purpose of proceeding to the nomination of a
President. The Americans chose the latter alternative, from a belief
that the individuals who were returned to make the laws were incompetent
to represent the wishes of the nation in the election of its chief
magistrate; and that, as they are chosen for more than a year, the
constituency they represent might have changed its opinion in that time.
It was thought that if the legislature was empowered to elect the head
of the executive power, its members would, for some time before the
election, be exposed to the manoeuvres of corruption and the tricks of
intrigue; whereas the special electors would, like a jury, remain mixed
up with the crowd till the day of action, when they would appear for the
sole purpose of giving their votes.

It was therefore established that every State should name a certain
number of electors, *v who in their turn should elect the President;
and as it had been observed that the assemblies to which the choice of
a chief magistrate had been entrusted in elective countries inevitably
became the centres of passion and of cabal; that they sometimes usurped
an authority which did not belong to them; and that their proceedings,
or the uncertainty which resulted from them, were sometimes prolonged so
much as to endanger the welfare of the State, it was determined that the
electors should all vote upon the same day, without being convoked to
the same place. *w This double election rendered a majority probable,
though not certain; for it was possible that as many differences might
exist between the electors as between their constituents. In this case
it was necessary to have recourse to one of three measures; either
to appoint new electors, or to consult a second time those already
appointed, or to defer the election to another authority. The first
two of these alternatives, independently of the uncertainty of their
results, were likely to delay the final decision, and to perpetuate
an agitation which must always be accompanied with danger. The third
expedient was therefore adopted, and it was agreed that the votes should
be transmitted sealed to the President of the Senate, and that they
should be opened and counted in the presence of the Senate and the House
of Representatives. If none of the candidates has a majority, the House
of Representatives then proceeds immediately to elect a President, but
with the condition that it must fix upon one of the three candidates who
have the highest numbers. *x

[Footnote v: As many as it sends members to Congress. The number of
electors at the election of 1833 was 288. (See "The National Calendar,"

[Footnote w: The electors of the same State assemble, but they transmit
to the central government the list of their individual votes, and not
the mere result of the vote of the majority.] [Footnote x: In this case
it is the majority of the States, and not the majority of the members,
which decides the question; so that New York has not more influence in
the debate than Rhode Island. Thus the citizens of the Union are first
consulted as members of one and the same community; and, if they cannot
agree, recourse is had to the division of the States, each of which has
a separate and independent vote. This is one of the singularities of
the Federal Constitution which can only be explained by the jar of
conflicting interests.]

Thus it is only in case of an event which cannot often happen, and which
can never be foreseen, that the election is entrusted to the ordinary
representatives of the nation; and even then they are obliged to choose
a citizen who has already been designated by a powerful minority of the
special electors. It is by this happy expedient that the respect which
is due to the popular voice is combined with the utmost celerity of
execution and those precautions which the peace of the country demands.
But the decision of the question by the House of Representatives does
not necessarily offer an immediate solution of the difficulty, for the
majority of that assembly may still be doubtful, and in this case the
Constitution prescribes no remedy. Nevertheless, by restricting the
number of candidates to three, and by referring the matter to the
judgment of an enlightened public body, it has smoothed all the
obstacles *y which are not inherent in the elective system.

[Footnote y: Jefferson, in 1801, was not elected until the thirty-sixth
time of balloting.]

In the forty-four years which have elapsed since the promulgation of
the Federal Constitution the United States have twelve times chosen a
President. Ten of these elections took place simultaneously by the
votes of the special electors in the different States. The House of
Representatives has only twice exercised its conditional privilege of
deciding in cases of uncertainty; the first time was at the election of
Mr. Jefferson in 1801; the second was in 1825, when Mr. Quincy Adams was
named. *z

[Footnote z: [General Grant is now (1874) the eighteenth President of
the United States.]]

Crises Of The Election

The Election may be considered as a national crisis--Why?--Passions of
the people--Anxiety of the President--Calm which succeeds the agitation
of the election.

I have shown what the circumstances are which favored the adoption of
the elective system in the United States, and what precautions were
taken by the legislators to obviate its dangers. The Americans are
habitually accustomed to all kinds of elections, and they know by
experience the utmost degree of excitement which is compatible with
security. The vast extent of the country and the dissemination of the
inhabitants render a collision between parties less probable and less
dangerous there than elsewhere. The political circumstances under which
the elections have hitherto been carried on have presented no real
embarrassments to the nation.

Nevertheless, the epoch of the election of a President of the United
States may be considered as a crisis in the affairs of the nation. The
influence which he exercises on public business is no doubt feeble and
indirect; but the choice of the President, which is of small importance
to each individual citizen, concerns the citizens collectively; and
however trifling an interest may be, it assumes a great degree of
importance as soon as it becomes general. The President possesses but
few means of rewarding his supporters in comparison to the kings of
Europe, but the places which are at his disposal are sufficiently
numerous to interest, directly or indirectly, several thousand electors
in his success. Political parties in the United States are led to rally
round an individual, in order to acquire a more tangible shape in the
eyes of the crowd, and the name of the candidate for the Presidency is
put forward as the symbol and personification of their theories. For
these reasons parties are strongly interested in gaining the election,
not so much with a view to the triumph of their principles under
the auspices of the President-elect as to show by the majority which
returned him, the strength of the supporters of those principles.

For a long while before the appointed time is at hand the election
becomes the most important and the all-engrossing topic of discussion.
The ardor of faction is redoubled; and all the artificial passions which
the imagination can create in the bosom of a happy and peaceful land
are agitated and brought to light. The President, on the other hand,
is absorbed by the cares of self-defence. He no longer governs for the
interest of the State, but for that of his re-election; he does homage
to the majority, and instead of checking its passions, as his duty
commands him to do, he frequently courts its worst caprices. As the
election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the
populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of
which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows
with feverish excitement; the election is the daily theme of the public
papers, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought
and every action, the sole interest of the present. As soon as the
choice is determined, this ardor is dispelled; and as a calmer season
returns, the current of the State, which had nearly broken its banks,
sinks to its usual level: *a but who can refrain from astonishment at
the causes of the storm.

[Footnote a: [Not always. The election of President Lincoln was the
signal of civil war.--Translator's Note.]]

Chapter VIII: The Federal Constitution--Part III

Re-election Of The President

When the head of the executive power is re-eligible, it is the State
which is the source of intrigue and corruption--The desire of
being re-elected the chief aim of a President of the United
States--Disadvantage of the system peculiar to America--The natural
evil of democracy is that it subordinates all authority to the slightest
desires of the majority--The re-election of the President encourages
this evil.

It may be asked whether the legislators of the United States did right
or wrong in allowing the re-election of the President. It seems at first
sight contrary to all reason to prevent the head of the executive power
from being elected a second time. The influence which the talents and
the character of a single individual may exercise upon the fate of a
whole people, in critical circumstances or arduous times, is well known:
a law preventing the re-election of the chief magistrate would deprive
the citizens of the surest pledge of the prosperity and the security
of the commonwealth; and, by a singular inconsistency, a man would be
excluded from the government at the very time when he had shown his
ability in conducting its affairs.

But if these arguments are strong, perhaps still more powerful reasons
may be advanced against them. Intrigue and corruption are the natural
defects of elective government; but when the head of the State can be
re-elected these evils rise to a great height, and compromise the very
existence of the country. When a simple candidate seeks to rise by
intrigue, his manoeuvres must necessarily be limited to a narrow sphere;
but when the chief magistrate enters the lists, he borrows the strength
of the government for his own purposes. In the former case the feeble
resources of an individual are in action; in the latter, the State
itself, with all its immense influence, is busied in the work of
corruption and cabal. The private citizen, who employs the most
immoral practices to acquire power, can only act in a manner indirectly
prejudicial to the public prosperity. But if the representative of the
executive descends into the combat, the cares of government dwindle into
second-rate importance, and the success of his election is his first
concern. All laws and all the negotiations he undertakes are to him
nothing more than electioneering schemes; places become the reward
of services rendered, not to the nation, but to its chief; and the
influence of the government, if not injurious to the country, is at
least no longer beneficial to the community for which it was created.

It is impossible to consider the ordinary course of affairs in the
United States without perceiving that the desire of being re-elected is
the chief aim of the President; that his whole administration, and even
his most indifferent measures, tend to this object; and that, as the
crisis approaches, his personal interest takes the place of his interest
in the public good. The principle of re-eligibility renders the corrupt
influence of elective government still more extensive and pernicious.

In America it exercises a peculiarly fatal influence on the sources of
national existence. Every government seems to be afflicted by some evil
which is inherent in its nature, and the genius of the legislator is
shown in eluding its attacks. A State may survive the influence of a
host of bad laws, and the mischief they cause is frequently exaggerated;
but a law which encourages the growth of the canker within must prove
fatal in the end, although its bad consequences may not be immediately

The principle of destruction in absolute monarchies lies in the
excessive and unreasonable extension of the prerogative of the crown;
and a measure tending to remove the constitutional provisions which
counterbalance this influence would be radically bad, even if its
immediate consequences were unattended with evil. By a parity of
reasoning, in countries governed by a democracy, where the people is
perpetually drawing all authority to itself, the laws which increase or
accelerate its action are the direct assailants of the very principle of
the government.

The greatest proof of the ability of the American legislators is, that
they clearly discerned this truth, and that they had the courage to act
up to it. They conceived that a certain authority above the body of
the people was necessary, which should enjoy a degree of independence,
without, however, being entirely beyond the popular control;
an authority which would be forced to comply with the permanent
determinations of the majority, but which would be able to resist its
caprices, and to refuse its most dangerous demands. To this end they
centred the whole executive power of the nation in a single arm; they
granted extensive prerogatives to the President, and they armed him with
the veto to resist the encroachments of the legislature.

But by introducing the principle of re-election they partly destroyed
their work; and they rendered the President but little inclined to exert
the great power they had vested in his hands. If ineligible a second
time, the President would be far from independent of the people, for his
responsibility would not be lessened; but the favor of the people would
not be so necessary to him as to induce him to court it by humoring its
desires. If re-eligible (and this is more especially true at the present
day, when political morality is relaxed, and when great men are rare),
the President of the United States becomes an easy tool in the hands of
the majority. He adopts its likings and its animosities, he hastens to
anticipate its wishes, he forestalls its complaints, he yields to its
idlest cravings, and instead of guiding it, as the legislature intended
that he should do, he is ever ready to follow its bidding. Thus, in
order not to deprive the State of the talents of an individual, those
talents have been rendered almost useless; and to reserve an expedient
for extraordinary perils, the country has been exposed to daily dangers.

Federal Courts *b

[Footnote b: See chap. VI, entitled "Judicial Power in the United
States." This chapter explains the general principles of the American
theory of judicial institutions. See also the Federal Constitution, Art.
3. See "The Federalists," Nos. 78-83, inclusive; and a work entitled
"Constitutional Law," being a view of the practice and jurisdiction of
the courts of the United States, by Thomas Sergeant. See Story, pp. 134,
162, 489, 511, 581, 668; and the organic law of September 24, 1789, in
the "Collection of the Laws of the United States," by Story, vol. i. p.

Political importance of the judiciary in the United States--Difficulty
of treating this subject--Utility of judicial power in
confederations--What tribunals could be introduced into the
Union--Necessity of establishing federal courts of justice--Organization
of the national judiciary--The Supreme Court--In what it differs from
all known tribunals.

I have inquired into the legislative and executive power of the Union,
and the judicial power now remains to be examined; but in this place
I cannot conceal my fears from the reader. Their judicial institutions
exercise a great influence on the condition of the Anglo-Americans, and
they occupy a prominent place amongst what are probably called political
institutions: in this respect they are peculiarly deserving of our
attention. But I am at a loss to explain the political action of the
American tribunals without entering into some technical details of
their constitution and their forms of proceeding; and I know not how to
descend to these minutiae without wearying the curiosity of the reader
by the natural aridity of the subject, or without risking to fall into
obscurity through a desire to be succinct. I can scarcely hope to escape
these various evils; for if I appear too lengthy to a man of the world,
a lawyer may on the other hand complain of my brevity. But these are the
natural disadvantages of my subject, and more especially of the point
which I am about to discuss.

The great difficulty was, not to devise the Constitution to the Federal
Government, but to find out a method of enforcing its laws. Governments
have in general but two means of overcoming the opposition of the people
they govern, viz., the physical force which is at their own disposal,
and the moral force which they derive from the decisions of the courts
of justice.

A government which should have no other means of exacting obedience than
open war must be very near its ruin, for one of two alternatives would
then probably occur: if its authority was small and its character
temperate, it would not resort to violence till the last extremity,
and it would connive at a number of partial acts of insubordination,
in which case the State would gradually fall into anarchy; if it was
enterprising and powerful, it would perpetually have recourse to
its physical strength, and would speedily degenerate into a military
despotism. So that its activity would not be less prejudicial to the
community than its inaction.

The great end of justice is to substitute the notion of right for that
of violence, and to place a legal barrier between the power of the
government and the use of physical force. The authority which is awarded
to the intervention of a court of justice by the general opinion of
mankind is so surprisingly great that it clings to the mere formalities
of justice, and gives a bodily influence to the shadow of the law. The
moral force which courts of justice possess renders the introduction of
physical force exceedingly rare, and is very frequently substituted for
it; but if the latter proves to be indispensable, its power is doubled
by the association of the idea of law.

A federal government stands in greater need of the support of judicial
institutions than any other, because it is naturally weak and exposed
to formidable opposition. *c If it were always obliged to resort to
violence in the first instance, it could not fulfil its task. The Union,
therefore, required a national judiciary to enforce the obedience of the
citizens to the laws, and to repeal the attacks which might be directed
against them. The question then remained as to what tribunals were to
exercise these privileges; were they to be entrusted to the courts of
justice which were already organized in every State? or was it necessary
to create federal courts? It may easily be proved that the Union could
not adapt the judicial power of the States to its wants. The separation
of the judiciary from the administrative power of the State no doubt
affects the security of every citizen and the liberty of all. But it
is no less important to the existence of the nation that these several
powers should have the same origin, should follow the same principles,
and act in the same sphere; in a word, that they should be correlative
and homogeneous. No one, I presume, ever suggested the advantage of
trying offences committed in France by a foreign court of justice, in
order to secure the impartiality of the judges. The Americans form one
people in relation to their Federal Government; but in the bosom of this
people divers political bodies have been allowed to subsist which are
dependent on the national Government in a few points, and independent
in all the rest; which have all a distinct origin, maxims peculiar to
themselves, and special means of carrying on their affairs. To entrust
the execution of the laws of the Union to tribunals instituted by these
political bodies would be to allow foreign judges to preside over the
nation. Nay, more; not only is each State foreign to the Union at
large, but it is in perpetual opposition to the common interests, since
whatever authority the Union loses turns to the advantage of the States.
Thus to enforce the laws of the Union by means of the tribunals of the
States would be to allow not only foreign but partial judges to preside
over the nation.

[Footnote c: Federal laws are those which most require courts of
justice, and those at the same time which have most rarely established
them. The reason is that confederations have usually been formed by
independent States, which entertained no real intention of obeying the
central Government, and which very readily ceded the right of command
to the federal executive, and very prudently reserved the right of
non-compliance to themselves.]

But the number, still more than the mere character, of the tribunals of
the States rendered them unfit for the service of the nation. When the
Federal Constitution was formed there were already thirteen courts of
justice in the United States which decided causes without appeal. That
number is now increased to twenty-four. To suppose that a State can
subsist when its fundamental laws may be subjected to four-and-twenty
different interpretations at the same time is to advance a proposition
alike contrary to reason and to experience.

The American legislators therefore agreed to create a federal judiciary
power to apply the laws of the Union, and to determine certain questions
affecting general interests, which were carefully determined beforehand.
The entire judicial power of the Union was centred in one tribunal,
which was denominated the Supreme Court of the United States. But, to
facilitate the expedition of business, inferior courts were appended to
it, which were empowered to decide causes of small importance without
appeal, and with appeal causes of more magnitude. The members of the
Supreme Court are named neither by the people nor the legislature, but
by the President of the United States, acting with the advice of the
Senate. In order to render them independent of the other authorities,
their office was made inalienable; and it was determined that their
salary, when once fixed, should not be altered by the legislature. *d
It was easy to proclaim the principle of a Federal judiciary, but
difficulties multiplied when the extent of its jurisdiction was to be

[Footnote d: The Union was divided into districts, in each of which a
resident Federal judge was appointed, and the court in which he presided
was termed a "District Court." Each of the judges of the Supreme Court
annually visits a certain portion of the Republic, in order to try the
most important causes upon the spot; the court presided over by this
magistrate is styled a "Circuit Court." Lastly, all the most serious
cases of litigation are brought before the Supreme Court, which holds
a solemn session once a year, at which all the judges of the Circuit
Courts must attend. The jury was introduced into the Federal Courts
in the same manner, and in the same cases, as into the courts of the

It will be observed that no analogy exists between the Supreme Court
of the United States and the French Cour de Cassation, since the latter
only hears appeals on questions of law. The Supreme Court decides upon
the evidence of the fact as well as upon the law of the case, whereas
the Cour de Cassation does not pronounce a decision of its own, but
refers the cause to the arbitration of another tribunal. See the law of
September 24, 1789, "Laws of the United States," by Story, vol. i. p.

Means Of Determining The Jurisdiction Of The Federal Courts Difficulty
of determining the jurisdiction of separate courts of justice in
confederations--The courts of the Union obtained the right of fixing
their own jurisdiction--In what respect this rule attacks the portion
of sovereignty reserved to the several States--The sovereignty of
these States restricted by the laws, and the interpretation of the
laws--Consequently, the danger of the several States is more apparent
than real.

As the Constitution of the United States recognized two distinct powers
in presence of each other, represented in a judicial point of view by
two distinct classes of courts of justice, the utmost care which could
be taken in defining their separate jurisdictions would have been
insufficient to prevent frequent collisions between those tribunals. The
question then arose to whom the right of deciding the competency of each
court was to be referred.

In nations which constitute a single body politic, when a question is
debated between two courts relating to their mutual jurisdiction, a
third tribunal is generally within reach to decide the difference;
and this is effected without difficulty, because in these nations the
questions of judicial competency have no connection with the privileges
of the national supremacy. But it was impossible to create an arbiter
between a superior court of the Union and the superior court of a
separate State which would not belong to one of these two classes. It
was, therefore, necessary to allow one of these courts to judge its
own cause, and to take or to retain cognizance of the point which was
contested. To grant this privilege to the different courts of the States
would have been to destroy the sovereignty of the Union de facto
after having established it de jure; for the interpretation of the
Constitution would soon have restored that portion of independence to
the States of which the terms of that act deprived them. The object
of the creation of a Federal tribunal was to prevent the courts of the
States from deciding questions affecting the national interests in their
own department, and so to form a uniform body of jurisprudene for the
interpretation of the laws of the Union. This end would not have been
accomplished if the courts of the several States had been competent
to decide upon cases in their separate capacities from which they were
obliged to abstain as Federal tribunals. The Supreme Court of the
United States was therefore invested with the right of determining all
questions of jurisdiction. *e

[Footnote e: In order to diminish the number of these suits, it was
decided that in a great many Federal causes the courts of the States
should be empowered to decide conjointly with those of the Union, the
losing party having then a right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the
United States. The Supreme Court of Virginia contested the right of
the Supreme Court of the United States to judge an appeal from its
decisions, but unsuccessfully. See "Kent's Commentaries," vol. i. p.
300, pp. 370 et seq.; Story's "Commentaries," p. 646; and "The Organic
Law of the United States," vol. i. p. 35.]

This was a severe blow upon the independence of the States, which was
thus restricted not only by the laws, but by the interpretation of them;
by one limit which was known, and by another which was dubious; by a
rule which was certain, and a rule which was arbitrary. It is true the
Constitution had laid down the precise limits of the Federal supremacy,
but whenever this supremacy is contested by one of the States, a Federal
tribunal decides the question. Nevertheless, the dangers with which the
independence of the States was threatened by this mode of proceeding are
less serious than they appeared to be. We shall see hereafter that in
America the real strength of the country is vested in the provincial far
more than in the Federal Government. The Federal judges are conscious of
the relative weakness of the power in whose name they act, and they are
more inclined to abandon a right of jurisdiction in cases where it is
justly their own than to assert a privilege to which they have no legal

Different Cases Of Jurisdiction

The matter and the party are the first conditions of the Federal
jurisdiction--Suits in which ambassadors are engaged--Suits of the
Union--Of a separate State--By whom tried--Causes resulting from the
laws of the Union--Why judged by the Federal tribunals--Causes relating
to the performance of contracts tried by the Federal courts--Consequence
of this arrangement.

After having appointed the means of fixing the competency of the Federal
courts, the legislators of the Union defined the cases which should come
within their jurisdiction. It was established, on the one hand, that
certain parties must always be brought before the Federal courts,
without any regard to the special nature of the cause; and, on the
other, that certain causes must always be brought before the same
courts, without any regard to the quality of the parties in the suit.
These distinctions were therefore admitted to be the basis of the
Federal jurisdiction.

Ambassadors are the representatives of nations in a state of amity
with the Union, and whatever concerns these personages concerns in some
degree the whole Union. When an ambassador is a party in a suit, that
suit affects the welfare of the nation, and a Federal tribunal is
naturally called upon to decide it.

The Union itself may be invoked in legal proceedings, and in this case
it would be alike contrary to the customs of all nations and to common
sense to appeal to a tribunal representing any other sovereignty
than its own; the Federal courts, therefore, take cognizance of these

When two parties belonging to two different States are engaged in a
suit, the case cannot with propriety be brought before a court of either
State. The surest expedient is to select a tribunal like that of the
Union, which can excite the suspicions of neither party, and which
offers the most natural as well as the most certain remedy.

When the two parties are not private individuals, but States, an
important political consideration is added to the same motive of equity.
The quality of the parties in this case gives a national importance to
all their disputes; and the most trifling litigation of the States may
be said to involve the peace of the whole Union. *f

[Footnote f: The Constitution also says that the Federal courts shall
decide "controversies between a State and the citizens of another
State." And here a most important question of a constitutional nature
arose, which was, whether the jurisdiction given by the Constitution in
cases in which a State is a party extended to suits brought against a
State as well as by it, or was exclusively confined to the latter. The
question was most elaborately considered in the case of Chisholm v.
Georgia, and was decided by the majority of the Supreme Court in the
affirmative. The decision created general alarm among the States, and
an amendment was proposed and ratified by which the power was entirely
taken away, so far as it regards suits brought against a State. See
Story's "Commentaries," p. 624, or in the large edition Section 1677.]

The nature of the cause frequently prescribes the rule of competency.
Thus all the questions which concern maritime commerce evidently fall
under the cognizance of the Federal tribunals. *g Almost all these
questions are connected with the interpretation of the law of nations,
and in this respect they essentially interest the Union in relation to
foreign powers. Moreover, as the sea is not included within the limits
of any peculiar jurisdiction, the national courts can only hear causes
which originate in maritime affairs.

[Footnote g: As for instance, all cases of piracy.]

The Constitution comprises under one head almost all the cases which by
their very nature come within the limits of the Federal courts. The
rule which it lays down is simple, but pregnant with an entire system of
ideas, and with a vast multitude of facts. It declares that the judicial
power of the Supreme Court shall extend to all cases in law and equity
arising under the laws of the United States.

Two examples will put the intention of the legislator in the clearest

The Constitution prohibits the States from making laws on the value
and circulation of money: If, notwithstanding this prohibition, a State
passes a law of this kind, with which the interested parties refuse to
comply because it is contrary to the Constitution, the case must come
before a Federal court, because it arises under the laws of the United
States. Again, if difficulties arise in the levying of import duties
which have been voted by Congress, the Federal court must decide the
case, because it arises under the interpretation of a law of the United

This rule is in perfect accordance with the fundamental principles of
the Federal Constitution. The Union, as it was established in 1789,
possesses, it is true, a limited supremacy; but it was intended that
within its limits it should form one and the same people. *h Within
those limits the Union is sovereign. When this point is established
and admitted, the inference is easy; for if it be acknowledged that
the United States constitute one and the same people within the bounds
prescribed by their Constitution, it is impossible to refuse them the
rights which belong to other nations. But it has been allowed, from the
origin of society, that every nation has the right of deciding by its
own courts those questions which concern the execution of its own laws.
To this it is answered that the Union is in so singular a position
that in relation to some matters it constitutes a people, and that in
relation to all the rest it is a nonentity. But the inference to be
drawn is, that in the laws relating to these matters the Union possesses
all the rights of absolute sovereignty. The difficulty is to know what
these matters are; and when once it is resolved (and we have shown
how it was resolved, in speaking of the means of determining the
jurisdiction of the Federal courts) no further doubt can arise; for as
soon as it is established that a suit is Federal--that is to say, that
it belongs to the share of sovereignty reserved by the Constitution of
the Union--the natural consequence is that it should come within the
jurisdiction of a Federal court.

[Footnote h: This principle was in some measure restricted by the
introduction of the several States as independent powers into the
Senate, and by allowing them to vote separately in the House of
Representatives when the President is elected by that body. But these
are exceptions, and the contrary principle is the rule.]

Whenever the laws of the United States are attacked, or whenever they
are resorted to in self-defence, the Federal courts must be appealed to.
Thus the jurisdiction of the tribunals of the Union extends and narrows
its limits exactly in the same ratio as the sovereignty of the Union
augments or decreases. We have shown that the principal aim of the
legislators of 1789 was to divide the sovereign authority into two
parts. In the one they placed the control of all the general interests
of the Union, in the other the control of the special interests of
its component States. Their chief solicitude was to arm the Federal
Government with sufficient power to enable it to resist, within
its sphere, the encroachments of the several States. As for these
communities, the principle of independence within certain limits of
their own was adopted in their behalf; and they were concealed from the
inspection, and protected from the control, of the central Government.
In speaking of the division of authority, I observed that this latter
principle had not always been held sacred, since the States are
prevented from passing certain laws which apparently belong to their own
particular sphere of interest. When a State of the Union passes a law of
this kind, the citizens who are injured by its execution can appeal to
the Federal courts.

Thus the jurisdiction of the Federal courts extends not only to all the
cases which arise under the laws of the Union, but also to those
which arise under laws made by the several States in opposition to the
Constitution. The States are prohibited from making ex post facto laws
in criminal cases, and any person condemned by virtue of a law of this
kind can appeal to the judicial power of the Union. The States are
likewise prohibited from making laws which may have a tendency to impair
the obligations of contracts. *i If a citizen thinks that an obligation
of this kind is impaired by a law passed in his State, he may refuse to
obey it, and may appeal to the Federal courts. *j

[Footnote i: It is perfectly clear, says Mr. Story ("Commentaries," p.
503, or in the large edition Section 1379), that any law which enlarges,
abridges, or in any manner changes the intention of the parties,
resulting from the stipulations in the contract, necessarily impairs it.
He gives in the same place a very long and careful definition of what is
understood by a contract in Federal jurisprudence. A grant made by the
State to a private individual, and accepted by him, is a contract, and
cannot be revoked by any future law. A charter granted by the State to
a company is a contract, and equally binding to the State as to the
grantee. The clause of the Constitution here referred to insures,
therefore, the existence of a great part of acquired rights, but not of
all. Property may legally be held, though it may not have passed into
the possessor's hands by means of a contract; and its possession is an
acquired right, not guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.]

[Footnote j: A remarkable instance of this is given by Mr. Story (p.
508, or in the large edition Section 1388): "Dartmouth College in New
Hampshire had been founded by a charter granted to certain individuals
before the American Revolution, and its trustees formed a corporation
under this charter. The legislature of New Hampshire had, without the
consent of this corporation, passed an act changing the organization of
the original provincial charter of the college, and transferring all the
rights, privileges, and franchises from the old charter trustees to new
trustees appointed under the act. The constitutionality of the act was
contested, and, after solemn arguments, it was deliberately held by
the Supreme Court that the provincial charter was a contract within
the meaning of the Constitution (Art. I. Section 10), and that the
emendatory act was utterly void, as impairing the obligation of
that charter. The college was deemed, like other colleges of private
foundation, to be a private eleemosynary institution, endowed by
its charter with a capacity to take property unconnected with the
Government. Its funds were bestowed upon the faith of the charter, and
those funds consisted entirely of private donations. It is true that the
uses were in some sense public, that is, for the general benefit, and
not for the mere benefit of the corporators; but this did not make
the corporation a public corporation. It was a private institution for
general charity. It was not distinguishable in principle from a private
donation, vested in private trustees, for a public charity, or for
a particular purpose of beneficence. And the State itself, if it had
bestowed funds upon a charity of the same nature, could not resume those

This provision appears to me to be the most serious attack upon the
independence of the States. The rights awarded to the Federal Government
for purposes of obvious national importance are definite and easily
comprehensible; but those with which this last clause invests it are
not either clearly appreciable or accurately defined. For there are vast
numbers of political laws which influence the existence of obligations
of contracts, which may thus furnish an easy pretext for the aggressions
of the central authority.

Chapter VIII: The Federal Constitution--Part IV

Procedure Of The Federal Courts

Natural weakness of the judiciary power in confederations--Legislators
ought to strive as much as possible to bring private individuals, and
not States, before the Federal Courts--How the Americans have succeeded
in this--Direct prosecution of private individuals in the Federal
Courts--Indirect prosecution of the States which violate the laws of the
Union--The decrees of the Supreme Court enervate but do not destroy the
provincial laws.

I have shown what the privileges of the Federal courts are, and it is no
less important to point out the manner in which they are exercised. The
irresistible authority of justice in countries in which the sovereignty
in undivided is derived from the fact that the tribunals of those
countries represent the entire nation at issue with the individual
against whom their decree is directed, and the idea of power is thus
introduced to corroborate the idea of right. But this is not always
the case in countries in which the sovereignty is divided; in them the
judicial power is more frequently opposed to a fraction of the nation
than to an isolated individual, and its moral authority and physical
strength are consequently diminished. In federal States the power of
the judge is naturally decreased, and that of the justiciable parties
is augmented. The aim of the legislator in confederate States ought
therefore to be to render the position of the courts of justice
analogous to that which they occupy in countries where the sovereignty
is undivided; in other words, his efforts ought constantly to tend to
maintain the judicial power of the confederation as the representative
of the nation, and the justiciable party as the representative of an
individual interest.

Every government, whatever may be its constitution, requires the means
of constraining its subjects to discharge their obligations, and of
protecting its privileges from their assaults. As far as the direct
action of the Government on the community is concerned, the Constitution
of the United States contrived, by a master-stroke of policy, that
the federal courts, acting in the name of the laws, should only take
cognizance of parties in an individual capacity. For, as it had been
declared that the Union consisted of one and the same people within
the limits laid down by the Constitution, the inference was that the
Government created by this Constitution, and acting within these limits,
was invested with all the privileges of a national government, one of
the principal of which is the right of transmitting its injunctions
directly to the private citizen. When, for instance, the Union votes an
impost, it does not apply to the States for the levying of it, but to
every American citizen in proportion to his assessment. The Supreme
Court, which is empowered to enforce the execution of this law of the
Union, exerts its influence not upon a refractory State, but upon the
private taxpayer; and, like the judicial power of other nations, it is
opposed to the person of an individual. It is to be observed that the
Union chose its own antagonist; and as that antagonist is feeble, he is
naturally worsted.

But the difficulty increases when the proceedings are not brought
forward by but against the Union. The Constitution recognizes the
legislative power of the States; and a law so enacted may impair the
privileges of the Union, in which case a collision in unavoidable
between that body and the State which has passed the law: and it only
remains to select the least dangerous remedy, which is very clearly
deducible from the general principles I have before established. *k

[Footnote k: See Chapter VI. on "Judicial Power in America."]

It may be conceived that, in the case under consideration, the Union
might have used the State before a Federal court, which would have
annulled the act, and by this means it would have adopted a natural
course of proceeding; but the judicial power would have been placed
in open hostility to the State, and it was desirable to avoid this
predicament as much as possible. The Americans hold that it is nearly
impossible that a new law should not impair the interests of some
private individual by its provisions: these private interests are
assumed by the American legislators as the ground of attack against such
measures as may be prejudicial to the Union, and it is to these cases
that the protection of the Supreme Court is extended.

Suppose a State vends a certain portion of its territory to a company,
and that a year afterwards it passes a law by which the territory
is otherwise disposed of, and that clause of the Constitution which
prohibits laws impairing the obligation of contracts violated. When the
purchaser under the second act appears to take possession, the possessor
under the first act brings his action before the tribunals of the Union,
and causes the title of the claimant to be pronounced null and void. *l
Thus, in point of fact, the judicial power of the Union is contesting
the claims of the sovereignty of a State; but it only acts indirectly
and upon a special application of detail: it attacks the law in its
consequences, not in its principle, and it rather weakens than destroys

[Footnote l: See Kent's "Commentaries," vol. i. p. 387.]

The last hypothesis that remained was that each State formed a
corporation enjoying a separate existence and distinct civil rights, and
that it could therefore sue or be sued before a tribunal. Thus a State
could bring an action against another State. In this instance the Union
was not called upon to contest a provincial law, but to try a suit in
which a State was a party. This suit was perfectly similar to any other
cause, except that the quality of the parties was different; and here
the danger pointed out at the beginning of this chapter exists with less
chance of being avoided. The inherent disadvantage of the very essence
of Federal constitutions is that they engender parties in the bosom
of the nation which present powerful obstacles to the free course of

High Rank Of The Supreme Court Amongst The Great Powers Of State
No nation ever constituted so great a judicial power as the
Americans--Extent of its prerogative--Its political influence--The
tranquillity and the very existence of the Union depend on the
discretion of the seven Federal Judges.

When we have successively examined in detail the organization of the
Supreme Court, and the entire prerogatives which it exercises, we shall
readily admit that a more imposing judicial power was never constituted
by any people. The Supreme Court is placed at the head of all known
tribunals, both by the nature of its rights and the class of justiciable
parties which it controls.

In all the civilized countries of Europe the Government has always shown
the greatest repugnance to allow the cases to which it was itself a
party to be decided by the ordinary course of justice. This repugnance
naturally attains its utmost height in an absolute Government; and, on
the other hand, the privileges of the courts of justice are extended
with the increasing liberties of the people: but no European nation has
at present held that all judicial controversies, without regard to their
origin, can be decided by the judges of common law.

In America this theory has been actually put in practice, and the
Supreme Court of the United States is the sole tribunal of the nation.
Its power extends to all the cases arising under laws and treaties made
by the executive and legislative authorities, to all cases of admiralty
and maritime jurisdiction, and in general to all points which affect the
law of nations. It may even be affirmed that, although its constitution
is essentially judicial, its prerogatives are almost entirely political.
Its sole object is to enforce the execution of the laws of the Union;
and the Union only regulates the relations of the Government with
the citizens, and of the nation with Foreign Powers: the relations of
citizens amongst themselves are almost exclusively regulated by the
sovereignty of the States.

A second and still greater cause of the preponderance of this court
may be adduced. In the nations of Europe the courts of justice are only
called upon to try the controversies of private individuals; but the
Supreme Court of the United States summons sovereign powers to its bar.
When the clerk of the court advances on the steps of the tribunal, and
simply says, "The State of New York versus the State of Ohio," it is
impossible not to feel that the Court which he addresses is no ordinary
body; and when it is recollected that one of these parties represents
one million, and the other two millions of men, one is struck by the
responsibility of the seven judges whose decision is about to satisfy or
to disappoint so large a number of their fellow-citizens.

The peace, the prosperity, and the very existence of the Union
are vested in the hands of the seven judges. Without their active
co-operation the Constitution would be a dead letter: the Executive
appeals to them for assistance against the encroachments of the
legislative powers; the Legislature demands their protection from the
designs of the Executive; they defend the Union from the disobedience
of the States, the States from the exaggerated claims of the Union,
the public interest against the interests of private citizens, and
the conservative spirit of order against the fleeting innovations of
democracy. Their power is enormous, but it is clothed in the authority
of public opinion. They are the all-powerful guardians of a people which
respects law, but they would be impotent against popular neglect or
popular contempt. The force of public opinion is the most intractable of
agents, because its exact limits cannot be defined; and it is not less
dangerous to exceed than to remain below the boundary prescribed.

The Federal judges must not only be good citizens, and men possessed of
that information and integrity which are indispensable to magistrates,
but they must be statesmen--politicians, not unread in the signs of the
times, not afraid to brave the obstacles which can be subdued, nor slow
to turn aside such encroaching elements as may threaten the supremacy of
the Union and the obedience which is due to the laws.

The President, who exercises a limited power, may err without causing
great mischief in the State. Congress may decide amiss without
destroying the Union, because the electoral body in which Congress
originates may cause it to retract its decision by changing its members.
But if the Supreme Court is ever composed of imprudent men or bad
citizens, the Union may be plunged into anarchy or civil war.

The real cause of this danger, however, does not lie in the constitution
of the tribunal, but in the very nature of Federal Governments. We
have observed that in confederate peoples it is especially necessary to
consolidate the judicial authority, because in no other nations do those
independent persons who are able to cope with the social body exist in
greater power or in a better condition to resist the physical strength
of the Government. But the more a power requires to be strengthened, the
more extensive and independent it must be made; and the dangers
which its abuse may create are heightened by its independence and its
strength. The source of the evil is not, therefore, in the constitution
of the power, but in the constitution of those States which render its
existence necessary.

In What Respects The Federal Constitution Is Superior To That Of The

In what respects the Constitution of the Union can be compared to that
of the States--Superiority of the Constitution of the Union attributable
to the wisdom of the Federal legislators--Legislature of the Union less
dependent on the people than that of the States--Executive power
more independent in its sphere--Judicial power less subjected to the
inclinations of the majority--Practical consequence of these facts--The
dangers inherent in a democratic government eluded by the Federal
legislators, and increased by the legislators of the States.

The Federal Constitution differs essentially from that of the States in
the ends which it is intended to accomplish, but in the means by which
these ends are promoted a greater analogy exists between them. The
objects of the Governments are different, but their forms are the same;
and in this special point of view there is some advantage in comparing
them together.

I am of opinion that the Federal Constitution is superior to all the
Constitutions of the States, for several reasons.

The present Constitution of the Union was formed at a later period
than those of the majority of the States, and it may have derived some
ameliorations from past experience. But we shall be led to acknowledge
that this is only a secondary cause of its superiority, when we
recollect that eleven new States *n have been added to the American
Confederation since the promulgation of the Federal Constitution, and
that these new republics have always rather exaggerated than avoided the
defects which existed in the former Constitutions.

[Footnote n: [The number of States has now risen to 46 (1874), besides
the District of Columbia.]]

The chief cause of the superiority of the Federal Constitution lay in
the character of the legislators who composed it. At the time when it
was formed the dangers of the Confederation were imminent, and its ruin
seemed inevitable. In this extremity the people chose the men who most
deserved the esteem, rather than those who had gained the affections,
of the country. I have already observed that distinguished as almost
all the legislators of the Union were for their intelligence, they were
still more so for their patriotism. They had all been nurtured at a time
when the spirit of liberty was braced by a continual struggle against
a powerful and predominant authority. When the contest was terminated,
whilst the excited passions of the populace persisted in warring with
dangers which had ceased to threaten them, these men stopped short in
their career; they cast a calmer and more penetrating look upon
the country which was now their own; they perceived that the war of
independence was definitely ended, and that the only dangers which
America had to fear were those which might result from the abuse of the
freedom she had won. They had the courage to say what they believed
to be true, because they were animated by a warm and sincere love of
liberty; and they ventured to propose restrictions, because they were
resolutely opposed to destruction. *o

[Footnote o: At this time Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the
principal founders of the Constitution, ventured to express the
following sentiments in "The Federalist," No. 71:--

"There are some who would be inclined to regard the servile pliancy of
the Executive to a prevailing current, either in the community or in
the Legislature, as its best recommendation. But such men entertain
very crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was
instituted as of the true means by which the public happiness may be
promoted. The Republican principle demands that the deliberative sense
of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust
the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified
complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient
impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men who flatter
their prejudices to betray their interests. It is a just observation,
that the people commonly intend the public good. This often applies to
their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator
who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of
promoting it. They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the
wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually
are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants; by the snares of the
ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate; by the artifices of men who
possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who
seek to possess rather than to deserve it. When occasions present
themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with
their inclinations, it is the duty of persons whom they have appointed
to be the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary
delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and
sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this
kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their own
mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the
men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of
their displeasure."]

The greater number of the Constitutions of the States assign one year
for the duration of the House of Representatives, and two years for that
of the Senate; so that members of the legislative body are constantly
and narrowly tied down by the slightest desires of their constituents.
The legislators of the Union were of opinion that this excessive
dependence of the Legislature tended to alter the nature of the main
consequences of the representative system, since it vested the source,
not only of authority, but of government, in the people. They increased
the length of the time for which the representatives were returned, in
order to give them freer scope for the exercise of their own judgment.

The Federal Constitution, as well as the Constitutions of the different
States, divided the legislative body into two branches. But in the
States these two branches were composed of the same elements, and
elected in the same manner. The consequence was that the passions
and inclinations of the populace were as rapidly and as energetically
represented in one chamber as in the other, and that laws were made with
all the characteristics of violence and precipitation. By the Federal
Constitution the two houses originate in like manner in the choice of
the people; but the conditions of eligibility and the mode of election
were changed, to the end that, if, as is the case in certain nations,
one branch of the Legislature represents the same interests as the
other, it may at least represent a superior degree of intelligence
and discretion. A mature age was made one of the conditions of the
senatorial dignity, and the Upper House was chosen by an elected
assembly of a limited number of members.

To concentrate the whole social force in the hands of the legislative
body is the natural tendency of democracies; for as this is the
power which emanates the most directly from the people, it is made to
participate most fully in the preponderating authority of the multitude,
and it is naturally led to monopolize every species of influence. This
concentration is at once prejudicial to a well-conducted administration,
and favorable to the despotism of the majority. The legislators of the
States frequently yielded to these democratic propensities, which were
invariably and courageously resisted by the founders of the Union.

In the States the executive power is vested in the hands of a
magistrate, who is apparently placed upon a level with the Legislature,
but who is in reality nothing more than the blind agent and the passive
instrument of its decisions. He can derive no influence from the
duration of his functions, which terminate with the revolving year, or
from the exercise of prerogatives which can scarcely be said to exist.
The Legislature can condemn him to inaction by intrusting the execution
of the laws to special committees of its own members, and can annul
his temporary dignity by depriving him of his salary. The Federal
Constitution vests all the privileges and all the responsibility of the
executive power in a single individual. The duration of the Presidency
is fixed at four years; the salary of the individual who fills that
office cannot be altered during the term of his functions; he is
protected by a body of official dependents, and armed with a suspensive
veto. In short, every effort was made to confer a strong and independent
position upon the executive authority within the limits which had been
prescribed to it.

In the Constitutions of all the States the judicial power is that which
remains the most independent of the legislative authority; nevertheless,
in all the States the Legislature has reserved to itself the right of
regulating the emoluments of the judges, a practice which necessarily
subjects these magistrates to its immediate influence. In some States
the judges are only temporarily appointed, which deprives them of
a great portion of their power and their freedom. In others the
legislative and judicial powers are entirely confounded; thus the Senate
of New York, for instance, constitutes in certain cases the Superior
Court of the State. The Federal Constitution, on the other hand,
carefully separates the judicial authority from all external influences;
and it provides for the independence of the judges, by declaring that
their salary shall not be altered, and that their functions shall be

The practical consequences of these different systems may easily be
perceived. An attentive observer will soon remark that the business of
the Union is incomparably better conducted than that of any individual
State. The conduct of the Federal Government is more fair and more
temperate than that of the States, its designs are more fraught with
wisdom, its projects are more durable and more skilfully combined, its
measures are put into execution with more vigor and consistency.

I recapitulate the substance of this chapter in a few words: The
existence of democracies is threatened by two dangers, viz., the
complete subjection of the legislative body to the caprices of
the electoral body, and the concentration of all the powers of the
Government in the legislative authority. The growth of these evils has
been encouraged by the policy of the legislators of the States, but it
has been resisted by the legislators of the Union by every means which
lay within their control.

Characteristics Which Distinguish The Federal Constitution Of The United
States Of America From All Other Federal Constitutions American Union
appears to resemble all other confederations--Nevertheless its effects
are different--Reason of this--Distinctions between the Union and all
other confederations--The American Government not a federal but an
imperfect national Government.

The United States of America do not afford either the first or the only
instance of confederate States, several of which have existed in modern
Europe, without adverting to those of antiquity. Switzerland, the
Germanic Empire, and the Republic of the United Provinces either have
been or still are confederations. In studying the constitutions of these
different countries, the politician is surprised to observe that the
powers with which they invested the Federal Government are nearly
identical with the privileges awarded by the American Constitution to
the Government of the United States. They confer upon the central power
the same rights of making peace and war, of raising money and troops,
and of providing for the general exigencies and the common interests
of the nation. Nevertheless the Federal Government of these different
peoples has always been as remarkable for its weakness and inefficiency
as that of the Union is for its vigorous and enterprising spirit. Again,
the first American Confederation perished through the excessive weakness
of its Government; and this weak Government was, notwithstanding, in
possession of rights even more extensive than those of the Federal
Government of the present day. But the more recent Constitution of
the United States contains certain principles which exercise a most
important influence, although they do not at once strike the observer.

This Constitution, which may at first sight be confounded with the
federal constitutions which preceded it, rests upon a novel theory,
which may be considered as a great invention in modern political
science. In all the confederations which had been formed before the
American Constitution of 1789 the allied States agreed to obey the
injunctions of a Federal Government; but they reserved to themselves the
right of ordaining and enforcing the execution of the laws of the Union.
The American States which combined in 1789 agreed that the Federal
Government should not only dictate the laws, but that it should execute
it own enactments. In both cases the right is the same, but the exercise
of the right is different; and this alteration produced the most
momentous consequences.

In all the confederations which had been formed before the American
Union the Federal Government demanded its supplies at the hands of the
separate Governments; and if the measure it prescribed was onerous to
any one of those bodies means were found to evade its claims: if the
State was powerful, it had recourse to arms; if it was weak, it connived
at the resistance which the law of the Union, its sovereign, met with,
and resorted to inaction under the plea of inability. Under these
circumstances one of the two alternatives has invariably occurred;
either the most preponderant of the allied peoples has assumed the
privileges of the Federal authority and ruled all the States in its
name, *p or the Federal Government has been abandoned by its natural
supporters, anarchy has arisen between the confederates, and the Union
has lost all powers of action. *q

[Footnote p: This was the case in Greece, when Philip undertook to
execute the decree of the Amphictyons; in the Low Countries, where the
province of Holland always gave the law; and, in our own time, in the
Germanic Confederation, in which Austria and Prussia assume a great
degree of influence over the whole country, in the name of the Diet.]

[Footnote q: Such has always been the situation of the Swiss
Confederation, which would have perished ages ago but for the mutual
jealousies of its neighbors.]

In America the subjects of the Union are not States, but private
citizens: the national Government levies a tax, not upon the State of
Massachusetts, but upon each inhabitant of Massachusetts. All former
confederate governments presided over communities, but that of the Union
rules individuals; its force is not borrowed, but self-derived; and it
is served by its own civil and military officers, by its own army, and
its own courts of justice. It cannot be doubted that the spirit of the
nation, the passions of the multitude, and the provincial prejudices
of each State tend singularly to diminish the authority of a Federal
authority thus constituted, and to facilitate the means of resistance to
its mandates; but the comparative weakness of a restricted sovereignty
is an evil inherent in the Federal system. In America, each State
has fewer opportunities of resistance and fewer temptations to
non-compliance; nor can such a design be put in execution (if indeed it
be entertained) without an open violation of the laws of the Union,
a direct interruption of the ordinary course of justice, and a bold
declaration of revolt; in a word, without taking a decisive step which
men hesitate to adopt.

In all former confederations the privileges of the Union furnished more
elements of discord than of power, since they multiplied the claims
of the nation without augmenting the means of enforcing them: and in
accordance with this fact it may be remarked that the real weakness of
federal governments has almost always been in the exact ratio of their
nominal power. Such is not the case in the American Union, in which,
as in ordinary governments, the Federal Government has the means of
enforcing all it is empowered to demand.

The human understanding more easily invents new things than new words,
and we are thence constrained to employ a multitude of improper and
inadequate expressions. When several nations form a permanent league
and establish a supreme authority, which, although it has not the same
influence over the members of the community as a national government,
acts upon each of the Confederate States in a body, this Government,
which is so essentially different from all others, is denominated a
Federal one. Another form of society is afterwards discovered, in which
several peoples are fused into one and the same nation with regard to
certain common interests, although they remain distinct, or at least
only confederate, with regard to all their other concerns. In this case
the central power acts directly upon those whom it governs, whom it
rules, and whom it judges, in the same manner, as, but in a more limited
circle than, a national government. Here the term Federal Government is
clearly no longer applicable to a state of things which must be styled
an incomplete national Government: a form of government has been found
out which is neither exactly national nor federal; but no further
progress has been made, and the new word which will one day designate
this novel invention does not yet exist.

The absence of this new species of confederation has been the cause
which has brought all Unions to Civil War, to subjection, or to a
stagnant apathy, and the peoples which formed these leagues have been
either too dull to discern, or too pusillanimous to apply this great
remedy. The American Confederation perished by the same defects.

But the Confederate States of America had been long accustomed to form
a portion of one empire before they had won their independence; they
had not contracted the habit of governing themselves, and their national
prejudices had not taken deep root in their minds. Superior to the rest
of the world in political knowledge, and sharing that knowledge equally
amongst themselves, they were little agitated by the passions which
generally oppose the extension of federal authority in a nation, and
those passions were checked by the wisdom of the chief citizens. The
Americans applied the remedy with prudent firmness as soon as they were
conscious of the evil; they amended their laws, and they saved their

Chapter VIII: The Federal Constitution--Part V

Advantages Of The Federal System In General, And Its Special Utility In

Happiness and freedom of small nations--Power of great nations--Great
empires favorable to the growth of civilization--Strength often the
first element of national prosperity--Aim of the Federal system to
unite the twofold advantages resulting from a small and from a large
territory--Advantages derived by the United States from this system--The
law adapts itself to the exigencies of the population; population does
not conform to the exigencies of the law--Activity, amelioration, love
and enjoyment of freedom in the American communities--Public spirit of
the Union the abstract of provincial patriotism--Principles and things
circulate freely over the territory of the United States--The Union is
happy and free as a little nation, and respected as a great empire.

In small nations the scrutiny of society penetrates into every part, and
the spirit of improvement enters into the most trifling details; as the
ambition of the people is necessarily checked by its weakness, all the
efforts and resources of the citizens are turned to the internal benefit
of the community, and are not likely to evaporate in the fleeting
breath of glory. The desires of every individual are limited, because
extraordinary faculties are rarely to be met with. The gifts of an equal
fortune render the various conditions of life uniform, and the manners
of the inhabitants are orderly and simple. Thus, if one estimate the
gradations of popular morality and enlightenment, we shall generally
find that in small nations there are more persons in easy circumstances,
a more numerous population, and a more tranquil state of society, than
in great empires.

When tyranny is established in the bosom of a small nation, it is more
galling than elsewhere, because, as it acts within a narrow circle,
every point of that circle is subject to its direct influence. It
supplies the place of those great designs which it cannot entertain by
a violent or an exasperating interference in a multitude of minute
details; and it leaves the political world, to which it properly
belongs, to meddle with the arrangements of domestic life. Tastes as
well as actions are to be regulated at its pleasure; and the families of
the citizens as well as the affairs of the State are to be governed by
its decisions. This invasion of rights occurs, however, but seldom,
and freedom is in truth the natural state of small communities. The
temptations which the Government offers to ambition are too weak, and
the resources of private individuals are too slender, for the sovereign
power easily to fall within the grasp of a single citizen; and should
such an event have occurred, the subjects of the State can without
difficulty overthrow the tyrant and his oppression by a simultaneous

Small nations have therefore ever been the cradle of political liberty;
and the fact that many of them have lost their immunities by extending
their dominion shows that the freedom they enjoyed was more a
consequence of the inferior size than of the character of the people.

The history of the world affords no instance of a great nation retaining
the form of republican government for a long series of years, *r
and this has led to the conclusion that such a state of things is
impracticable. For my own part, I cannot but censure the imprudence of
attempting to limit the possible and to judge the future on the part of
a being who is hourly deceived by the most palpable realities of life,
and who is constantly taken by surprise in the circumstances with which
he is most familiar. But it may be advanced with confidence that the
existence of a great republic will always be exposed to far greater
perils than that of a small one.

[Footnote r: I do not speak of a confederation of small republics, but
of a great consolidated Republic.]

All the passions which are most fatal to republican institutions spread
with an increasing territory, whilst the virtues which maintain their
dignity do not augment in the same proportion. The ambition of the
citizens increases with the power of the State; the strength of parties
with the importance of the ends they have in view; but that devotion to
the common weal which is the surest check on destructive passions is
not stronger in a large than in a small republic. It might, indeed, be
proved without difficulty that it is less powerful and less sincere. The
arrogance of wealth and the dejection of wretchedness, capital cities of
unwonted extent, a lax morality, a vulgar egotism, and a great confusion
of interests, are the dangers which almost invariably arise from the
magnitude of States. But several of these evils are scarcely prejudicial
to a monarchy, and some of them contribute to maintain its existence.
In monarchical States the strength of the government is its own; it may
use, but it does not depend on, the community, and the authority of the
prince is proportioned to the prosperity of the nation; but the only
security which a republican government possesses against these evils
lies in the support of the majority. This support is not, however,
proportionably greater in a large republic than it is in a small one;
and thus, whilst the means of attack perpetually increase both in number
and in influence, the power of resistance remains the same, or it may
rather be said to diminish, since the propensities and interests of
the people are diversified by the increase of the population, and the
difficulty of forming a compact majority is constantly augmented. It
has been observed, moreover, that the intensity of human passions is
heightened, not only by the importance of the end which they propose to
attain, but by the multitude of individuals who are animated by them at
the same time. Every one has had occasion to remark that his emotions
in the midst of a sympathizing crowd are far greater than those which he
would have felt in solitude. In great republics the impetus of political
passion is irresistible, not only because it aims at gigantic purposes,
but because it is felt and shared by millions of men at the same time.

It may therefore be asserted as a general proposition that nothing is
more opposed to the well-being and the freedom of man than vast empires.
Nevertheless it is important to acknowledge the peculiar advantages of
great States. For the very reason which renders the desire of power
more intense in these communities than amongst ordinary men, the love of
glory is also more prominent in the hearts of a class of citizens,
who regard the applause of a great people as a reward worthy of their
exertions, and an elevating encouragement to man. If we would learn why
it is that great nations contribute more powerfully to the spread of
human improvement than small States, we shall discover an adequate cause
in the rapid and energetic circulation of ideas, and in those great
cities which are the intellectual centres where all the rays of human
genius are reflected and combined. To this it may be added that most
important discoveries demand a display of national power which the
Government of a small State is unable to make; in great nations the
Government entertains a greater number of general notions, and is more
completely disengaged from the routine of precedent and the egotism
of local prejudice; its designs are conceived with more talent, and
executed with more boldness.

In time of peace the well-being of small nations is undoubtedly more
general and more complete, but they are apt to suffer more acutely from
the calamities of war than those great empires whose distant frontiers
may for ages avert the presence of the danger from the mass of the
people, which is therefore more frequently afflicted than ruined by the

But in this matter, as in many others, the argument derived from the
necessity of the case predominates over all others. If none but small
nations existed, I do not doubt that mankind would be more happy and
more free; but the existence of great nations is unavoidable.

This consideration introduces the element of physical strength as a
condition of national prosperity. It profits a people but little to
be affluent and free if it is perpetually exposed to be pillaged
or subjugated; the number of its manufactures and the extent of its
commerce are of small advantage if another nation has the empire of the
seas and gives the law in all the markets of the globe. Small nations
are often impoverished, not because they are small, but because they are
weak; the great empires prosper less because they are great than
because they are strong. Physical strength is therefore one of the first
conditions of the happiness and even of the existence of nations. Hence
it occurs that, unless very peculiar circumstances intervene, small
nations are always united to large empires in the end, either by force
or by their own consent: yet I am unacquainted with a more deplorable
spectacle than that of a people unable either to defend or to maintain
its independence.

The Federal system was created with the intention of combining the
different advantages which result from the greater and the lesser
extent of nations; and a single glance over the United States of America
suffices to discover the advantages which they have derived from its

In great centralized nations the legislator is obliged to impart a
character of uniformity to the laws which does not always suit the
diversity of customs and of districts; as he takes no cognizance of
special cases, he can only proceed upon general principles; and the
population is obliged to conform to the exigencies of the legislation,
since the legislation cannot adapt itself to the exigencies and the
customs of the population, which is the cause of endless trouble and
misery. This disadvantage does not exist in confederations. Congress
regulates the principal measures of the national Government, and all
the details of the administration are reserved to the provincial
legislatures. It is impossible to imagine how much this division of
sovereignty contributes to the well-being of each of the States which
compose the Union. In these small communities, which are never agitated
by the desire of aggrandizement or the cares of self-defence, all public
authority and private energy is employed in internal amelioration. The
central government of each State, which is in immediate juxtaposition to
the citizens, is daily apprised of the wants which arise in society; and
new projects are proposed every year, which are discussed either at town
meetings or by the legislature of the State, and which are transmitted
by the press to stimulate the zeal and to excite the interest of
the citizens. This spirit of amelioration is constantly alive in
the American republics, without compromising their tranquillity; the
ambition of power yields to the less refined and less dangerous love of
comfort. It is generally believed in America that the existence and the
permanence of the republican form of government in the New World depend
upon the existence and the permanence of the Federal system; and it is
not unusual to attribute a large share of the misfortunes which have
befallen the new States of South America to the injudicious erection of
great republics, instead of a divided and confederate sovereignty.

It is incontestably true that the love and the habits of republican
government in the United States were engendered in the townships and in
the provincial assemblies. In a small State, like that of Connecticut
for instance, where cutting a canal or laying down a road is a momentous
political question, where the State has no army to pay and no wars to
carry on, and where much wealth and much honor cannot be bestowed upon
the chief citizens, no form of government can be more natural or more
appropriate than that of a republic. But it is this same republican
spirit, it is these manners and customs of a free people, which are
engendered and nurtured in the different States, to be afterwards
applied to the country at large. The public spirit of the Union is, so
to speak, nothing more than an abstract of the patriotic zeal of the
provinces. Every citizen of the United States transfuses his attachment
to his little republic in the common store of American patriotism. In
defending the Union he defends the increasing prosperity of his own
district, the right of conducting its affairs, and the hope of causing
measures of improvement to be adopted which may be favorable to his own
interest; and these are motives which are wont to stir men more readily
than the general interests of the country and the glory of the nation.

On the other hand, if the temper and the manners of the inhabitants
especially fitted them to promote the welfare of a great republic, the
Federal system smoothed the obstacles which they might have encountered.
The confederation of all the American States presents none of the
ordinary disadvantages resulting from great agglomerations of men. The
Union is a great republic in extent, but the paucity of objects for
which its Government provides assimilates it to a small State. Its acts
are important, but they are rare. As the sovereignty of the Union is
limited and incomplete, its exercise is not incompatible with liberty;
for it does not excite those insatiable desires of fame and power which
have proved so fatal to great republics. As there is no common centre to
the country, vast capital cities, colossal wealth, abject poverty, and
sudden revolutions are alike unknown; and political passion, instead
of spreading over the land like a torrent of desolation, spends its
strength against the interests and the individual passions of every

Nevertheless, all commodities and ideas circulate throughout the Union
as freely as in a country inhabited by one people. Nothing checks the
spirit of enterprise. Government avails itself of the assistance of all
who have talents or knowledge to serve it. Within the frontiers of the
Union the profoundest peace prevails, as within the heart of some great
empire; abroad, it ranks with the most powerful nations of the earth;
two thousand miles of coast are open to the commerce of the world; and
as it possesses the keys of the globe, its flags is respected in the
most remote seas. The Union is as happy and as free as a small people,
and as glorious and as strong as a great nation.

Why The Federal System Is Not Adapted To All Peoples, And How The
Anglo-Americans Were Enabled To Adopt It.

Every Federal system contains defects which baffle the efforts of the
legislator--The Federal system is complex--It demands a daily exercise
of discretion on the part of the citizens--Practical knowledge of
government common amongst the Americans--Relative weakness of the
Government of the Union, another defect inherent in the Federal
system--The Americans have diminished without remedying it--The
sovereignty of the separate States apparently weaker, but really
stronger, than that of the Union--Why?--Natural causes of union must
exist between confederate peoples besides the laws--What these causes
are amongst the Anglo-Americans--Maine and Georgia, separated by a
distance of a thousand miles, more naturally united than Normandy and
Brittany--War, the main peril of confederations--This proved even by
the example of the United States--The Union has no great wars to
fear--Why?--Dangers to which Europeans would be exposed if they adopted
the Federal system of the Americans.

When a legislator succeeds, after persevering efforts, in exercising an
indirect influence upon the destiny of nations, his genius is lauded
by mankind, whilst, in point of fact, the geographical position of the
country which he is unable to change, a social condition which arose
without his co-operation, manners and opinions which he cannot trace to
their source, and an origin with which he is unacquainted, exercise so
irresistible an influence over the courses of society that he is himself
borne away by the current, after an ineffectual resistance. Like the
navigator, he may direct the vessel which bears him along, but he can
neither change its structure, nor raise the winds, nor lull the waters
which swell beneath him.

I have shown the advantages which the Americans derive from their
federal system; it remains for me to point out the circumstances which
rendered that system practicable, as its benefits are not to be enjoyed
by all nations. The incidental defects of the Federal system which
originate in the laws may be corrected by the skill of the legislator,
but there are further evils inherent in the system which cannot be
counteracted by the peoples which adopt it. These nations must therefore
find the strength necessary to support the natural imperfections of
their Government.

The most prominent evil of all Federal systems is the very complex
nature of the means they employ. Two sovereignties are necessarily in
presence of each other. The legislator may simplify and equalize the
action of these two sovereignties, by limiting each of them to a sphere
of authority accurately defined; but he cannot combine them into one, or
prevent them from coming into collision at certain points. The Federal
system therefore rests upon a theory which is necessarily complicated,
and which demands the daily exercise of a considerable share of
discretion on the part of those it governs.

A proposition must be plain to be adopted by the understanding of a
people. A false notion which is clear and precise will always meet with
a greater number of adherents in the world than a true principle which
is obscure or involved. Hence it arises that parties, which are like
small communities in the heart of the nation, invariably adopt some
principle or some name as a symbol, which very inadequately represents
the end they have in view and the means which are at their disposal, but
without which they could neither act nor subsist. The governments which
are founded upon a single principle or a single feeling which is easily
defined are perhaps not the best, but they are unquestionably the
strongest and the most durable in the world.

In examining the Constitution of the United States, which is the most
perfect federal constitution that ever existed, one is startled, on
the other hand, at the variety of information and the excellence of
discretion which it presupposes in the people whom it is meant to
govern. The government of the Union depends entirely upon legal
fictions; the Union is an ideal nation which only exists in the mind,
and whose limits and extent can only be discerned by the understanding.

When once the general theory is comprehended, numberless difficulties
remain to be solved in its application; for the sovereignty of the
Union is so involved in that of the States that it is impossible to
distinguish its boundaries at the first glance. The whole structure
of the Government is artificial and conventional; and it would be ill
adapted to a people which has not been long accustomed to conduct
its own affairs, or to one in which the science of politics has not
descended to the humblest classes of society. I have never been more
struck by the good sense and the practical judgment of the Americans
than in the ingenious devices by which they elude the numberless
difficulties resulting from their Federal Constitution. I scarcely
ever met with a plain American citizen who could not distinguish, with
surprising facility, the obligations created by the laws of Congress
from those created by the laws of his own State; and who, after having
discriminated between the matters which come under the cognizance of the
Union and those which the local legislature is competent to regulate,
could not point out the exact limit of the several jurisdictions of the
Federal courts and the tribunals of the State.

The Constitution of the United States is like those exquisite
productions of human industry which ensure wealth and renown to their
inventors, but which are profitless in any other hands. This truth is
exemplified by the condition of Mexico at the present time. The Mexicans
were desirous of establishing a federal system, and they took the
Federal Constitution of their neighbors, the Anglo-Americans, as their
model, and copied it with considerable accuracy. *s But although they
had borrowed the letter of the law, they were unable to create or
to introduce the spirit and the sense which give it life. They were
involved in ceaseless embarrassments between the mechanism of their
double government; the sovereignty of the States and that of the Union
perpetually exceeded their respective privileges, and entered into
collision; and to the present day Mexico is alternately the victim of
anarchy and the slave of military despotism.

[Footnote s: See the Mexican Constitution of 1824.]

The second and the most fatal of all the defects I have alluded to,
and that which I believe to be inherent in the federal system, is the
relative weakness of the government of the Union. The principle upon
which all confederations rest is that of a divided sovereignty. The
legislator may render this partition less perceptible, he may even
conceal it for a time from the public eye, but he cannot prevent it from
existing, and a divided sovereignty must always be less powerful than an
entire supremacy. The reader has seen in the remarks I have made on
the Constitution of the United States that the Americans have displayed
singular ingenuity in combining the restriction of the power of
the Union within the narrow limits of a federal government with the
semblance and, to a certain extent, with the force of a national
government. By this means the legislators of the Union have succeeded
in diminishing, though not in counteracting the natural danger of

It has been remarked that the American Government does not apply itself
to the States, but that it immediately transmits its injunctions to the
citizens, and compels them as isolated individuals to comply with its
demands. But if the Federal law were to clash with the interests and the
prejudices of a State, it might be feared that all the citizens of
that State would conceive themselves to be interested in the cause of a
single individual who should refuse to obey. If all the citizens of
the State were aggrieved at the same time and in the same manner by the
authority of the Union, the Federal Government would vainly attempt to
subdue them individually; they would instinctively unite in a common
defence, and they would derive a ready-prepared organization from the
share of sovereignty which the institution of their State allows them
to enjoy. Fiction would give way to reality, and an organized portion
of the territory might then contest the central authority. *t The same
observation holds good with regard to the Federal jurisdiction. If the
courts of the Union violated an important law of a State in a private
case, the real, if not the apparent, contest would arise between the
aggrieved State represented by a citizen and the Union represented by
its courts of justice. *u

[Footnote t: [This is precisely what occurred in 1862, and the following
paragraph describes correctly the feelings and notions of the South.
General Lee held that his primary allegiance was due, not to the Union,
but to Virginia.]]

[Footnote u: For instance, the Union possesses by the Constitution the
right of selling unoccupied lands for its own profit. Supposing that
the State of Ohio should claim the same right in behalf of certain
territories lying within its boundaries, upon the plea that the
Constitution refers to those lands alone which do not belong to the
jurisdiction of any particular State, and consequently should choose to
dispose of them itself, the litigation would be carried on in the names
of the purchasers from the State of Ohio and the purchasers from the
Union, and not in the names of Ohio and the Union. But what would become
of this legal fiction if the Federal purchaser was confirmed in his
right by the courts of the Union, whilst the other competitor was
ordered to retain possession by the tribunals of the State of Ohio?]

He would have but a partial knowledge of the world who should imagine
that it is possible, by the aid of legal fictions, to prevent men from
finding out and employing those means of gratifying their passions which
have been left open to them; and it may be doubted whether the American
legislators, when they rendered a collision between the two sovereigns
less probable, destroyed the cause of such a misfortune. But it may even
be affirmed that they were unable to ensure the preponderance of the
Federal element in a case of this kind. The Union is possessed of money
and of troops, but the affections and the prejudices of the people are
in the bosom of the States. The sovereignty of the Union is an abstract
being, which is connected with but few external objects; the sovereignty
of the States is hourly perceptible, easily understood, constantly
active; and if the former is of recent creation, the latter is coeval
with the people itself. The sovereignty of the Union is factitious, that
of the States is natural, and derives its existence from its own simple
influence, like the authority of a parent. The supreme power of
the nation only affects a few of the chief interests of society; it
represents an immense but remote country, and claims a feeling of
patriotism which is vague and ill defined; but the authority of the
States controls every individual citizen at every hour and in all
circumstances; it protects his property, his freedom, and his life; and
when we recollect the traditions, the customs, the prejudices of local
and familiar attachment with which it is connected, we cannot doubt of
the superiority of a power which is interwoven with every circumstance
that renders the love of one's native country instinctive in the human

Since legislators are unable to obviate such dangerous collisions as
occur between the two sovereignties which coexist in the federal system,
their first object must be, not only to dissuade the confederate States
from warfare, but to encourage such institutions as may promote the
maintenance of peace. Hence it results that the Federal compact cannot
be lasting unless there exists in the communities which are leagued
together a certain number of inducements to union which render their
common dependence agreeable, and the task of the Government light,
and that system cannot succeed without the presence of favorable
circumstances added to the influence of good laws. All the peoples which
have ever formed a confederation have been held together by a certain
number of common interests, which served as the intellectual ties of

But the sentiments and the principles of man must be taken into
consideration as well as his immediate interests. A certain uniformity
of civilization is not less necessary to the durability of a
confederation than a uniformity of interests in the States which compose
it. In Switzerland the difference which exists between the Canton of Uri
and the Canton of Vaud is equal to that between the fifteenth and the
nineteenth centuries; and, properly speaking, Switzerland has never
possessed a federal government. The union between these two cantons only
subsists upon the map, and their discrepancies would soon be perceived
if an attempt were made by a central authority to prescribe the same
laws to the whole territory.

One of the circumstances which most powerfully contribute to support the
Federal Government in America is that the States have not only similar
interests, a common origin, and a common tongue, but that they are also
arrived at the same stage of civilization; which almost always renders
a union feasible. I do not know of any European nation, how small soever
it may be, which does not present less uniformity in its different
provinces than the American people, which occupies a territory as
extensive as one-half of Europe. The distance from the State of Maine
to that of Georgia is reckoned at about one thousand miles; but the
difference between the civilization of Maine and that of Georgia is
slighter than the difference between the habits of Normandy and those
of Brittany. Maine and Georgia, which are placed at the opposite
extremities of a great empire, are consequently in the natural
possession of more real inducements to form a confederation than
Normandy and Brittany, which are only separated by a bridge.

The geographical position of the country contributed to increase the
facilities which the American legislators derived from the manners and
customs of the inhabitants; and it is to this circumstance that
the adoption and the maintenance of the Federal system are mainly

The most important occurrence which can mark the annals of a people is
the breaking out of a war. In war a people struggles with the energy
of a single man against foreign nations in the defence of its very
existence. The skill of a government, the good sense of the community,
and the natural fondness which men entertain for their country, may
suffice to maintain peace in the interior of a district, and to favor
its internal prosperity; but a nation can only carry on a great war at
the cost of more numerous and more painful sacrifices; and to suppose
that a great number of men will of their own accord comply with these
exigencies of the State is to betray an ignorance of mankind. All the
peoples which have been obliged to sustain a long and serious warfare
have consequently been led to augment the power of their government.
Those which have not succeeded in this attempt have been subjugated.
A long war almost always places nations in the wretched alternative
of being abandoned to ruin by defeat or to despotism by success. War
therefore renders the symptoms of the weakness of a government most
palpable and most alarming; and I have shown that the inherent defeat of
federal governments is that of being weak.

The Federal system is not only deficient in every kind of centralized
administration, but the central government itself is imperfectly
organized, which is invariably an influential cause of inferiority when
the nation is opposed to other countries which are themselves governed
by a single authority. In the Federal Constitution of the United States,
by which the central government possesses more real force, this evil
is still extremely sensible. An example will illustrate the case to the

The Constitution confers upon Congress the right of calling forth
militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and
repel invasions; and another article declares that the President of the
United States is the commander-in-chief of the militia. In the war of
1812 the President ordered the militia of the Northern States to march
to the frontiers; but Connecticut and Massachusetts, whose interests
were impaired by the war, refused to obey the command. They argued that
the Constitution authorizes the Federal Government to call forth the
militia in case of insurrection or invasion, but that in the present
instance there was neither invasion nor insurrection. They added,
that the same Constitution which conferred upon the Union the right
of calling forth the militia reserved to the States that of naming
the officers; and that consequently (as they understood the clause) no
officer of the Union had any right to command the militia, even during
war, except the President in person; and in this case they were ordered
to join an army commanded by another individual. These absurd and
pernicious doctrines received the sanction not only of the governors
and the legislative bodies, but also of the courts of justice in both
States; and the Federal Government was constrained to raise elsewhere
the troops which it required. *v

[Footnote v: Kent's "Commentaries," vol. i. p. 244. I have selected an
example which relates to a time posterior to the promulgation of
the present Constitution. If I had gone back to the days of the
Confederation, I might have given still more striking instances. The
whole nation was at that time in a state of enthusiastic excitement; the
Revolution was represented by a man who was the idol of the people; but
at that very period Congress had, to say the truth, no resources at
all at its disposal. Troops and supplies were perpetually wanting. The
best-devised projects failed in the execution, and the Union, which was
constantly on the verge of destruction, was saved by the weakness of its
enemies far more than by its own strength. [All doubt as to the powers
of the Federal Executive was, however, removed by its efforts in the
Civil War, and those powers were largely extended.]]

The only safeguard which the American Union, with all the relative
perfection of its laws, possesses against the dissolution which would
be produced by a great war, lies in its probable exemption from that
calamity. Placed in the centre of an immense continent, which offers
a boundless field for human industry, the Union is almost as much
insulated from the world as if its frontiers were girt by the ocean.
Canada contains only a million of inhabitants, and its population is
divided into two inimical nations. The rigor of the climate limits the
extension of its territory, and shuts up its ports during the six months
of winter. From Canada to the Gulf of Mexico a few savage tribes are
to be met with, which retire, perishing in their retreat, before six
thousand soldiers. To the South, the Union has a point of contact with
the empire of Mexico; and it is thence that serious hostilities may one
day be expected to arise. But for a long while to come the uncivilized
state of the Mexican community, the depravity of its morals, and its
extreme poverty, will prevent that country from ranking high amongst
nations. *w As for the Powers of Europe, they are too distant to be

[Footnote w: [War broke out between the United States and Mexico in
1846, and ended in the conquest of an immense territory, including

The great advantage of the United States does not, then, consist in a
Federal Constitution which allows them to carry on great wars, but in
a geographical position which renders such enterprises extremely

No one can be more inclined than I am myself to appreciate the
advantages of the federal system, which I hold to be one of the
combinations most favorable to the prosperity and freedom of man. I
envy the lot of those nations which have been enabled to adopt it; but I
cannot believe that any confederate peoples could maintain a long or an
equal contest with a nation of similar strength in which the government
should be centralized. A people which should divide its sovereignty into
fractional powers, in the presence of the great military monarchies of
Europe, would, in my opinion, by that very act, abdicate its power, and
perhaps its existence and its name. But such is the admirable position
of the New World that man has no other enemy than himself; and that,
in order to be happy and to be free, it suffices to seek the gifts of
prosperity and the knowledge of freedom.

Chapter IX: Why The People May Strictly Be Said To Govern In The United

I have hitherto examined the institutions of the United States; I have
passed their legislation in review, and I have depicted the present
characteristics of political society in that country. But a sovereign
power exists above these institutions and beyond these characteristic
features which may destroy or modify them at its pleasure--I mean that
of the people. It remains to be shown in what manner this power, which
regulates the laws, acts: its propensities and its passions remain to be
pointed out, as well as the secret springs which retard, accelerate,
or direct its irresistible course; and the effects of its unbounded
authority, with the destiny which is probably reserved for it.

In America the people appoints the legislative and the executive power,
and furnishes the jurors who punish all offences against the laws. The
American institutions are democratic, not only in their principle but
in all their consequences; and the people elects its representatives
directly, and for the most part annually, in order to ensure their
dependence. The people is therefore the real directing power; and
although the form of government is representative, it is evident that
the opinions, the prejudices, the interests, and even the passions of
the community are hindered by no durable obstacles from exercising
a perpetual influence on society. In the United States the majority
governs in the name of the people, as is the case in all the countries
in which the people is supreme. The majority is principally composed
of peaceful citizens who, either by inclination or by interest, are
sincerely desirous of the welfare of their country. But they are
surrounded by the incessant agitation of parties, which attempt to gain
their co-operation and to avail themselves of their support.

Chapter X: Parties In The United States

Chapter Summary

Great distinction to be made between parties--Parties which are to each
other as rival nations--Parties properly so called--Difference
between great and small parties--Epochs which produce them--Their
characteristics--America has had great parties--They are
extinct--Federalists--Republicans--Defeat of the Federalists--Difficulty
of creating parties in the United States--What is done with this
intention--Aristocratic or democratic character to be met with in all
parties--Struggle of General Jackson against the Bank.

Parties In The United States

A great distinction must be made between parties. Some countries are
so large that the different populations which inhabit them have
contradictory interests, although they are the subjects of the same
Government, and they may thence be in a perpetual state of opposition.
In this case the different fractions of the people may more properly be
considered as distinct nations than as mere parties; and if a civil war
breaks out, the struggle is carried on by rival peoples rather than by
factions in the State.

But when the citizens entertain different opinions upon subjects which
affect the whole country alike, such, for instance, as the principles
upon which the government is to be conducted, then distinctions arise
which may correctly be styled parties. Parties are a necessary evil in
free governments; but they have not at all times the same character and
the same propensities.

At certain periods a nation may be oppressed by such insupportable evils
as to conceive the design of effecting a total change in its political
constitution; at other times the mischief lies still deeper, and the
existence of society itself is endangered. Such are the times of great
revolutions and of great parties. But between these epochs of misery and
of confusion there are periods during which human society seems to rest,
and mankind to make a pause. This pause is, indeed, only apparent, for
time does not stop its course for nations any more than for men; they
are all advancing towards a goal with which they are unacquainted; and
we only imagine them to be stationary when their progress escapes our
observation, as men who are going at a foot-pace seem to be standing
still to those who run.

But however this may be, there are certain epochs at which the changes
that take place in the social and political constitution of nations are
so slow and so insensible that men imagine their present condition to be
a final state; and the human mind, believing itself to be firmly based
upon certain foundations, does not extend its researches beyond the
horizon which it descries. These are the times of small parties and of

The political parties which I style great are those which cling to
principles more than to their consequences; to general, and not to
especial cases; to ideas, and not to men. These parties are usually
distinguished by a nobler character, by more generous passions, more
genuine convictions, and a more bold and open conduct than the others.
In them private interest, which always plays the chief part in political
passions, is more studiously veiled under the pretext of the public
good; and it may even be sometimes concealed from the eyes of the very
persons whom it excites and impels.

Minor parties are, on the other hand, generally deficient in political
faith. As they are not sustained or dignified by a lofty purpose, they
ostensibly display the egotism of their character in their actions.
They glow with a factitious zeal; their language is vehement, but their
conduct is timid and irresolute. The means they employ are as wretched
as the end at which they aim. Hence it arises that when a calm state
of things succeeds a violent revolution, the leaders of society
seem suddenly to disappear, and the powers of the human mind to lie
concealed. Society is convulsed by great parties, by minor ones it is
agitated; it is torn by the former, by the latter it is degraded; and
if these sometimes save it by a salutary perturbation, those invariably
disturb it to no good end.

America has already lost the great parties which once divided the
nation; and if her happiness is considerably increased, her morality
has suffered by their extinction. When the War of Independence was
terminated, and the foundations of the new Government were to be laid
down, the nation was divided between two opinions--two opinions which
are as old as the world, and which are perpetually to be met with
under all the forms and all the names which have ever obtained in free
communities--the one tending to limit, the other to extend indefinitely,
the power of the people. The conflict of these two opinions never
assumed that degree of violence in America which it has frequently
displayed elsewhere. Both parties of the Americans were, in fact, agreed
upon the most essential points; and neither of them had to destroy a
traditionary constitution, or to overthrow the structure of society, in
order to ensure its own triumph. In neither of them, consequently, were
a great number of private interests affected by success or by defeat;
but moral principles of a high order, such as the love of equality and
of independence, were concerned in the struggle, and they sufficed to
kindle violent passions.

The party which desired to limit the power of the people endeavored to
apply its doctrines more especially to the Constitution of the Union,
whence it derived its name of Federal. The other party, which affected
to be more exclusively attached to the cause of liberty, took that of
Republican. America is a land of democracy, and the Federalists were
always in a minority; but they reckoned on their side almost all the
great men who had been called forth by the War of Independence, and
their moral influence was very considerable. Their cause was, moreover,
favored by circumstances. The ruin of the Confederation had impressed
the people with a dread of anarchy, and the Federalists did not fail to
profit by this transient disposition of the multitude. For ten or twelve
years they were at the head of affairs, and they were able to apply
some, though not all, of their principles; for the hostile current was
becoming from day to day too violent to be checked or stemmed. In 1801
the Republicans got possession of the Government; Thomas Jefferson was
named President; and he increased the influence of their party by the
weight of his celebrity, the greatness of his talents, and the immense
extent of his popularity.

The means by which the Federalists had maintained their position were
artificial, and their resources were temporary; it was by the virtues
or the talents of their leaders that they had risen to power. When
the Republicans attained to that lofty station, their opponents were
overwhelmed by utter defeat. An immense majority declared itself against
the retiring party, and the Federalists found themselves in so small a
minority that they at once despaired of their future success. From that
moment the Republican or Democratic party *a has proceeded from conquest
to conquest, until it has acquired absolute supremacy in the country.
The Federalists, perceiving that they were vanquished without resource,
and isolated in the midst of the nation, fell into two divisions, of
which one joined the victorious Republicans, and the other abandoned its
rallying-point and its name. Many years have already elapsed since they
ceased to exist as a party.

[Footnote a: [It is scarcely necessary to remark that in more recent
times the signification of these terms has changed. The Republicans are
the representatives of the old Federalists, and the Democrats of the old
Republicans.--Trans. Note (1861).]] The accession of the Federalists
to power was, in my opinion, one of the most fortunate incidents which
accompanied the formation of the great American Union; they resisted
the inevitable propensities of their age and of the country. But
whether their theories were good or bad, they had the effect of being
inapplicable, as a system, to the society which they professed to
govern, and that which occurred under the auspices of Jefferson must
therefore have taken place sooner or later. But their Government gave
the new republic time to acquire a certain stability, and afterwards to
support the rapid growth of the very doctrines which they had combated.
A considerable number of their principles were in point of fact embodied
in the political creed of their opponents; and the Federal Constitution
which subsists at the present day is a lasting monument of their
patriotism and their wisdom.

Great political parties are not, then, to be met with in the United
States at the present time. Parties, indeed, may be found which threaten
the future tranquillity of the Union; but there are none which seem to
contest the present form of Government or the present course of society.
The parties by which the Union is menaced do not rest upon abstract
principles, but upon temporal interests. These interests, disseminated
in the provinces of so vast an empire, may be said to constitute rival
nations rather than parties. Thus, upon a recent occasion, the North
contended for the system of commercial prohibition, and the South
took up arms in favor of free trade, simply because the North is a
manufacturing and the South an agricultural district; and that the
restrictive system which was profitable to the one was prejudicial to
the other. *b

[Footnote b: [The divisions of North and South have since acquired a
far greater degree of intensity, and the South, though conquered,
still presents a formidable spirit of opposition to Northern
government.--Translator's Note, 1875.]]

In the absence of great parties, the United States abound with lesser
controversies; and public opinion is divided into a thousand minute
shades of difference upon questions of very little moment. The pains
which are taken to create parties are inconceivable, and at the present
day it is no easy task. In the United States there is no religious
animosity, because all religion is respected, and no sect is
predominant; there is no jealousy of rank, because the people is
everything, and none can contest its authority; lastly, there is no
public indigence to supply the means of agitation, because the physical
position of the country opens so wide a field to industry that man is
able to accomplish the most surprising undertakings with his own native
resources. Nevertheless, ambitious men are interested in the creation of
parties, since it is difficult to eject a person from authority upon the
mere ground that his place is coveted by others. The skill of the actors
in the political world lies therefore in the art of creating parties. A
political aspirant in the United States begins by discriminating his own
interest, and by calculating upon those interests which may be collected
around and amalgamated with it; he then contrives to discover some
doctrine or some principle which may suit the purposes of this new
association, and which he adopts in order to bring forward his party and
to secure his popularity; just as the imprimatur of a King was in former
days incorporated with the volume which it authorized, but to which it
nowise belonged. When these preliminaries are terminated, the new party
is ushered into the political world.

All the domestic controversies of the Americans at first appear to a
stranger to be so incomprehensible and so puerile that he is at a
loss whether to pity a people which takes such arrant trifles in good
earnest, or to envy the happiness which enables it to discuss them. But
when he comes to study the secret propensities which govern the factions
of America, he easily perceives that the greater part of them are more
or less connected with one or the other of those two divisions which
have always existed in free communities. The deeper we penetrate into
the working of these parties, the more do we perceive that the object
of the one is to limit, and that of the other to extend, the popular
authority. I do not assert that the ostensible end, or even that the
secret aim, of American parties is to promote the rule of aristocracy or
democracy in the country; but I affirm that aristocratic or democratic
passions may easily be detected at the bottom of all parties, and that,
although they escape a superficial observation, they are the main point
and the very soul of every faction in the United States.

To quote a recent example. When the President attacked the Bank, the
country was excited and parties were formed; the well-informed classes
rallied round the Bank, the common people round the President. But it
must not be imagined that the people had formed a rational opinion upon
a question which offers so many difficulties to the most experienced
statesmen. The Bank is a great establishment which enjoys an independent
existence, and the people, accustomed to make and unmake whatsoever it
pleases, is startled to meet with this obstacle to its authority. In the
midst of the perpetual fluctuation of society the community is irritated
by so permanent an institution, and is led to attack it in order to see
whether it can be shaken and controlled, like all the other institutions
of the country.

Remains Of The Aristocratic Party In The United States

Secret opposition of wealthy individuals to democracy--Their
retirement--Their taste for exclusive pleasures and for luxury at
home--Their simplicity abroad--Their affected condescension towards the

It sometimes happens in a people amongst which various opinions prevail
that the balance of the several parties is lost, and one of them obtains
an irresistible preponderance, overpowers all obstacles, harasses its
opponents, and appropriates all the resources of society to its own
purposes. The vanquished citizens despair of success and they conceal
their dissatisfaction in silence and in general apathy. The nation seems
to be governed by a single principle, and the prevailing party assumes
the credit of having restored peace and unanimity to the country. But
this apparent unanimity is merely a cloak to alarming dissensions and
perpetual opposition.

This is precisely what occurred in America; when the democratic party
got the upper hand, it took exclusive possession of the conduct of
affairs, and from that time the laws and the customs of society have
been adapted to its caprices. At the present day the more affluent
classes of society are so entirely removed from the direction of
political affairs in the United States that wealth, far from conferring
a right to the exercise of power, is rather an obstacle than a means of
attaining to it. The wealthy members of the community abandon the lists,
through unwillingness to contend, and frequently to contend in vain,
against the poorest classes of their fellow citizens. They concentrate
all their enjoyments in the privacy of their homes, where they occupy
a rank which cannot be assumed in public; and they constitute a private
society in the State, which has its own tastes and its own pleasures.
They submit to this state of things as an irremediable evil, but they
are careful not to show that they are galled by its continuance; it
is even not uncommon to hear them laud the delights of a republican
government, and the advantages of democratic institutions when they
are in public. Next to hating their enemies, men are most inclined to
flatter them.

Mark, for instance, that opulent citizen, who is as anxious as a Jew of
the Middle Ages to conceal his wealth. His dress is plain, his demeanor
unassuming; but the interior of his dwelling glitters with luxury, and
none but a few chosen guests whom he haughtily styles his equals are
allowed to penetrate into this sanctuary. No European noble is more
exclusive in his pleasures, or more jealous of the smallest advantages
which his privileged station confers upon him. But the very same
individual crosses the city to reach a dark counting-house in the centre
of traffic, where every one may accost him who pleases. If he meets his
cobbler upon the way, they stop and converse; the two citizens discuss
the affairs of the State in which they have an equal interest, and they
shake hands before they part.

But beneath this artificial enthusiasm, and these obsequious attentions
to the preponderating power, it is easy to perceive that the wealthy
members of the community entertain a hearty distaste to the democratic
institutions of their country. The populace is at once the object
of their scorn and of their fears. If the maladministration of the
democracy ever brings about a revolutionary crisis, and if monarchical
institutions ever become practicable in the United States, the truth of
what I advance will become obvious.

The two chief weapons which parties use in order to ensure success are
the public press and the formation of associations.

Chapter XI: Liberty Of The Press In The United States

Chapter Summary

Difficulty of restraining the liberty of the press--Particular reasons
which some nations have to cherish this liberty--The liberty of the
press a necessary consequence of the sovereignty of the people as it is
understood in America--Violent language of the periodical press in the
United States--Propensities of the periodical press--Illustrated by the
United States--Opinion of the Americans upon the repression of the abuse
of the liberty of the press by judicial prosecutions--Reasons for which
the press is less powerful in America than in France.

Liberty Of The Press In The United States

The influence of the liberty of the press does not affect political
opinions alone, but it extends to all the opinions of men, and it
modifies customs as well as laws. In another part of this work I shall
attempt to determinate the degree of influence which the liberty of
the press has exercised upon civil society in the United States, and to
point out the direction which it has given to the ideas, as well as the
tone which it has imparted to the character and the feelings, of the
Anglo-Americans, but at present I purpose simply to examine the effects
produced by the liberty of the press in the political world.

I confess that I do not entertain that firm and complete attachment to
the liberty of the press which things that are supremely good in their
very nature are wont to excite in the mind; and I approve of it more
from a recollection of the evils it prevents than from a consideration
of the advantages it ensures.

If any one could point out an intermediate and yet a tenable position
between the complete independence and the entire subjection of the
public expression of opinion, I should perhaps be inclined to adopt it;
but the difficulty is to discover this position. If it is your intention
to correct the abuses of unlicensed printing and to restore the use of
orderly language, you may in the first instance try the offender by
a jury; but if the jury acquits him, the opinion which was that of a
single individual becomes the opinion of the country at large. Too much
and too little has therefore hitherto been done. If you proceed, you
must bring the delinquent before a court of permanent judges. But even
here the cause must be heard before it can be decided; and the very
principles which no book would have ventured to avow are blazoned
forth in the pleadings, and what was obscurely hinted at in a single
composition is then repeated in a multitude of other publications.
The language in which a thought is embodied is the mere carcass of the
thought, and not the idea itself; tribunals may condemn the form, but
the sense and spirit of the work is too subtle for their authority. Too
much has still been done to recede, too little to attain your end; you
must therefore proceed. If you establish a censorship of the press, the
tongue of the public speaker will still make itself heard, and you have
only increased the mischief. The powers of thought do not rely, like the
powers of physical strength, upon the number of their mechanical agents,
nor can a host of authors be reckoned like the troops which compose an
army; on the contrary, the authority of a principle is often increased
by the smallness of the number of men by whom it is expressed. The
words of a strong-minded man, which penetrate amidst the passions of a
listening assembly, have more power than the vociferations of a thousand
orators; and if it be allowed to speak freely in any public place,
the consequence is the same as if free speaking was allowed in every
village. The liberty of discourse must therefore be destroyed as well
as the liberty of the press; this is the necessary term of your efforts;
but if your object was to repress the abuses of liberty, they have
brought you to the feet of a despot. You have been led from the extreme
of independence to the extreme of subjection without meeting with a
single tenable position for shelter or repose.

There are certain nations which have peculiar reasons for cherishing the
liberty of the press, independently of the general motives which I have
just pointed out. For in certain countries which profess to enjoy the
privileges of freedom every individual agent of the Government may
violate the laws with impunity, since those whom he oppresses cannot
prosecute him before the courts of justice. In this case the liberty of
the press is not merely a guarantee, but it is the only guarantee, of
their liberty and their security which the citizens possess. If the
rulers of these nations propose to abolish the independence of the
press, the people would be justified in saying: Give us the right of
prosecuting your offences before the ordinary tribunals, and perhaps we
may then waive our right of appeal to the tribunal of public opinion.

But in the countries in which the doctrine of the sovereignty of the
people ostensibly prevails, the censorship of the press is not only
dangerous, but it is absurd. When the right of every citizen to
co-operate in the government of society is acknowledged, every citizen
must be presumed to possess the power of discriminating between the
different opinions of his contemporaries, and of appreciating the
different facts from which inferences may be drawn. The sovereignty of
the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be looked upon
as correlative institutions; just as the censorship of the press and
universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed, and
which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.
Not a single individual of the twelve millions who inhabit the territory
of the United States has as yet dared to propose any restrictions to
the liberty of the press. The first newspaper over which I cast my eyes,
upon my arrival in America, contained the following article:

In all this affair the language of Jackson has been that of a heartless
despot, solely occupied with the preservation of his own authority.
Ambition is his crime, and it will be his punishment too: intrigue is
his native element, and intrigue will confound his tricks, and will
deprive him of his power: he governs by means of corruption, and his
immoral practices will redound to his shame and confusion. His conduct
in the political arena has been that of a shameless and lawless
gamester. He succeeded at the time, but the hour of retribution
approaches, and he will be obliged to disgorge his winnings, to throw
aside his false dice, and to end his days in some retirement, where he
may curse his madness at his leisure; for repentance is a virtue with
which his heart is likely to remain forever unacquainted.

It is not uncommonly imagined in France that the virulence of the
press originates in the uncertain social condition, in the political
excitement, and the general sense of consequent evil which prevail in
that country; and it is therefore supposed that as soon as society has
resumed a certain degree of composure the press will abandon its present
vehemence. I am inclined to think that the above causes explain the
reason of the extraordinary ascendency it has acquired over the nation,
but that they do not exercise much influence upon the tone of its
language. The periodical press appears to me to be actuated by passions
and propensities independent of the circumstances in which it is placed,
and the present position of America corroborates this opinion.

America is perhaps, at this moment, the country of the whole world
which contains the fewest germs of revolution; but the press is not less
destructive in its principles than in France, and it displays the same
violence without the same reasons for indignation. In America, as
in France, it constitutes a singular power, so strangely composed of
mingled good and evil that it is at the same time indispensable to the
existence of freedom, and nearly incompatible with the maintenance of
public order. Its power is certainly much greater in France than in the
United States; though nothing is more rare in the latter country than to
hear of a prosecution having been instituted against it. The reason
of this is perfectly simple: the Americans, having once admitted
the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, apply it with perfect
consistency. It was never their intention to found a permanent state
of things with elements which undergo daily modifications; and there
is consequently nothing criminal in an attack upon the existing laws,
provided it be not attended with a violent infraction of them. They
are moreover of opinion that courts of justice are unable to check
the abuses of the press; and that as the subtilty of human language
perpetually eludes the severity of judicial analysis, offences of this
nature are apt to escape the hand which attempts to apprehend them. They
hold that to act with efficacy upon the press it would be necessary to
find a tribunal, not only devoted to the existing order of things, but
capable of surmounting the influence of public opinion; a tribunal which
should conduct its proceedings without publicity, which should pronounce
its decrees without assigning its motives, and punish the intentions
even more than the language of an author. Whosoever should have the
power of creating and maintaining a tribunal of this kind would waste
his time in prosecuting the liberty of the press; for he would be the
supreme master of the whole community, and he would be as free to
rid himself of the authors as of their writings. In this question,
therefore, there is no medium between servitude and extreme license; in
order to enjoy the inestimable benefits which the liberty of the press
ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils which it
engenders. To expect to acquire the former and to escape the latter
is to cherish one of those illusions which commonly mislead nations
in their times of sickness, when, tired with faction and exhausted by
effort, they attempt to combine hostile opinions and contrary principles
upon the same soil.

The small influence of the American journals is attributable to several
reasons, amongst which are the following:

The liberty of writing, like all other liberty, is most formidable
when it is a novelty; for a people which has never been accustomed to
co-operate in the conduct of State affairs places implicit confidence
in the first tribune who arouses its attention. The Anglo-Americans
have enjoyed this liberty ever since the foundation of the settlements;
moreover, the press cannot create human passions by its own power,
however skillfully it may kindle them where they exist. In America
politics are discussed with animation and a varied activity, but they
rarely touch those deep passions which are excited whenever the positive
interest of a part of the community is impaired: but in the United
States the interests of the community are in a most prosperous
condition. A single glance upon a French and an American newspaper is
sufficient to show the difference which exists between the two nations
on this head. In France the space allotted to commercial advertisements
is very limited, and the intelligence is not considerable, but the most
essential part of the journal is that which contains the discussion of
the politics of the day. In America three-quarters of the enormous sheet
which is set before the reader are filled with advertisements, and the
remainder is frequently occupied by political intelligence or trivial
anecdotes: it is only from time to time that one finds a corner devoted
to passionate discussions like those with which the journalists of
France are wont to indulge their readers.

It has been demonstrated by observation, and discovered by the innate
sagacity of the pettiest as well as the greatest of despots, that the
influence of a power is increased in proportion as its direction
is rendered more central. In France the press combines a twofold
centralization; almost all its power is centred in the same spot, and
vested in the same hands, for its organs are far from numerous. The
influence of a public press thus constituted, upon a sceptical nation,
must be unbounded. It is an enemy with which a Government may sign an
occasional truce, but which it is difficult to resist for any length of

Neither of these kinds of centralization exists in America. The United
States have no metropolis; the intelligence as well as the power of the
country are dispersed abroad, and instead of radiating from a point,
they cross each other in every direction; the Americans have established
no central control over the expression of opinion, any more than over
the conduct of business. These are circumstances which do not depend on
human foresight; but it is owing to the laws of the Union that there
are no licenses to be granted to printers, no securities demanded from
editors as in France, and no stamp duty as in France and formerly in
England. The consequence of this is that nothing is easier than to set
up a newspaper, and a small number of readers suffices to defray the
expenses of the editor.

The number of periodical and occasional publications which appears
in the United States actually surpasses belief. The most enlightened
Americans attribute the subordinate influence of the press to this
excessive dissemination; and it is adopted as an axiom of political
science in that country that the only way to neutralize the effect of
public journals is to multiply them indefinitely. I cannot conceive
that a truth which is so self-evident should not already have been more
generally admitted in Europe; it is comprehensible that the persons who
hope to bring about revolutions by means of the press should be desirous
of confining its action to a few powerful organs, but it is perfectly
incredible that the partisans of the existing state of things, and the
natural supporters of the law, should attempt to diminish the influence
of the press by concentrating its authority. The Governments of Europe
seem to treat the press with the courtesy of the knights of old; they
are anxious to furnish it with the same central power which they have
found to be so trusty a weapon, in order to enhance the glory of their
resistance to its attacks.

In America there is scarcely a hamlet which has not its own newspaper.
It may readily be imagined that neither discipline nor unity of
design can be communicated to so multifarious a host, and each one is
consequently led to fight under his own standard. All the political
journals of the United States are indeed arrayed on the side of the
administration or against it; but they attack and defend in a thousand
different ways. They cannot succeed in forming those great currents of
opinion which overwhelm the most solid obstacles. This division of the
influence of the press produces a variety of other consequences which
are scarcely less remarkable. The facility with which journals can be
established induces a multitude of individuals to take a part in
them; but as the extent of competition precludes the possibility of
considerable profit, the most distinguished classes of society are
rarely led to engage in these undertakings. But such is the number of
the public prints that, even if they were a source of wealth, writers
of ability could not be found to direct them all. The journalists of
the United States are usually placed in a very humble position, with a
scanty education and a vulgar turn of mind. The will of the majority is
the most general of laws, and it establishes certain habits which form
the characteristics of each peculiar class of society; thus it dictates
the etiquette practised at courts and the etiquette of the bar. The
characteristics of the French journalist consist in a violent, but
frequently an eloquent and lofty, manner of discussing the politics
of the day; and the exceptions to this habitual practice are only
occasional. The characteristics of the American journalist consist in
an open and coarse appeal to the passions of the populace; and he
habitually abandons the principles of political science to assail the
characters of individuals, to track them into private life, and disclose
all their weaknesses and errors.

Nothing can be more deplorable than this abuse of the powers of thought;
I shall have occasion to point out hereafter the influence of the
newspapers upon the taste and the morality of the American people, but
my present subject exclusively concerns the political world. It cannot
be denied that the effects of this extreme license of the press tend
indirectly to the maintenance of public order. The individuals who
are already in the possession of a high station in the esteem of their
fellow-citizens are afraid to write in the newspapers, and they are thus
deprived of the most powerful instrument which they can use to excite
the passions of the multitude to their own advantage. *a

[Footnote a: They only write in the papers when they choose to address
the people in their own name; as, for instance, when they are called
upon to repel calumnious imputations, and to correct a misstatement of

The personal opinions of the editors have no kind of weight in the
eyes of the public: the only use of a journal is, that it imparts the
knowledge of certain facts, and it is only by altering or distorting
those facts that a journalist can contribute to the support of his own

But although the press is limited to these resources, its influence
in America is immense. It is the power which impels the circulation of
political life through all the districts of that vast territory. Its eye
is constantly open to detect the secret springs of political designs,
and to summon the leaders of all parties to the bar of public opinion.
It rallies the interests of the community round certain principles, and
it draws up the creed which factions adopt; for it affords a means of
intercourse between parties which hear, and which address each other
without ever having been in immediate contact. When a great number of
the organs of the press adopt the same line of conduct, their influence
becomes irresistible; and public opinion, when it is perpetually
assailed from the same side, eventually yields to the attack. In the
United States each separate journal exercises but little authority, but
the power of the periodical press is only second to that of the people.

[Footnote b: See Appendix, P.]

The opinions established in the United States under the empire of the
liberty of the press are frequently more firmly rooted than those which
are formed elsewhere under the sanction of a censor.

In the United States the democracy perpetually raises fresh individuals
to the conduct of public affairs; and the measures of the administration
are consequently seldom regulated by the strict rules of consistency or
of order. But the general principles of the Government are more stable,
and the opinions most prevalent in society are generally more durable
than in many other countries. When once the Americans have taken up an
idea, whether it be well or ill founded, nothing is more difficult than
to eradicate it from their minds. The same tenacity of opinion has been
observed in England, where, for the last century, greater freedom of
conscience and more invincible prejudices have existed than in all the
other countries of Europe. I attribute this consequence to a cause which
may at first sight appear to have a very opposite tendency, namely, to
the liberty of the press. The nations amongst which this liberty exists
are as apt to cling to their opinions from pride as from conviction.
They cherish them because they hold them to be just, and because they
exercised their own free-will in choosing them; and they maintain them
not only because they are true, but because they are their own. Several
other reasons conduce to the same end.

It was remarked by a man of genius that "ignorance lies at the two ends
of knowledge." Perhaps it would have been more correct to have said,
that absolute convictions are to be met with at the two extremities, and
that doubt lies in the middle; for the human intellect may be considered
in three distinct states, which frequently succeed one another. A man
believes implicitly, because he adopts a proposition without inquiry. He
doubts as soon as he is assailed by the objections which his inquiries
may have aroused. But he frequently succeeds in satisfying these doubts,
and then he begins to believe afresh: he no longer lays hold on a truth
in its most shadowy and uncertain form, but he sees it clearly before
him, and he advances onwards by the light it gives him. *c

[Footnote c: It may, however, be doubted whether this rational
and self-guiding conviction arouses as much fervor or enthusiastic
devotedness in men as their first dogmatical belief.]

When the liberty of the press acts upon men who are in the first of
these three states, it does not immediately disturb their habit of
believing implicitly without investigation, but it constantly modifies
the objects of their intuitive convictions. The human mind continues
to discern but one point upon the whole intellectual horizon, and
that point is in continual motion. Such are the symptoms of sudden
revolutions, and of the misfortunes which are sure to befall those
generations which abruptly adopt the unconditional freedom of the press.

The circle of novel ideas is, however, soon terminated; the touch
of experience is upon them, and the doubt and mistrust which their
uncertainty produces become universal. We may rest assured that the
majority of mankind will either believe they know not wherefore, or will
not know what to believe. Few are the beings who can ever hope to
attain to that state of rational and independent conviction which true
knowledge can beget in defiance of the attacks of doubt.

It has been remarked that in times of great religious fervor men
sometimes change their religious opinions; whereas in times of general
scepticism everyone clings to his own persuasion. The same thing takes
place in politics under the liberty of the press. In countries where all
the theories of social science have been contested in their turn, the
citizens who have adopted one of them stick to it, not so much because
they are assured of its excellence, as because they are not convinced of
the superiority of any other. In the present age men are not very ready
to die in defence of their opinions, but they are rarely inclined to
change them; and there are fewer martyrs as well as fewer apostates.

Another still more valid reason may yet be adduced: when no abstract
opinions are looked upon as certain, men cling to the mere propensities
and external interests of their position, which are naturally more
tangible and more permanent than any opinions in the world.

It is not a question of easy solution whether aristocracy or democracy
is most fit to govern a country. But it is certain that democracy annoys
one part of the community, and that aristocracy oppresses another part.
When the question is reduced to the simple expression of the struggle
between poverty and wealth, the tendency of each side of the dispute
becomes perfectly evident without further controversy.

Chapter XII: Political Associations In The United States

Chapter Summary

Daily use which the Anglo-Americans make of the right of
association--Three kinds of political associations--In what manner
the Americans apply the representative system to associations--Dangers
resulting to the State--Great Convention of 1831 relative to the
Tariff--Legislative character of this Convention--Why the unlimited
exercise of the right of association is less dangerous in the United
States than elsewhere--Why it may be looked upon as necessary--Utility
of associations in a democratic people.

Political Associations In The United States

In no country in the world has the principle of association been
more successfully used, or more unsparingly applied to a multitude of
different objects, than in America. Besides the permanent associations
which are established by law under the names of townships, cities,
and counties, a vast number of others are formed and maintained by the
agency of private individuals.

The citizen of the United States is taught from his earliest infancy
to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the
difficulties of life; he looks upon social authority with an eye of
mistrust and anxiety, and he only claims its assistance when he is quite
unable to shift without it. This habit may even be traced in the schools
of the rising generation, where the children in their games are wont to
submit to rules which they have themselves established, and to punish
misdemeanors which they have themselves defined. The same spirit
pervades every act of social life. If a stoppage occurs in a
thoroughfare, and the circulation of the public is hindered, the
neighbors immediately constitute a deliberative body; and this
extemporaneous assembly gives rise to an executive power which remedies
the inconvenience before anybody has thought of recurring to an
authority superior to that of the persons immediately concerned. If the
public pleasures are concerned, an association is formed to provide
for the splendor and the regularity of the entertainment. Societies are
formed to resist enemies which are exclusively of a moral nature, and to
diminish the vice of intemperance: in the United States associations are
established to promote public order, commerce, industry, morality, and
religion; for there is no end which the human will, seconded by the
collective exertions of individuals, despairs of attaining.

I shall hereafter have occasion to show the effects of association upon
the course of society, and I must confine myself for the present to the
political world. When once the right of association is recognized, the
citizens may employ it in several different ways.

An association consists simply in the public assent which a number of
individuals give to certain doctrines, and in the engagement which they
contract to promote the spread of those doctrines by their exertions.
The right of association with these views is very analogous to the
liberty of unlicensed writing; but societies thus formed possess more
authority than the press. When an opinion is represented by a society,
it necessarily assumes a more exact and explicit form. It numbers its
partisans, and compromises their welfare in its cause: they, on the
other hand, become acquainted with each other, and their zeal is
increased by their number. An association unites the efforts of minds
which have a tendency to diverge in one single channel, and urges them
vigorously towards one single end which it points out.

The second degree in the right of association is the power of meeting.
When an association is allowed to establish centres of action at certain
important points in the country, its activity is increased and its
influence extended. Men have the opportunity of seeing each other; means
of execution are more readily combined, and opinions are maintained with
a degree of warmth and energy which written language cannot approach.

Lastly, in the exercise of the right of political association, there
is a third degree: the partisans of an opinion may unite in electoral
bodies, and choose delegates to represent them in a central assembly.
This is, properly speaking, the application of the representative system
to a party.

Thus, in the first instance, a society is formed between individuals
professing the same opinion, and the tie which keeps it together is of
a purely intellectual nature; in the second case, small assemblies are
formed which only represent a fraction of the party. Lastly, in the
third case, they constitute a separate nation in the midst of the
nation, a government within the Government. Their delegates, like the
real delegates of the majority, represent the entire collective force
of their party; and they enjoy a certain degree of that national dignity
and great influence which belong to the chosen representatives of the
people. It is true that they have not the right of making the laws,
but they have the power of attacking those which are in being, and
of drawing up beforehand those which they may afterwards cause to be

If, in a people which is imperfectly accustomed to the exercise
of freedom, or which is exposed to violent political passions, a
deliberating minority, which confines itself to the contemplation of
future laws, be placed in juxtaposition to the legislative majority, I
cannot but believe that public tranquillity incurs very great risks in
that nation. There is doubtless a very wide difference between proving
that one law is in itself better than another and proving that the
former ought to be substituted for the latter. But the imagination
of the populace is very apt to overlook this difference, which is so
apparent to the minds of thinking men. It sometimes happens that a
nation is divided into two nearly equal parties, each of which affects
to represent the majority. If, in immediate contiguity to the directing
power, another power be established, which exercises almost as much
moral authority as the former, it is not to be believed that it will
long be content to speak without acting; or that it will always be
restrained by the abstract consideration of the nature of associations
which are meant to direct but not to enforce opinions, to suggest but
not to make the laws.

The more we consider the independence of the press in its principal
consequences, the more are we convinced that it is the chief and, so to
speak, the constitutive element of freedom in the modern world. A nation
which is determined to remain free is therefore right in demanding the
unrestrained exercise of this independence. But the unrestrained liberty
of political association cannot be entirely assimilated to the liberty
of the press. The one is at the same time less necessary and more
dangerous than the other. A nation may confine it within certain limits
without forfeiting any part of its self-control; and it may sometimes be
obliged to do so in order to maintain its own authority.

In America the liberty of association for political purposes is
unbounded. An example will show in the clearest light to what an extent
this privilege is tolerated.

The question of the tariff, or of free trade, produced a great
manifestation of party feeling in America; the tariff was not only a
subject of debate as a matter of opinion, but it exercised a favorable
or a prejudicial influence upon several very powerful interests of the
States. The North attributed a great portion of its prosperity, and the
South all its sufferings, to this system; insomuch that for a long
time the tariff was the sole source of the political animosities which
agitated the Union.

In 1831, when the dispute was raging with the utmost virulence, a
private citizen of Massachusetts proposed to all the enemies of the
tariff, by means of the public prints, to send delegates to Philadelphia
in order to consult together upon the means which were most fitted to
promote freedom of trade. This proposal circulated in a few days from
Maine to New Orleans by the power of the printing-press: the opponents
of the tariff adopted it with enthusiasm; meetings were formed on all
sides, and delegates were named. The majority of these individuals
were well known, and some of them had earned a considerable degree of
celebrity. South Carolina alone, which afterwards took up arms in
the same cause, sent sixty-three delegates. On October 1, 1831, this
assembly, which according to the American custom had taken the name of
a Convention, met at Philadelphia; it consisted of more than two hundred
members. Its debates were public, and they at once assumed a legislative
character; the extent of the powers of Congress, the theories of free
trade, and the different clauses of the tariff, were discussed in turn.
At the end of ten days' deliberation the Convention broke up, after
having published an address to the American people, in which it

I. That Congress had not the right of making a tariff, and that the
existing tariff was unconstitutional;

II. That the prohibition of free trade was prejudicial to the interests
of all nations, and to that of the American people in particular.

It must be acknowledged that the unrestrained liberty of political
association has not hitherto produced, in the United States, those fatal
consequences which might perhaps be expected from it elsewhere. The
right of association was imported from England, and it has always
existed in America; so that the exercise of this privilege is now
amalgamated with the manners and customs of the people. At the present
time the liberty of association is become a necessary guarantee against
the tyranny of the majority. In the United States, as soon as a party is
become preponderant, all public authority passes under its control; its
private supporters occupy all the places, and have all the force of the
administration at their disposal. As the most distinguished partisans
of the other side of the question are unable to surmount the obstacles
which exclude them from power, they require some means of establishing
themselves upon their own basis, and of opposing the moral authority
of the minority to the physical power which domineers over it. Thus a
dangerous expedient is used to obviate a still more formidable danger.

The omnipotence of the majority appears to me to present such extreme
perils to the American Republics that the dangerous measure which is
used to repress it seems to be more advantageous than prejudicial. And
here I am about to advance a proposition which may remind the reader
of what I said before in speaking of municipal freedom: There are
no countries in which associations are more needed, to prevent the
despotism of faction or the arbitrary power of a prince, than those
which are democratically constituted. In aristocratic nations the
body of the nobles and the more opulent part of the community are in
themselves natural associations, which act as checks upon the abuses of
power. In countries in which these associations do not exist, if
private individuals are unable to create an artificial and a temporary
substitute for them, I can imagine no permanent protection against the
most galling tyranny; and a great people may be oppressed by a small
faction, or by a single individual, with impunity.

The meeting of a great political Convention (for there are Conventions
of all kinds), which may frequently become a necessary measure, is
always a serious occurrence, even in America, and one which is never
looked forward to, by the judicious friends of the country, without
alarm. This was very perceptible in the Convention of 1831, at which the
exertions of all the most distinguished members of the Assembly tended
to moderate its language, and to restrain the subjects which it treated
within certain limits. It is probable, in fact, that the Convention of
1831 exercised a very great influence upon the minds of the malcontents,
and prepared them for the open revolt against the commercial laws of the
Union which took place in 1832.

It cannot be denied that the unrestrained liberty of association
for political purposes is the privilege which a people is longest in
learning how to exercise. If it does not throw the nation into anarchy,
it perpetually augments the chances of that calamity. On one point,
however, this perilous liberty offers a security against dangers of
another kind; in countries where associations are free, secret
societies are unknown. In America there are numerous factions, but no

Different ways in which the right of association is understood in
Europe and in the United States--Different use which is made of it.

The most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting
for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his
fellow-creatures, and of acting in common with them. I am therefore led
to conclude that the right of association is almost as inalienable
as the right of personal liberty. No legislator can attack it without
impairing the very foundations of society. Nevertheless, if the liberty
of association is a fruitful source of advantages and prosperity to some
nations, it may be perverted or carried to excess by others, and
the element of life may be changed into an element of destruction. A
comparison of the different methods which associations pursue in those
countries in which they are managed with discretion, as well as in those
where liberty degenerates into license, may perhaps be thought useful
both to governments and to parties.

The greater part of Europeans look upon an association as a weapon which
is to be hastily fashioned, and immediately tried in the conflict.
A society is formed for discussion, but the idea of impending action
prevails in the minds of those who constitute it: it is, in fact, an
army; and the time given to parley serves to reckon up the strength and
to animate the courage of the host, after which they direct their march
against the enemy. Resources which lie within the bounds of the law may
suggest themselves to the persons who compose it as means, but never as
the only means, of success.

Such, however, is not the manner in which the right of association is
understood in the United States. In America the citizens who form
the minority associate, in order, in the first place, to show their
numerical strength, and so to diminish the moral authority of the
majority; and, in the second place, to stimulate competition, and to
discover those arguments which are most fitted to act upon the majority;
for they always entertain hopes of drawing over their opponents to their
own side, and of afterwards disposing of the supreme power in their
name. Political associations in the United States are therefore
peaceable in their intentions, and strictly legal in the means which
they employ; and they assert with perfect truth that they only aim at
success by lawful expedients.

The difference which exists between the Americans and ourselves depends
on several causes. In Europe there are numerous parties so diametrically
opposed to the majority that they can never hope to acquire its support,
and at the same time they think that they are sufficiently strong in
themselves to struggle and to defend their cause. When a party of this
kind forms an association, its object is, not to conquer, but to fight.
In America the individuals who hold opinions very much opposed to those
of the majority are no sort of impediment to its power, and all other
parties hope to win it over to their own principles in the end. The
exercise of the right of association becomes dangerous in proportion
to the impossibility which excludes great parties from acquiring the
majority. In a country like the United States, in which the differences
of opinion are mere differences of hue, the right of association may
remain unrestrained without evil consequences. The inexperience of many
of the European nations in the enjoyment of liberty leads them only
to look upon the liberty of association as a right of attacking the
Government. The first notion which presents itself to a party, as well
as to an individual, when it has acquired a consciousness of its own
strength, is that of violence: the notion of persuasion arises at a
later period and is only derived from experience. The English, who are
divided into parties which differ most essentially from each other,
rarely abuse the right of association, because they have long been
accustomed to exercise it. In France the passion for war is so intense
that there is no undertaking so mad, or so injurious to the welfare of
the State, that a man does not consider himself honored in defending it,
at the risk of his life.

But perhaps the most powerful of the causes which tend to mitigate the
excesses of political association in the United States is Universal
Suffrage. In countries in which universal suffrage exists the majority
is never doubtful, because neither party can pretend to represent that
portion of the community which has not voted. The associations which
are formed are aware, as well as the nation at large, that they do not
represent the majority: this is, indeed, a condition inseparable from
their existence; for if they did represent the preponderating power,
they would change the law instead of soliciting its reform. The
consequence of this is that the moral influence of the Government which
they attack is very much increased, and their own power is very much

In Europe there are few associations which do not affect to represent
the majority, or which do not believe that they represent it. This
conviction or this pretension tends to augment their force amazingly,
and contributes no less to legalize their measures. Violence may seem to
be excusable in defence of the cause of oppressed right. Thus it is,
in the vast labyrinth of human laws, that extreme liberty sometimes
corrects the abuses of license, and that extreme democracy obviates
the dangers of democratic government. In Europe, associations consider
themselves, in some degree, as the legislative and executive councils of
the people, which is unable to speak for itself. In America, where they
only represent a minority of the nation, they argue and they petition.

The means which the associations of Europe employ are in accordance
with the end which they propose to obtain. As the principal aim of these
bodies is to act, and not to debate, to fight rather than to persuade,
they are naturally led to adopt a form of organization which differs
from the ordinary customs of civil bodies, and which assumes the habits
and the maxims of military life. They centralize the direction of their
resources as much as possible, and they intrust the power of the whole
party to a very small number of leaders.

The members of these associations respond to a watchword, like soldiers
on duty; they profess the doctrine of passive obedience; say rather,
that in uniting together they at once abjure the exercise of their own
judgment and free will; and the tyrannical control which these societies
exercise is often far more insupportable than the authority possessed
over society by the Government which they attack. Their moral force is
much diminished by these excesses, and they lose the powerful interest
which is always excited by a struggle between oppressors and the
oppressed. The man who in given cases consents to obey his fellows with
servility, and who submits his activity and even his opinions to their
control, can have no claim to rank as a free citizen.

The Americans have also established certain forms of government which
are applied to their associations, but these are invariably borrowed
from the forms of the civil administration. The independence of each
individual is formally recognized; the tendency of the members of the
association points, as it does in the body of the community, towards
the same end, but they are not obliged to follow the same track. No
one abjures the exercise of his reason and his free will; but every
one exerts that reason and that will for the benefit of a common

Chapter XIII: Government Of The Democracy In America--Part I

I am well aware of the difficulties which attend this part of my
subject, but although every expression which I am about to make use of
may clash, upon some one point, with the feelings of the different
parties which divide my country, I shall speak my opinion with the most
perfect openness.

In Europe we are at a loss how to judge the true character and the more
permanent propensities of democracy, because in Europe two conflicting
principles exist, and we do not know what to attribute to the principles
themselves, and what to refer to the passions which they bring into
collision. Such, however, is not the case in America; there the people
reigns without any obstacle, and it has no perils to dread and no
injuries to avenge. In America, democracy is swayed by its own free
propensities; its course is natural and its activity is unrestrained;
the United States consequently afford the most favorable opportunity of
studying its real character. And to no people can this inquiry be more
vitally interesting than to the French nation, which is blindly driven
onwards by a daily and irresistible impulse towards a state of things
which may prove either despotic or republican, but which will assuredly
be democratic.

Universal Suffrage

I have already observed that universal suffrage has been adopted in
all the States of the Union; it consequently occurs amongst different
populations which occupy very different positions in the scale of
society. I have had opportunities of observing its effects in different
localities, and amongst races of men who are nearly strangers to each
other by their language, their religion, and their manner of life; in
Louisiana as well as in New England, in Georgia and in Canada. I have
remarked that Universal Suffrage is far from producing in America either
all the good or all the evil consequences which are assigned to it in
Europe, and that its effects differ very widely from those which are
usually attributed to it.

Choice Of The People, And Instinctive Preferences Of The American

In the United States the most able men are rarely placed at the head
of affairs--Reason of this peculiarity--The envy which prevails in the
lower orders of France against the higher classes is not a French, but a
purely democratic sentiment--For what reason the most distinguished men
in America frequently seclude themselves from public affairs.

Many people in Europe are apt to believe without saying it, or to say
without believing it, that one of the great advantages of universal
suffrage is, that it entrusts the direction of public affairs to men
who are worthy of the public confidence. They admit that the people is
unable to govern for itself, but they aver that it is always sincerely
disposed to promote the welfare of the State, and that it instinctively
designates those persons who are animated by the same good wishes, and
who are the most fit to wield the supreme authority. I confess that the
observations I made in America by no means coincide with these opinions.
On my arrival in the United States I was surprised to find so much
distinguished talent among the subjects, and so little among the heads
of the Government. It is a well-authenticated fact, that at the present
day the most able men in the United States are very rarely placed at
the head of affairs; and it must be acknowledged that such has been the
result in proportion as democracy has outstepped all its former limits.
The race of American statesmen has evidently dwindled most remarkably in
the course of the last fifty years.

Several causes may be assigned to this phenomenon. It is impossible,
notwithstanding the most strenuous exertions, to raise the intelligence
of the people above a certain level. Whatever may be the facilities of
acquiring information, whatever may be the profusion of easy methods and
of cheap science, the human mind can never be instructed and educated
without devoting a considerable space of time to those objects.

The greater or the lesser possibility of subsisting without labor is
therefore the necessary boundary of intellectual improvement. This
boundary is more remote in some countries and more restricted in others;
but it must exist somewhere as long as the people is constrained to work
in order to procure the means of physical subsistence, that is to say,
as long as it retains its popular character. It is therefore quite as
difficult to imagine a State in which all the citizens should be very
well informed as a State in which they should all be wealthy; these two
difficulties may be looked upon as correlative. It may very readily be
admitted that the mass of the citizens are sincerely disposed to promote
the welfare of their country; nay more, it may even be allowed that the
lower classes are less apt to be swayed by considerations of personal
interest than the higher orders: but it is always more or less
impossible for them to discern the best means of attaining the end which
they desire with sincerity. Long and patient observation, joined to a
multitude of different notions, is required to form a just estimate of
the character of a single individual; and can it be supposed that the
vulgar have the power of succeeding in an inquiry which misleads the
penetration of genius itself? The people has neither the time nor the
means which are essential to the prosecution of an investigation of this
kind: its conclusions are hastily formed from a superficial inspection
of the more prominent features of a question. Hence it often assents
to the clamor of a mountebank who knows the secret of stimulating its
tastes, while its truest friends frequently fail in their exertions.

Moreover, the democracy is not only deficient in that soundness of
judgment which is necessary to select men really deserving of its
confidence, but it has neither the desire nor the inclination to find
them out. It cannot be denied that democratic institutions have a very
strong tendency to promote the feeling of envy in the human heart; not
so much because they afford to every one the means of rising to the
level of any of his fellow-citizens, as because those means perpetually
disappoint the persons who employ them. Democratic institutions awaken
and foster a passion for equality which they can never entirely satisfy.
This complete equality eludes the grasp of the people at the very moment
at which it thinks to hold it fast, and "flies," as Pascal says, "with
eternal flight"; the people is excited in the pursuit of an advantage,
which is more precious because it is not sufficiently remote to be
unknown, or sufficiently near to be enjoyed. The lower orders
are agitated by the chance of success, they are irritated by its
uncertainty; and they pass from the enthusiasm of pursuit to the
exhaustion of ill-success, and lastly to the acrimony of disappointment.
Whatever transcends their own limits appears to be an obstacle to their
desires, and there is no kind of superiority, however legitimate it may
be, which is not irksome in their sight.

It has been supposed that the secret instinct which leads the lower
orders to remove their superiors as much as possible from the direction
of public affairs is peculiar to France. This, however, is an error; the
propensity to which I allude is not inherent in any particular nation,
but in democratic institutions in general; and although it may have been
heightened by peculiar political circumstances, it owes its origin to a
higher cause.

In the United States the people is not disposed to hate the superior
classes of society; but it is not very favorably inclined towards them,
and it carefully excludes them from the exercise of authority. It does
not entertain any dread of distinguished talents, but it is rarely
captivated by them; and it awards its approbation very sparingly to such
as have risen without the popular support.

Whilst the natural propensities of democracy induce the people to reject
the most distinguished citizens as its rulers, these individuals are
no less apt to retire from a political career in which it is almost
impossible to retain their independence, or to advance without degrading
themselves. This opinion has been very candidly set forth by Chancellor
Kent, who says, in speaking with great eulogiums of that part of the
Constitution which empowers the Executive to nominate the judges: "It is
indeed probable that the men who are best fitted to discharge the duties
of this high office would have too much reserve in their manners, and
too much austerity in their principles, for them to be returned by the
majority at an election where universal suffrage is adopted." Such were
the opinions which were printed without contradiction in America in the
year 1830!

I hold it to be sufficiently demonstrated that universal suffrage is
by no means a guarantee of the wisdom of the popular choice, and that,
whatever its advantages may be, this is not one of them.

Causes Which May Partly Correct These Tendencies Of The Democracy
Contrary effects produced on peoples as well as on individuals by great
dangers--Why so many distinguished men stood at the head of affairs
in America fifty years ago--Influence which the intelligence and
the manners of the people exercise upon its choice--Example of New
England--States of the Southwest--Influence of certain laws upon the
choice of the people--Election by an elected body--Its effects upon the
composition of the Senate.

When a State is threatened by serious dangers, the people frequently
succeeds in selecting the citizens who are the most able to save it.
It has been observed that man rarely retains his customary level in
presence of very critical circumstances; he rises above or he sinks
below his usual condition, and the same thing occurs in nations at
large. Extreme perils sometimes quench the energy of a people instead of
stimulating it; they excite without directing its passions, and instead
of clearing they confuse its powers of perception. The Jews deluged the
smoking ruins of their temple with the carnage of the remnant of their
host. But it is more common, both in the case of nations and in that
of individuals, to find extraordinary virtues arising from the very
imminence of the danger. Great characters are then thrown into relief,
as edifices which are concealed by the gloom of night are illuminated by
the glare of a conflagration. At those dangerous times genius no longer
abstains from presenting itself in the arena; and the people, alarmed
by the perils of its situation, buries its envious passions in a short
oblivion. Great names may then be drawn from the balloting-box.

I have already observed that the American statesmen of the present day
are very inferior to those who stood at the head of affairs fifty years
ago. This is as much a consequence of the circumstances as of the
laws of the country. When America was struggling in the high cause of
independence to throw off the yoke of another country, and when it
was about to usher a new nation into the world, the spirits of its
inhabitants were roused to the height which their great efforts
required. In this general excitement the most distinguished men were
ready to forestall the wants of the community, and the people clung
to them for support, and placed them at its head. But events of this
magnitude are rare, and it is from an inspection of the ordinary course
of affairs that our judgment must be formed.

If passing occurrences sometimes act as checks upon the passions of
democracy, the intelligence and the manners of the community exercise
an influence which is not less powerful and far more permanent. This is
extremely perceptible in the United States.

In New England the education and the liberties of the communities were
engendered by the moral and religious principles of their founders.
Where society has acquired a sufficient degree of stability to enable it
to hold certain maxims and to retain fixed habits, the lower orders
are accustomed to respect intellectual superiority and to submit to
it without complaint, although they set at naught all those privileges
which wealth and birth have introduced among mankind. The democracy
in New England consequently makes a more judicious choice than it does

But as we descend towards the South, to those States in which
the constitution of society is more modern and less strong, where
instruction is less general, and where the principles of morality, of
religion, and of liberty are less happily combined, we perceive that the
talents and the virtues of those who are in authority become more and
more rare.

Lastly, when we arrive at the new South-western States, in which the
constitution of society dates but from yesterday, and presents an
agglomeration of adventurers and speculators, we are amazed at the
persons who are invested with public authority, and we are led to ask by
what force, independent of the legislation and of the men who direct it,
the State can be protected, and society be made to flourish.

There are certain laws of a democratic nature which contribute,
nevertheless, to correct, in some measure, the dangerous tendencies of
democracy. On entering the House of Representatives of Washington one is
struck by the vulgar demeanor of that great assembly. The eye frequently
does not discover a man of celebrity within its walls. Its members are
almost all obscure individuals whose names present no associations to
the mind: they are mostly village lawyers, men in trade, or even
persons belonging to the lower classes of society. In a country in which
education is very general, it is said that the representatives of the
people do not always know how to write correctly.

At a few yards' distance from this spot is the door of the Senate, which
contains within a small space a large proportion of the celebrated men
of America. Scarcely an individual is to be perceived in it who does
not recall the idea of an active and illustrious career: the Senate
is composed of eloquent advocates, distinguished generals, wise
magistrates, and statesmen of note, whose language would at all times do
honor to the most remarkable parliamentary debates of Europe.

What then is the cause of this strange contrast, and why are the most
able citizens to be found in one assembly rather than in the other?
Why is the former body remarkable for its vulgarity and its poverty of
talent, whilst the latter seems to enjoy a monopoly of intelligence and
of sound judgment? Both of these assemblies emanate from the people;
both of them are chosen by universal suffrage; and no voice has hitherto
been heard to assert in America that the Senate is hostile to the
interests of the people. From what cause, then, does so startling a
difference arise? The only reason which appears to me adequately to
account for it is, that the House of Representatives is elected by the
populace directly, and that the Senate is elected by elected bodies. The
whole body of the citizens names the legislature of each State, and the
Federal Constitution converts these legislatures into so many electoral
bodies, which return the members of the Senate. The senators are elected
by an indirect application of universal suffrage; for the legislatures
which name them are not aristocratic or privileged bodies which exercise
the electoral franchise in their own right; but they are chosen by the
totality of the citizens; they are generally elected every year, and new
members may constantly be chosen who will employ their electoral rights
in conformity with the wishes of the public. But this transmission of
the popular authority through an assembly of chosen men operates an
important change in it, by refining its discretion and improving the
forms which it adopts. Men who are chosen in this manner accurately
represent the majority of the nation which governs them; but they
represent the elevated thoughts which are current in the community,
the propensities which prompt its nobler actions, rather than the petty
passions which disturb or the vices which disgrace it.

The time may be already anticipated at which the American Republics will
be obliged to introduce the plan of election by an elected body more
frequently into their system of representation, or they will incur no
small risk of perishing miserably amongst the shoals of democracy.

And here I have no scruple in confessing that I look upon this peculiar
system of election as the only means of bringing the exercise of
political power to the level of all classes of the people. Those
thinkers who regard this institution as the exclusive weapon of a party,
and those who fear, on the other hand, to make use of it, seem to me to
fall into as great an error in the one case as in the other.

Influence Which The American Democracy Has Exercised On The Laws
Relating To Elections

When elections are rare, they expose the State to a violent crisis--When
they are frequent, they keep up a degree of feverish excitement--The
Americans have preferred the second of these two evils--Mutability of
the laws--Opinions of Hamilton and Jefferson on this subject.

When elections recur at long intervals the State is exposed to violent
agitation every time they take place. Parties exert themselves to the
utmost in order to gain a prize which is so rarely within their reach;
and as the evil is almost irremediable for the candidates who fail, the
consequences of their disappointed ambition may prove most disastrous;
if, on the other hand, the legal struggle can be repeated within a short
space of time, the defeated parties take patience. When elections occur
frequently, their recurrence keeps society in a perpetual state of
feverish excitement, and imparts a continual instability to public

Thus, on the one hand the State is exposed to the perils of a
revolution, on the other to perpetual mutability; the former system
threatens the very existence of the Government, the latter is an
obstacle to all steady and consistent policy. The Americans have
preferred the second of these evils to the first; but they were led to
this conclusion by their instinct much more than by their reason; for a
taste for variety is one of the characteristic passions of democracy. An
extraordinary mutability has, by this means, been introduced into their
legislation. Many of the Americans consider the instability of their
laws as a necessary consequence of a system whose general results are
beneficial. But no one in the United States affects to deny the fact of
this instability, or to contend that it is not a great evil.

Hamilton, after having demonstrated the utility of a power which might
prevent, or which might at least impede, the promulgation of bad laws,
adds: "It might perhaps be said that the power of preventing bad laws
includes that of preventing good ones, and may be used to the one
purpose as well as to the other. But this objection will have little
weight with those who can properly estimate the mischiefs of that
inconstancy and mutability in the laws which form the greatest blemish
in the character and genius of our governments." (Federalist, No. 73.)
And again in No. 62 of the same work he observes: "The facility and
excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments
are most liable. . . . The mischievous effects of the mutability in the
public councils arising from a rapid succession of new members would
fill a volume: every new election in the States is found to change
one-half of the representatives. From this change of men must proceed
a change of opinions and of measures, which forfeits the respect and
confidence of other nations, poisons the blessings of liberty itself,
and diminishes the attachment and reverence of the people toward a
political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity."

Jefferson himself, the greatest Democrat whom the democracy of America
has yet produced, pointed out the same evils. "The instability of
our laws," said he in a letter to Madison, "is really a very serious
inconvenience. I think that we ought to have obviated it by deciding
that a whole year should always be allowed to elapse between the
bringing in of a bill and the final passing of it. It should afterward
be discussed and put to the vote without the possibility of making any
alteration in it; and if the circumstances of the case required a
more speedy decision, the question should not be decided by a simple
majority, but by a majority of at least two-thirds of both houses."

Public Officers Under The Control Of The Democracy In America Simple
exterior of the American public officers--No official costume--All
public officers are remunerated--Political consequences of this
system--No public career exists in America--Result of this.

Public officers in the United States are commingled with the crowd
of citizens; they have neither palaces, nor guards, nor ceremonial
costumes. This simple exterior of the persons in authority is connected
not only with the peculiarities of the American character, but with
the fundamental principles of that society. In the estimation of the
democracy a government is not a benefit, but a necessary evil. A certain
degree of power must be granted to public officers, for they would be
of no use without it. But the ostensible semblance of authority is by
no means indispensable to the conduct of affairs, and it is needlessly
offensive to the susceptibility of the public. The public officers
themselves are well aware that they only enjoy the superiority over
their fellow-citizens which they derive from their authority upon
condition of putting themselves on a level with the whole community by
their manners. A public officer in the United States is uniformly civil,
accessible to all the world, attentive to all requests, and obliging
in his replies. I was pleased by these characteristics of a democratic
government; and I was struck by the manly independence of the citizens,
who respect the office more than the officer, and who are less attached
to the emblems of authority than to the man who bears them.

I am inclined to believe that the influence which costumes really
exercise, in an age like that in which we live, has been a good deal
exaggerated. I never perceived that a public officer in America was the
less respected whilst he was in the discharge of his duties because his
own merit was set off by no adventitious signs. On the other hand, it is
very doubtful whether a peculiar dress contributes to the respect which
public characters ought to have for their own position, at least when
they are not otherwise inclined to respect it. When a magistrate (and
in France such instances are not rare) indulges his trivial wit at the
expense of the prisoner, or derides the predicament in which a culprit
is placed, it would be well to deprive him of his robes of office,
to see whether he would recall some portion of the natural dignity of
mankind when he is reduced to the apparel of a private citizen.

A democracy may, however, allow a certain show of magisterial pomp, and
clothe its officers in silks and gold, without seriously compromising
its principles. Privileges of this kind are transitory; they belong to
the place, and are distinct from the individual: but if public officers
are not uniformly remunerated by the State, the public charges must be
entrusted to men of opulence and independence, who constitute the
basis of an aristocracy; and if the people still retains its right
of election, that election can only be made from a certain class of
citizens. When a democratic republic renders offices which had formerly
been remunerated gratuitous, it may safely be believed that the State
is advancing to monarchical institutions; and when a monarchy begins to
remunerate such officers as had hitherto been unpaid, it is a sure
sign that it is approaching toward a despotic or a republican form of
government. The substitution of paid for unpaid functionaries is of
itself, in my opinion, sufficient to constitute a serious revolution.

I look upon the entire absence of gratuitous functionaries in America as
one of the most prominent signs of the absolute dominion which democracy
exercises in that country. All public services, of whatsoever nature
they may be, are paid; so that every one has not merely the right, but
also the means of performing them. Although, in democratic States, all
the citizens are qualified to occupy stations in the Government, all
are not tempted to try for them. The number and the capacities of the
candidates are more apt to restrict the choice of electors than the
connections of the candidateship.

In nations in which the principle of election extends to every place in
the State no political career can, properly speaking, be said to exist.
Men are promoted as if by chance to the rank which they enjoy, and
they are by no means sure of retaining it. The consequence is that in
tranquil times public functions offer but few lures to ambition. In the
United States the persons who engage in the perplexities of political
life are individuals of very moderate pretensions. The pursuit of wealth
generally diverts men of great talents and of great passions from the
pursuit of power, and it very frequently happens that a man does not
undertake to direct the fortune of the State until he has discovered
his incompetence to conduct his own affairs. The vast number of very
ordinary men who occupy public stations is quite as attributable to
these causes as to the bad choice of the democracy. In the United
States, I am not sure that the people would return the men of superior
abilities who might solicit its support, but it is certain that men of
this description do not come forward.

Arbitrary Power Of Magistrates Under The Rule Of The American Democracy

For what reason the arbitrary power of Magistrates is greater in
absolute monarchies and in democratic republics than it is in limited
monarchies--Arbitrary power of the Magistrates in New England.

In two different kinds of government the magistrates *a exercise a
considerable degree of arbitrary power; namely, under the absolute
government of a single individual, and under that of a democracy. This
identical result proceeds from causes which are nearly analogous.

[Footnote a: I here use the word magistrates in the widest sense in
which it can be taken; I apply it to all the officers to whom the
execution of the laws is intrusted.]

In despotic States the fortune of no citizen is secure; and public
officers are not more safe than private individuals. The sovereign, who
has under his control the lives, the property, and sometimes the honor
of the men whom he employs, does not scruple to allow them a great
latitude of action, because he is convinced that they will not use it
to his prejudice. In despotic States the sovereign is so attached to the
exercise of his power, that he dislikes the constraint even of his own
regulations; and he is well pleased that his agents should follow a
somewhat fortuitous line of conduct, provided he be certain that their
actions will never counteract his desires.

In democracies, as the majority has every year the right of depriving
the officers whom it has appointed of their power, it has no reason
to fear any abuse of their authority. As the people is always able
to signify its wishes to those who conduct the Government, it prefers
leaving them to make their own exertions to prescribing an invariable
rule of conduct which would at once fetter their activity and the
popular authority.

It may even be observed, on attentive consideration, that under the
rule of a democracy the arbitrary power of the magistrate must be still
greater than in despotic States. In the latter the sovereign has the
power of punishing all the faults with which he becomes acquainted, but
it would be vain for him to hope to become acquainted with all those
which are committed. In the former the sovereign power is not only
supreme, but it is universally present. The American functionaries are,
in point of fact, much more independent in the sphere of action which
the law traces out for them than any public officer in Europe. Very
frequently the object which they are to accomplish is simply pointed out
to them, and the choice of the means is left to their own discretion.

In New England, for instance, the selectmen of each township are bound
to draw up the list of persons who are to serve on the jury; the only
rule which is laid down to guide them in their choice is that they are
to select citizens possessing the elective franchise and enjoying a fair
reputation. *b In France the lives and liberties of the subjects would
be thought to be in danger if a public officer of any kind was entrusted
with so formidable a right. In New England the same magistrates are
empowered to post the names of habitual drunkards in public-houses, and
to prohibit the inhabitants of a town from supplying them with liquor.
*c A censorial power of this excessive kind would be revolting to
the population of the most absolute monarchies; here, however, it is
submitted to without difficulty.

[Footnote b: See the Act of February 27, 1813. "General Collection of
the Laws of Massachusetts," vol. ii. p. 331. It should be added that the
jurors are afterwards drawn from these lists by lot.]

[Footnote c: See Act of February 28, 1787. "General Collection of the
Laws of Massachusetts," vol. i. p. 302.]

Nowhere has so much been left by the law to the arbitrary determination
of the magistrate as in democratic republics, because this arbitrary
power is unattended by any alarming consequences. It may even be
asserted that the freedom of the magistrate increases as the elective
franchise is extended, and as the duration of the time of office
is shortened. Hence arises the great difficulty which attends the
conversion of a democratic republic into a monarchy. The magistrate
ceases to be elective, but he retains the rights and the habits of an
elected officer, which lead directly to despotism.

It is only in limited monarchies that the law, which prescribes the
sphere in which public officers are to act, superintends all their
measures. The cause of this may be easily detected. In limited
monarchies the power is divided between the King and the people, both
of whom are interested in the stability of the magistrate. The King
does not venture to place the public officers under the control of the
people, lest they should be tempted to betray his interests; on the
other hand, the people fears lest the magistrates should serve to
oppress the liberties of the country, if they were entirely dependent
upon the Crown; they cannot therefore be said to depend on either one
or the other. The same cause which induces the king and the people
to render public officers independent suggests the necessity of such
securities as may prevent their independence from encroaching upon
the authority of the former and the liberties of the latter. They
consequently agree as to the necessity of restricting the functionary
to a line of conduct laid down beforehand, and they are interested in
confining him by certain regulations which he cannot evade.

Chapter XIII: Government Of The Democracy In America--Part II

Instability Of The Administration In The United States

In America the public acts of a community frequently leave fewer
traces than the occurrences of a family--Newspapers the only historical
remains--Instability of the administration prejudicial to the art of

The authority which public men possess in America is so brief, and they
are so soon commingled with the ever-changing population of the country,
that the acts of a community frequently leave fewer traces than the
occurrences of a private family. The public administration is, so to
speak, oral and traditionary. But little is committed to writing, and
that little is wafted away forever, like the leaves of the Sibyl, by the
smallest breeze.

The only historical remains in the United States are the newspapers; but
if a number be wanting, the chain of time is broken, and the present
is severed from the past. I am convinced that in fifty years it will
be more difficult to collect authentic documents concerning the social
condition of the Americans at the present day than it is to find remains
of the administration of France during the Middle Ages; and if the
United States were ever invaded by barbarians, it would be necessary to
have recourse to the history of other nations in order to learn anything
of the people which now inhabits them.

The instability of the administration has penetrated into the habits of
the people: it even appears to suit the general taste, and no one cares
for what occurred before his time. No methodical system is pursued; no
archives are formed; and no documents are brought together when it would
be very easy to do so. Where they exist, little store is set upon them;
and I have amongst my papers several original public documents which
were given to me in answer to some of my inquiries. In America
society seems to live from hand to mouth, like an army in the field.
Nevertheless, the art of administration may undoubtedly be ranked as
a science, and no sciences can be improved if the discoveries and
observations of successive generations are not connected together in
the order in which they occur. One man, in the short space of his life
remarks a fact; another conceives an idea; the former invents a means
of execution, the latter reduces a truth to a fixed proposition; and
mankind gathers the fruits of individual experience upon its way
and gradually forms the sciences. But the persons who conduct the
administration in America can seldom afford any instruction to each
other; and when they assume the direction of society, they simply
possess those attainments which are most widely disseminated in the
community, and no experience peculiar to themselves. Democracy,
carried to its furthest limits, is therefore prejudicial to the art of
government; and for this reason it is better adapted to a people already
versed in the conduct of an administration than to a nation which is
uninitiated in public affairs.

This remark, indeed, is not exclusively applicable to the science of
administration. Although a democratic government is founded upon a very
simple and natural principle, it always presupposes the existence of
a high degree of culture and enlightenment in society. *d At the first
glance it may be imagined to belong to the earliest ages of the world;
but maturer observation will convince us that it could only come last in
the succession of human history.

[Footnote d: It is needless to observe that I speak here of the
democratic form of government as applied to a people, not merely to a

Charges Levied By The State Under The Rule Of The American Democracy

In all communities citizens divisible into three classes--Habits of
each of these classes in the direction of public finances--Why public
expenditure must tend to increase when the people governs--What renders
the extravagance of a democracy less to be feared in America--Public
expenditure under a democracy.

Before we can affirm whether a democratic form of government is
economical or not, we must establish a suitable standard of comparison.
The question would be one of easy solution if we were to attempt to draw
a parallel between a democratic republic and an absolute monarchy. The
public expenditure would be found to be more considerable under the
former than under the latter; such is the case with all free States
compared to those which are not so. It is certain that despotism ruins
individuals by preventing them from producing wealth, much more than by
depriving them of the wealth they have produced; it dries up the source
of riches, whilst it usually respects acquired property. Freedom, on the
contrary, engenders far more benefits than it destroys; and the nations
which are favored by free institutions invariably find that their
resources increase even more rapidly than their taxes.

My present object is to compare free nations to each other, and to point
out the influence of democracy upon the finances of a State.

Communities, as well as organic bodies, are subject to certain fixed
rules in their formation which they cannot evade. They are composed of
certain elements which are common to them at all times and under all
circumstances. The people may always be mentally divided into three
distinct classes. The first of these classes consists of the wealthy;
the second, of those who are in easy circumstances; and the third is
composed of those who have little or no property, and who subsist more
especially by the work which they perform for the two superior orders.
The proportion of the individuals who are included in these three
divisions may vary according to the condition of society, but the
divisions themselves can never be obliterated.

It is evident that each of these classes will exercise an influence
peculiar to its own propensities upon the administration of the finances
of the State. If the first of the three exclusively possesses the
legislative power, it is probable that it will not be sparing of the
public funds, because the taxes which are levied on a large fortune only
tend to diminish the sum of superfluous enjoyment, and are, in point of
fact, but little felt. If the second class has the power of making the
laws, it will certainly not be lavish of taxes, because nothing is
so onerous as a large impost which is levied upon a small income.
The government of the middle classes appears to me to be the most
economical, though perhaps not the most enlightened, and certainly not
the most generous, of free governments.

But let us now suppose that the legislative authority is vested in
the lowest orders: there are two striking reasons which show that the
tendency of the expenditure will be to increase, not to diminish. As the
great majority of those who create the laws are possessed of no property
upon which taxes can be imposed, all the money which is spent for the
community appears to be spent to their advantage, at no cost of their
own; and those who are possessed of some little property readily find
means of regulating the taxes so that they are burdensome to the wealthy
and profitable to the poor, although the rich are unable to take the
same advantage when they are in possession of the Government.

In countries in which the poor *e should be exclusively invested with
the power of making the laws no great economy of public expenditure
ought to be expected: that expenditure will always be considerable;
either because the taxes do not weigh upon those who levy them, or
because they are levied in such a manner as not to weigh upon those
classes. In other words, the government of the democracy is the only one
under which the power which lays on taxes escapes the payment of them.

[Footnote e: The word poor is used here, and throughout the remainder
of this chapter, in a relative, not in an absolute sense. Poor men in
America would often appear rich in comparison with the poor of Europe;
but they may with propriety by styled poor in comparison with their more
affluent countrymen.]

It may be objected (but the argument has no real weight) that the
true interest of the people is indissolubly connected with that of the
wealthier portion of the community, since it cannot but suffer by the
severe measures to which it resorts. But is it not the true interest of
kings to render their subjects happy, and the true interest of nobles
to admit recruits into their order on suitable grounds? If remote
advantages had power to prevail over the passions and the exigencies
of the moment, no such thing as a tyrannical sovereign or an exclusive
aristocracy could ever exist.

Again, it may be objected that the poor are never invested with the sole
power of making the laws; but I reply, that wherever universal suffrage
has been established the majority of the community unquestionably
exercises the legislative authority; and if it be proved that the poor
always constitute the majority, it may be added, with perfect truth,
that in the countries in which they possess the elective franchise they
possess the sole power of making laws. But it is certain that in all the
nations of the world the greater number has always consisted of those
persons who hold no property, or of those whose property is insufficient
to exempt them from the necessity of working in order to procure an easy
subsistence. Universal suffrage does therefore, in point of fact, invest
the poor with the government of society.

The disastrous influence which popular authority may sometimes exercise
upon the finances of a State was very clearly seen in some of the
democratic republics of antiquity, in which the public treasure was
exhausted in order to relieve indigent citizens, or to supply the
games and theatrical amusements of the populace. It is true that the
representative system was then very imperfectly known, and that, at
the present time, the influence of popular passion is less felt in the
conduct of public affairs; but it may be believed that the delegate
will in the end conform to the principles of his constituents, and favor
their propensities as much as their interests.

The extravagance of democracy is, however, less to be dreaded in
proportion as the people acquires a share of property, because on the
one hand the contributions of the rich are then less needed, and, on
the other, it is more difficult to lay on taxes which do not affect the
interests of the lower classes. On this account universal suffrage
would be less dangerous in France than in England, because in the latter
country the property on which taxes may be levied is vested in fewer
hands. America, where the great majority of the citizens possess some
fortune, is in a still more favorable position than France.

There are still further causes which may increase the sum of public
expenditure in democratic countries. When the aristocracy governs, the
individuals who conduct the affairs of State are exempted by their own
station in society from every kind of privation; they are contented with
their position; power and renown are the objects for which they strive;
and, as they are placed far above the obscurer throng of citizens, they
do not always distinctly perceive how the well-being of the mass of the
people ought to redound to their own honor. They are not indeed callous
to the sufferings of the poor, but they cannot feel those miseries as
acutely as if they were themselves partakers of them. Provided that the
people appear to submit to its lot, the rulers are satisfied, and they
demand nothing further from the Government. An aristocracy is more
intent upon the means of maintaining its influence than upon the means
of improving its condition.

When, on the contrary, the people is invested with the supreme
authority, the perpetual sense of their own miseries impels the rulers
of society to seek for perpetual ameliorations. A thousand different
objects are subjected to improvement; the most trivial details are
sought out as susceptible of amendment; and those changes which are
accompanied with considerable expense are more especially advocated,
since the object is to render the condition of the poor more tolerable,
who cannot pay for themselves.

Moreover, all democratic communities are agitated by an ill-defined
excitement and by a kind of feverish impatience, that engender a
multitude of innovations, almost all of which are attended with expense.

In monarchies and aristocracies the natural taste which the rulers have
for power and for renown is stimulated by the promptings of ambition,
and they are frequently incited by these temptations to very costly
undertakings. In democracies, where the rulers labor under privations,
they can only be courted by such means as improve their well-being, and
these improvements cannot take place without a sacrifice of money. When
a people begins to reflect upon its situation, it discovers a multitude
of wants to which it had not before been subject, and to satisfy these
exigencies recourse must be had to the coffers of the State. Hence it
arises that the public charges increase in proportion as civilization
spreads, and that imposts are augmented as knowledge pervades the

The last cause which frequently renders a democratic government
dearer than any other is, that a democracy does not always succeed in
moderating its expenditure, because it does not understand the art of
being economical. As the designs which it entertains are frequently
changed, and the agents of those designs are still more frequently
removed, its undertakings are often ill conducted or left unfinished: in
the former case the State spends sums out of all proportion to the end
which it proposes to accomplish; in the second, the expense itself is
unprofitable. *f

[Footnote f: The gross receipts of the Treasury of the United States in
1832 were about $28,000,000; in 1870 they had risen to $411,000,000. The
gross expenditure in 1832 was $30,000,000; in 1870, $309,000,000.]

Tendencies Of The American Democracy As Regards The Salaries Of Public

In the democracies those who establish high salaries have no chance of
profiting by them--Tendency of the American democracy to increase
the salaries of subordinate officers and to lower those of the more
important functionaries--Reason of this--Comparative statement of the
salaries of public officers in the United States and in France.

There is a powerful reason which usually induces democracies to
economize upon the salaries of public officers. As the number of
citizens who dispense the remuneration is extremely large in democratic
countries, so the number of persons who can hope to be benefited by the
receipt of it is comparatively small. In aristocratic countries, on the
contrary, the individuals who fix high salaries have almost always a
vague hope of profiting by them. These appointments may be looked upon
as a capital which they create for their own use, or at least as a
resource for their children.

It must, however, be allowed that a democratic State is most
parsimonious towards its principal agents. In America the secondary
officers are much better paid, and the dignitaries of the administration
much worse, than they are elsewhere.

These opposite effects result from the same cause; the people fixes
the salaries of the public officers in both cases; and the scale of
remuneration is determined by the consideration of its own wants. It is
held to be fair that the servants of the public should be placed in the
same easy circumstances as the public itself; *g but when the question
turns upon the salaries of the great officers of State, this rule
fails, and chance alone can guide the popular decision. The poor have no
adequate conception of the wants which the higher classes of society may
feel. The sum which is scanty to the rich appears enormous to the poor
man whose wants do not extend beyond the necessaries of life; and in his
estimation the Governor of a State, with his twelve or fifteen hundred
dollars a year, is a very fortunate and enviable being. *h If you
undertake to convince him that the representative of a great people
ought to be able to maintain some show of splendor in the eyes of
foreign nations, he will perhaps assent to your meaning; but when he
reflects on his own humble dwelling, and on the hard-earned produce
of his wearisome toil, he remembers all that he could do with a salary
which you say is insufficient, and he is startled or almost frightened
at the sight of such uncommon wealth. Besides, the secondary public
officer is almost on a level with the people, whilst the others are
raised above it. The former may therefore excite his interest, but the
latter begins to arouse his envy.

[Footnote g: The easy circumstances in which secondary functionaries
are placed in the United States result also from another cause, which
is independent of the general tendencies of democracy; every kind of
private business is very lucrative, and the State would not be served at
all if it did not pay its servants. The country is in the position of
a commercial undertaking, which is obliged to sustain an expensive
competition, notwithstanding its tastes for economy.]

[Footnote h: The State of Ohio, which contains a million of inhabitants,
gives its Governor a salary of only $1,200 a year.]

This is very clearly seen in the United States, where the salaries seem
to decrease as the authority of those who receive them augments *i

[Footnote i: To render this assertion perfectly evident, it will
suffice to examine the scale of salaries of the agents of the Federal
Government. I have added the salaries attached to the corresponding
officers in France under the constitutional monarchy to complete the

     United States
     Treasury Department
     Messenger ............................   $700
     Clerk with lowest salary .............  1,000
     Clerk with highest salary ............  1,600
     Chief Clerk ..........................  2,000
     Secretary of State ...................  6,000
     The President ........................ 25,000

     Ministere des Finances
     Hussier ........................... 1,500 fr.
     Clerk with lowest salary,  1,000 to 1,800 fr.
     Clerk with highest salary  3,200 to 8,600 fr.
     Secretaire-general ................20,000 fr.
     The Minister ......................80,000 fr.
     The King ......................12,000,000 fr.

I have perhaps done wrong in selecting France as my standard of
comparison. In France the democratic tendencies of the nation exercise
an ever-increasing influence upon the Government, and the Chambers show
a disposition to raise the low salaries and to lower the principal
ones. Thus, the Minister of Finance, who received 160,000 fr. under the
Empire, receives 80,000 fr. in 1835: the Directeurs-generaux of
Finance, who then received 50,000 fr. now receive only 20,000 fr. [This
comparison is based on the state of things existing in France and
the United States in 1831. It has since materially altered in both
countries, but not so much as to impugn the truth of the author's

Under the rule of an aristocracy it frequently happens, on the contrary,
that whilst the high officers are receiving munificent salaries, the
inferior ones have not more than enough to procure the necessaries of
life. The reason of this fact is easily discoverable from causes very
analogous to those to which I have just alluded. If a democracy is
unable to conceive the pleasures of the rich or to witness them without
envy, an aristocracy is slow to understand, or, to speak more correctly,
is unacquainted with, the privations of the poor. The poor man is not
(if we use the term aright) the fellow of the rich one; but he is a
being of another species. An aristocracy is therefore apt to care but
little for the fate of its subordinate agents; and their salaries are
only raised when they refuse to perform their service for too scanty a

It is the parsimonious conduct of democracy towards its principal
officers which has countenanced a supposition of far more economical
propensities than any which it really possesses. It is true that it
scarcely allows the means of honorable subsistence to the individuals
who conduct its affairs; but enormous sums are lavished to meet the
exigencies or to facilitate the enjoyments of the people. *j The money
raised by taxation may be better employed, but it is not saved. In
general, democracy gives largely to the community, and very sparingly to
those who govern it. The reverse is the case in aristocratic countries,
where the money of the State is expended to the profit of the persons
who are at the head of affairs.

[Footnote j: See the American budgets for the cost of indigent citizens
and gratuitous instruction. In 1831 $250,000 were spent in the State of
New York for the maintenance of the poor, and at least $1,000,000
were devoted to gratuitous instruction. (William's "New York Annual
Register," 1832, pp. 205 and 243.) The State of New York contained only
1,900,000 inhabitants in the year 1830, which is not more than double
the amount of population in the Department du Nord in France.]

Difficulty of Distinguishing The Causes Which Contribute To The Economy
Of The American Government

We are liable to frequent errors in the research of those facts which
exercise a serious influence upon the fate of mankind, since nothing
is more difficult than to appreciate their real value. One people
is naturally inconsistent and enthusiastic; another is sober and
calculating; and these characteristics originate in their physical
constitution or in remote causes with which we are unacquainted.

These are nations which are fond of parade and the bustle of festivity,
and which do not regret the costly gaieties of an hour. Others, on
the contrary, are attached to more retiring pleasures, and seem almost
ashamed of appearing to be pleased. In some countries the highest value
is set upon the beauty of public edifices; in others the productions of
art are treated with indifference, and everything which is unproductive
is looked down upon with contempt. In some renown, in others money, is
the ruling passion.

Independently of the laws, all these causes concur to exercise a very
powerful influence upon the conduct of the finances of the State. If the
Americans never spend the money of the people in galas, it is not only
because the imposition of taxes is under the control of the people,
but because the people takes no delight in public rejoicings. If they
repudiate all ornament from their architecture, and set no store on any
but the more practical and homely advantages, it is not only because
they live under democratic institutions, but because they are a
commercial nation. The habits of private life are continued in public;
and we ought carefully to distinguish that economy which depends upon
their institutions from that which is the natural result of their
manners and customs.

Whether The Expenditure Of The United States Can Be Compared To That Of

Two points to be established in order to estimate the extent of the
public charges, viz., the national wealth and the rate of taxation--The
wealth and the charges of France not accurately known--Why the wealth
and charges of the Union cannot be accurately known--Researches of
the author with a view to discover the amount of taxation of
Pennsylvania--General symptoms which may serve to indicate the amount of
the public charges in a given nation--Result of this investigation for
the Union.

Many attempts have recently been made in France to compare the public
expenditure of that country with the expenditure of the United States;
all these attempts have, however, been unattended by success, and a few
words will suffice to show that they could not have had a satisfactory

In order to estimate the amount of the public charges of a people two
preliminaries are indispensable: it is necessary, in the first place, to
know the wealth of that people; and in the second, to learn what portion
of that wealth is devoted to the expenditure of the State. To show the
amount of taxation without showing the resources which are destined
to meet the demand, is to undertake a futile labor; for it is not the
expenditure, but the relation of the expenditure to the revenue, which
it is desirable to know.

The same rate of taxation which may easily be supported by a wealthy
contributor will reduce a poor one to extreme misery. The wealth of
nations is composed of several distinct elements, of which population
is the first, real property the second, and personal property the third.
The first of these three elements may be discovered without difficulty.
Amongst civilized nations it is easy to obtain an accurate census of
the inhabitants; but the two others cannot be determined with so much
facility. It is difficult to take an exact account of all the lands in
a country which are under cultivation, with their natural or their
acquired value; and it is still more impossible to estimate the entire
personal property which is at the disposal of a nation, and which eludes
the strictest analysis by the diversity and the number of shapes under
which it may occur. And, indeed, we find that the most ancient civilized
nations of Europe, including even those in which the administration
is most central, have not succeeded, as yet, in determining the exact
condition of their wealth.

In America the attempt has never been made; for how would such an
investigation be possible in a country where society has not yet
settled into habits of regularity and tranquillity; where the national
Government is not assisted by a multiple of agents whose exertions it
can command and direct to one sole end; and where statistics are not
studied, because no one is able to collect the necessary documents,
or to find time to peruse them? Thus the primary elements of the
calculations which have been made in France cannot be obtained in the
Union; the relative wealth of the two countries is unknown; the property
of the former is not accurately determined, and no means exist of
computing that of the latter.

I consent, therefore, for the sake of the discussion, to abandon this
necessary term of the comparison, and I confine myself to a computation
of the actual amount of taxation, without investigating the relation
which subsists between the taxation and the revenue. But the reader will
perceive that my task has not been facilitated by the limits which I
here lay down for my researches.

It cannot be doubted that the central administration of France, assisted
by all the public officers who are at its disposal, might determine with
exactitude the amount of the direct and indirect taxes levied upon
the citizens. But this investigation, which no private individual can
undertake, has not hitherto been completed by the French Government, or,
at least, its results have not been made public. We are acquainted with
the sum total of the charges of the State; we know the amount of the
departmental expenditure; but the expenses of the communal divisions
have not been computed, and the amount of the public expenses of France
is consequently unknown.

If we now turn to America, we shall perceive that the difficulties are
multiplied and enhanced. The Union publishes an exact return of the
amount of its expenditure; the budgets of the four and twenty States
furnish similar returns of their revenues; but the expenses incident to
the affairs of the counties and the townships are unknown. *k

[Footnote k: The Americans, as we have seen, have four separate budgets,
the Union, the States, the Counties, and the Townships having each
severally their own. During my stay in America I made every endeavor
to discover the amount of the public expenditure in the townships and
counties of the principal States of the Union, and I readily obtained
the budget of the larger townships, but I found it quite impossible to
procure that of the smaller ones. I possess, however, some documents
relating to county expenses, which, although incomplete, are still
curious. I have to thank Mr. Richards, Mayor of Philadelphia, for the
budgets of thirteen of the counties of Pennsylvania, viz., Lebanon,
Centre, Franklin, Fayette, Montgomery, Luzerne, Dauphin, Butler,
Alleghany, Columbia, Northampton, Northumberland, and Philadelphia,
for the year 1830. Their population at that time consisted of 495,207
inhabitants. On looking at the map of Pennsylvania, it will be seen
that these thirteen counties are scattered in every direction, and so
generally affected by the causes which usually influence the condition
of a country, that they may easily be supposed to furnish a correct
average of the financial state of the counties of Pennsylvania in
general; and thus, upon reckoning that the expenses of these counties
amounted in the year 1830 to about $361,650, or nearly 75 cents for each
inhabitant, and calculating that each of them contributed in the same
year about $2.55 towards the Union, and about 75 cents to the State of
Pennsylvania, it appears that they each contributed as their share
of all the public expenses (except those of the townships) the sum of
$4.05. This calculation is doubly incomplete, as it applies only to a
single year and to one part of the public charges; but it has at least
the merit of not being conjectural.]

The authority of the Federal government cannot oblige the provincial
governments to throw any light upon this point; and even if these
governments were inclined to afford their simultaneous co-operation,
it may be doubted whether they possess the means of procuring a
satisfactory answer. Independently of the natural difficulties of the
task, the political organization of the country would act as a hindrance
to the success of their efforts. The county and town magistrates are not
appointed by the authorities of the State, and they are not subjected
to their control. It is therefore very allowable to suppose that, if the
State was desirous of obtaining the returns which we require, its design
would be counteracted by the neglect of those subordinate officers whom
it would be obliged to employ. *l It is, in point of fact, useless to
inquire what the Americans might do to forward this inquiry, since it
is certain that they have hitherto done nothing at all. There does not
exist a single individual at the present day, in America or in Europe,
who can inform us what each citizen of the Union annually contributes
to the public charges of the nation. *m [Footnote l: Those who have
attempted to draw a comparison between the expenses of France and
America have at once perceived that no such comparison could be drawn
between the total expenditure of the two countries; but they have
endeavored to contrast detached portions of this expenditure. It may
readily be shown that this second system is not at all less defective
than the first. If I attempt to compare the French budget with the
budget of the Union, it must be remembered that the latter embraces much
fewer objects than then central Government of the former country, and
that the expenditure must consequently be much smaller. If I contrast
the budgets of the Departments with those of the States which constitute
the Union, it must be observed that, as the power and control exercised
by the States is much greater than that which is exercised by the
Departments, their expenditure is also more considerable. As for the
budgets of the counties, nothing of the kind occurs in the French
system of finances; and it is, again, doubtful whether the corresponding
expenses should be referred to the budget of the State or to those of
the municipal divisions. Municipal expenses exist in both countries,
but they are not always analogous. In America the townships discharge a
variety of offices which are reserved in France to the Departments or
to the State. It may, moreover, be asked what is to be understood by the
municipal expenses of America. The organization of the municipal bodies
or townships differs in the several States. Are we to be guided by what
occurs in New England or in Georgia, in Pennsylvania or in the State
of Illinois? A kind of analogy may very readily be perceived between
certain budgets in the two countries; but as the elements of which
they are composed always differ more or less, no fair comparison can
be instituted between them. [The same difficulty exists, perhaps to a
greater degree at the present time, when the taxation of America has
largely increased.--1874.]]

[Footnote m: Even if we knew the exact pecuniary contributions of every
French and American citizen to the coffers of the State, we should only
come at a portion of the truth. Governments do not only demand supplies
of money, but they call for personal services, which may be looked upon
as equivalent to a given sum. When a State raises an army, besides the
pay of the troops, which is furnished by the entire nation, each soldier
must give up his time, the value of which depends on the use he might
make of it if he were not in the service. The same remark applies to the
militia; the citizen who is in the militia devotes a certain portion
of valuable time to the maintenance of the public peace, and he does in
reality surrender to the State those earnings which he is prevented from
gaining. Many other instances might be cited in addition to these. The
governments of France and of America both levy taxes of this kind,
which weigh upon the citizens; but who can estimate with accuracy their
relative amount in the two countries?

This, however, is not the last of the difficulties which prevent us from
comparing the expenditure of the Union with that of France. The French
Government contracts certain obligations which do not exist in America,
and vice versa. The French Government pays the clergy; in America the
voluntary principle prevails. In America there is a legal provision for
the poor; in France they are abandoned to the charity of the public. The
French public officers are paid by a fixed salary; in America they are
allowed certain perquisites. In France contributions in kind take place
on very few roads; in America upon almost all the thoroughfares: in
the former country the roads are free to all travellers; in the
latter turnpikes abound. All these differences in the manner in which
contributions are levied in the two countries enhance the difficulty of
comparing their expenditure; for there are certain expenses which the
citizens would not be subject to, or which would at any rate be much
less considerable, if the State did not take upon itself to act in the
name of the public.]

Hence we must conclude that it is no less difficult to compare the
social expenditure than it is to estimate the relative wealth of France
and America. I will even add that it would be dangerous to attempt this
comparison; for when statistics are not based upon computations which
are strictly accurate, they mislead instead of guiding aright. The mind
is easily imposed upon by the false affectation of exactness, which
prevails even in the misstatements of science, and it adopts with
confidence errors which are dressed in the forms of mathematical truth.

We abandon, therefore, our numerical investigation, with the hope of
meeting with data of another kind. In the absence of positive documents,
we may form an opinion as to the proportion which the taxation of a
people bears to its real prosperity, by observing whether its external
appearance is flourishing; whether, after having discharged the calls of
the State, the poor man retains the means of subsistence, and the rich
the means of enjoyment; and whether both classes are contented with
their position, seeking, however, to ameliorate it by perpetual
exertions, so that industry is never in want of capital, nor capital
unemployed by industry. The observer who draws his inferences from these
signs will, undoubtedly, be led to the conclusion that the American of
the United States contributes a much smaller portion of his income to
the State than the citizen of France. Nor, indeed, can the result be

A portion of the French debt is the consequence of two successive
invasions; and the Union has no similar calamity to fear. A nation
placed upon the continent of Europe is obliged to maintain a large
standing army; the isolated position of the Union enables it to have
only 6,000 soldiers. The French have a fleet of 300 sail; the Americans
have 52 vessels. *n How, then, can the inhabitants of the Union be
called upon to contribute as largely as the inhabitants of France?
No parallel can be drawn between the finances of two countries so
differently situated.

[Footnote n: See the details in the Budget of the French Minister of
Marine; and for America, the National Calendar of 1833, p. 228. [But
the public debt of the United States in 1870, caused by the Civil War,
amounted to $2,480,672,427; that of France was more than doubled by the
extravagance of the Second Empire and by the war of 1870.]]

It is by examining what actually takes place in the Union, and not
by comparing the Union with France, that we may discover whether the
American Government is really economical. On casting my eyes over the
different republics which form the confederation, I perceive that their
Governments lack perseverance in their undertakings, and that they
exercise no steady control over the men whom they employ. Whence I
naturally infer that they must often spend the money of the people to
no purpose, or consume more of it than is really necessary to their
undertakings. Great efforts are made, in accordance with the democratic
origin of society, to satisfy the exigencies of the lower orders, to
open the career of power to their endeavors, and to diffuse knowledge
and comfort amongst them. The poor are maintained, immense sums are
annually devoted to public instruction, all services whatsoever are
remunerated, and the most subordinate agents are liberally paid. If
this kind of government appears to me to be useful and rational, I am
nevertheless constrained to admit that it is expensive.

Wherever the poor direct public affairs and dispose of the national
resources, it appears certain that, as they profit by the expenditure of
the State, they are apt to augment that expenditure.

I conclude, therefore, without having recourse to inaccurate
computations, and without hazarding a comparison which might prove
incorrect, that the democratic government of the Americans is not a
cheap government, as is sometimes asserted; and I have no hesitation in
predicting that, if the people of the United States is ever involved
in serious difficulties, its taxation will speedily be increased to the
rate of that which prevails in the greater part of the aristocracies and
the monarchies of Europe. *o

[Footnote o: [That is precisely what has since occurred.]]

Chapter XIII: Government Of The Democracy In America--Part III

Corruption And Vices Of The Rulers In A Democracy, And Consequent
Effects Upon Public Morality

In aristocracies rulers sometimes endeavor to corrupt the people--In
democracies rulers frequently show themselves to be corrupt--In the
former their vices are directly prejudicial to the morality of the
people--In the latter their indirect influence is still more pernicious.

A distinction must be made, when the aristocratic and the democratic
principles mutually inveigh against each other, as tending to facilitate
corruption. In aristocratic governments the individuals who are placed
at the head of affairs are rich men, who are solely desirous of power.
In democracies statesmen are poor, and they have their fortunes to make.
The consequence is that in aristocratic States the rulers are rarely
accessible to corruption, and have very little craving for money; whilst
the reverse is the case in democratic nations.

But in aristocracies, as those who are desirous of arriving at the head
of affairs are possessed of considerable wealth, and as the number of
persons by whose assistance they may rise is comparatively small, the
government is, if I may use the expression, put up to a sort of auction.
In democracies, on the contrary, those who are covetous of power are
very seldom wealthy, and the number of citizens who confer that power is
extremely great. Perhaps in democracies the number of men who might be
bought is by no means smaller, but buyers are rarely to be met with;
and, besides, it would be necessary to buy so many persons at once that
the attempt is rendered nugatory.

Many of the men who have been in the administration in France during
the last forty years have been accused of making their fortunes at
the expense of the State or of its allies; a reproach which was rarely
addressed to the public characters of the ancient monarchy. But in
France the practice of bribing electors is almost unknown, whilst it is
notoriously and publicly carried on in England. In the United States
I never heard a man accused of spending his wealth in corrupting
the populace; but I have often heard the probity of public officers
questioned; still more frequently have I heard their success attributed
to low intrigues and immoral practices.

If, then, the men who conduct the government of an aristocracy sometimes
endeavor to corrupt the people, the heads of a democracy are themselves
corrupt. In the former case the morality of the people is directly
assailed; in the latter an indirect influence is exercised upon the
people which is still more to be dreaded.

As the rulers of democratic nations are almost always exposed to
the suspicion of dishonorable conduct, they in some measure lend the
authority of the Government to the base practices of which they are
accused. They thus afford an example which must prove discouraging
to the struggles of virtuous independence, and must foster the secret
calculations of a vicious ambition. If it be asserted that evil passions
are displayed in all ranks of society, that they ascend the throne by
hereditary right, and that despicable characters are to be met with
at the head of aristocratic nations as well as in the sphere of a
democracy, this objection has but little weight in my estimation. The
corruption of men who have casually risen to power has a coarse and
vulgar infection in it which renders it contagious to the multitude. On
the contrary, there is a kind of aristocratic refinement and an air of
grandeur in the depravity of the great, which frequently prevent it from
spreading abroad.

The people can never penetrate into the perplexing labyrinth of court
intrigue, and it will always have difficulty in detecting the turpitude
which lurks under elegant manners, refined tastes, and graceful
language. But to pillage the public purse, and to vend the favors of the
State, are arts which the meanest villain may comprehend, and hope to
practice in his turn.

In reality it is far less prejudicial to witness the immorality of the
great than to witness that immorality which leads to greatness. In a
democracy private citizens see a man of their own rank in life, who
rises from that obscure position, and who becomes possessed of riches
and of power in a few years; the spectacle excites their surprise and
their envy, and they are led to inquire how the person who was yesterday
their equal is to-day their ruler. To attribute his rise to his talents
or his virtues is unpleasant; for it is tacitly to acknowledge that they
are themselves less virtuous and less talented than he was. They are
therefore led (and not unfrequently their conjecture is a correct one)
to impute his success mainly to some one of his defects; and an odious
mixture is thus formed of the ideas of turpitude and power, unworthiness
and success, utility and dishonor.

Efforts Of Which A Democracy Is Capable

The Union has only had one struggle hitherto for its
existence--Enthusiasm at the commencement of the war--Indifference
towards its close--Difficulty of establishing military conscription
or impressment of seamen in America--Why a democratic people is less
capable of sustained effort than another.

I here warn the reader that I speak of a government which implicitly
follows the real desires of a people, and not of a government which
simply commands in its name. Nothing is so irresistible as a tyrannical
power commanding in the name of the people, because, whilst it exercises
that moral influence which belongs to the decision of the majority, it
acts at the same time with the promptitude and the tenacity of a single

It is difficult to say what degree of exertion a democratic government
may be capable of making a crisis in the history of the nation. But no
great democratic republic has hitherto existed in the world. To style
the oligarchy which ruled over France in 1793 by that name would be to
offer an insult to the republican form of government. The United States
afford the first example of the kind.

The American Union has now subsisted for half a century, in the course
of which time its existence has only once been attacked, namely, during
the War of Independence. At the commencement of that long war, various
occurrences took place which betokened an extraordinary zeal for the
service of the country. *p But as the contest was prolonged, symptoms of
private egotism began to show themselves. No money was poured into the
public treasury; few recruits could be raised to join the army; the
people wished to acquire independence, but was very ill-disposed to
undergo the privations by which alone it could be obtained. "Tax
laws," says Hamilton in the "Federalist" (No. 12), "have in vain been
multiplied; new methods to enforce the collection have in vain been
tried; the public expectation has been uniformly disappointed and the
treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of
administration inherent in the nature of popular government, coinciding
with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and mutilated
state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for extensive
collections, and has at length taught the different legislatures the
folly of attempting them."

[Footnote p: One of the most singular of these occurrences was the
resolution which the Americans took of temporarily abandoning the use of
tea. Those who know that men usually cling more to their habits than
to their life will doubtless admire this great though obscure sacrifice
which was made by a whole people.]

The United States have not had any serious war to carry on ever since
that period. In order, therefore, to appreciate the sacrifices which
democratic nations may impose upon themselves, we must wait until the
American people is obliged to put half its entire income at the disposal
of the Government, as was done by the English; or until it sends forth a
twentieth part of its population to the field of battle, as was done by
France. *q

[Footnote q: [The Civil War showed that when the necessity arose the
American people, both in the North and in the South, are capable of
making the most enormous sacrifices, both in money and in men.]]

In America the use of conscription is unknown, and men are induced to
enlist by bounties. The notions and habits of the people of the United
States are so opposed to compulsory enlistment that I do not imagine it
can ever be sanctioned by the laws. What is termed the conscription
in France is assuredly the heaviest tax upon the population of that
country; yet how could a great continental war be carried on without it?
The Americans have not adopted the British impressment of seamen, and
they have nothing which corresponds to the French system of maritime
conscription; the navy, as well as the merchant service, is supplied
by voluntary service. But it is not easy to conceive how a people can
sustain a great maritime war without having recourse to one or the other
of these two systems. Indeed, the Union, which has fought with some
honor upon the seas, has never possessed a very numerous fleet, and
the equipment of the small number of American vessels has always been
excessively expensive.

I have heard American statesmen confess that the Union will have great
difficulty in maintaining its rank on the seas without adopting the
system of impressment or of maritime conscription; but the difficulty is
to induce the people, which exercises the supreme authority, to submit
to impressment or any compulsory system.

It is incontestable that in times of danger a free people displays far
more energy than one which is not so. But I incline to believe that
this is more especially the case in those free nations in which the
democratic element preponderates. Democracy appears to me to be much
better adapted for the peaceful conduct of society, or for an occasional
effort of remarkable vigor, than for the hardy and prolonged endurance
of the storms which beset the political existence of nations. The reason
is very evident; it is enthusiasm which prompts men to expose themselves
to dangers and privations, but they will not support them long without
reflection. There is more calculation, even in the impulses of bravery,
than is generally attributed to them; and although the first efforts are
suggested by passion, perseverance is maintained by a distinct regard of
the purpose in view. A portion of what we value is exposed, in order to
save the remainder.

But it is this distinct perception of the future, founded upon a sound
judgment and an enlightened experience, which is most frequently wanting
in democracies. The populace is more apt to feel than to reason; and
if its present sufferings are great, it is to be feared that the still
greater sufferings attendant upon defeat will be forgotten.

Another cause tends to render the efforts of a democratic government
less persevering than those of an aristocracy. Not only are the lower
classes less awakened than the higher orders to the good or evil chances
of the future, but they are liable to suffer far more acutely from
present privations. The noble exposes his life, indeed, but the chance
of glory is equal to the chance of harm. If he sacrifices a large
portion of his income to the State, he deprives himself for a time of
the pleasures of affluence; but to the poor man death is embellished
by no pomp or renown, and the imposts which are irksome to the rich are
fatal to him.

This relative impotence of democratic republics is, perhaps, the
greatest obstacle to the foundation of a republic of this kind in
Europe. In order that such a State should subsist in one country of the
Old World, it would be necessary that similar institutions should be
introduced into all the other nations.

I am of opinion that a democratic government tends in the end to
increase the real strength of society; but it can never combine, upon a
single point and at a given time, so much power as an aristocracy or
a monarchy. If a democratic country remained during a whole century
subject to a republican government, it would probably at the end of
that period be more populous and more prosperous than the neighboring
despotic States. But it would have incurred the risk of being conquered
much oftener than they would in that lapse of years.

Self-Control Of The American Democracy

The American people acquiesces slowly, or frequently does not acquiesce,
in what is beneficial to its interests--The faults of the American
democracy are for the most part reparable.

The difficulty which a democracy has in conquering the passions and in
subduing the exigencies of the moment, with a view to the future, is
conspicuous in the most trivial occurrences of the United States. The
people, which is surrounded by flatterers, has great difficulty in
surmounting its inclinations, and whenever it is solicited to undergo a
privation or any kind of inconvenience, even to attain an end which is
sanctioned by its own rational conviction, it almost always refuses to
comply at first. The deference of the Americans to the laws has
been very justly applauded; but it must be added that in America the
legislation is made by the people and for the people. Consequently, in
the United States the law favors those classes which are most interested
in evading it elsewhere. It may therefore be supposed that an offensive
law, which should not be acknowledged to be one of immediate utility,
would either not be enacted or would not be obeyed.

In America there is no law against fraudulent bankruptcies; not because
they are few, but because there are a great number of bankruptcies. The
dread of being prosecuted as a bankrupt acts with more intensity upon
the mind of the majority of the people than the fear of being involved
in losses or ruin by the failure of other parties, and a sort of guilty
tolerance is extended by the public conscience to an offence which
everyone condemns in his individual capacity. In the new States of the
Southwest the citizens generally take justice into their own hands,
and murders are of very frequent occurrence. This arises from the rude
manners and the ignorance of the inhabitants of those deserts, who do
not perceive the utility of investing the law with adequate force, and
who prefer duels to prosecutions.

Someone observed to me one day, in Philadelphia, that almost all crimes
in America are caused by the abuse of intoxicating liquors, which the
lower classes can procure in great abundance, from their excessive
cheapness. "How comes it," said I, "that you do not put a duty upon
brandy?" "Our legislators," rejoined my informant, "have frequently
thought of this expedient; but the task of putting it in operation is a
difficult one; a revolt might be apprehended, and the members who
should vote for a law of this kind would be sure of losing their
seats." "Whence I am to infer," replied I, "that the drinking population
constitutes the majority in your country, and that temperance is
somewhat unpopular."

When these things are pointed out to the American statesmen, they
content themselves with assuring you that time will operate the
necessary change, and that the experience of evil will teach the people
its true interests. This is frequently true, although a democracy is
more liable to error than a monarch or a body of nobles; the chances of
its regaining the right path when once it has acknowledged its
mistake, are greater also; because it is rarely embarrassed by internal
interests, which conflict with those of the majority, and resist the
authority of reason. But a democracy can only obtain truth as the result
of experience, and many nations may forfeit their existence whilst they
are awaiting the consequences of their errors.

The great privilege of the Americans does not simply consist in their
being more enlightened than other nations, but in their being able to
repair the faults they may commit. To which it must be added, that a
democracy cannot derive substantial benefit from past experience, unless
it be arrived at a certain pitch of knowledge and civilization. There
are tribes and peoples whose education has been so vicious, and whose
character presents so strange a mixture of passion, of ignorance, and of
erroneous notions upon all subjects, that they are unable to discern the
causes of their own wretchedness, and they fall a sacrifice to ills with
which they are unacquainted.

I have crossed vast tracts of country that were formerly inhabited by
powerful Indian nations which are now extinct; I have myself passed some
time in the midst of mutilated tribes, which witness the daily decline
of their numerical strength and of the glory of their independence; and
I have heard these Indians themselves anticipate the impending doom of
their race. Every European can perceive means which would rescue
these unfortunate beings from inevitable destruction. They alone are
insensible to the expedient; they feel the woe which year after year
heaps upon their heads, but they will perish to a man without accepting
the remedy. It would be necessary to employ force to induce them to
submit to the protection and the constraint of civilization.

The incessant revolutions which have convulsed the South American
provinces for the last quarter of a century have frequently been
adverted to with astonishment, and expectations have been expressed that
those nations would speedily return to their natural state. But can
it be affirmed that the turmoil of revolution is not actually the most
natural state of the South American Spaniards at the present time? In
that country society is plunged into difficulties from which all its
efforts are insufficient to rescue it. The inhabitants of that fair
portion of the Western Hemisphere seem obstinately bent on pursuing
the work of inward havoc. If they fall into a momentary repose from the
effects of exhaustion, that repose prepares them for a fresh state of
frenzy. When I consider their condition, which alternates between misery
and crime, I should be inclined to believe that despotism itself would
be a benefit to them, if it were possible that the words despotism and
benefit could ever be united in my mind.

Conduct Of Foreign Affairs By The American Democracy

Direction given to the foreign policy of the United States by
Washington and Jefferson--Almost all the defects inherent in
democratic institutions are brought to light in the conduct of foreign
affairs--Their advantages are less perceptible.

We have seen that the Federal Constitution entrusts the permanent
direction of the external interests of the nation to the President and
the Senate, *r which tends in some degree to detach the general foreign
policy of the Union from the control of the people. It cannot therefore
be asserted with truth that the external affairs of State are conducted
by the democracy.

[Footnote r: "The President," says the Constitution, Art. II, sect. 2,
Section 2, "shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the
Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present
concur." The reader is reminded that the senators are returned for a
term of six years, and that they are chosen by the legislature of each

The policy of America owes its rise to Washington, and after him to
Jefferson, who established those principles which it observes at the
present day. Washington said in the admirable letter which he addressed
to his fellow-citizens, and which may be looked upon as his political
bequest to the country: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to
foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have
with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have
already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good
faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to
us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in
frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to
our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate
ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her
politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships
or enmities. Our detached and distant situation invites and enables
us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an
efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy
material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an
attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon
to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the
impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard
the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our
interest, guided by justice, shall counsel. Why forego the advantages of
so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?
Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe,
entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition,
rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice? It is our true policy to steer
clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world;
so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be
understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements.
I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs,
that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it; therefore, let
those engagements be observed in their genuine sense; but in my opinion
it is unnecessary, and would be unwise, to extend them. Taking care
always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, in a respectable
defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for
extraordinary emergencies." In a previous part of the same letter
Washington makes the following admirable and just remark: "The nation
which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual
fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to
its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its
duty and its interest."

The political conduct of Washington was always guided by these maxims.
He succeeded in maintaining his country in a state of peace whilst all
the other nations of the globe were at war; and he laid it down as a
fundamental doctrine, that the true interest of the Americans consisted
in a perfect neutrality with regard to the internal dissensions of the
European Powers.

Jefferson went still further, and he introduced a maxim into the policy
of the Union, which affirms that "the Americans ought never to solicit
any privileges from foreign nations, in order not to be obliged to grant
similar privileges themselves."

These two principles, which were so plain and so just as to be adapted
to the capacity of the populace, have greatly simplified the foreign
policy of the United States. As the Union takes no part in the affairs
of Europe, it has, properly speaking, no foreign interests to discuss,
since it has at present no powerful neighbors on the American continent.
The country is as much removed from the passions of the Old World by its
position as by the line of policy which it has chosen, and it is neither
called upon to repudiate nor to espouse the conflicting interests of
Europe; whilst the dissensions of the New World are still concealed
within the bosom of the future.

The Union is free from all pre-existing obligations, and it is
consequently enabled to profit by the experience of the old nations
of Europe, without being obliged, as they are, to make the best of the
past, and to adapt it to their present circumstances; or to accept
that immense inheritance which they derive from their forefathers--an
inheritance of glory mingled with calamities, and of alliances
conflicting with national antipathies. The foreign policy of the United
States is reduced by its very nature to await the chances of the
future history of the nation, and for the present it consists more in
abstaining from interference than in exerting its activity.

It is therefore very difficult to ascertain, at present, what degree
of sagacity the American democracy will display in the conduct of the
foreign policy of the country; and upon this point its adversaries, as
well as its advocates, must suspend their judgment. As for myself I have
no hesitation in avowing my conviction, that it is most especially in
the conduct of foreign relations that democratic governments appear to
me to be decidedly inferior to governments carried on upon different
principles. Experience, instruction, and habit may almost always succeed
in creating a species of practical discretion in democracies, and that
science of the daily occurrences of life which is called good sense.
Good sense may suffice to direct the ordinary course of society; and
amongst a people whose education has been provided for, the advantages
of democratic liberty in the internal affairs of the country may more
than compensate for the evils inherent in a democratic government. But
such is not always the case in the mutual relations of foreign nations.

Foreign politics demand scarcely any of those qualities which a
democracy possesses; and they require, on the contrary, the perfect use
of almost all those faculties in which it is deficient. Democracy is
favorable to the increase of the internal resources of the State; it
tends to diffuse a moderate independence; it promotes the growth of
public spirit, and fortifies the respect which is entertained for law in
all classes of society; and these are advantages which only exercise an
indirect influence over the relations which one people bears to another.
But a democracy is unable to regulate the details of an important
undertaking, to persevere in a design, and to work out its execution in
the presence of serious obstacles. It cannot combine its measures with
secrecy, and it will not await their consequences with patience. These
are qualities which more especially belong to an individual or to an
aristocracy; and they are precisely the means by which an individual
people attains to a predominant position.

If, on the contrary, we observe the natural defects of aristocracy,
we shall find that their influence is comparatively innoxious in the
direction of the external affairs of a State. The capital fault of which
aristocratic bodies may be accused is that they are more apt to contrive
their own advantage than that of the mass of the people. In foreign
politics it is rare for the interest of the aristocracy to be in any way
distinct from that of the people.

The propensity which democracies have to obey the impulse of passion
rather than the suggestions of prudence, and to abandon a mature design
for the gratification of a momentary caprice, was very clearly seen in
America on the breaking out of the French Revolution. It was then as
evident to the simplest capacity as it is at the present time that the
interest of the Americans forbade them to take any part in the contest
which was about to deluge Europe with blood, but which could by no means
injure the welfare of their own country. Nevertheless the sympathies of
the people declared themselves with so much violence in behalf of France
that nothing but the inflexible character of Washington, and the immense
popularity which he enjoyed, could have prevented the Americans from
declaring war against England. And even then, the exertions which
the austere reason of that great man made to repress the generous but
imprudent passions of his fellow-citizens, very nearly deprived him of
the sole recompense which he had ever claimed--that of his country's
love. The majority then reprobated the line of policy which he adopted,
and which has since been unanimously approved by the nation. *s If the
Constitution and the favor of the public had not entrusted the direction
of the foreign affairs of the country to Washington, it is certain that
the American nation would at that time have taken the very measures
which it now condemns.

[Footnote s: See the fifth volume of Marshall's "Life of Washington." In
a government constituted like that of the United States, he says,
"it is impossible for the chief magistrate, however firm he may be, to
oppose for any length of time the torrent of popular opinion; and the
prevalent opinion of that day seemed to incline to war. In fact, in
the session of Congress held at the time, it was frequently seen that
Washington had lost the majority in the House of Representatives." The
violence of the language used against him in public was extreme, and in
a political meeting they did not scruple to compare him indirectly to
the treacherous Arnold. "By the opposition," says Marshall, "the friends
of the administration were declared to be an aristocratic and corrupt
faction, who, from a desire to introduce monarchy, were hostile to
France and under the influence of Britain; that they were a paper
nobility, whose extreme sensibility at every measure which threatened
the funds, induced a tame submission to injuries and insults, which the
interests and honor of the nation required them to resist."]

Almost all the nations which have ever exercised a powerful influence
upon the destinies of the world by conceiving, following up, and
executing vast designs--from the Romans to the English--have been
governed by aristocratic institutions. Nor will this be a subject of
wonder when we recollect that nothing in the world has so absolute a
fixity of purpose as an aristocracy. The mass of the people may be led
astray by ignorance or passion; the mind of a king may be biased, and
his perseverance in his designs may be shaken--besides which a king is
not immortal--but an aristocratic body is too numerous to be led astray
by the blandishments of intrigue, and yet not numerous enough to yield
readily to the intoxicating influence of unreflecting passion: it has
the energy of a firm and enlightened individual, added to the power
which it derives from perpetuity.

Chapter XIV: Advantages American Society Derive From Democracy--Part I

What The Real Advantages Are Which American Society Derives From The
Government Of The Democracy

Before I enter upon the subject of the present chapter I am induced
to remind the reader of what I have more than once adverted to in the
course of this book. The political institutions of the United States
appear to me to be one of the forms of government which a democracy may
adopt; but I do not regard the American Constitution as the best, or as
the only one, which a democratic people may establish. In showing the
advantages which the Americans derive from the government of democracy,
I am therefore very far from meaning, or from believing, that similar
advantages can only be obtained from the same laws.

General Tendency Of The Laws Under The Rule Of The American Democracy,
And Habits Of Those Who Apply Them

Defects of a democratic government easy to be discovered--Its advantages
only to be discerned by long observation--Democracy in America often
inexpert, but the general tendency of the laws advantageous--In the
American democracy public officers have no permanent interests distinct
from those of the majority--Result of this state of things.

The defects and the weaknesses of a democratic government may very
readily be discovered; they are demonstrated by the most flagrant
instances, whilst its beneficial influence is less perceptibly
exercised. A single glance suffices to detect its evil consequences, but
its good qualities can only be discerned by long observation. The laws
of the American democracy are frequently defective or incomplete; they
sometimes attack vested rights, or give a sanction to others which are
dangerous to the community; but even if they were good, the frequent
changes which they undergo would be an evil. How comes it, then, that
the American republics prosper and maintain their position?

In the consideration of laws a distinction must be carefully observed
between the end at which they aim and the means by which they are
directed to that end, between their absolute and their relative
excellence. If it be the intention of the legislator to favor the
interests of the minority at the expense of the majority, and if the
measures he takes are so combined as to accomplish the object he has in
view with the least possible expense of time and exertion, the law may
be well drawn up, although its purpose be bad; and the more efficacious
it is, the greater is the mischief which it causes.

Democratic laws generally tend to promote the welfare of the greatest
possible number; for they emanate from the majority of the citizens, who
are subject to error, but who cannot have an interest opposed to their
own advantage. The laws of an aristocracy tend, on the contrary, to
concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the minority, because
an aristocracy, by its very nature, constitutes a minority. It may
therefore be asserted, as a general proposition, that the purpose of
a democracy in the conduct of its legislation is useful to a greater
number of citizens than that of an aristocracy. This is, however, the
sum total of its advantages.

Aristocracies are infinitely more expert in the science of legislation
than democracies ever can be. They are possessed of a self-control which
protects them from the errors of temporary excitement, and they form
lasting designs which they mature with the assistance of favorable
opportunities. Aristocratic government proceeds with the dexterity of
art; it understands how to make the collective force of all its laws
converge at the same time to a given point. Such is not the case with
democracies, whose laws are almost always ineffective or inopportune.
The means of democracy are therefore more imperfect than those of
aristocracy, and the measures which it unwittingly adopts are frequently
opposed to its own cause; but the object it has in view is more useful.

Let us now imagine a community so organized by nature, or by its
constitution, that it can support the transitory action of bad laws,
and that it can await, without destruction, the general tendency of
the legislation: we shall then be able to conceive that a democratic
government, notwithstanding its defects, will be most fitted to conduce
to the prosperity of this community. This is precisely what has occurred
in the United States; and I repeat, what I have before remarked, that
the great advantage of the Americans consists in their being able to
commit faults which they may afterward repair.

An analogous observation may be made respecting public officers. It
is easy to perceive that the American democracy frequently errs in
the choice of the individuals to whom it entrusts the power of the
administration; but it is more difficult to say why the State prospers
under their rule. In the first place it is to be remarked, that if in a
democratic State the governors have less honesty and less capacity than
elsewhere, the governed, on the other hand, are more enlightened and
more attentive to their interests. As the people in democracies is more
incessantly vigilant in its affairs and more jealous of its rights,
it prevents its representatives from abandoning that general line of
conduct which its own interest prescribes. In the second place, it must
be remembered that if the democratic magistrate is more apt to misuse
his power, he possesses it for a shorter period of time. But there is
yet another reason which is still more general and conclusive. It is
no doubt of importance to the welfare of nations that they should be
governed by men of talents and virtue; but it is perhaps still more
important that the interests of those men should not differ from the
interests of the community at large; for, if such were the case, virtues
of a high order might become useless, and talents might be turned to
a bad account. I say that it is important that the interests of the
persons in authority should not conflict with or oppose the interests of
the community at large; but I do not insist upon their having the same
interests as the whole population, because I am not aware that such a
state of things ever existed in any country.

No political form has hitherto been discovered which is equally
favorable to the prosperity and the development of all the classes into
which society is divided. These classes continue to form, as it were,
a certain number of distinct nations in the same nation; and experience
has shown that it is no less dangerous to place the fate of these
classes exclusively in the hands of any one of them than it is to make
one people the arbiter of the destiny of another. When the rich alone
govern, the interest of the poor is always endangered; and when the poor
make the laws, that of the rich incurs very serious risks. The advantage
of democracy does not consist, therefore, as has sometimes been
asserted, in favoring the prosperity of all, but simply in contributing
to the well-being of the greatest possible number.

The men who are entrusted with the direction of public affairs in the
United States are frequently inferior, both in point of capacity and of
morality, to those whom aristocratic institutions would raise to
power. But their interest is identified and confounded with that of the
majority of their fellow-citizens. They may frequently be faithless and
frequently mistaken, but they will never systematically adopt a line of
conduct opposed to the will of the majority; and it is impossible that
they should give a dangerous or an exclusive tendency to the government.

The mal-administration of a democratic magistrate is a mere isolated
fact, which only occurs during the short period for which he is elected.
Corruption and incapacity do not act as common interests, which may
connect men permanently with one another. A corrupt or an incapable
magistrate will not concert his measures with another magistrate, simply
because that individual is as corrupt and as incapable as himself; and
these two men will never unite their endeavors to promote the corruption
and inaptitude of their remote posterity. The ambition and the
manoeuvres of the one will serve, on the contrary, to unmask the other.
The vices of a magistrate, in democratic states, are usually peculiar to
his own person.

But under aristocratic governments public men are swayed by the interest
of their order, which, if it is sometimes confounded with the interests
of the majority, is very frequently distinct from them. This interest is
the common and lasting bond which unites them together; it induces them
to coalesce, and to combine their efforts in order to attain an end
which does not always ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest
number; and it serves not only to connect the persons in authority,
but to unite them to a considerable portion of the community, since
a numerous body of citizens belongs to the aristocracy, without being
invested with official functions. The aristocratic magistrate is
therefore constantly supported by a portion of the community, as well as
by the Government of which he is a member.

The common purpose which connects the interest of the magistrates in
aristocracies with that of a portion of their contemporaries identifies
it with that of future generations; their influence belongs to the
future as much as to the present. The aristocratic magistrate is urged
at the same time toward the same point by the passions of the community,
by his own, and I may almost add by those of his posterity. Is it, then,
wonderful that he does not resist such repeated impulses? And indeed
aristocracies are often carried away by the spirit of their order
without being corrupted by it; and they unconsciously fashion society to
their own ends, and prepare it for their own descendants.

The English aristocracy is perhaps the most liberal which ever existed,
and no body of men has ever, uninterruptedly, furnished so many
honorable and enlightened individuals to the government of a country. It
cannot, however, escape observation that in the legislation of England
the good of the poor has been sacrificed to the advantage of the
rich, and the rights of the majority to the privileges of the few. The
consequence is, that England, at the present day, combines the extremes
of fortune in the bosom of her society, and her perils and calamities
are almost equal to her power and her renown. *a

[Footnote a: [The legislation of England for the forty years is
certainly not fairly open to this criticism, which was written before
the Reform Bill of 1832, and accordingly Great Britain has thus far
escaped and surmounted the perils and calamities to which she seemed to
be exposed.]]

In the United States, where the public officers have no interests to
promote connected with their caste, the general and constant influence
of the Government is beneficial, although the individuals who conduct it
are frequently unskilful and sometimes contemptible. There is indeed a
secret tendency in democratic institutions to render the exertions
of the citizens subservient to the prosperity of the community,
notwithstanding their private vices and mistakes; whilst in aristocratic
institutions there is a secret propensity which, notwithstanding the
talents and the virtues of those who conduct the government, leads them
to contribute to the evils which oppress their fellow-creatures. In
aristocratic governments public men may frequently do injuries which
they do not intend, and in democratic states they produce advantages
which they never thought of.

Public Spirit In The United States

Patriotism of instinct--Patriotism of reflection--Their different
characteristics--Nations ought to strive to acquire the second when the
first has disappeared--Efforts of the Americans to it--Interest of the
individual intimately connected with that of the country.

There is one sort of patriotic attachment which principally arises from
that instinctive, disinterested, and undefinable feeling which connects
the affections of man with his birthplace. This natural fondness is
united to a taste for ancient customs, and to a reverence for ancestral
traditions of the past; those who cherish it love their country as they
love the mansions of their fathers. They enjoy the tranquillity which
it affords them; they cling to the peaceful habits which they have
contracted within its bosom; they are attached to the reminiscences
which it awakens, and they are even pleased by the state of obedience
in which they are placed. This patriotism is sometimes stimulated
by religious enthusiasm, and then it is capable of making the most
prodigious efforts. It is in itself a kind of religion; it does not
reason, but it acts from the impulse of faith and of sentiment. By
some nations the monarch has been regarded as a personification of the
country; and the fervor of patriotism being converted into the fervor of
loyalty, they took a sympathetic pride in his conquests, and gloried in
his power. At one time, under the ancient monarchy, the French felt a
sort of satisfaction in the sense of their dependence upon the arbitrary
pleasure of their king, and they were wont to say with pride, "We are
the subjects of the most powerful king in the world."

But, like all instinctive passions, this kind of patriotism is more apt
to prompt transient exertion than to supply the motives of continuous
endeavor. It may save the State in critical circumstances, but it will
not unfrequently allow the nation to decline in the midst of peace.
Whilst the manners of a people are simple and its faith unshaken, whilst
society is steadily based upon traditional institutions whose legitimacy
has never been contested, this instinctive patriotism is wont to endure.

But there is another species of attachment to a country which is more
rational than the one we have been describing. It is perhaps less
generous and less ardent, but it is more fruitful and more lasting; it
is coeval with the spread of knowledge, it is nurtured by the laws, it
grows by the exercise of civil rights, and, in the end, it is confounded
with the personal interest of the citizen. A man comprehends the
influence which the prosperity of his country has upon his own welfare;
he is aware that the laws authorize him to contribute his assistance
to that prosperity, and he labors to promote it as a portion of his
interest in the first place, and as a portion of his right in the

But epochs sometimes occur, in the course of the existence of a nation,
at which the ancient customs of a people are changed, public morality
destroyed, religious belief disturbed, and the spell of tradition
broken, whilst the diffusion of knowledge is yet imperfect, and the
civil rights of the community are ill secured, or confined within very
narrow limits. The country then assumes a dim and dubious shape in the
eyes of the citizens; they no longer behold it in the soil which they
inhabit, for that soil is to them a dull inanimate clod; nor in the
usages of their forefathers, which they have been taught to look upon
as a debasing yoke; nor in religion, for of that they doubt; nor in
the laws, which do not originate in their own authority; nor in the
legislator, whom they fear and despise. The country is lost to their
senses, they can neither discover it under its own nor under borrowed
features, and they entrench themselves within the dull precincts of
a narrow egotism. They are emancipated from prejudice without having
acknowledged the empire of reason; they are neither animated by the
instinctive patriotism of monarchical subjects nor by the thinking
patriotism of republican citizens; but they have stopped halfway between
the two, in the midst of confusion and of distress.

In this predicament, to retreat is impossible; for a people cannot
restore the vivacity of its earlier times, any more than a man can
return to the innocence and the bloom of childhood; such things may
be regretted, but they cannot be renewed. The only thing, then, which
remains to be done is to proceed, and to accelerate the union of private
with public interests, since the period of disinterested patriotism is
gone by forever.

I am certainly very far from averring that, in order to obtain this
result, the exercise of political rights should be immediately granted
to all the members of the community. But I maintain that the most
powerful, and perhaps the only, means of interesting men in the welfare
of their country which we still possess is to make them partakers in the
Government. At the present time civic zeal seems to me to be inseparable
from the exercise of political rights; and I hold that the number of
citizens will be found to augment or to decrease in Europe in proportion
as those rights are extended.

In the United States the inhabitants were thrown but as yesterday upon
the soil which they now occupy, and they brought neither customs nor
traditions with them there; they meet each other for the first time
with no previous acquaintance; in short, the instinctive love of their
country can scarcely exist in their minds; but everyone takes as zealous
an interest in the affairs of his township, his county, and of the whole
State, as if they were his own, because everyone, in his sphere, takes
an active part in the government of society.

The lower orders in the United States are alive to the perception of the
influence exercised by the general prosperity upon their own welfare;
and simple as this observation is, it is one which is but too rarely
made by the people. But in America the people regards this prosperity as
the result of its own exertions; the citizen looks upon the fortune of
the public as his private interest, and he co-operates in its success,
not so much from a sense of pride or of duty, as from what I shall
venture to term cupidity.

It is unnecessary to study the institutions and the history of the
Americans in order to discover the truth of this remark, for their
manners render it sufficiently evident. As the American participates
in all that is done in his country, he thinks himself obliged to defend
whatever may be censured; for it is not only his country which is
attacked upon these occasions, but it is himself. The consequence is,
that his national pride resorts to a thousand artifices, and to all the
petty tricks of individual vanity.

Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than
this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be very well
inclined to praise many of the institutions of their country, but he
begs permission to blame some of the peculiarities which he observes--a
permission which is, however, inexorably refused. America is therefore a
free country, in which, lest anybody should be hurt by your remarks, you
are not allowed to speak freely of private individuals, or of the
State, of the citizens or of the authorities, of public or of private
undertakings, or, in short, of anything at all, except it be of the
climate and the soil; and even then Americans will be found ready to
defend either the one or the other, as if they had been contrived by the
inhabitants of the country.

In our times option must be made between the patriotism of all and the
government of a few; for the force and activity which the first confers
are irreconcilable with the guarantees of tranquillity which the second

Notion Of Rights In The United States

No great people without a notion of rights--How the notion of rights can
be given to people--Respect of rights in the United States--Whence it

After the idea of virtue, I know no higher principle than that of right;
or, to speak more accurately, these two ideas are commingled in one.
The idea of right is simply that of virtue introduced into the political
world. It is the idea of right which enabled men to define anarchy and
tyranny; and which taught them to remain independent without arrogance,
as well as to obey without servility. The man who submits to violence
is debased by his compliance; but when he obeys the mandate of one
who possesses that right of authority which he acknowledges in a
fellow-creature, he rises in some measure above the person who delivers
the command. There are no great men without virtue, and there are
no great nations--it may almost be added that there would be no
society--without the notion of rights; for what is the condition of a
mass of rational and intelligent beings who are only united together by
the bond of force?

I am persuaded that the only means which we possess at the present time
of inculcating the notion of rights, and of rendering it, as it were,
palpable to the senses, is to invest all the members of the community
with the peaceful exercise of certain rights: this is very clearly seen
in children, who are men without the strength and the experience of
manhood. When a child begins to move in the midst of the objects which
surround him, he is instinctively led to turn everything which he can
lay his hands upon to his own purposes; he has no notion of the property
of others; but as he gradually learns the value of things, and begins
to perceive that he may in his turn be deprived of his possessions, he
becomes more circumspect, and he observes those rights in others which
he wishes to have respected in himself. The principle which the child
derives from the possession of his toys is taught to the man by the
objects which he may call his own. In America those complaints against
property in general which are so frequent in Europe are never heard,
because in America there are no paupers; and as everyone has property of
his own to defend, everyone recognizes the principle upon which he holds

The same thing occurs in the political world. In America the lowest
classes have conceived a very high notion of political rights, because
they exercise those rights; and they refrain from attacking those of
other people, in order to ensure their own from attack. Whilst in Europe
the same classes sometimes recalcitrate even against the supreme power,
the American submits without a murmur to the authority of the pettiest

This truth is exemplified by the most trivial details of national
peculiarities. In France very few pleasures are exclusively reserved
for the higher classes; the poor are admitted wherever the rich are
received, and they consequently behave with propriety, and respect
whatever contributes to the enjoyments in which they themselves
participate. In England, where wealth has a monopoly of amusement as
well as of power, complaints are made that whenever the poor happen to
steal into the enclosures which are reserved for the pleasures of the
rich, they commit acts of wanton mischief: can this be wondered at,
since care has been taken that they should have nothing to lose? *b

[Footnote b: [This, too, has been amended by much larger provisions for
the amusements of the people in public parks, gardens, museums, etc.;
and the conduct of the people in these places of amusement has improved
in the same proportion.]]

The government of democracy brings the notion of political rights to
the level of the humblest citizens, just as the dissemination of wealth
brings the notion of property within the reach of all the members of the
community; and I confess that, to my mind, this is one of its greatest
advantages. I do not assert that it is easy to teach men to exercise
political rights; but I maintain that, when it is possible, the effects
which result from it are highly important; and I add that, if there ever
was a time at which such an attempt ought to be made, that time is our
own. It is clear that the influence of religious belief is shaken, and
that the notion of divine rights is declining; it is evident that
public morality is vitiated, and the notion of moral rights is also
disappearing: these are general symptoms of the substitution of argument
for faith, and of calculation for the impulses of sentiment. If, in the
midst of this general disruption, you do not succeed in connecting
the notion of rights with that of personal interest, which is the
only immutable point in the human heart, what means will you have of
governing the world except by fear? When I am told that, since the laws
are weak and the populace is wild, since passions are excited and the
authority of virtue is paralyzed, no measures must be taken to increase
the rights of the democracy, I reply, that it is for these very reasons
that some measures of the kind must be taken; and I am persuaded that
governments are still more interested in taking them than society at
large, because governments are liable to be destroyed and society cannot

I am not, however, inclined to exaggerate the example which America
furnishes. In those States the people are invested with political rights
at a time when they could scarcely be abused, for the citizens were
few in number and simple in their manners. As they have increased, the
Americans have not augmented the power of the democracy, but they
have, if I may use the expression, extended its dominions. It cannot
be doubted that the moment at which political rights are granted to a
people that had before been without them is a very critical, though it
be a necessary one. A child may kill before he is aware of the value
of life; and he may deprive another person of his property before he is
aware that his own may be taken away from him. The lower orders, when
first they are invested with political rights, stand, in relation to
those rights, in the same position as the child does to the whole of
nature, and the celebrated adage may then be applied to them, Homo puer
robustus. This truth may even be perceived in America. The States in
which the citizens have enjoyed their rights longest are those in which
they make the best use of them.

It cannot be repeated too often that nothing is more fertile in
prodigies than the art of being free; but there is nothing more arduous
than the apprenticeship of liberty. Such is not the case with despotic
institutions: despotism often promises to make amends for a thousand
previous ills; it supports the right, it protects the oppressed, and it
maintains public order. The nation is lulled by the temporary prosperity
which accrues to it, until it is roused to a sense of its own misery.
Liberty, on the contrary, is generally established in the midst of
agitation, it is perfected by civil discord, and its benefits cannot be
appreciated until it is already old.

Chapter XIV: Advantages American Society Derive From Democracy--Part II

Respect For The Law In The United States

Respect of the Americans for the law--Parental affection which they
entertain for it--Personal interest of everyone to increase the
authority of the law.

It is not always feasible to consult the whole people, either directly
or indirectly, in the formation of the law; but it cannot be denied
that, when such a measure is possible the authority of the law is very
much augmented. This popular origin, which impairs the excellence and
the wisdom of legislation, contributes prodigiously to increase
its power. There is an amazing strength in the expression of the
determination of a whole people, and when it declares itself the
imagination of those who are most inclined to contest it is overawed by
its authority. The truth of this fact is very well known by parties, and
they consequently strive to make out a majority whenever they can. If
they have not the greater number of voters on their side, they assert
that the true majority abstained from voting; and if they are foiled
even there, they have recourse to the body of those persons who had no
votes to give.

In the United States, except slaves, servants, and paupers in the
receipt of relief from the townships, there is no class of persons
who do not exercise the elective franchise, and who do not indirectly
contribute to make the laws. Those who design to attack the laws must
consequently either modify the opinion of the nation or trample upon its

A second reason, which is still more weighty, may be further adduced;
in the United States everyone is personally interested in enforcing the
obedience of the whole community to the law; for as the minority may
shortly rally the majority to its principles, it is interested in
professing that respect for the decrees of the legislator which it may
soon have occasion to claim for its own. However irksome an enactment
may be, the citizen of the United States complies with it, not only
because it is the work of the majority, but because it originates in his
own authority, and he regards it as a contract to which he is himself a

In the United States, then, that numerous and turbulent multitude does
not exist which always looks upon the law as its natural enemy, and
accordingly surveys it with fear and with fear and with distrust. It is
impossible, on the other hand, not to perceive that all classes display
the utmost reliance upon the legislation of their country, and that they
are attached to it by a kind of parental affection.

I am wrong, however, in saying all classes; for as in America the
European scale of authority is inverted, the wealthy are there placed in
a position analogous to that of the poor in the Old World, and it is
the opulent classes which frequently look upon the law with suspicion.
I have already observed that the advantage of democracy is not, as has
been sometimes asserted, that it protects the interests of the whole
community, but simply that it protects those of the majority. In the
United States, where the poor rule, the rich have always some reason to
dread the abuses of their power. This natural anxiety of the rich may
produce a sullen dissatisfaction, but society is not disturbed by it;
for the same reason which induces the rich to withhold their confidence
in the legislative authority makes them obey its mandates; their wealth,
which prevents them from making the law, prevents them from withstanding
it. Amongst civilized nations revolts are rarely excited, except by such
persons as have nothing to lose by them; and if the laws of a democracy
are not always worthy of respect, at least they always obtain it; for
those who usually infringe the laws have no excuse for not complying
with the enactments they have themselves made, and by which they are
themselves benefited, whilst the citizens whose interests might be
promoted by the infraction of them are induced, by their character and
their stations, to submit to the decisions of the legislature, whatever
they may be. Besides which, the people in America obeys the law not
only because it emanates from the popular authority, but because that
authority may modify it in any points which may prove vexatory; a law
is observed because it is a self-imposed evil in the first place, and an
evil of transient duration in the second.

Activity Which Pervades All The Branches Of The Body Politic In The
United States; Influence Which It Exercises Upon Society

More difficult to conceive the political activity which pervades the
United States than the freedom and equality which reign there--The great
activity which perpetually agitates the legislative bodies is only an
episode to the general activity--Difficult for an American to confine
himself to his own business--Political agitation extends to all social
intercourse--Commercial activity of the Americans partly attributable to
this cause--Indirect advantages which society derives from a democratic

On passing from a country in which free institutions are established to
one where they do not exist, the traveller is struck by the change; in
the former all is bustle and activity, in the latter everything is calm
and motionless. In the one, amelioration and progress are the general
topics of inquiry; in the other, it seems as if the community only
aspired to repose in the enjoyment of the advantages which it has
acquired. Nevertheless, the country which exerts itself so strenuously
to promote its welfare is generally more wealthy and more prosperous
than that which appears to be so contented with its lot; and when we
compare them together, we can scarcely conceive how so many new wants
are daily felt in the former, whilst so few seem to occur in the latter.

If this remark is applicable to those free countries in which
monarchical and aristocratic institutions subsist, it is still more
striking with regard to democratic republics. In these States it is not
only a portion of the people which is busied with the amelioration of
its social condition, but the whole community is engaged in the task;
and it is not the exigencies and the convenience of a single class for
which a provision is to be made, but the exigencies and the convenience
of all ranks of life.

It is not impossible to conceive the surpassing liberty which the
Americans enjoy; some idea may likewise be formed of the extreme
equality which subsists amongst them, but the political activity which
pervades the United States must be seen in order to be understood. No
sooner do you set foot upon the American soil than you are stunned by a
kind of tumult; a confused clamor is heard on every side; and a thousand
simultaneous voices demand the immediate satisfaction of their social
wants. Everything is in motion around you; here, the people of one
quarter of a town are met to decide upon the building of a church;
there, the election of a representative is going on; a little further
the delegates of a district are posting to the town in order to consult
upon some local improvements; or in another place the laborers of a
village quit their ploughs to deliberate upon the project of a road or
a public school. Meetings are called for the sole purpose of declaring
their disapprobation of the line of conduct pursued by the Government;
whilst in other assemblies the citizens salute the authorities of the
day as the fathers of their country. Societies are formed which regard
drunkenness as the principal cause of the evils under which the State
labors, and which solemnly bind themselves to give a constant example of
temperance. *c

[Footnote c: At the time of my stay in the United States the temperance
societies already consisted of more than 270,000 members, and their
effect had been to diminish the consumption of fermented liquors by
500,000 gallons per annum in the State of Pennsylvania alone.]

The great political agitation of the American legislative bodies, which
is the only kind of excitement that attracts the attention of foreign
countries, is a mere episode or a sort of continuation of that universal
movement which originates in the lowest classes of the people and
extends successively to all the ranks of society. It is impossible to
spend more efforts in the pursuit of enjoyment.

The cares of political life engross a most prominent place in the
occupation of a citizen in the United States, and almost the only
pleasure of which an American has any idea is to take a part in the
Government, and to discuss the part he has taken. This feeling pervades
the most trifling habits of life; even the women frequently attend
public meetings and listen to political harangues as a recreation
after their household labors. Debating clubs are to a certain extent a
substitute for theatrical entertainments: an American cannot converse,
but he can discuss; and when he attempts to talk he falls into a
dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting; and
if he should chance to warm in the course of the discussion, he will
infallibly say, "Gentlemen," to the person with whom he is conversing.

In some countries the inhabitants display a certain repugnance to avail
themselves of the political privileges with which the law invests them;
it would seem that they set too high a value upon their time to spend
it on the interests of the community; and they prefer to withdraw within
the exact limits of a wholesome egotism, marked out by four sunk fences
and a quickset hedge. But if an American were condemned to confine
his activity to his own affairs, he would be robbed of one half of
his existence; he would feel an immense void in the life which he is
accustomed to lead, and his wretchedness would be unbearable. *d I am
persuaded that, if ever a despotic government is established in America,
it will find it more difficult to surmount the habits which free
institutions have engendered than to conquer the attachment of the
citizens to freedom.

[Footnote d: The same remark was made at Rome under the first Caesars.
Montesquieu somewhere alludes to the excessive despondency of certain
Roman citizens who, after the excitement of political life, were all at
once flung back into the stagnation of private life.]

This ceaseless agitation which democratic government has introduced into
the political world influences all social intercourse. I am not sure
that upon the whole this is not the greatest advantage of democracy. And
I am much less inclined to applaud it for what it does than for what
it causes to be done. It is incontestable that the people frequently
conducts public business very ill; but it is impossible that the lower
orders should take a part in public business without extending the
circle of their ideas, and without quitting the ordinary routine of
their mental acquirements. The humblest individual who is called upon
to co-operate in the government of society acquires a certain degree of
self-respect; and as he possesses authority, he can command the services
of minds much more enlightened than his own. He is canvassed by a
multitude of applicants, who seek to deceive him in a thousand different
ways, but who instruct him by their deceit. He takes a part in political
undertakings which did not originate in his own conception, but which
give him a taste for undertakings of the kind. New ameliorations are
daily pointed out in the property which he holds in common with others,
and this gives him the desire of improving that property which is more
peculiarly his own. He is perhaps neither happier nor better than those
who came before him, but he is better informed and more active. I have
no doubt that the democratic institutions of the United States, joined
to the physical constitution of the country, are the cause (not
the direct, as is so often asserted, but the indirect cause) of the
prodigious commercial activity of the inhabitants. It is not engendered
by the laws, but the people learns how to promote it by the experience
derived from legislation.

When the opponents of democracy assert that a single individual performs
the duties which he undertakes much better than the government of
the community, it appears to me that they are perfectly right. The
government of an individual, supposing an equality of instruction on
either side, is more consistent, more persevering, and more accurate
than that of a multitude, and it is much better qualified judiciously
to discriminate the characters of the men it employs. If any deny what I
advance, they have certainly never seen a democratic government, or have
formed their opinion upon very partial evidence. It is true that
even when local circumstances and the disposition of the people allow
democratic institutions to subsist, they never display a regular
and methodical system of government. Democratic liberty is far from
accomplishing all the projects it undertakes, with the skill of an
adroit despotism. It frequently abandons them before they have borne
their fruits, or risks them when the consequences may prove dangerous;
but in the end it produces more than any absolute government, and if it
do fewer things well, it does a greater number of things. Under its
sway the transactions of the public administration are not nearly so
important as what is done by private exertion. Democracy does not confer
the most skilful kind of government upon the people, but it produces
that which the most skilful governments are frequently unable to awaken,
namely, an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force,
and an energy which is inseparable from it, and which may, under
favorable circumstances, beget the most amazing benefits. These are the
true advantages of democracy.

In the present age, when the destinies of Christendom seem to be in
suspense, some hasten to assail democracy as its foe whilst it is yet in
its early growth; and others are ready with their vows of adoration for
this new deity which is springing forth from chaos: but both parties are
very imperfectly acquainted with the object of their hatred or of their
desires; they strike in the dark, and distribute their blows by mere

We must first understand what the purport of society and the aim of
government is held to be. If it be your intention to confer a certain
elevation upon the human mind, and to teach it to regard the things of
this world with generous feelings, to inspire men with a scorn of mere
temporal advantage, to give birth to living convictions, and to keep
alive the spirit of honorable devotedness; if you hold it to be a good
thing to refine the habits, to embellish the manners, to cultivate the
arts of a nation, and to promote the love of poetry, of beauty, and of
renown; if you would constitute a people not unfitted to act with power
upon all other nations, nor unprepared for those high enterprises which,
whatever be the result of its efforts, will leave a name forever famous
in time--if you believe such to be the principal object of society, you
must avoid the government of democracy, which would be a very uncertain
guide to the end you have in view.

But if you hold it to be expedient to divert the moral and intellectual
activity of man to the production of comfort, and to the acquirement of
the necessaries of life; if a clear understanding be more profitable
to man than genius; if your object be not to stimulate the virtues of
heroism, but to create habits of peace; if you had rather witness vices
than crimes and are content to meet with fewer noble deeds, provided
offences be diminished in the same proportion; if, instead of living
in the midst of a brilliant state of society, you are contented to
have prosperity around you; if, in short, you are of opinion that the
principal object of a Government is not to confer the greatest possible
share of power and of glory upon the body of the nation, but to ensure
the greatest degree of enjoyment and the least degree of misery to each
of the individuals who compose it--if such be your desires, you can have
no surer means of satisfying them than by equalizing the conditions of
men, and establishing democratic institutions.

But if the time be passed at which such a choice was possible, and if
some superhuman power impel us towards one or the other of these two
governments without consulting our wishes, let us at least endeavor to
make the best of that which is allotted to us; and let us so inquire
into its good and its evil propensities as to be able to foster the
former and repress the latter to the utmost.

Chapter XV: Unlimited Power Of Majority, And Its Consequences--Part I

Chapter Summary

Natural strength of the majority in democracies--Most of the American
Constitutions have increased this strength by artificial means--How this
has been done--Pledged delegates--Moral power of the majority--Opinion
as to its infallibility--Respect for its rights, how augmented in the
United States.

Unlimited Power Of The Majority In The United States, And Its

The very essence of democratic government consists in the absolute
sovereignty of the majority; for there is nothing in democratic States
which is capable of resisting it. Most of the American Constitutions
have sought to increase this natural strength of the majority by
artificial means. *a

[Footnote a: We observed, in examining the Federal Constitution, that
the efforts of the legislators of the Union had been diametrically
opposed to the present tendency. The consequence has been that the
Federal Government is more independent in its sphere than that of the
States. But the Federal Government scarcely ever interferes in any
but external affairs; and the governments of the State are in the
governments of the States are in reality the authorities which direct
society in America.]

The legislature is, of all political institutions, the one which is most
easily swayed by the wishes of the majority. The Americans determined
that the members of the legislature should be elected by the people
immediately, and for a very brief term, in order to subject them, not
only to the general convictions, but even to the daily passion, of their
constituents. The members of both houses are taken from the same
class in society, and are nominated in the same manner; so that the
modifications of the legislative bodies are almost as rapid and quite as
irresistible as those of a single assembly. It is to a legislature thus
constituted that almost all the authority of the government has been

But whilst the law increased the strength of those authorities which
of themselves were strong, it enfeebled more and more those which were
naturally weak. It deprived the representatives of the executive of all
stability and independence, and by subjecting them completely to the
caprices of the legislature, it robbed them of the slender influence
which the nature of a democratic government might have allowed them to
retain. In several States the judicial power was also submitted to the
elective discretion of the majority, and in all of them its existence
was made to depend on the pleasure of the legislative authority, since
the representatives were empowered annually to regulate the stipend of
the judges.

Custom, however, has done even more than law. A proceeding which will in
the end set all the guarantees of representative government at naught
is becoming more and more general in the United States; it frequently
happens that the electors, who choose a delegate, point out a certain
line of conduct to him, and impose upon him a certain number of positive
obligations which he is pledged to fulfil. With the exception of the
tumult, this comes to the same thing as if the majority of the populace
held its deliberations in the market-place.

Several other circumstances concur in rendering the power of the
majority in America not only preponderant, but irresistible. The moral
authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there
is more intelligence and more wisdom in a great number of men collected
together than in a single individual, and that the quantity of
legislators is more important than their quality. The theory of equality
is in fact applied to the intellect of man: and human pride is thus
assailed in its last retreat by a doctrine which the minority hesitate
to admit, and in which they very slowly concur. Like all other powers,
and perhaps more than all other powers, the authority of the many
requires the sanction of time; at first it enforces obedience by
constraint, but its laws are not respected until they have long been

The right of governing society, which the majority supposes itself to
derive from its superior intelligence, was introduced into the United
States by the first settlers, and this idea, which would be sufficient
of itself to create a free nation, has now been amalgamated with the
manners of the people and the minor incidents of social intercourse.

The French, under the old monarchy, held it for a maxim (which is still
a fundamental principle of the English Constitution) that the King
could do no wrong; and if he did do wrong, the blame was imputed to his
advisers. This notion was highly favorable to habits of obedience, and
it enabled the subject to complain of the law without ceasing to love
and honor the lawgiver. The Americans entertain the same opinion with
respect to the majority.

The moral power of the majority is founded upon yet another principle,
which is, that the interests of the many are to be preferred to those
of the few. It will readily be perceived that the respect here professed
for the rights of the majority must naturally increase or diminish
according to the state of parties. When a nation is divided into
several irreconcilable factions, the privilege of the majority is often
overlooked, because it is intolerable to comply with its demands.

If there existed in America a class of citizens whom the legislating
majority sought to deprive of exclusive privileges which they had
possessed for ages, and to bring down from an elevated station to the
level of the ranks of the multitude, it is probable that the minority
would be less ready to comply with its laws. But as the United States
were colonized by men holding equal rank amongst themselves, there is as
yet no natural or permanent source of dissension between the interests
of its different inhabitants.

There are certain communities in which the persons who constitute the
minority can never hope to draw over the majority to their side, because
they must then give up the very point which is at issue between them.
Thus, an aristocracy can never become a majority whilst it retains its
exclusive privileges, and it cannot cede its privileges without ceasing
to be an aristocracy.

In the United States political questions cannot be taken up in so
general and absolute a manner, and all parties are willing to recognize
the right of the majority, because they all hope to turn those rights to
their own advantage at some future time. The majority therefore in that
country exercises a prodigious actual authority, and a moral influence
which is scarcely less preponderant; no obstacles exist which can impede
or so much as retard its progress, or which can induce it to heed the
complaints of those whom it crushes upon its path. This state of things
is fatal in itself and dangerous for the future.

How The Unlimited Power Of The Majority Increases In America The
Instability Of Legislation And Administration Inherent In Democracy
The Americans increase the mutability of the laws which is inherent in
democracy by changing the legislature every year, and by investing
it with unbounded authority--The same effect is produced upon the
administration--In America social amelioration is conducted more
energetically but less perseveringly than in Europe.

I have already spoken of the natural defects of democratic institutions,
and they all of them increase at the exact ratio of the power of the
majority. To begin with the most evident of them all; the mutability
of the laws is an evil inherent in democratic government, because it is
natural to democracies to raise men to power in very rapid succession.
But this evil is more or less sensible in proportion to the authority
and the means of action which the legislature possesses.

In America the authority exercised by the legislative bodies is supreme;
nothing prevents them from accomplishing their wishes with celerity, and
with irresistible power, whilst they are supplied by new representatives
every year. That is to say, the circumstances which contribute most
powerfully to democratic instability, and which admit of the free
application of caprice to every object in the State, are here in full
operation. In conformity with this principle, America is, at the present
day, the country in the world where laws last the shortest time. Almost
all the American constitutions have been amended within the course of
thirty years: there is therefore not a single American State which has
not modified the principles of its legislation in that lapse of time.
As for the laws themselves, a single glance upon the archives of the
different States of the Union suffices to convince one that in America
the activity of the legislator never slackens. Not that the American
democracy is naturally less stable than any other, but that it is
allowed to follow its capricious propensities in the formation of the
laws. *b

[Footnote b: The legislative acts promulgated by the State of
Massachusetts alone, from the year 1780 to the present time, already
fill three stout volumes; and it must not be forgotten that the
collection to which I allude was published in 1823, when many old laws
which had fallen into disuse were omitted. The State of Massachusetts,
which is not more populous than a department of France, may be
considered as the most stable, the most consistent, and the most
sagacious in its undertakings of the whole Union.]

The omnipotence of the majority, and the rapid as well as absolute
manner in which its decisions are executed in the United States, has not
only the effect of rendering the law unstable, but it exercises the same
influence upon the execution of the law and the conduct of the public
administration. As the majority is the only power which it is important
to court, all its projects are taken up with the greatest ardor, but no
sooner is its attention distracted than all this ardor ceases; whilst in
the free States of Europe the administration is at once independent and
secure, so that the projects of the legislature are put into execution,
although its immediate attention may be directed to other objects.

In America certain ameliorations are undertaken with much more zeal and
activity than elsewhere; in Europe the same ends are promoted by much
less social effort, more continuously applied.

Some years ago several pious individuals undertook to ameliorate the
condition of the prisons. The public was excited by the statements
which they put forward, and the regeneration of criminals became a very
popular undertaking. New prisons were built, and for the first time the
idea of reforming as well as of punishing the delinquent formed a part
of prison discipline. But this happy alteration, in which the public had
taken so hearty an interest, and which the exertions of the citizens had
irresistibly accelerated, could not be completed in a moment. Whilst the
new penitentiaries were being erected (and it was the pleasure of the
majority that they should be terminated with all possible celerity), the
old prisons existed, which still contained a great number of offenders.
These jails became more unwholesome and more corrupt in proportion as
the new establishments were beautified and improved, forming a contrast
which may readily be understood. The majority was so eagerly employed
in founding the new prisons that those which already existed were
forgotten; and as the general attention was diverted to a novel object,
the care which had hitherto been bestowed upon the others ceased. The
salutary regulations of discipline were first relaxed, and afterwards
broken; so that in the immediate neighborhood of a prison which bore
witness to the mild and enlightened spirit of our time, dungeons might
be met with which reminded the visitor of the barbarity of the Middle

Chapter XV: Unlimited Power Of Majority, And Its Consequences--Part II

Tyranny Of The Majority

How the principle of the sovereignty of the people is to be
understood--Impossibility of conceiving a mixed government--The
sovereign power must centre somewhere--Precautions to be taken to
control its action--These precautions have not been taken in the United

I hold it to be an impious and an execrable maxim that, politically
speaking, a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases, and yet I
have asserted that all authority originates in the will of the majority.
Am I then, in contradiction with myself?

A general law--which bears the name of Justice--has been made and
sanctioned, not only by a majority of this or that people, but by
a majority of mankind. The rights of every people are consequently
confined within the limits of what is just. A nation may be considered
in the light of a jury which is empowered to represent society at large,
and to apply the great and general law of justice. Ought such a jury,
which represents society, to have more power than the society in which
the laws it applies originate?

When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right which
the majority has of commanding, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty
of the people to the sovereignty of mankind. It has been asserted that
a people can never entirely outstep the boundaries of justice and of
reason in those affairs which are more peculiarly its own, and that
consequently, full power may fearlessly be given to the majority by
which it is represented. But this language is that of a slave.

A majority taken collectively may be regarded as a being whose opinions,
and most frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another
being, which is styled a minority. If it be admitted that a man,
possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his
adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach?
Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor
does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with the
consciousness of their strength. *c And for these reasons I can never
willingly invest any number of my fellow-creatures with that unlimited
authority which I should refuse to any one of them.

[Footnote c: No one will assert that a people cannot forcibly wrong
another people; but parties may be looked upon as lesser nations within
a greater one, and they are aliens to each other: if, therefore, it be
admitted that a nation can act tyrannically towards another nation, it
cannot be denied that a party may do the same towards another party.]

I do not think that it is possible to combine several principles in the
same government, so as at the same time to maintain freedom, and really
to oppose them to one another. The form of government which is usually
termed mixed has always appeared to me to be a mere chimera. Accurately
speaking there is no such thing as a mixed government (with the meaning
usually given to that word), because in all communities some one
principle of action may be discovered which preponderates over the
others. England in the last century, which has been more especially
cited as an example of this form of Government, was in point of fact
an essentially aristocratic State, although it comprised very powerful
elements of democracy; for the laws and customs of the country were such
that the aristocracy could not but preponderate in the end, and subject
the direction of public affairs to its own will. The error arose from
too much attention being paid to the actual struggle which was going
on between the nobles and the people, without considering the probable
issue of the contest, which was in reality the important point. When
a community really has a mixed government, that is to say, when it is
equally divided between two adverse principles, it must either pass
through a revolution or fall into complete dissolution.

I am therefore of opinion that some one social power must always be made
to predominate over the others; but I think that liberty is endangered
when this power is checked by no obstacles which may retard its course,
and force it to moderate its own vehemence.

Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing; human beings
are not competent to exercise it with discretion, and God alone can be
omnipotent, because His wisdom and His justice are always equal to His
power. But no power upon earth is so worthy of honor for itself, or of
reverential obedience to the rights which it represents, that I would
consent to admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority. When I
see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a
people or upon a king, upon an aristocracy or a democracy, a monarchy or
a republic, I recognize the germ of tyranny, and I journey onward to a
land of more hopeful institutions.

In my opinion the main evil of the present democratic institutions of
the United States does not arise, as is often asserted in Europe, from
their weakness, but from their overpowering strength; and I am not so
much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at
the very inadequate securities which exist against tyranny.

When an individual or a party is wronged in the United States, to
whom can he apply for redress? If to public opinion, public opinion
constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it represents the
majority, and implicitly obeys its injunctions; if to the executive
power, it is appointed by the majority, and remains a passive tool in
its hands; the public troops consist of the majority under arms; the
jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases;
and in certain States even the judges are elected by the majority.
However iniquitous or absurd the evil of which you complain may be, you
must submit to it as well as you can. *d

[Footnote d: A striking instance of the excesses which may be occasioned
by the despotism of the majority occurred at Baltimore in the year 1812.
At that time the war was very popular in Baltimore. A journal which
had taken the other side of the question excited the indignation of
the inhabitants by its opposition. The populace assembled, broke the
printing-presses, and attacked the houses of the newspaper editors. The
militia was called out, but no one obeyed the call; and the only means
of saving the poor wretches who were threatened by the frenzy of the
mob was to throw them into prison as common malefactors. But even this
precaution was ineffectual; the mob collected again during the night,
the magistrates again made a vain attempt to call out the militia, the
prison was forced, one of the newspaper editors was killed upon the
spot, and the others were left for dead; the guilty parties were
acquitted by the jury when they were brought to trial.

I said one day to an inhabitant of Pennsylvania, "Be so good as to
explain to me how it happens that in a State founded by Quakers, and
celebrated for its toleration, freed blacks are not allowed to exercise
civil rights. They pay the taxes; is it not fair that they should have a

"You insult us," replied my informant, "if you imagine that our
legislators could have committed so gross an act of injustice and

"What! then the blacks possess the right of voting in this county?"

"Without the smallest doubt."

"How comes it, then, that at the polling-booth this morning I did not
perceive a single negro in the whole meeting?"

"This is not the fault of the law: the negroes have an undisputed right
of voting, but they voluntarily abstain from making their appearance."

"A very pretty piece of modesty on their parts!" rejoined I.

"Why, the truth is, that they are not disinclined to vote, but they are
afraid of being maltreated; in this country the law is sometimes unable
to maintain its authority without the support of the majority. But in
this case the majority entertains very strong prejudices against the
blacks, and the magistrates are unable to protect them in the exercise
of their legal privileges."

"What! then the majority claims the right not only of making the laws,
but of breaking the laws it has made?"]

If, on the other hand, a legislative power could be so constituted as
to represent the majority without necessarily being the slave of its
passions; an executive, so as to retain a certain degree of uncontrolled
authority; and a judiciary, so as to remain independent of the two other
powers; a government would be formed which would still be democratic
without incurring any risk of tyrannical abuse.

I do not say that tyrannical abuses frequently occur in America at the
present day, but I maintain that no sure barrier is established against
them, and that the causes which mitigate the government are to be found
in the circumstances and the manners of the country more than in its

Effects Of The Unlimited Power Of The Majority Upon The Arbitrary
Authority Of The American Public Officers

Liberty left by the American laws to public officers within a certain
sphere--Their power.

A distinction must be drawn between tyranny and arbitrary power.
Tyranny may be exercised by means of the law, and in that case it is
not arbitrary; arbitrary power may be exercised for the good of the
community at large, in which case it is not tyrannical. Tyranny usually
employs arbitrary means, but, if necessary, it can rule without them.

In the United States the unbounded power of the majority, which is
favorable to the legal despotism of the legislature, is likewise
favorable to the arbitrary authority of the magistrate. The majority has
an entire control over the law when it is made and when it is executed;
and as it possesses an equal authority over those who are in power and
the community at large, it considers public officers as its passive
agents, and readily confides the task of serving its designs to their
vigilance. The details of their office and the privileges which they are
to enjoy are rarely defined beforehand; but the majority treats them as
a master does his servants when they are always at work in his sight,
and he has the power of directing or reprimanding them at every instant.

In general the American functionaries are far more independent than the
French civil officers within the sphere which is prescribed to them.
Sometimes, even, they are allowed by the popular authority to exceed
those bounds; and as they are protected by the opinion, and backed by
the co-operation, of the majority, they venture upon such manifestations
of their power as astonish a European. By this means habits are formed
in the heart of a free country which may some day prove fatal to its

Power Exercised By The Majority In America Upon Opinion

In America, when the majority has once irrevocably decided a question,
all discussion ceases--Reason of this--Moral power exercised by the
majority upon opinion--Democratic republics have deprived despotism of
its physical instruments--Their despotism sways the minds of men.

It is in the examination of the display of public opinion in the United
States that we clearly perceive how far the power of the majority
surpasses all the powers with which we are acquainted in Europe.
Intellectual principles exercise an influence which is so invisible, and
often so inappreciable, that they baffle the toils of oppression. At the
present time the most absolute monarchs in Europe are unable to prevent
certain notions, which are opposed to their authority, from circulating
in secret throughout their dominions, and even in their courts. Such
is not the case in America; as long as the majority is still undecided,
discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably
pronounced, a submissive silence is observed, and the friends, as well
as the opponents, of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety.
The reason of this is perfectly clear: no monarch is so absolute as to
combine all the powers of society in his own hands, and to conquer all
opposition with the energy of a majority which is invested with the
right of making and of executing the laws.

The authority of a king is purely physical, and it controls the actions
of the subject without subduing his private will; but the majority
possesses a power which is physical and moral at the same time; it acts
upon the will as well as upon the actions of men, and it represses not
only all contest, but all controversy. I know no country in which there
is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in
America. In any constitutional state in Europe every sort of religious
and political theory may be advocated and propagated abroad; for there
is no country in Europe so subdued by any single authority as not to
contain citizens who are ready to protect the man who raises his voice
in the cause of truth from the consequences of his hardihood. If he is
unfortunate enough to live under an absolute government, the people
is upon his side; if he inhabits a free country, he may find a shelter
behind the authority of the throne, if he require one. The aristocratic
part of society supports him in some countries, and the democracy in
others. But in a nation where democratic institutions exist, organized
like those of the United States, there is but one sole authority, one
single element of strength and of success, with nothing beyond it.

In America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty
of opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he
pleases, but he will repent it if he ever step beyond them. Not that he
is exposed to the terrors of an auto-da-fe, but he is tormented by
the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy. His political career is
closed forever, since he has offended the only authority which is
able to promote his success. Every sort of compensation, even that
of celebrity, is refused to him. Before he published his opinions he
imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has
he declared them openly than he is loudly censured by his overbearing
opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak,
like him, abandon him in silence. He yields at length, oppressed by the
daily efforts he has been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he
was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.

Fetters and headsmen were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly
employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of
despotism which seemed, however, to have been sufficiently perfected
before. The excesses of monarchical power had devised a variety of
physical means of oppression: the democratic republics of the present
day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind as that will
which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of an individual
despot the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul, and the soul
escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose superior to
the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic
republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved. The
sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;"
but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain
your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your
determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people. You may
retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will
never be chosen by your fellow-citizens if you solicit their suffrages,
and they will affect to scorn you if you solicit their esteem. You will
remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind.
Your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who
are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they
should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your
life, but it is an existence in comparably worse than death."

Monarchical institutions have thrown an odium upon despotism; let us
beware lest democratic republics should restore oppression, and should
render it less odious and less degrading in the eyes of the many, by
making it still more onerous to the few.

Works have been published in the proudest nations of the Old World
expressly intended to censure the vices and deride the follies of the
times; Labruyere inhabited the palace of Louis XIV when he composed his
chapter upon the Great, and Moliere criticised the courtiers in the very
pieces which were acted before the Court. But the ruling power in the
United States is not to be made game of; the smallest reproach irritates
its sensibility, and the slightest joke which has any foundation in
truth renders it indignant; from the style of its language to the more
solid virtues of its character, everything must be made the subject
of encomium. No writer, whatever be his eminence, can escape from this
tribute of adulation to his fellow-citizens. The majority lives in the
perpetual practice of self-applause, and there are certain truths which
the Americans can only learn from strangers or from experience.

If great writers have not at present existed in America, the reason
is very simply given in these facts; there can be no literary genius
without freedom of opinion, and freedom of opinion does not exist in
America. The Inquisition has never been able to prevent a vast number
of anti-religious books from circulating in Spain. The empire of the
majority succeeds much better in the United States, since it actually
removes the wish of publishing them. Unbelievers are to be met with in
America, but, to say the truth, there is no public organ of infidelity.
Attempts have been made by some governments to protect the morality of
nations by prohibiting licentious books. In the United States no one is
punished for this sort of works, but no one is induced to write them;
not because all the citizens are immaculate in their manners, but
because the majority of the community is decent and orderly.

In these cases the advantages derived from the exercise of this power
are unquestionable, and I am simply discussing the nature of the
power itself. This irresistible authority is a constant fact, and its
judicious exercise is an accidental occurrence.

Effects Of The Tyranny Of The Majority Upon The National Character Of
The Americans

Effects of the tyranny of the majority more sensibly felt hitherto in
the manners than in the conduct of society--They check the development
of leading characters--Democratic republics organized like the United
States bring the practice of courting favor within the reach of the
many--Proofs of this spirit in the United States--Why there is more
patriotism in the people than in those who govern in its name.

The tendencies which I have just alluded to are as yet very slightly
perceptible in political society, but they already begin to exercise an
unfavorable influence upon the national character of the Americans. I
am inclined to attribute the singular paucity of distinguished political
characters to the ever-increasing activity of the despotism of the
majority in the United States. When the American Revolution broke out
they arose in great numbers, for public opinion then served, not to
tyrannize over, but to direct the exertions of individuals. Those
celebrated men took a full part in the general agitation of mind common
at that period, and they attained a high degree of personal fame, which
was reflected back upon the nation, but which was by no means borrowed
from it.

In absolute governments the great nobles who are nearest to the throne
flatter the passions of the sovereign, and voluntarily truckle to
his caprices. But the mass of the nation does not degrade itself
by servitude: it often submits from weakness, from habit, or from
ignorance, and sometimes from loyalty. Some nations have been known to
sacrifice their own desires to those of the sovereign with pleasure and
with pride, thus exhibiting a sort of independence in the very act of
submission. These peoples are miserable, but they are not degraded.
There is a great difference between doing what one does not approve and
feigning to approve what one does; the one is the necessary case of a
weak person, the other befits the temper of a lackey.

In free countries, where everyone is more or less called upon to give
his opinion in the affairs of state; in democratic republics, where
public life is incessantly commingled with domestic affairs, where the
sovereign authority is accessible on every side, and where its attention
can almost always be attracted by vociferation, more persons are to
be met with who speculate upon its foibles and live at the cost of its
passions than in absolute monarchies. Not because men are naturally
worse in these States than elsewhere, but the temptation is stronger,
and of easier access at the same time. The result is a far more
extensive debasement of the characters of citizens.

Democratic republics extend the practice of currying favor with the
many, and they introduce it into a greater number of classes at once:
this is one of the most serious reproaches that can be addressed to
them. In democratic States organized on the principles of the American
republics, this is more especially the case, where the authority of the
majority is so absolute and so irresistible that a man must give up his
rights as a citizen, and almost abjure his quality as a human being, if
te intends to stray from the track which it lays down.

In that immense crowd which throngs the avenues to power in the United
States I found very few men who displayed any of that manly candor and
that masculine independence of opinion which frequently distinguished
the Americans in former times, and which constitutes the leading feature
in distinguished characters, wheresoever they may be found. It seems, at
first sight, as if all the minds of the Americans were formed upon one
model, so accurately do they correspond in their manner of judging. A
stranger does, indeed, sometimes meet with Americans who dissent from
these rigorous formularies; with men who deplore the defects of the
laws, the mutability and the ignorance of democracy; who even go so far
as to observe the evil tendencies which impair the national character,
and to point out such remedies as it might be possible to apply; but
no one is there to hear these things besides yourself, and you, to whom
these secret reflections are confided, are a stranger and a bird of
passage. They are very ready to communicate truths which are useless to
you, but they continue to hold a different language in public.

If ever these lines are read in America, I am well assured of two
things: in the first place, that all who peruse them will raise their
voices to condemn me; and in the second place, that very many of them
will acquit me at the bottom of their conscience.

I have heard of patriotism in the United States, and it is a virtue
which may be found among the people, but never among the leaders of
the people. This may be explained by analogy; despotism debases the
oppressed much more than the oppressor: in absolute monarchies the king
has often great virtues, but the courtiers are invariably servile. It is
true that the American courtiers do not say "Sire," or "Your Majesty"--a
distinction without a difference. They are forever talking of the
natural intelligence of the populace they serve; they do not debate the
question as to which of the virtues of their master is pre-eminently
worthy of admiration, for they assure him that he possesses all the
virtues under heaven without having acquired them, or without caring to
acquire them; they do not give him their daughters and their wives to
be raised at his pleasure to the rank of his concubines, but, by
sacrificing their opinions, they prostitute themselves. Moralists and
philosophers in America are not obliged to conceal their opinions under
the veil of allegory; but, before they venture upon a harsh truth,
they say, "We are aware that the people which we are addressing is too
superior to all the weaknesses of human nature to lose the command of
its temper for an instant; and we should not hold this language if
we were not speaking to men whom their virtues and their intelligence
render more worthy of freedom than all the rest of the world." It would
have been impossible for the sycophants of Louis XIV to flatter more
dexterously. For my part, I am persuaded that in all governments,
whatever their nature may be, servility will cower to force, and
adulation will cling to power. The only means of preventing men from
degrading themselves is to invest no one with that unlimited authority
which is the surest method of debasing them.

The Greatest Dangers Of The American Republics Proceed From The
Unlimited Power Of The Majority

Democratic republics liable to perish from a misuse of their power, and
not by impotence--The Governments of the American republics are
more centralized and more energetic than those of the monarchies of
Europe--Dangers resulting from this--Opinions of Hamilton and Jefferson
upon this point.

Governments usually fall a sacrifice to impotence or to tyranny. In
the former case their power escapes from them; it is wrested from their
grasp in the latter. Many observers, who have witnessed the anarchy of
democratic States, have imagined that the government of those States was
naturally weak and impotent. The truth is, that when once hostilities
are begun between parties, the government loses its control over
society. But I do not think that a democratic power is naturally without
force or without resources: say, rather, that it is almost always by
the abuse of its force and the misemployment of its resources that a
democratic government fails. Anarchy is almost always produced by its
tyranny or its mistakes, but not by its want of strength.

It is important not to confound stability with force, or the greatness
of a thing with its duration. In democratic republics, the power which
directs *e society is not stable; for it often changes hands and
assumes a new direction. But whichever way it turns, its force is almost
irresistible. The Governments of the American republics appear to me to
be as much centralized as those of the absolute monarchies of Europe,
and more energetic than they are. I do not, therefore, imagine that they
will perish from weakness. *f

[Footnote e: This power may be centred in an assembly, in which case
it will be strong without being stable; or it may be centred in an
individual, in which case it will be less strong, but more stable.]

[Footnote f: I presume that it is scarcely necessary to remind the
reader here, as well as throughout the remainder of this chapter, that
I am speaking, not of the Federal Government, but of the several
governments of each State, which the majority controls at its pleasure.]

If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may
be attributed to the unlimited authority of the majority, which may at
some future time urge the minorities to desperation, and oblige them to
have recourse to physical force. Anarchy will then be the result, but it
will have been brought about by despotism.

Mr. Hamilton expresses the same opinion in the "Federalist," No. 51.
"It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society
against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the
society against the injustice of the other part. Justice is the end of
government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever
will be, pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the
pursuit. In a society, under the forms of which the stronger faction can
readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said
to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not
secured against the violence of the stronger: and as in the latter state
even the stronger individuals are prompted by the uncertainty of their
condition to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well
as themselves, so in the former state will the more powerful factions be
gradually induced by a like motive to wish for a government which will
protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be
little doubted that, if the State of Rhode Island was separated from
the Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of right under the
popular form of government within such narrow limits would be displayed
by such reiterated oppressions of the factious majorities, that some
power altogether independent of the people would soon be called for by
the voice of the very factions whose misrule had proved the necessity of

Jefferson has also thus expressed himself in a letter to Madison: *g
"The executive power in our Government is not the only, perhaps not even
the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the Legislature
is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for
many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its
turn, but at a more distant period." I am glad to cite the opinion
of Jefferson upon this subject rather than that of another, because I
consider him to be the most powerful advocate democracy has ever sent

[Footnote g: March 15, 1789.]

Chapter XVI: Causes Mitigating Tyranny In The United States--Part I

Chapter Summary

The national majority does not pretend to conduct all business--Is
obliged to employ the town and county magistrates to execute its supreme

I have already pointed out the distinction which is to be made between
a centralized government and a centralized administration. The former
exists in America, but the latter is nearly unknown there. If the
directing power of the American communities had both these instruments
of government at its disposal, and united the habit of executing its own
commands to the right of commanding; if, after having established the
general principles of government, it descended to the details of public
business; and if, having regulated the great interests of the country,
it could penetrate into the privacy of individual interests, freedom
would soon be banished from the New World.

But in the United States the majority, which so frequently displays the
tastes and the propensities of a despot, is still destitute of the more
perfect instruments of tyranny. In the American republics the activity
of the central Government has never as yet been extended beyond a
limited number of objects sufficiently prominent to call forth its
attention. The secondary affairs of society have never been regulated
by its authority, and nothing has hitherto betrayed its desire of
interfering in them. The majority is become more and more absolute, but
it has not increased the prerogatives of the central government; those
great prerogatives have been confined to a certain sphere; and although
the despotism of the majority may be galling upon one point, it cannot
be said to extend to all. However the predominant party in the nation
may be carried away by its passions, however ardent it may be in the
pursuit of its projects, it cannot oblige all the citizens to comply
with its desires in the same manner and at the same time throughout the
country. When the central Government which represents that majority has
issued a decree, it must entrust the execution of its will to agents,
over whom it frequently has no control, and whom it cannot perpetually
direct. The townships, municipal bodies, and counties may therefore be
looked upon as concealed break-waters, which check or part the tide of
popular excitement. If an oppressive law were passed, the liberties of
the people would still be protected by the means by which that law would
be put in execution: the majority cannot descend to the details and (as
I will venture to style them) the puerilities of administrative tyranny.
Nor does the people entertain that full consciousness of its authority
which would prompt it to interfere in these matters; it knows the
extent of its natural powers, but it is unacquainted with the increased
resources which the art of government might furnish.

This point deserves attention, for if a democratic republic similar to
that of the United States were ever founded in a country where the power
of a single individual had previously subsisted, and the effects of a
centralized administration had sunk deep into the habits and the laws
of the people, I do not hesitate to assert, that in that country a more
insufferable despotism would prevail than any which now exists in the
monarchical States of Europe, or indeed than any which could be found on
this side of the confines of Asia.

The Profession Of The Law In The United States Serves To Counterpoise
The Democracy

Utility of discriminating the natural propensities of the members of
the legal profession--These men called upon to act a prominent part in
future society--In what manner the peculiar pursuits of lawyers give an
aristocratic turn to their ideas--Accidental causes which may check this
tendency--Ease with which the aristocracy coalesces with legal men--Use
of lawyers to a despot--The profession of the law constitutes the only
aristocratic element with which the natural elements of democracy will
combine--Peculiar causes which tend to give an aristocratic turn of mind
to the English and American lawyers--The aristocracy of America is
on the bench and at the bar--Influence of lawyers upon American
society--Their peculiar magisterial habits affect the legislature, the
administration, and even the people.

In visiting the Americans and in studying their laws we perceive that
the authority they have entrusted to members of the legal profession,
and the influence which these individuals exercise in the Government, is
the most powerful existing security against the excesses of democracy.
This effect seems to me to result from a general cause which it is
useful to investigate, since it may produce analogous consequences

The members of the legal profession have taken an important part in all
the vicissitudes of political society in Europe during the last five
hundred years. At one time they have been the instruments of those
who were invested with political authority, and at another they have
succeeded in converting political authorities into their instrument. In
the Middle Ages they afforded a powerful support to the Crown, and since
that period they have exerted themselves to the utmost to limit the
royal prerogative. In England they have contracted a close alliance with
the aristocracy; in France they have proved to be the most dangerous
enemies of that class. It is my object to inquire whether, under all
these circumstances, the members of the legal profession have been
swayed by sudden and momentary impulses; or whether they have been
impelled by principles which are inherent in their pursuits, and which
will always recur in history. I am incited to this investigation by
reflecting that this particular class of men will most likely play a
prominent part in that order of things to which the events of our time
are giving birth.

Men who have more especially devoted themselves to legal pursuits derive
from those occupations certain habits of order, a taste for formalities,
and a kind of instinctive regard for the regular connection of ideas,
which naturally render them very hostile to the revolutionary spirit and
the unreflecting passions of the multitude.

The special information which lawyers derive from their studies ensures
them a separate station in society, and they constitute a sort of
privileged body in the scale of intelligence. This notion of their
superiority perpetually recurs to them in the practice of their
profession: they are the masters of a science which is necessary, but
which is not very generally known; they serve as arbiters between the
citizens; and the habit of directing the blind passions of parties in
litigation to their purpose inspires them with a certain contempt
for the judgment of the multitude. To this it may be added that they
naturally constitute a body, not by any previous understanding, or by an
agreement which directs them to a common end; but the analogy of their
studies and the uniformity of their proceedings connect their minds
together, as much as a common interest could combine their endeavors.

A portion of the tastes and of the habits of the aristocracy may
consequently be discovered in the characters of men in the profession of
the law. They participate in the same instinctive love of order and of
formalities; and they entertain the same repugnance to the actions of
the multitude, and the same secret contempt of the government of the
people. I do not mean to say that the natural propensities of lawyers
are sufficiently strong to sway them irresistibly; for they, like most
other men, are governed by their private interests and the advantages of
the moment.

In a state of society in which the members of the legal profession are
prevented from holding that rank in the political world which they enjoy
in private life, we may rest assured that they will be the foremost
agents of revolution. But it must then be inquired whether the cause
which induces them to innovate and to destroy is accidental, or whether
it belongs to some lasting purpose which they entertain. It is true that
lawyers mainly contributed to the overthrow of the French monarchy in
1789; but it remains to be seen whether they acted thus because they had
studied the laws, or because they were prohibited from co-operating in
the work of legislation.

Five hundred years ago the English nobles headed the people, and spoke
in its name; at the present time the aristocracy supports the throne,
and defends the royal prerogative. But aristocracy has, notwithstanding
this, its peculiar instincts and propensities. We must be careful not
to confound isolated members of a body with the body itself. In all
free governments, of whatsoever form they may be, members of the legal
profession will be found at the head of all parties. The same remark
is also applicable to the aristocracy; for almost all the democratic
convulsions which have agitated the world have been directed by nobles.

A privileged body can never satisfy the ambition of all its members; it
has always more talents and more passions to content and to employ than
it can find places; so that a considerable number of individuals are
usually to be met with who are inclined to attack those very privileges
which they find it impossible to turn to their own account.

I do not, then, assert that all the members of the legal profession are
at all times the friends of order and the opponents of innovation, but
merely that most of them usually are so. In a community in which lawyers
are allowed to occupy, without opposition, that high station which
naturally belongs to them, their general spirit will be eminently
conservative and anti-democratic. When an aristocracy excludes the
leaders of that profession from its ranks, it excites enemies which
are the more formidable to its security as they are independent of the
nobility by their industrious pursuits; and they feel themselves to be
its equal in point of intelligence, although they enjoy less opulence
and less power. But whenever an aristocracy consents to impart some of
its privileges to these same individuals, the two classes coalesce very
readily, and assume, as it were, the consistency of a single order of
family interests.

I am, in like manner, inclined to believe that a monarch will always
be able to convert legal practitioners into the most serviceable
instruments of his authority. There is a far greater affinity between
this class of individuals and the executive power than there is between
them and the people; just as there is a greater natural affinity between
the nobles and the monarch than between the nobles and the people,
although the higher orders of society have occasionally resisted the
prerogative of the Crown in concert with the lower classes.

Lawyers are attached to public order beyond every other consideration,
and the best security of public order is authority. It must not be
forgotten that, if they prize the free institutions of their country
much, they nevertheless value the legality of those institutions far
more: they are less afraid of tyranny than of arbitrary power; and
provided that the legislature take upon itself to deprive men of their
independence, they are not dissatisfied.

I am therefore convinced that the prince who, in presence of an
encroaching democracy, should endeavor to impair the judicial authority
in his dominions, and to diminish the political influence of lawyers,
would commit a great mistake. He would let slip the substance
of authority to grasp at the shadow. He would act more wisely in
introducing men connected with the law into the government; and if he
entrusted them with the conduct of a despotic power, bearing some marks
of violence, that power would most likely assume the external features
of justice and of legality in their hands.

The government of democracy is favorable to the political power of
lawyers; for when the wealthy, the noble, and the prince are excluded
from the government, they are sure to occupy the highest stations, in
their own right, as it were, since they are the only men of information
and sagacity, beyond the sphere of the people, who can be the object of
the popular choice. If, then, they are led by their tastes to combine
with the aristocracy and to support the Crown, they are naturally
brought into contact with the people by their interests. They like the
government of democracy, without participating in its propensities
and without imitating its weaknesses; whence they derive a twofold
authority, from it and over it. The people in democratic states does not
mistrust the members of the legal profession, because it is well known
that they are interested in serving the popular cause; and it listens
to them without irritation, because it does not attribute to them any
sinister designs. The object of lawyers is not, indeed, to overthrow the
institutions of democracy, but they constantly endeavor to give it an
impulse which diverts it from its real tendency, by means which are
foreign to its nature. Lawyers belong to the people by birth and
interest, to the aristocracy by habit and by taste, and they may be
looked upon as the natural bond and connecting link of the two great
classes of society.

The profession of the law is the only aristocratic element which can be
amalgamated without violence with the natural elements of democracy, and
which can be advantageously and permanently combined with them. I am
not unacquainted with the defects which are inherent in the character
of that body of men; but without this admixture of lawyer-like
sobriety with the democratic principle, I question whether democratic
institutions could long be maintained, and I cannot believe that a
republic could subsist at the present time if the influence of lawyers
in public business did not increase in proportion to the power of the

This aristocratic character, which I hold to be common to the legal
profession, is much more distinctly marked in the United States and in
England than in any other country. This proceeds not only from the legal
studies of the English and American lawyers, but from the nature of
the legislation, and the position which those persons occupy in the
two countries. The English and the Americans have retained the law of
precedents; that is to say, they continue to found their legal opinions
and the decisions of their courts upon the opinions and the decisions of
their forefathers. In the mind of an English or American lawyer a taste
and a reverence for what is old is almost always united to a love of
regular and lawful proceedings.

This predisposition has another effect upon the character of the legal
profession and upon the general course of society. The English and
American lawyers investigate what has been done; the French advocate
inquires what should have been done; the former produce precedents,
the latter reasons. A French observer is surprised to hear how often
an English dr an American lawyer quotes the opinions of others, and how
little he alludes to his own; whilst the reverse occurs in France. There
the most trifling litigation is never conducted without the introduction
of an entire system of ideas peculiar to the counsel employed; and the
fundamental principles of law are discussed in order to obtain a
perch of land by the decision of the court. 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 subjection of
thought which he is obliged to profess, necessarily give him more timid
habits and more sluggish inclinations in England and America than in

The French codes are often difficult of comprehension, but they can be
read by every one; nothing, on the other hand, can be more impenetrable
to the uninitiated than a legislation founded upon precedents. The
indispensable want of legal assistance which is felt in England and in
the United States, and the high opinion which is generally entertained
of the ability of the legal profession, tend to separate it more and
more from the people, and to place it in a distinct class. The French
lawyer is simply a man extensively acquainted with the statutes of his
country; but the English or American lawyer resembles the hierophants of
Egypt, for, like them, he is the sole interpreter of an occult science.

The station which lawyers occupy in England and America exercises no
less an influence upon their habits and their opinions. The English
aristocracy, which has taken care to attract to its sphere whatever is
at all analogous to itself, has conferred a high degree of importance
and of authority upon the members of the legal profession. In English
society lawyers do not occupy the first rank, but they are contented
with the station assigned to them; they constitute, as it were, the
younger branch of the English aristocracy, and they are attached to
their elder brothers, although they do not enjoy all their privileges.
The English lawyers consequently mingle the taste and the ideas of the
aristocratic circles in which they move with the aristocratic interests
of their profession.

And indeed the lawyer-like character which I am endeavoring to depict is
most distinctly to be met with in England: there laws are esteemed not
so much because they are good as because they are old; and if it be
necessary to modify them in any respect, or to adapt them the
changes which time operates in society, recourse is had to the most
inconceivable contrivances in order to uphold the traditionary fabric,
and to maintain that nothing has been done which does not square with
the intentions and complete the labors of former generations. The
very individuals who conduct these changes disclaim all intention of
innovation, and they had rather resort to absurd expedients than plead
guilty to so great a crime. This spirit appertains more especially to
the English lawyers; they seem indifferent to the real meaning of what
they treat, and they direct all their attention to the letter, seeming
inclined to infringe the rules of common sense and of humanity rather
than to swerve one title from the law. The English legislation may be
compared to the stock of an old tree, upon which lawyers have engrafted
the most various shoots, with the hope that, although their fruits may
differ, their foliage at least will be confounded with the venerable
trunk which supports them all.

In America there are no nobles or men of letters, and the people is apt
to mistrust the wealthy; lawyers consequently form the highest political
class, and the most cultivated circle of society. They have therefore
nothing to gain by innovation, which adds a conservative interest to
their natural taste for public order. If I were asked where I place the
American aristocracy, I should reply without hesitation that it is not
composed of the rich, who are united together by no common tie, but that
it occupies the judicial bench and the bar.

The more we reflect upon all that occurs in the United States the more
shall we be persuaded that the lawyers as a body form the most powerful,
if not the only, counterpoise to the democratic element. In that country
we perceive how eminently the legal profession is qualified by its
powers, and even by its defects, to neutralize the vices which are
inherent in popular government. When the American people is intoxicated
by passion, or carried away by the impetuosity of its ideas, it is
checked and stopped by the almost invisible influence of its legal
counsellors, who secretly oppose their aristocratic propensities to its
democratic instincts, their superstitious attachment to what is antique
to its love of novelty, their narrow views to its immense designs, and
their habitual procrastination to its ardent impatience.

The courts of justice are the most visible organs by which the legal
profession is enabled to control the democracy. The judge is a lawyer,
who, independently of the taste for regularity and order which he has
contracted in the study of legislation, derives an additional love of
stability from his own inalienable functions. His legal attainments have
already raised him to a distinguished rank amongst his fellow-citizens;
his political power completes the distinction of his station, and gives
him the inclinations natural to privileged classes.

Armed with the power of declaring the laws to be unconstitutional, *a
the American magistrate perpetually interferes in political affairs. He
cannot force the people to make laws, but at least he can oblige it not
to disobey its own enactments; or to act inconsistently with its own
principles. I am aware that a secret tendency to diminish the judicial
power exists in the United States, and by most of the constitutions of
the several States the Government can, upon the demand of the two houses
of the legislature, remove the judges from their station. By some other
constitutions the members of the tribunals are elected, and they are
even subjected to frequent re-elections. I venture to predict that these
innovations will sooner or later be attended with fatal consequences,
and that it will be found out at some future period that the attack
which is made upon the judicial power has affected the democratic
republic itself.

[Footnote a: See chapter VI. on the "Judicial Power in the United

It must not, however, be supposed that the legal spirit of which I have
been speaking has been confined, in the United States, to the courts of
justice; it extends far beyond them. As the lawyers constitute the only
enlightened class which the people does not mistrust, they are naturally
called upon to occupy most of the public stations. They fill the
legislative assemblies, and they conduct the administration; they
consequently exercise a powerful influence upon the formation of the
law, and upon its execution. The lawyers are, however, obliged to yield
to the current of public opinion, which is too strong for them to resist
it, but it is easy to find indications of what their conduct would be if
they were free to act as they chose. The Americans, who have made such
copious innovations in their political legislation, have introduced very
sparing alterations in their civil laws, and that with great difficulty,
although those laws are frequently repugnant to their social condition.
The reason of this is, that in matters of civil law the majority is
obliged to defer to the authority of the legal profession, and that the
American lawyers are disinclined to innovate when they are left to their
own choice.

It is curious for a Frenchman, accustomed to a very different state of
things, to hear the perpetual complaints which are made in the United
States against the stationary propensities of legal men, and their
prejudices in favor of existing institutions.

The influence of the legal habits which are common in America extends
beyond the limits I have just pointed out. Scarcely any question arises
in the United States which does not become, sooner or later, a subject
of judicial debate; hence all parties are obliged to borrow the ideas,
and even the language, usual in judicial proceedings in their
daily controversies. As most public men are, or have been, legal
practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their
profession into the affairs of the country. The jury extends this
habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some
measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in
the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their
walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest
classes, so that the whole people contracts the habits and the tastes of
the magistrate. The lawyers of the United States form a party which is
but little feared and scarcely perceived, which has no badge peculiar to
itself, which adapts itself with great flexibility to the exigencies
of the time, and accommodates itself to all the movements of the social
body; but this party extends over the whole community, and it penetrates
into all classes of society; it acts upon the country imperceptibly, but
it finally fashions it to suit its purposes.

Chapter XVI: Causes Mitigating Tyranny In The United States--Part II

Trial By Jury In The United States Considered As A Political Institution

Trial by jury, which is one of the instruments of the sovereignty of the
people, deserves to be compared with the other laws which establish that
sovereignty--Composition of the jury in the United States--Effect of
trial by jury upon the national character--It educates the people--It
tends to establish the authority of the magistrates and to extend a
knowledge of law among the people.

Since I have been led by my subject to recur to the administration of
justice in the United States, I will not pass over this point without
adverting to the institution of the jury. Trial by jury may be
considered in two separate points of view, as a judicial and as a
political institution. If it entered into my present purpose to inquire
how far trial by jury (more especially in civil cases) contributes to
insure the best administration of justice, I admit that its utility
might be contested. As the jury was first introduced at a time when
society was in an uncivilized state, and when courts of justice were
merely called upon to decide on the evidence of facts, it is not an easy
task to adapt it to the wants of a highly civilized community when the
mutual relations of men are multiplied to a surprising extent, and have
assumed the enlightened and intellectual character of the age. *b

[Footnote b: The investigation of trial by jury as a judicial
institution, and the appreciation of its effects in the United States,
together with the advantages the Americans have derived from it, would
suffice to form a book, and a book upon a very useful and curious
subject. The State of Louisiana would in particular afford the curious
phenomenon of a French and English legislation, as well as a French and
English population, which are gradually combining with each other. See
the "Digeste des Lois de la Louisiane," in two volumes; and the "Traite
sur les Regles des Actions civiles," printed in French and English at
New Orleans in 1830.]

My present object is to consider the jury as a political institution,
and any other course would divert me from my subject. Of trial by jury,
considered as a judicial institution, I shall here say but very few
words. When the English adopted trial by jury they were a semi-barbarous
people; they are become, in course of time, one of the most enlightened
nations of the earth; and their attachment to this institution seems
to have increased with their increasing cultivation. They soon spread
beyond their insular boundaries to every corner of the habitable globe;
some have formed colonies, others independent states; the mother-country
has maintained its monarchical constitution; many of its offspring have
founded powerful republics; but wherever the English have been they have
boasted of the privilege of trial by jury. *c They have established it,
or hastened to re-establish it, in all their settlements. A judicial
institution which obtains the suffrages of a great people for so long
a series of ages, which is zealously renewed at every epoch of
civilization, in all the climates of the earth and under every form of
human government, cannot be contrary to the spirit of justice. *d

[Footnote c: All the English and American jurists are unanimous upon
this head. Mr. Story, judge of the Supreme Court of the United States,
speaks, in his "Treatise on the Federal Constitution," of the advantages
of trial by jury in civil cases:--"The inestimable privilege of a
trial by jury in civil cases--a privilege scarcely inferior to that
in criminal cases, which is counted by all persons to be essential to
political and civil liberty. . . ." (Story, book iii., chap. xxxviii.)]

[Footnote d: If it were our province to point out the utility of the
jury as a judicial institution in this place, much might be said, and
the following arguments might be brought forward amongst others:--

By introducing the jury into the business of the courts you are enabled
to diminish the number of judges, which is a very great advantage. When
judges are very numerous, death is perpetually thinning the ranks of
the judicial functionaries, and laying places vacant for newcomers. The
ambition of the magistrates is therefore continually excited, and they
are naturally made dependent upon the will of the majority, or the
individual who fills up the vacant appointments; the officers of the
court then rise like the officers of an army. This state of things is
entirely contrary to the sound administration of justice, and to the
intentions of the legislator. The office of a judge is made inalienable
in order that he may remain independent: but of what advantage is it
that his independence should be protected if he be tempted to sacrifice
it of his own accord? When judges are very numerous many of them must
necessarily be incapable of performing their important duties, for a
great magistrate is a man of no common powers; and I am inclined to
believe that a half-enlightened tribunal is the worst of all instruments
for attaining those objects which it is the purpose of courts of justice
to accomplish. For my own part, I had rather submit the decision of a
case to ignorant jurors directed by a skilful judge than to judges a
majority of whom are imperfectly acquainted with jurisprudence and with
the laws.]

I turn, however, from this part of the subject. To look upon the jury as
a mere judicial institution is to confine our attention to a very narrow
view of it; for however great its influence may be upon the decisions
of the law courts, that influence is very subordinate to the powerful
effects which it produces on the destinies of the community at large.
The jury is above all a political institution, and it must be regarded
in this light in order to be duly appreciated.

By the jury I mean a certain number of citizens chosen indiscriminately,
and invested with a temporary right of judging. Trial by jury, as
applied to the repression of crime, appears to me to introduce an
eminently republican element into the government upon the following

The institution of the jury may be aristocratic or democratic, according
to the class of society from which the jurors are selected; but it
always preserves its republican character, inasmuch as it places the
real direction of society in the hands of the governed, or of a portion
of the governed, instead of leaving it under the authority of the
Government. Force is never more than a transient element of success; and
after force comes the notion of right. A government which should only
be able to crush its enemies upon a field of battle would very soon be
destroyed. The true sanction of political laws is to be found in penal
legislation, and if that sanction be wanting the law will sooner or
later lose its cogency. He who punishes infractions of the law is
therefore the real master of society. Now the institution of the jury
raises the people itself, or at least a class of citizens, to the bench
of judicial authority. The institution of the jury consequently invests
the people, or that class of citizens, with the direction of society. *e

[Footnote e: An important remark must, however, be made. Trial by jury
does unquestionably invest the people with a general control over the
actions of citizens, but it does not furnish means of exercising this
control in all cases, or with an absolute authority. When an absolute
monarch has the right of trying offences by his representatives, the
fate of the prisoner is, as it were, decided beforehand. But even if
the people were predisposed to convict, the composition and the
non-responsibility of the jury would still afford some chances favorable
to the protection of innocence.]

In England the jury is returned from the aristocratic portion of
the nation; *f the aristocracy makes the laws, applies the laws, and
punishes all infractions of the laws; everything is established upon a
consistent footing, and England may with truth be said to constitute an
aristocratic republic. In the United States the same system is applied
to the whole people. Every American citizen is qualified to be an
elector, a juror, and is eligible to office. *g The system of the jury,
as it is understood in America, appears to me to be as direct and as
extreme a consequence of the sovereignty of the people as universal
suffrage. These institutions are two instruments of equal power, which
contribute to the supremacy of the majority. All the sovereigns who have
chosen to govern by their own authority, and to direct society instead
of obeying its directions, have destroyed or enfeebled the institution
of the jury. The monarchs of the House of Tudor sent to prison jurors
who refused to convict, and Napoleon caused them to be returned by his

[Footnote f: [This may be true to some extent of special juries, but
not of common juries. The author seems not to have been aware that the
qualifications of jurors in England vary exceedingly.]]

[Footnote g: See Appendix, Q.]

However clear most of these truths may seem to be, they do not command
universal assent, and in France, at least, the institution of trial by
jury is still very imperfectly understood. If the question arises as to
the proper qualification of jurors, it is confined to a discussion of
the intelligence and knowledge of the citizens who may be returned, as
if the jury was merely a judicial institution. This appears to me to
be the least part of the subject. The jury is pre-eminently a political
institution; it must be regarded as one form of the sovereignty of the
people; when that sovereignty is repudiated, it must be rejected, or it
must be adapted to the laws by which that sovereignty is established.
The jury is that portion of the nation to which the execution of the
laws is entrusted, as the Houses of Parliament constitute that part
of the nation which makes the laws; and in order that society may be
governed with consistency and uniformity, the list of citizens qualified
to serve on juries must increase and diminish with the list of electors.
This I hold to be the point of view most worthy of the attention of the
legislator, and all that remains is merely accessory.

I am so entirely convinced that the jury is pre-eminently a political
institution that I still consider it in this light when it is applied in
civil causes. Laws are always unstable unless they are founded upon the
manners of a nation; manners are the only durable and resisting power
in a people. When the jury is reserved for criminal offences, the people
only witnesses its occasional action in certain particular cases; the
ordinary course of life goes on without its interference, and it
is considered as an instrument, but not as the only instrument, of
obtaining justice. This is true a fortiori when the jury is only applied
to certain criminal causes.

When, on the contrary, the influence of the jury is extended to civil
causes, its application is constantly palpable; it affects all the
interests of the community; everyone co-operates in its work: it thus
penetrates into all the usages of life, it fashions the human mind to
its peculiar forms, and is gradually associated with the idea of justice

The institution of the jury, if confined to criminal causes, is always
in danger, but when once it is introduced into civil proceedings it
defies the aggressions of time and of man. If it had been as easy to
remove the jury from the manners as from the laws of England, it would
have perished under Henry VIII, and Elizabeth, and the civil jury did in
reality, at that period, save the liberties of the country. In whatever
manner the jury be applied, it cannot fail to exercise a powerful
influence upon the national character; but this influence is
prodigiously increased when it is introduced into civil causes. The
jury, and more especially the jury in civil cases, serves to communicate
the spirit of the judges to the minds of all the citizens; and this
spirit, with the habits which attend it, is the soundest preparation for
free institutions. It imbues all classes with a respect for the thing
judged, and with the notion of right. If these two elements be removed,
the love of independence is reduced to a mere destructive passion. It
teaches men to practice equity, every man learns to judge his neighbor
as he would himself be judged; and this is especially true of the jury
in civil causes, for, whilst the number of persons who have reason to
apprehend a criminal prosecution is small, every one is liable to have
a civil action brought against him. The jury teaches every man not to
recoil before the responsibility of his own actions, and impresses him
with that manly confidence without which political virtue cannot exist.
It invests each citizen with a kind of magistracy, it makes them all
feel the duties which they are bound to discharge towards society, and
the part which they take in the Government. By obliging men to turn
their attention to affairs which are not exclusively their own, it rubs
off that individual egotism which is the rust of society.

The jury contributes most powerfully to form the judgement and to
increase the natural intelligence of a people, and this is, in my
opinion, its greatest advantage. It may be regarded as a gratuitous
public school ever open, in which every juror learns to exercise his
rights, enters into daily communication with the most learned and
enlightened members of the upper classes, and becomes practically
acquainted with the laws of his country, which are brought within the
reach of his capacity by the efforts of the bar, the advice of the
judge, and even by the passions of the parties. I think that the
practical intelligence and political good sense of the Americans are
mainly attributable to the long use which they have made of the jury in
civil causes. I do not know whether the jury is useful to those who are
in litigation; but I am certain it is highly beneficial to those who
decide the litigation; and I look upon it as one of the most efficacious
means for the education of the people which society can employ.

What I have hitherto said applies to all nations, but the remark I
am now about to make is peculiar to the Americans and to democratic
peoples. I have already observed that in democracies the members of the
legal profession and the magistrates constitute the only aristocratic
body which can check the irregularities of the people. This aristocracy
is invested with no physical power, but it exercises its conservative
influence upon the minds of men, and the most abundant source of its
authority is the institution of the civil jury. In criminal causes, when
society is armed against a single individual, the jury is apt to
look upon the judge as the passive instrument of social power, and to
mistrust his advice. Moreover, criminal causes are entirely founded upon
the evidence of facts which common sense can readily appreciate; upon
this ground the judge and the jury are equal. Such, however, is not the
case in civil causes; then the judge appears as a disinterested arbiter
between the conflicting passions of the parties. The jurors look up to
him with confidence and listen to him with respect, for in this instance
their intelligence is completely under the control of his learning. It
is the judge who sums up the various arguments with which their memory
has been wearied out, and who guides them through the devious course of
the proceedings; he points their attention to the exact question of
fact which they are called upon to solve, and he puts the answer to the
question of law into their mouths. His influence upon their verdict is
almost unlimited.

If I am called upon to explain why I am but little moved by the
arguments derived from the ignorance of jurors in civil causes, I reply,
that in these proceedings, whenever the question to be solved is not
a mere question of fact, the jury has only the semblance of a judicial
body. The jury sanctions the decision of the judge, they by the
authority of society which they represent, and he by that of reason and
of law. *h

[Footnote h: See Appendix, R.]

In England and in America the judges exercise an influence upon criminal
trials which the French judges have never possessed. The reason of
this difference may easily be discovered; the English and American
magistrates establish their authority in civil causes, and only transfer
it afterwards to tribunals of another kind, where that authority was
not acquired. In some cases (and they are frequently the most important
ones) the American judges have the right of deciding causes alone. *i
Upon these occasions they are accidentally placed in the position which
the French judges habitually occupy, but they are invested with far more
power than the latter; they are still surrounded by the reminiscence of
the jury, and their judgment has almost as much authority as the voice
of the community at large, represented by that institution. Their
influence extends beyond the limits of the courts; in the recreations of
private life as well as in the turmoil of public business, abroad and in
the legislative assemblies, the American judge is constantly surrounded
by men who are accustomed to regard his intelligence as superior to
their own, and after having exercised his power in the decision
of causes, he continues to influence the habits of thought and the
characters of the individuals who took a part in his judgment.

[Footnote i: The Federal judges decide upon their own authority almost
all the questions most important to the country.]

The jury, then, which seems to restrict the rights of magistracy, does
in reality consolidate its power, and in no country are the judges so
powerful as there, where the people partakes their privileges. It is
more especially by means of the jury in civil causes that the American
magistrates imbue all classes of society with the spirit of their
profession. Thus the jury, which is the most energetic means of making
the people rule, is also the most efficacious means of teaching it to
rule well.

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic Republic--Part I

Principal Causes Which Tend To Maintain The Democratic Republic In The
United States

A democratic republic subsists in the United States, and the principal
object of this book has been to account for the fact of its existence.
Several of the causes which contribute to maintain the institutions of
America have been involuntarily passed by or only hinted at as I was
borne along by my subject. Others I have been unable to discuss, and
those on which I have dwelt most are, as it were, buried in the details
of the former parts of this work. I think, therefore, that before I
proceed to speak of the future, I cannot do better than collect within
a small compass the reasons which best explain the present. In this
retrospective chapter I shall be succinct, for I shall take care to
remind the reader very summarily of what he already knows; and I shall
only select the most prominent of those facts which I have not yet
pointed out.

All the causes which contribute to the maintenance of the democratic
republic in the United States are reducible to three heads:--

I. The peculiar and accidental situation in which Providence has placed
the Americans.

II. The laws.

III. The manners and customs of the people.

Accidental Or Providential Causes Which Contribute To The Maintenance
Of The Democratic Republic In The United States The Union has no
neighbors--No metropolis--The Americans have had the chances of birth in
their favor--America an empty country--How this circumstance contributes
powerfully to the maintenance of the democratic republic in America--How
the American wilds are peopled--Avidity of the Anglo-Americans in taking
possession of the solitudes of the New World--Influence of physical
prosperity upon the political opinions of the Americans.

A thousand circumstances, independent of the will of man, concur to
facilitate the maintenance of a democratic republic in the United
States. Some of these peculiarities are known, the others may easily be
pointed out; but I shall confine myself to the most prominent amongst

The Americans have no neighbors, and consequently they have no great
wars, or financial crises, or inroads, or conquest to dread; they
require neither great taxes, nor great armies, nor great generals; and
they have nothing to fear from a scourge which is more formidable to
republics than all these evils combined, namely, military glory. It
is impossible to deny the inconceivable influence which military
glory exercises upon the spirit of a nation. General Jackson, whom the
Americans have twice elected to the head of their Government, is a man
of a violent temper and mediocre talents; no one circumstance in the
whole course of his career ever proved that he is qualified to govern a
free people, and indeed the majority of the enlightened classes of
the Union has always been opposed to him. But he was raised to the
Presidency, and has been maintained in that lofty station, solely by
the recollection of a victory which he gained twenty years ago under
the walls of New Orleans, a victory which was, however, a very ordinary
achievement, and which could only be remembered in a country where
battles are rare. Now the people which is thus carried away by the
illusions of glory is unquestionably the most cold and calculating, the
most unmilitary (if I may use the expression), and the most prosaic of
all the peoples of the earth.

America has no great capital *a city, whose influence is directly or
indirectly felt over the whole extent of the country, which I hold to be
one of the first causes of the maintenance of republican institutions
in the United States. In cities men cannot be prevented from concerting
together, and from awakening a mutual excitement which prompts
sudden and passionate resolutions. Cities may be looked upon as large
assemblies, of which all the inhabitants are members; their populace
exercises a prodigious influence upon the magistrates, and frequently
executes its own wishes without their intervention.

[Footnote a: The United States have no metropolis, but they already
contain several very large cities. Philadelphia reckoned 161,000
inhabitants and New York 202,000 in the year 1830. The lower orders
which inhabit these cities constitute a rabble even more formidable
than the populace of European towns. They consist of freed blacks in the
first place, who are condemned by the laws and by public opinion to
a hereditary state of misery and degradation. They also contain a
multitude of Europeans who have been driven to the shores of the New
World by their misfortunes or their misconduct; and these men inoculate
the United States with all our vices, without bringing with them any of
those interests which counteract their baneful influence. As inhabitants
of a country where they have no civil rights, they are ready to turn all
the passions which agitate the community to their own advantage; thus,
within the last few months serious riots have broken out in Philadelphia
and in New York. Disturbances of this kind are unknown in the rest of
the country, which is nowise alarmed by them, because the population of
the cities has hitherto exercised neither power nor influence over the
rural districts. Nevertheless, I look upon the size of certain American
cities, and especially on the nature of their population, as a real
danger which threatens the future security of the democratic republics
of the New World; and I venture to predict that they will perish from
this circumstance unless the government succeeds in creating an armed
force, which, whilst it remains under the control of the majority of the
nation, will be independent of the town population, and able to repress
its excesses.

[The population of the city of New York had risen, in 1870, to 942,292,
and that of Philadelphia to 674,022. Brooklyn, which may be said to form
part of New York city, has a population of 396,099, in addition to that
of New York. The frequent disturbances in the great cities of America,
and the excessive corruption of their local governments--over which
there is no effectual control--are amongst the greatest evils and
dangers of the country.]]

To subject the provinces to the metropolis is therefore not only
to place the destiny of the empire in the hands of a portion of the
community, which may be reprobated as unjust, but to place it in the
hands of a populace acting under its own impulses, which must be avoided
as dangerous. The preponderance of capital cities is therefore a serious
blow upon the representative system, and it exposes modern republics to
the same defect as the republics of antiquity, which all perished from
not having been acquainted with that form of government.

It would be easy for me to adduce a great number of secondary causes
which have contributed to establish, and which concur to maintain, the
democratic republic of the United States. But I discern two principal
circumstances amongst these favorable elements, which I hasten to point
out. I have already observed that the origin of the American settlements
may be looked upon as the first and most efficacious cause to which the
present prosperity of the United States may be attributed. The Americans
had the chances of birth in their favor, and their forefathers imported
that equality of conditions into the country whence the democratic
republic has very naturally taken its rise. Nor was this all they did;
for besides this republican condition of society, the early settler
bequeathed to their descendants those customs, manners, and opinions
which contribute most to the success of a republican form of government.
When I reflect upon the consequences of this primary circumstance,
methinks I see the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who
landed on those shores, just as the human race was represented by the
first man.

The chief circumstance which has favored the establishment and the
maintenance of a democratic republic in the United States is the nature
of the territory which the American inhabit. Their ancestors gave them
the love of equality and of freedom, but God himself gave them the means
of remaining equal and free, by placing them upon a boundless continent,
which is open to their exertions. General prosperity is favorable to
the stability of all governments, but more particularly of a democratic
constitution, which depends upon the dispositions of the majority, and
more particularly of that portion of the community which is most exposed
to feel the pressure of want. When the people rules, it must be rendered
happy, or it will overturn the State, and misery is apt to stimulate it
to those excesses to which ambition rouses kings. The physical causes,
independent of the laws, which contribute to promote general prosperity,
are more numerous in America than they have ever been in any other
country in the world, at any other period of history. In the United
States not only is legislation democratic, but nature herself favors the
cause of the people.

In what part of human tradition can be found anything at all similar to
that which is occurring under our eyes in North America? The celebrated
communities of antiquity were all founded in the midst of hostile
nations, which they were obliged to subjugate before they could flourish
in their place. Even the moderns have found, in some parts of South
America, vast regions inhabited by a people of inferior civilization,
but which occupied and cultivated the soil. To found their new states
it was necessary to extirpate or to subdue a numerous population, until
civilization has been made to blush for their success. But North America
was only inhabited by wandering tribes, who took no thought of the
natural riches of the soil, and that vast country was still, properly
speaking, an empty continent, a desert land awaiting its inhabitants.

Everything is extraordinary in America, the social condition of
the inhabitants, as well as the laws; but the soil upon which these
institutions are founded is more extraordinary than all the rest.
When man was first placed upon the earth by the Creator, the earth was
inexhaustible in its youth, but man was weak and ignorant; and when he
had learned to explore the treasures which it contained, hosts of his
fellow creatures covered its surface, and he was obliged to earn an
asylum for repose and for freedom by the sword. At that same period
North America was discovered, as if it had been kept in reserve by the
Deity, and had just risen from beneath the waters of the deluge.

That continent still presents, as it did in the primeval time, rivers
which rise from never-failing sources, green and moist solitudes, and
fields which the ploughshare of the husbandman has never turned. In this
state it is offered to man, not in the barbarous and isolated condition
of the early ages, but to a being who is already in possession of
the most potent secrets of the natural world, who is united to his
fellow-men, and instructed by the experience of fifty centuries. At
this very time thirteen millions of civilized Europeans are peaceably
spreading over those fertile plains, with whose resources and whose
extent they are not yet themselves accurately acquainted. Three or four
thousand soldiers drive the wandering races of the aborigines before
them; these are followed by the pioneers, who pierce the woods, scare
off the beasts of prey, explore the courses of the inland streams, and
make ready the triumphal procession of civilization across the waste.

The favorable influence of the temporal prosperity of America upon the
institutions of that country has been so often described by others,
and adverted to by myself, that I shall not enlarge upon it beyond the
addition of a few facts. An erroneous notion is generally entertained
that the deserts of America are peopled by European emigrants, who
annually disembark upon the coasts of the New World, whilst the American
population increases and multiplies upon the soil which its forefathers
tilled. The European settler, however, usually arrives in the United
States without friends, and sometimes without resources; in order to
subsist he is obliged to work for hire, and he rarely proceeds beyond
that belt of industrious population which adjoins the ocean. The desert
cannot be explored without capital or credit; and the body must be
accustomed to the rigors of a new climate before it can be exposed to
the chances of forest life. It is the Americans themselves who daily
quit the spots which gave them birth to acquire extensive domains in
a remote country. Thus the European leaves his cottage for the
trans-Atlantic shores; and the American, who is born on that very coast,
plunges in his turn into the wilds of Central America. This double
emigration is incessant; it begins in the remotest parts of Europe, it
crosses the Atlantic Ocean, and it advances over the solitudes of
the New World. Millions of men are marching at once towards the same
horizon; their language, their religion, their manners differ, their
object is the same. The gifts of fortune are promised in the West, and
to the West they bend their course. *b

[Footnote b: [The number of foreign immigrants into the United States in
the last fifty years (from 1820 to 1871) is stated to be 7,556,007. Of
these, 4,104,553 spoke English--that is, they came from Great Britain,
Ireland, or the British colonies; 2,643,069 came from Germany or
northern Europe; and about half a million from the south of Europe.]]

No event can be compared with this continuous removal of the human race,
except perhaps those irruptions which preceded the fall of the Roman
Empire. Then, as well as now, generations of men were impelled forwards
in the same direction to meet and struggle on the same spot; but the
designs of Providence were not the same; then, every newcomer was the
harbinger of destruction and of death; now, every adventurer brings with
him the elements of prosperity and of life. The future still conceals
from us the ulterior consequences of this emigration of the Americans
towards the West; but we can readily apprehend its more immediate
results. As a portion of the inhabitants annually leave the States in
which they were born, the population of these States increases very
slowly, although they have long been established: thus in Connecticut,
which only contains fifty-nine inhabitants to the square mile, the
population has not increased by more than one-quarter in forty years,
whilst that of England has been augmented by one-third in the lapse of
the same period. The European emigrant always lands, therefore, in
a country which is but half full, and where hands are in request:
he becomes a workman in easy circumstances; his son goes to seek his
fortune in unpeopled regions, and he becomes a rich landowner. The
former amasses the capital which the latter invests, and the stranger as
well as the native is unacquainted with want.

The laws of the United States are extremely favorable to the division
of property; but a cause which is more powerful than the laws prevents
property from being divided to excess. *c This is very perceptible in
the States which are beginning to be thickly peopled; Massachusetts
is the most populous part of the Union, but it contains only eighty
inhabitants to the square mile, which is must less than in France, where
162 are reckoned to the same extent of country. But in Massachusetts
estates are very rarely divided; the eldest son takes the land, and the
others go to seek their fortune in the desert. The law has abolished
the rights of primogeniture, but circumstances have concurred to
re-establish it under a form of which none can complain, and by which no
just rights are impaired.

[Footnote c: In New England the estates are exceedingly small, but they
are rarely subjected to further division.]

A single fact will suffice to show the prodigious number of individuals
who leave New England, in this manner, to settle themselves in the
wilds. We were assured in 1830 that thirty-six of the members of
Congress were born in the little State of Connecticut. The population of
Connecticut, which constitutes only one forty-third part of that of
the United States, thus furnished one-eighth of the whole body of
representatives. The States of Connecticut, however, only sends five
delegates to Congress; and the thirty-one others sit for the new Western
States. If these thirty-one individuals had remained in Connecticut,
it is probable that instead of becoming rich landowners they would
have remained humble laborers, that they would have lived in obscurity
without being able to rise into public life, and that, far from becoming
useful members of the legislature, they might have been unruly citizens.

These reflections do not escape the observation of the Americans any
more than of ourselves. "It cannot be doubted," says Chancellor Kent
in his "Treatise on American Law," "that the division of landed estates
must produce great evils when it is carried to such excess as that
each parcel of land is insufficient to support a family; but these
disadvantages have never been felt in the United States, and many
generations must elapse before they can be felt. The extent of our
inhabited territory, the abundance of adjacent land, and the continual
stream of emigration flowing from the shores of the Atlantic towards
the interior of the country, suffice as yet, and will long suffice, to
prevent the parcelling out of estates."

It is difficult to describe the rapacity with which the American rushes
forward to secure the immense booty which fortune proffers to him.
In the pursuit he fearlessly braves the arrow of the Indian and the
distempers of the forest; he is unimpressed by the silence of the woods;
the approach of beasts of prey does not disturb him; for he is goaded
onwards by a passion more intense than the love of life. Before him lies
a boundless continent, and he urges onwards as if time pressed, and he
was afraid of finding no room for his exertions. I have spoken of the
emigration from the older States, but how shall I describe that which
takes place from the more recent ones? Fifty years have scarcely elapsed
since that of Ohio was founded; the greater part of its inhabitants were
not born within its confines; its capital has only been built thirty
years, and its territory is still covered by an immense extent of
uncultivated fields; nevertheless the population of Ohio is already
proceeding westward, and most of the settlers who descend to the fertile
savannahs of Illinois are citizens of Ohio. These men left their first
country to improve their condition; they quit their resting-place to
ameliorate it still more; fortune awaits them everywhere, but happiness
they cannot attain. The desire of prosperity is become an ardent and
restless passion in their minds which grows by what it gains. They early
broke the ties which bound them to their natal earth, and they have
contracted no fresh ones on their way. Emigration was at first necessary
to them as a means of subsistence; and it soon becomes a sort of game of
chance, which they pursue for the emotions it excites as much as for the
gain it procures.

Sometimes the progress of man is so rapid that the desert reappears
behind him. The woods stoop to give him a passage, and spring up again
when he has passed. It is not uncommon in crossing the new States of
the West to meet with deserted dwellings in the midst of the wilds; the
traveller frequently discovers the vestiges of a log house in the most
solitary retreats, which bear witness to the power, and no less to the
inconstancy of man. In these abandoned fields, and over these ruins of
a day, the primeval forest soon scatters a fresh vegetation, the beasts
resume the haunts which were once their own, and Nature covers the
traces of man's path with branches and with flowers, which obliterate
his evanescent track.

I remember that, in crossing one of the woodland districts which still
cover the State of New York, I reached the shores of a lake embosomed in
forests coeval with the world. A small island, covered with woods whose
thick foliage concealed its banks, rose from the centre of the waters.
Upon the shores of the lake no object attested the presence of man
except a column of smoke which might be seen on the horizon rising from
the tops of the trees to the clouds, and seeming to hang from heaven
rather than to be mounting to the sky. An Indian shallop was hauled
up on the sand, which tempted me to visit the islet that had first
attracted my attention, and in a few minutes I set foot upon its banks.
The whole island formed one of those delicious solitudes of the New
World which almost lead civilized man to regret the haunts of the
savage. A luxuriant vegetation bore witness to the incomparable
fruitfulness of the soil. The deep silence which is common to the
wilds of North America was only broken by the hoarse cooing of the
wood-pigeon, and the tapping of the woodpecker upon the bark of trees.
I was far from supposing that this spot had ever been inhabited, so
completely did Nature seem to be left to her own caprices; but when I
reached the centre of the isle I thought that I discovered some traces
of man. I then proceeded to examine the surrounding objects with care,
and I soon perceived that a European had undoubtedly been led to seek a
refuge in this retreat. Yet what changes had taken place in the scene of
his labors! The logs which he had hastily hewn to build himself a
shed had sprouted afresh; the very props were intertwined with living
verdure, and his cabin was transformed into a bower. In the midst of
these shrubs a few stones were to be seen, blackened with fire and
sprinkled with thin ashes; here the hearth had no doubt been, and the
chimney in falling had covered it with rubbish. I stood for some time in
silent admiration of the exuberance of Nature and the littleness of man:
and when I was obliged to leave that enchanting solitude, I exclaimed
with melancholy, "Are ruins, then, already here?"

In Europe we are wont to look upon a restless disposition, an unbounded
desire of riches, and an excessive love of independence, as propensities
very formidable to society. Yet these are the very elements which ensure
a long and peaceful duration to the republics of America. Without these
unquiet passions the population would collect in certain spots, and
would soon be subject to wants like those of the Old World, which it is
difficult to satisfy; for such is the present good fortune of the New
World, that the vices of its inhabitants are scarcely less favorable
to society than their virtues. These circumstances exercise a great
influence on the estimation in which human actions are held in the two
hemispheres. The Americans frequently term what we should call cupidity
a laudable industry; and they blame as faint-heartedness what we
consider to be the virtue of moderate desires.

In France, simple tastes, orderly manners, domestic affections, and the
attachments which men feel to the place of their birth, are looked upon
as great guarantees of the tranquillity and happiness of the State. But
in America nothing seems to be more prejudicial to society than these
virtues. The French Canadians, who have faithfully preserved the
traditions of their pristine manners, are already embarrassed for room
upon their small territory; and this little community, which has so
recently begun to exist, will shortly be a prey to the calamities
incident to old nations. In Canada, the most enlightened, patriotic,
and humane inhabitants make extraordinary efforts to render the people
dissatisfied with those simple enjoyments which still content it. There,
the seductions of wealth are vaunted with as much zeal as the charms of
an honest but limited income in the Old World, and more exertions are
made to excite the passions of the citizens there than to calm them
elsewhere. If we listen to their eulogies, we shall hear that nothing is
more praiseworthy than to exchange the pure and homely pleasures which
even the poor man tastes in his own country for the dull delights of
prosperity under a foreign sky; to leave the patrimonial hearth and
the turf beneath which his forefathers sleep; in short, to abandon the
living and the dead in quest of fortune.

At the present time America presents a field for human effort far more
extensive than any sum of labor which can be applied to work it. In
America too much knowledge cannot be diffused; for all knowledge, whilst
it may serve him who possesses it, turns also to the advantage of those
who are without it. New wants are not to be feared, since they can be
satisfied without difficulty; the growth of human passions need not be
dreaded, since all passions may find an easy and a legitimate object;
nor can men be put in possession of too much freedom, since they are
scarcely ever tempted to misuse their liberties.

The American republics of the present day are like companies of
adventurers formed to explore in common the waste lands of the New
World, and busied in a flourishing trade. The passions which agitate
the Americans most deeply are not their political but their commercial
passions; or, to speak more correctly, they introduce the habits they
contract in business into their political life. They love order, without
which affairs do not prosper; and they set an especial value upon a
regular conduct, which is the foundation of a solid business; they
prefer the good sense which amasses large fortunes to that enterprising
spirit which frequently dissipates them; general ideas alarm their
minds, which are accustomed to positive calculations, and they hold
practice in more honor than theory.

It is in America that one learns to understand the influence which
physical prosperity exercises over political actions, and even over
opinions which ought to acknowledge no sway but that of reason; and it
is more especially amongst strangers that this truth is perceptible.
Most of the European emigrants to the New World carry with them that
wild love of independence and of change which our calamities are so apt
to engender. I sometimes met with Europeans in the United States who had
been obliged to leave their own country on account of their political
opinions. They all astonished me by the language they held, but one of
them surprised me more than all the rest. As I was crossing one of the
most remote districts of Pennsylvania I was benighted, and obliged
to beg for hospitality at the gate of a wealthy planter, who was a
Frenchman by birth. He bade me sit down beside his fire, and we began to
talk with that freedom which befits persons who meet in the backwoods,
two thousand leagues from their native country. I was aware that my host
had been a great leveller and an ardent demagogue forty years ago, and
that his name was not unknown to fame. I was, therefore, not a little
surprised to hear him discuss the rights of property as an economist or
a landowner might have done: he spoke of the necessary gradations which
fortune establishes among men, of obedience to established laws, of
the influence of good morals in commonwealths, and of the support which
religious opinions give to order and to freedom; he even went to far
as to quote an evangelical authority in corroboration of one of his
political tenets.

I listened, and marvelled at the feebleness of human reason. A
proposition is true or false, but no art can prove it to be one or the
other, in the midst of the uncertainties of science and the conflicting
lessons of experience, until a new incident disperses the clouds of
doubt; I was poor, I become rich, and I am not to expect that prosperity
will act upon my conduct, and leave my judgment free; my opinions
change with my fortune, and the happy circumstances which I turn to
my advantage furnish me with that decisive argument which was before
wanting. The influence of prosperity acts still more freely upon
the American than upon strangers. The American has always seen the
connection of public order and public prosperity, intimately united
as they are, go on before his eyes; he does not conceive that one can
subsist without the other; he has therefore nothing to forget; nor
has he, like so many Europeans, to unlearn the lessons of his early

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic Republic--Part II

Influence Of The Laws Upon The Maintenance Of The Democratic Republic In
The United States

Three principal causes of the maintenance of the democratic
republic--Federal Constitutions--Municipal institutions--Judicial power.

The principal aim of this book has been to make known the laws of the
United States; if this purpose has been accomplished, the reader is
already enabled to judge for himself which are the laws that really tend
to maintain the democratic republic, and which endanger its existence.
If I have not succeeded in explaining this in the whole course of my
work, I cannot hope to do so within the limits of a single chapter. It
is not my intention to retrace the path I have already pursued, and
a very few lines will suffice to recapitulate what I have previously

Three circumstances seem to me to contribute most powerfully to the
maintenance of the democratic republic in the United States.

The first is that Federal form of Government which the Americans have
adopted, and which enables the Union to combine the power of a great
empire with the security of a small State.

The second consists in those municipal institutions which limit the
despotism of the majority, and at the same time impart a taste for
freedom and a knowledge of the art of being free to the people.

The third is to be met with in the constitution of the judicial power.
I have shown in what manner the courts of justice serve to repress the
excesses of democracy, and how they check and direct the impulses of the
majority without stopping its activity.

Influence Of Manners Upon The Maintenance Of The Democratic Republic In
The United States

I have previously remarked that the manners of the people may be
considered as one of the general causes to which the maintenance of a
democratic republic in the United States is attributable. I here used
the word manners with the meaning which the ancients attached to the
word mores, for I apply it not only to manners in their proper sense of
what constitutes the character of social intercourse, but I extend it to
the various notions and opinions current among men, and to the mass
of those ideas which constitute their character of mind. I comprise,
therefore, under this term the whole moral and intellectual condition of
a people. My intention is not to draw a picture of American manners,
but simply to point out such features of them as are favorable to the
maintenance of political institutions.

Religion Considered As A Political Institution, Which Powerfully
Contributes To The Maintenance Of The Democratic Republic Amongst The

North America peopled by men who professed a democratic and republican
Christianity--Arrival of the Catholics--For what reason the Catholics
form the most democratic and the most republican class at the present

Every religion is to be found in juxtaposition to a political opinion
which is connected with it by affinity. If the human mind be left
to follow its own bent, it will regulate the temporal and spiritual
institutions of society upon one uniform principle; and man will
endeavor, if I may use the expression, to harmonize the state in which
he lives upon earth with the state which he believes to await him in
heaven. The greatest part of British America was peopled by men who,
after having shaken off the authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other
religious supremacy; they brought with them into the New World a form
of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a
democratic and republican religion. This sect contributed powerfully to
the establishment of a democracy and a republic, and from the earliest
settlement of the emigrants politics and religion contracted an alliance
which has never been dissolved.

About fifty years ago Ireland began to pour a Catholic population into
the United States; on the other hand, the Catholics of America made
proselytes, and at the present moment more than a million of Christians
professing the truths of the Church of Rome are to be met with in
the Union. *d The Catholics are faithful to the observances of their
religion; they are fervent and zealous in the support and belief of
their doctrines. Nevertheless they constitute the most republican and
the most democratic class of citizens which exists in the United States;
and although this fact may surprise the observer at first, the causes by
which it is occasioned may easily be discovered upon reflection.

[Footnote d: [It is difficult to ascertain with accuracy the amount of
the Roman Catholic population of the United States, but in 1868 an able
writer in the "Edinburgh Review" (vol. cxxvii. p. 521) affirmed that the
whole Catholic population of the United States was then about 4,000,000,
divided into 43 dioceses, with 3,795 churches, under the care of 45
bishops and 2,317 clergymen. But this rapid increase is mainly supported
by immigration from the Catholic countries of Europe.]]

I think that the Catholic religion has erroneously been looked upon as
the natural enemy of democracy. Amongst the various sects of Christians,
Catholicism seems to me, on the contrary, to be one of those which are
most favorable to the equality of conditions. In the Catholic Church,
the religious community is composed of only two elements, the priest and
the people. The priest alone rises above the rank of his flock, and all
below him are equal.

On doctrinal points the Catholic faith places all human capacities upon
the same level; it subjects the wise and ignorant, the man of genius and
the vulgar crowd, to the details of the same creed; it imposes the same
observances upon the rich and needy, it inflicts the same austerities
upon the strong and the weak, it listens to no compromise with mortal
man, but, reducing all the human race to the same standard, it confounds
all the distinctions of society at the foot of the same altar, even as
they are confounded in the sight of God. If Catholicism predisposes
the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not prepare them for
inequality; but the contrary may be said of Protestantism, which
generally tends to make men independent, more than to render them equal.

Catholicism is like an absolute monarchy; if the sovereign be removed,
all the other classes of society are more equal than they are in
republics. It has not unfrequently occurred that the Catholic priest
has left the service of the altar to mix with the governing powers of
society, and to take his place amongst the civil gradations of men. This
religious influence has sometimes been used to secure the interests
of that political state of things to which he belonged. At other times
Catholics have taken the side of aristocracy from a spirit of religion.

But no sooner is the priesthood entirely separated from the government,
as is the case in the United States, than is found that no class of men
are more naturally disposed than the Catholics to transfuse the doctrine
of the equality of conditions into the political world. If, then, the
Catholic citizens of the United States are not forcibly led by the
nature of their tenets to adopt democratic and republican principles,
at least they are not necessarily opposed to them; and their social
position, as well as their limited number, obliges them to adopt these
opinions. Most of the Catholics are poor, and they have no chance of
taking a part in the government unless it be open to all the citizens.
They constitute a minority, and all rights must be respected in order
to insure to them the free exercise of their own privileges. These two
causes induce them, unconsciously, to adopt political doctrines,
which they would perhaps support with less zeal if they were rich and

The Catholic clergy of the United States has never attempted to oppose
this political tendency, but it seeks rather to justify its results. The
priests in America have divided the intellectual world into two parts:
in the one they place the doctrines of revealed religion, which command
their assent; in the other they leave those truths which they believe to
have been freely left open to the researches of political inquiry.
Thus the Catholics of the United States are at the same time the most
faithful believers and the most zealous citizens.

It may be asserted that in the United States no religious doctrine
displays the slightest hostility to democratic and republican
institutions. The clergy of all the different sects hold the same
language, their opinions are consonant to the laws, and the human
intellect flows onwards in one sole current.

I happened to be staying in one of the largest towns in the Union, when
I was invited to attend a public meeting which had been called for the
purpose of assisting the Poles, and of sending them supplies of arms and
money. I found two or three thousand persons collected in a vast hall
which had been prepared to receive them. In a short time a priest in
his ecclesiastical robes advanced to the front of the hustings: the
spectators rose, and stood uncovered, whilst he spoke in the following

"Almighty God! the God of Armies! Thou who didst strengthen the hearts
and guide the arms of our fathers when they were fighting for the sacred
rights of national independence; Thou who didst make them triumph over
a hateful oppression, and hast granted to our people the benefits
of liberty and peace; Turn, O Lord, a favorable eye upon the other
hemisphere; pitifully look down upon that heroic nation which is even
now struggling as we did in the former time, and for the same rights
which we defended with our blood. Thou, who didst create Man in the
likeness of the same image, let not tyranny mar Thy work, and establish
inequality upon the earth. Almighty God! do Thou watch over the destiny
of the Poles, and render them worthy to be free. May Thy wisdom direct
their councils, and may Thy strength sustain their arms! Shed forth Thy
terror over their enemies, scatter the powers which take counsel against
them; and vouchsafe that the injustice which the world has witnessed for
fifty years, be not consummated in our time. O Lord, who holdest alike
the hearts of nations and of men in Thy powerful hand; raise up allies
to the sacred cause of right; arouse the French nation from the apathy
in which its rulers retain it, that it go forth again to fight for the
liberties of the world.

"Lord, turn not Thou Thy face from us, and grant that we may always be
the most religious as well as the freest people of the earth. Almighty
God, hear our supplications this day. Save the Poles, we beseech Thee,
in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who died
upon the cross for the salvation of men. Amen."

The whole meeting responded "Amen!" with devotion.

Indirect Influence Of Religious Opinions Upon Political Society In The
United States

Christian morality common to all sects--Influence of religion upon the
manners of the Americans--Respect for the marriage tie--In what manner
religion confines the imagination of the Americans within certain
limits, and checks the passion of innovation--Opinion of the Americans
on the political utility of religion--Their exertions to extend and
secure its predominance.

I have just shown what the direct influence of religion upon politics
is in the United States, but its indirect influence appears to me to be
still more considerable, and it never instructs the Americans more fully
in the art of being free than when it says nothing of freedom.

The sects which exist in the United States are innumerable. They all
differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator,
but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to
man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all
the sects preach the same moral law in the name of God. If it be of the
highest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be
true, the case of society is not the same. Society has no future life to
hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the
peculiar tenets of that religion are of very little importance to its
interests. Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are
comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality
is everywhere the same.

It may be believed without unfairness that a certain number of Americans
pursue a peculiar form of worship, from habit more than from conviction.
In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and
consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the
whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence
over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof
of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its
influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free
nation of the earth.

I have remarked that the members of the American clergy in general,
without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are
all in favor of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular
political system. They keep aloof from parties and from public affairs.
In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the
laws and upon the details of public opinion, but it directs the manners
of the community, and by regulating domestic life it regulates the

I do not question that the great austerity of manners which is
observable in the United States, arises, in the first instance, from
religious faith. Religion is often unable to restrain man from the
numberless temptations of fortune; nor can it check that passion for
gain which every incident of his life contributes to arouse, but
its influence over the mind of woman is supreme, and women are the
protectors of morals. There is certainly no country in the world
where the tie of marriage is so much respected as in America, or where
conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated. In Europe
almost all the disturbances of society arise from the irregularities of
domestic life. To despise the natural bonds and legitimate pleasures of
home, is to contract a taste for excesses, a restlessness of heart, and
the evil of fluctuating desires. Agitated by the tumultuous passions
which frequently disturb his dwelling, the European is galled by the
obedience which the legislative powers of the State exact. But when the
American retires from the turmoil of public life to the bosom of his
family, he finds in it the image of order and of peace. There his
pleasures are simple and natural, his joys are innocent and calm; and
as he finds that an orderly life is the surest path to happiness, he
accustoms himself without difficulty to moderate his opinions as well
as his tastes. Whilst the European endeavors to forget his domestic
troubles by agitating society, the American derives from his own home
that love of order which he afterwards carries with him into public

In the United States the influence of religion is not confined to the
manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people. Amongst
the Anglo-Americans, there are some who profess the doctrines of
Christianity from a sincere belief in them, and others who do the same
because they are afraid to be suspected of unbelief. Christianity,
therefore, reigns without any obstacle, by universal consent; the
consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the
moral world is fixed and determinate, although the political world is
abandoned to the debates and the experiments of men. Thus the human mind
is never left to wander across a boundless field; and, whatever may be
its pretensions, it is checked from time to time by barriers which it
cannot surmount. Before it can perpetrate innovation, certain primal and
immutable principles are laid down, and the boldest conceptions of
human device are subjected to certain forms which retard and stop their

The imagination of the Americans, even in its greatest flights, is
circumspect and undecided; its impulses are checked, and its works
unfinished. These habits of restraint recur in political society, and
are singularly favorable both to the tranquillity of the people and
to the durability of the institutions it has established. Nature and
circumstances concurred to make the inhabitants of the United States
bold men, as is sufficiently attested by the enterprising spirit with
which they seek for fortune. If the mind of the Americans were free from
all trammels, they would very shortly become the most daring innovators
and the most implacable disputants in the world. But the revolutionists
of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian
morality and equity, which does not easily permit them to violate the
laws that oppose their designs; nor would they find it easy to surmount
the scruples of their partisans, even if they were able to get over
their own. Hitherto no one in the United States has dared to advance the
maxim, that everything is permissible with a view to the interests of
society; an impious adage which seems to have been invented in an age of
freedom to shelter all the tyrants of future ages. Thus whilst the law
permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them
from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.

Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society,
but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political
institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for
freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions. 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 the
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.

In the United States, if a political character attacks a sect, this may
not prevent even the partisans of that very sect from supporting him;
but if he attacks all the sects together, everyone abandons him, and he
remains alone.

Whilst I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the
assizes of the county of Chester (State of New York), declared that he
did not believe in the existence of God, or in the immortality of the
soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the
witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the Court in
what he was about to say. *e The newspapers related the fact without any
further comment.

[Footnote e: The New York "Spectator" of August 23, 1831, relates the
fact in the following terms:--"The Court of Common Pleas of Chester
county (New York) a few days since rejected a witness who declared his
disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked that
he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not
believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the
sanction of all testimony in a court of justice, and that he knew of
no cause in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to
testify without such belief."]

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so
intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive
the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring
from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul
rather than to live.

I have known of societies formed by the Americans to send out ministers
of the Gospel into the new Western States to found schools and churches
there, lest religion should be suffered to die away in those remote
settlements, and the rising States be less fitted to enjoy free
institutions than the people from which they emanated. I met with
wealthy New Englanders who abandoned the country in which they were born
in order to lay the foundations of Christianity and of freedom on the
banks of the Missouri, or in the prairies of Illinois. Thus religious
zeal is perpetually stimulated in the United States by the duties of
patriotism. These men do not act from an exclusive consideration of the
promises of a future life; eternity is only one motive of their devotion
to the cause; and if you converse with these missionaries of Christian
civilization, you will be surprised to find how much value they set upon
the goods of this world, and that you meet with a politician where you
expected to find a priest. They will tell you that "all the American
republics are collectively involved with each other; if the republics of
the West were to fall into anarchy, or to be mastered by a despot,
the republican institutions which now flourish upon the shores of the
Atlantic Ocean would be in great peril. It is, therefore, our interest
that the new States should be religious, in order to maintain our

Such are the opinions of the Americans, and if any hold that the
religious spirit which I admire is the very thing most amiss in America,
and that the only element wanting to the freedom and happiness of the
human race is to believe in some blind cosmogony, or to assert with
Cabanis the secretion of thought by the brain, I can only reply that
those who hold this language have never been in America, and that they
have never seen a religious or a free nation. When they return from
their expedition, we shall hear what they have to say.

There are persons in France who look upon republican institutions as a
temporary means of power, of wealth, and distinction; men who are the
condottieri of liberty, and who fight for their own advantage, whatever
be the colors they wear: it is not to these that I address myself. But
there are others who look forward to the republican form of government
as a tranquil and lasting state, towards which modern society is daily
impelled by the ideas and manners of the time, and who sincerely desire
to prepare men to be free. When these men attack religious opinions,
they obey the dictates of their passions to the prejudice of their
interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.
Religion is much more necessary in the republic which they set forth in
glowing colors than in the monarchy which they attack; and it is more
needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible
that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not
strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can
be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive
to the Divinity?

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic Republic--Part III

Principal Causes Which Render Religion Powerful In America Care taken
by the Americans to separate the Church from the State--The laws, public
opinion, and even the exertions of the clergy concur to promote
this end--Influence of religion upon the mind in the United States
attributable to this cause--Reason of this--What is the natural state of
men with regard to religion at the present time--What are the peculiar
and incidental causes which prevent men, in certain countries, from
arriving at this state.

The philosophers of the eighteenth century explained the gradual decay
of religious faith in a very simple manner. Religious zeal, said they,
must necessarily fail, the more generally liberty is established and
knowledge diffused. Unfortunately, facts are by no means in accordance
with their theory. There are certain populations in Europe whose
unbelief is only equalled by their ignorance and their debasement,
whilst in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the
world fulfils all the outward duties of religious fervor.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the
country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I
stayed there the more did I perceive the great political consequences
resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In
France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit
of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in
America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned
in common over the same country. My desire to discover the causes of
this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it I
questioned the members of all the different sects; and I more especially
sought the society of the clergy, who are the depositaries of the
different persuasions, and who are more especially interested in
their duration. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church I was more
particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, with
whom I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my
astonishment and I explained my doubts; I found that they differed upon
matters of detail alone; and that they mainly attributed the peaceful
dominion of religion in their country to the separation of Church and
State. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America I did
not meet with a single individual, of the clergy or of the laity, who
was not of the same opinion upon this point.

This led me to examine more attentively than I had hitherto done, the
station which the American clergy occupy in political society. I learned
with surprise that they filled no public appointments; *f not one of
them is to be met with in the administration, and they are not even
represented in the legislative assemblies. In several States *g the law
excludes them from political life, public opinion in all. And when I
came to inquire into the prevailing spirit of the clergy I found that
most of its members seemed to retire of their own accord from the
exercise of power, and that they made it the pride of their profession
to abstain from politics.

[Footnote f: Unless this term be applied to the functions which many
of them fill in the schools. Almost all education is entrusted to the

[Footnote g: See the Constitution of New York, art. 7, Section 4:-- "And
whereas the ministers of the gospel are, by their profession, dedicated
to the service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be
diverted from the great duties of their functions: therefore no minister
of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall at any
time hereafter, under any pretence or description whatever, be eligible
to, or capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within
this State."

See also the constitutions of North Carolina, art. 31; Virginia; South
Carolina, art. I, Section 23; Kentucky, art. 2, Section 26; Tennessee,
art. 8, Section I; Louisiana, art. 2, Section 22.]

I heard them inveigh against ambition and deceit, under whatever
political opinions these vices might chance to lurk; but I learned
from their discourses that men are not guilty in the eye of God for any
opinions concerning political government which they may profess with
sincerity, any more than they are for their mistakes in building a house
or in driving a furrow. I perceived that these ministers of the gospel
eschewed all parties with the anxiety attendant upon personal interest.
These facts convinced me that what I had been told was true; and it
then became my object to investigate their causes, and to inquire how it
happened that the real authority of religion was increased by a state
of things which diminished its apparent force: these causes did not long
escape my researches.

The short space of threescore years can never content the imagination
of man; nor can the imperfect joys of this world satisfy his heart. Man
alone, of all created beings, displays a natural contempt of existence,
and yet a boundless desire to exist; he scorns life, but he dreads
annihilation. These different feelings incessantly urge his soul to
the contemplation of a future state, and religion directs his musings
thither. Religion, then, is simply another form of hope; and it is no
less natural to the human heart than hope itself. Men cannot abandon
their religious faith without a kind of aberration of intellect, and
a sort of violent distortion of their true natures; but they are
invincibly brought back to more pious sentiments; for unbelief is an
accident, and faith is the only permanent state of mankind. If we only
consider religious institutions in a purely human point of view, they
may be said to derive an inexhaustible element of strength from man
himself, since they belong to one of the constituent principles of human

I am aware that at certain times religion may strengthen this influence,
which originates in itself, by the artificial power of the laws, and
by the support of those temporal institutions which direct society.
Religions, intimately united to the governments of the earth, have been
known to exercise a sovereign authority derived from the twofold source
of terror and of faith; but when a religion contracts an alliance of
this nature, I do not hesitate to affirm that it commits the same error
as a man who should sacrifice his future to his present welfare; and
in obtaining a power to which it has no claim, it risks that authority
which is rightfully its own. When a religion founds its empire upon the
desire of immortality which lives in every human heart, it may aspire
to universal dominion; but when it connects itself with a government,
it must necessarily adopt maxims which are only applicable to certain
nations. Thus, in forming an alliance with a political power, religion
augments its authority over a few, and forfeits the hope of reigning
over all.

As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are the
consolation of all affliction, it may attract the affections of mankind.
But if it be mixed up with the bitter passions of the world, it may be
constrained to defend allies whom its interests, and not the principle
of love, have given to it; or to repel as antagonists men who are still
attached to its own spirit, however opposed they may be to the powers
to which it is allied. The Church cannot share the temporal power of the
State without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the
latter excites.

The political powers which seem to be most firmly established have
frequently no better guarantee for their duration than the opinions of
a generation, the interests of the time, or the life of an individual.
A law may modify the social condition which seems to be most fixed and
determinate; and with the social condition everything else must change.
The powers of society are more or less fugitive, like the years which
we spend upon the earth; they succeed each other with rapidity, like the
fleeting cares of life; and no government has ever yet been founded upon
an invariable disposition of the human heart, or upon an imperishable

As long as a religion is sustained by those feelings, propensities,
and passions which are found to occur under the same forms, at all the
different periods of history, it may defy the efforts of time; or at
least it can only be destroyed by another religion. But when religion
clings to the interests of the world, it becomes almost as fragile a
thing as the powers of earth. It is the only one of them all which
can hope for immortality; but if it be connected with their ephemeral
authority, it shares their fortunes, and may fall with those transient
passions which supported them for a day. The alliance which religion
contracts with political powers must needs be onerous to itself; since
it does not require their assistance to live, and by giving them its
assistance to live, and by giving them its assistance it may be exposed
to decay.

The danger which I have just pointed out always exists, but it is
not always equally visible. In some ages governments seem to be
imperishable; in others, the existence of society appears to be more
precarious than the life of man. Some constitutions plunge the
citizens into a lethargic somnolence, and others rouse them to feverish
excitement. When governments appear to be so strong, and laws so stable,
men do not perceive the dangers which may accrue from a union of Church
and State. When governments display so much weakness, and laws so much
inconstancy, the danger is self-evident, but it is no longer possible
to avoid it; to be effectual, measures must be taken to discover its

In proportion as a nation assumes a democratic condition of society, and
as communities display democratic propensities, it becomes more and more
dangerous to connect religion with political institutions; for the
time is coming when authority will be bandied from hand to hand, when
political theories will succeed each other, and when men, laws, and
constitutions will disappear, or be modified from day to day, and this,
not for a season only, but unceasingly. Agitation and mutability are
inherent in the nature of democratic republics, just as stagnation and
inertness are the law of absolute monarchies.

If the Americans, who change the head of the Government once in
four years, who elect new legislators every two years, and renew the
provincial officers every twelvemonth; if the Americans, who have
abandoned the political world to the attempts of innovators, had not
placed religion beyond their reach, where could it abide in the ebb and
flow of human opinions? where would that respect which belongs to it
be paid, amidst the struggles of faction? and what would become of its
immortality, in the midst of perpetual decay? The American clergy were
the first to perceive this truth, and to act in conformity with it. They
saw that they must renounce their religious influence, if they were to
strive for political power; and they chose to give up the support of the
State, rather than to share its vicissitudes.

In America, religion is perhaps less powerful than it has been at
certain periods in the history of certain peoples; but its influence
is more lasting. It restricts itself to its own resources, but of those
none can deprive it: its circle is limited to certain principles, but
those principles are entirely its own, and under its undisputed control.

On every side in Europe we hear voices complaining of the absence of
religious faith, and inquiring the means of restoring to religion some
remnant of its pristine authority. It seems to me that we must first
attentively consider what ought to be the natural state of men with
regard to religion at the present time; and when we know what we have to
hope and to fear, we may discern the end to which our efforts ought to
be directed.

The two great dangers which threaten the existence of religions are
schism and indifference. In ages of fervent devotion, men sometimes
abandon their religion, but they only shake it off in order to adopt
another. Their faith changes the objects to which it is directed, but
it suffers no decline. The old religion then excites enthusiastic
attachment or bitter enmity in either party; some leave it with anger,
others cling to it with increased devotedness, and although persuasions
differ, irreligion is unknown. Such, however, is not the case when a
religious belief is secretly undermined by doctrines which may be termed
negative, since they deny the truth of one religion without affirming
that of any other. Progidious revolutions then take place in the human
mind, without the apparent co-operation of the passions of man, and
almost without his knowledge. Men lose the objects of their fondest
hopes, as if through forgetfulness. They are carried away by an
imperceptible current which they have not the courage to stem, but which
they follow with regret, since it bears them from a faith they love, to
a scepticism that plunges them into despair.

In ages which answer to this description, men desert their religious
opinions from lukewarmness rather than from dislike; they do not reject
them, but the sentiments by which they were once fostered disappear. But
if the unbeliever does not admit religion to be true, he still considers
it useful. Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view,
he acknowledges their influence upon manners and legislation. He admits
that they may serve to make men live in peace with one another, and to
prepare them gently for the hour of death. He regrets the faith which
he has lost; and as he is deprived of a treasure which he has learned to
estimate at its full value, he scruples to take it from those who still
possess it.

On the other hand, those who continue to believe are not afraid openly
to avow their faith. They look upon those who do not share their
persuasion as more worthy of pity than of opposition; and they are aware
that to acquire the esteem of the unbelieving, they are not obliged to
follow their example. They are hostile to no one in the world; and as
they do not consider the society in which they live as an arena in which
religion is bound to face its thousand deadly foes, they love their
contemporaries, whilst they condemn their weaknesses and lament their

As those who do not believe, conceal their incredulity; and as those who
believe, display their faith, public opinion pronounces itself in favor
of religion: love, support, and honor are bestowed upon it, and it is
only by searching the human soul that we can detect the wounds which it
has received. The mass of mankind, who are never without the feeling
of religion, do not perceive anything at variance with the established
faith. The instinctive desire of a future life brings the crowd about
the altar, and opens the hearts of men to the precepts and consolations
of religion.

But this picture is not applicable to us: for there are men amongst us
who have ceased to believe in Christianity, without adopting any other
religion; others who are in the perplexities of doubt, and who already
affect not to believe; and others, again, who are afraid to avow that
Christian faith which they still cherish in secret.

Amidst these lukewarm partisans and ardent antagonists a small number of
believers exist, who are ready to brave all obstacles and to scorn all
dangers in defence of their faith. They have done violence to human
weakness, in order to rise superior to public opinion. Excited by the
effort they have made, they scarcely knew where to stop; and as they
know that the first use which the French made of independence was to
attack religion, they look upon their contemporaries with dread, and
they recoil in alarm from the liberty which their fellow-citizens are
seeking to obtain. As unbelief appears to them to be a novelty, they
comprise all that is new in one indiscriminate animosity. They are at
war with their age and country, and they look upon every opinion which
is put forth there as the necessary enemy of the faith.

Such is not the natural state of men with regard to religion at the
present day; and some extraordinary or incidental cause must be at
work in France to prevent the human mind from following its original
propensities and to drive it beyond the limits at which it ought
naturally to stop. I am intimately convinced that this extraordinary and
incidental cause is the close connection of politics and religion.
The unbelievers of Europe attack the Christians as their political
opponents, rather than as their religious adversaries; they hate the
Christian religion as the opinion of a party, much more than as an
error of belief; and they reject the clergy less because they are the
representatives of the Divinity than because they are the allies of

In Europe, Christianity has been intimately united to the powers of
the earth. Those powers are now in decay, and it is, as it were, buried
under their ruins. The living body of religion has been bound down
to the dead corpse of superannuated polity: cut but the bonds which
restrain it, and that which is alive will rise once more. I know not
what could restore the Christian Church of Europe to the energy of its
earlier days; that power belongs to God alone; but it may be the effect
of human policy to leave the faith in the full exercise of the strength
which it still retains.

How The Instruction, The Habits, And The Practical Experience Of The
Americans Promote The Success Of Their Democratic Institutions

What is to be understood by the instruction of the American people--The
human mind more superficially instructed in the United States than in
Europe--No one completely uninstructed--Reason of this--Rapidity with
which opinions are diffused even in the uncultivated States of the
West--Practical experience more serviceable to the Americans than

I have but little to add to what I have already said concerning the
influence which the instruction and the habits of the Americans exercise
upon the maintenance of their political institutions.

America has hitherto produced very few writers of distinction; it
possesses no great historians, and not a single eminent poet. The
inhabitants of that country look upon what are properly styled literary
pursuits with a kind of disapprobation; and there are towns of very
second-rate importance in Europe in which more literary works are
annually published than in the twenty-four States of the Union put
together. The spirit of the Americans is averse to general ideas; and it
does not seek theoretical discoveries. Neither politics nor manufactures
direct them to these occupations; and although new laws are perpetually
enacted in the United States, no great writers have hitherto inquired
into the general principles of their legislation. The Americans have
lawyers and commentators, but no jurists; *h and they furnish examples
rather than lessons to the world. The same observation applies to the
mechanical arts. In America, the inventions of Europe are adopted with
sagacity; they are perfected, and adapted with admirable skill to the
wants of the country. Manufactures exist, but the science of manufacture
is not cultivated; and they have good workmen, but very few inventors.
Fulton was obliged to proffer his services to foreign nations for a long
time before he was able to devote them to his own country.

[Footnote h: [This cannot be said with truth of the country of Kent,
Story, and Wheaton.]]

The observer who is desirous of forming an opinion on the state of
instruction amongst the Anglo-Americans must consider the same object
from two different points of view. If he only singles out the learned,
he will be astonished to find how rare they are; but if he counts the
ignorant, the American people will appear to be the most enlightened
community in the world. The whole population, as I observed in another
place, is situated between these two extremes. In New England, every
citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is
moreover taught the doctrines and the evidences of his religion, the
history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution.
In the States of Connecticut and Massachusetts, it is extremely rare to
find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person
wholly ignorant of them is a sort of phenomenon.

When I compare the Greek and Roman republics with these American States;
the manuscript libraries of the former, and their rude population, with
the innumerable journals and the enlightened people of the latter; when
I remember all the attempts which are made to judge the modern republics
by the assistance of those of antiquity, and to infer what will happen
in our time from what took place two thousand years ago, I am tempted
to burn my books, in order to apply none but novel ideas to so novel a
condition of society.

What I have said of New England must not, however, be applied
indistinctly to the whole Union; as we advance towards the West or the
South, the instruction of the people diminishes. In the States which are
adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, a certain number of individuals may
be found, as in our own countries, who are devoid of the rudiments of
instruction. But there is not a single district in the United States
sunk in complete ignorance; and for a very simple reason: the peoples
of Europe started from the darkness of a barbarous condition, to advance
toward the light of civilization; their progress has been unequal;
some of them have improved apace, whilst others have loitered in their
course, and some have stopped, and are still sleeping upon the way. *i

[Footnote i: [In the Northern States the number of persons destitute of
instruction is inconsiderable, the largest number being 241,152 in
the State of New York (according to Spaulding's "Handbook of American
Statistics" for 1874); but in the South no less than 1,516,339 whites
and 2,671,396 colored persons are returned as "illiterate."]]

Such has not been the case in the United States. The Anglo-Americans
settled in a state of civilization, upon that territory which their
descendants occupy; they had not to begin to learn, and it was
sufficient for them not to forget. Now the children of these same
Americans are the persons who, year by year, transport their dwellings
into the wilds; and with their dwellings their acquired information and
their esteem for knowledge. Education has taught them the utility of
instruction, and has enabled them to transmit that instruction to their
posterity. In the United States society has no infancy, but it is born
in man's estate.

The Americans never use the word "peasant," because they have no idea of
the peculiar 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 amongst them; and they are alike unacquainted
with the virtues, the vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces
of an early stage of civilization. At the extreme borders of the
Confederate States, upon the confines of society and of the wilderness,
a population of bold adventurers have taken up their abode, who pierce
the solitudes of the American woods, and seek a country there, in order
to escape that poverty which awaited them in their native provinces. As
soon as the pioneer arrives upon the spot which is to serve him for a
retreat, he fells a few trees and builds a loghouse. Nothing can offer
a more miserable aspect than these isolated dwellings. The traveller
who approaches one of them towards nightfall, sees the flicker of the
hearth-flame through the chinks in the walls; and at night, if the wind
rises, he hears the roof of boughs shake to and fro in the midst of
the great forest trees. Who would not suppose that this poor hut is the
asylum of rudeness and ignorance? Yet no sort of comparison can be drawn
between the pioneer and the dwelling which shelters him. Everything
about him is primitive and unformed, but he is himself the result of the
labor and the experience of eighteen centuries. He wears the dress,
and he speaks the language of cities; he is acquainted with the past,
curious of the future, and ready for argument upon the present; he is,
in short, a highly civilized being, who consents, for a time, to inhabit
the backwoods, and who penetrates into the wilds of the New World with
the Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.

It is difficult to imagine the incredible rapidity with which public
opinion circulates in the midst of these deserts. *j I do not think that
so much intellectual intercourse takes place in the most enlightened
and populous districts of France. *k It cannot be doubted that, in the
United States, the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to
the support of a democratic republic; and such must always be the case,
I believe, where instruction which awakens the understanding is not
separated from moral education which amends the heart. But I by no means
exaggerate this benefit, and I am still further from thinking, as so
many people do think in Europe, that men can be instantaneously made
citizens by teaching them to read and write. True information is mainly
derived from experience; and if the Americans had not been gradually
accustomed to govern themselves, their book-learning would not assist
them much at the present day.

[Footnote j: I travelled along a portion of the frontier of the United
States in a sort of cart which was termed the mail. We passed, day and
night, with great rapidity along the roads which were scarcely marked
out, through immense forests; when the gloom of the woods became
impenetrable the coachman lighted branches of fir, and we journeyed
along by the light they cast. From time to time we came to a hut in
the midst of the forest, which was a post-office. The mail dropped an
enormous bundle of letters at the door of this isolated dwelling, and
we pursued our way at full gallop, leaving the inhabitants of the
neighboring log houses to send for their share of the treasure.

[When the author visited America the locomotive and the railroad were
scarcely invented, and not yet introduced in the United States. It
is superfluous to point out the immense effect of those inventions
in extending civilization and developing the resources of that vast
continent. In 1831 there were 51 miles of railway in the United States;
in 1872 there were 60,000 miles of railway.]]

[Footnote k: In 1832 each inhabitant of Michigan paid a sum equivalent
to 1 fr. 22 cent. (French money) to the post-office revenue, and each
inhabitant of the Floridas paid 1 fr. 5 cent. (See "National Calendar,"
1833, p. 244.) In the same year each inhabitant of the Departement du
Nord paid 1 fr. 4 cent. to the revenue of the French post-office. (See
the "Compte rendu de l'administration des Finances," 1833, p. 623.)
Now the State of Michigan only contained at that time 7 inhabitants
per square league and Florida only 5: the public instruction and the
commercial activity of these districts is inferior to that of most of
the States in the Union, whilst the Departement du Nord, which contains
3,400 inhabitants per square league, is one of the most enlightened and
manufacturing parts of France.]

I have lived a great deal with the people in the United States, and I
cannot express how much I admire their experience and their good sense.
An American should never be allowed to speak of Europe; for he will then
probably display a vast deal of presumption and very foolish pride. He
will take up with those crude and vague notions which are so useful to
the ignorant all over the world. But if you question him respecting his
own country, the cloud which dimmed his intelligence will immediately
disperse; his language will become as clear and as precise as his
thoughts. He will inform you what his rights are, and by what means he
exercises them; he will be able to point out the customs which obtain in
the political world. You will find that he is well acquainted with the
rules of the administration, and that he is familiar with the mechanism
of the laws. The citizen of the United States does not acquire his
practical science and his positive notions from books; the instruction
he has acquired may have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but
it did not furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by
participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the
forms of government from governing. The great work of society is ever
going on beneath his eyes, and, as it were, under his hands.

In the United States politics are the end and aim of education;
in Europe its principal object is to fit men for private life. The
interference of the citizens in public affairs is too rare an occurrence
for it to be anticipated beforehand. Upon casting a glance over society
in the two hemispheres, these differences are indicated even by its
external aspect.

In Europe we frequently introduce the ideas and the habits of private
life into public affairs; and as we pass at once from the domestic
circle to the government of the State, we may frequently be heard to
discuss the great interests of society in the same manner in which we
converse with our friends. The Americans, on the other hand, transfuse
the habits of public life into their manners in private; and in their
country the jury is introduced into the games of schoolboys, and
parliamentary forms are observed in the order of a feast.

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic Republic--Part IV

The Laws Contribute More To The Maintenance Of The Democratic Republic
In The United States Than The Physical Circumstances Of The Country, And
The Manners More Than The Laws

All the nations of America have a democratic state of society--Yet
democratic institutions only subsist amongst the Anglo-Americans--The
Spaniards of South America, equally favored by physical causes as the
Anglo-Americans, unable to maintain a democratic republic--Mexico,
which has adopted the Constitution of the United States, in the same
predicament--The Anglo-Americans of the West less able to maintain it
than those of the East--Reason of these different results.

I have remarked that the maintenance of democratic institutions in the
United States is attributable to the circumstances, the laws, and the
manners of that country. *l Most Europeans are only acquainted with
the first of these three causes, and they are apt to give it a
preponderating importance which it does not really possess.

[Footnote l: I remind the reader of the general signification which
I give to the word "manners," namely, the moral and intellectual
characteristics of social man taken collectively.]

It is true that the Anglo-Saxons settled in the New World in a state of
social equality; the low-born and the noble were not to be found amongst
them; and professional prejudices were always as entirely unknown as the
prejudices of birth. Thus, as the condition of society was democratic,
the empire of democracy was established without difficulty. But this
circumstance is by no means peculiar to the United States; almost
all the trans-Atlantic colonies were founded by men equal amongst
themselves, or who became so by inhabiting them. In no one part of
the New World have Europeans been able to create an aristocracy.
Nevertheless, democratic institutions prosper nowhere but in the United

The American Union has no enemies to contend with; it stands in the
wilds like an island in the ocean. But the Spaniards of South America
were no less isolated by nature; yet their position has not relieved
them from the charge of standing armies. They make war upon each other
when they have no foreign enemies to oppose; and the Anglo-American
democracy is the only one which has hitherto been able to maintain
itself in peace. *m

[Footnote m: [A remark which, since the great Civil War of 1861-65,
ceases to be applicable.]]

The territory of the Union presents a boundless field to human activity,
and inexhaustible materials for industry and labor. The passion of
wealth takes the place of ambition, and the warmth of faction is
mitigated by a sense of prosperity. But in what portion of the globe
shall we meet with more fertile plains, with mightier rivers, or with
more unexplored and inexhaustible riches than in South America?

Nevertheless, South America has been unable to maintain democratic
institutions. If the welfare of nations depended on their being placed
in a remote position, with an unbounded space of habitable territory
before them, the Spaniards of South America would have no reason to
complain of their fate. And although they might enjoy less prosperity
than the inhabitants of the United States, their lot might still be such
as to excite the envy of some nations in Europe. There are, however, no
nations upon the face of the earth more miserable than those of South

Thus, not only are physical causes inadequate to produce results
analogous to those which occur in North America, but they are unable
to raise the population of South America above the level of European
States, where they act in a contrary direction. Physical causes do not,
therefore, affect the destiny of nations so much as has been supposed.

I have met with men in New England who were on the point of leaving a
country, where they might have remained in easy circumstances, to go to
seek their fortune in the wilds. Not far from that district I found
a French population in Canada, which was closely crowded on a narrow
territory, although the same wilds were at hand; and whilst the emigrant
from the United States purchased an extensive estate with the earnings
of a short term of labor, the Canadian paid as much for land as he would
have done in France. Nature offers the solitudes of the New World to
Europeans; but they are not always acquainted with the means of turning
her gifts to account. Other peoples of America have the same physical
conditions of prosperity as the Anglo-Americans, but without their laws
and their manners; and these peoples are wretched. The laws and manners
of the Anglo-Americans are therefore that efficient cause of their
greatness which is the object of my inquiry.

I am far from supposing that the American laws are preeminently good
in themselves; I do not hold them to be applicable to all democratic
peoples; and several of them seem to be dangerous, even in the United
States. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the American legislation,
taken collectively, is extremely well adapted to the genius of the
people and the nature of the country which it is intended to govern. The
American laws are therefore good, and to them must be attributed a large
portion of the success which attends the government of democracy in
America: but I do not believe them to be the principal cause of that
success; and if they seem to me to have more influence upon the social
happiness of the Americans than the nature of the country, on the other
hand there is reason to believe that their effect is still inferior to
that produced by the manners of the people.

The Federal laws undoubtedly constitute the most important part of the
legislation of the United States. Mexico, which is not less fortunately
situated than the Anglo-American Union, has adopted the same laws, but
is unable to accustom itself to the government of democracy. Some
other cause is therefore at work, independently of those physical
circumstances and peculiar laws which enable the democracy to rule in
the United States.

Another still more striking proof may be adduced. Almost all the
inhabitants of the territory of the Union are the descendants of a
common stock; they speak the same language, they worship God in the same
manner, they are affected by the same physical causes, and they obey the
same laws. Whence, then, do their characteristic differences arise?
Why, in the Eastern States of the Union, does the republican government
display vigor and regularity, and proceed with mature deliberation?
Whence does it derive the wisdom and the durability which mark its acts,
whilst in the Western States, on the contrary, society seems to be ruled
by the powers of chance? There, public business is conducted with an
irregularity and a passionate and feverish excitement, which does not
announce a long or sure duration.

I am no longer comparing the Anglo-American States to foreign nations;
but I am contrasting them with each other, and endeavoring to discover
why they are so unlike. The arguments which are derived from the nature
of the country and the difference of legislation are here all set aside.
Recourse must be had to some other cause; and what other cause can there
be except the manners of the people?

It is in the Eastern States that the Anglo-Americans have been longest
accustomed to the government of democracy, and that they have adopted
the habits and conceived the notions most favorable to its maintenance.
Democracy has gradually penetrated into their customs, their opinions,
and the forms of social intercourse; it is to be found in all the
details of daily life equally as in the laws. In the Eastern States
the instruction and practical education of the people have been most
perfected, and religion has been most thoroughly amalgamated with
liberty. Now these habits, opinions, customs, and convictions are
precisely the constituent elements of that which I have denominated

In the Western States, on the contrary, a portion of the same advantages
is still wanting. Many of the Americans of the West were born in the
woods, and they mix the ideas and the customs of savage life with the
civilization of their parents. Their passions are more intense; their
religious morality less authoritative; and their convictions less
secure. The inhabitants exercise no sort of control over their
fellow-citizens, for they are scarcely acquainted with each other. The
nations of the West display, to a certain extent, the inexperience
and the rude habits of a people in its infancy; for although they are
composed of old elements, their assemblage is of recent date.

The manners of the Americans of the United States are, then, the real
cause which renders that people the only one of the American nations
that is able to support a democratic government; and it is the influence
of manners which produces the different degrees of order and of
prosperity that may be distinguished in the several Anglo-American
democracies. Thus the effect which the geographical position of a
country may have upon the duration of democratic institutions is
exaggerated in Europe. Too much importance is attributed to legislation,
too little to manners. These three great causes serve, no doubt, to
regulate and direct the American democracy; but if they were to
be classed in their proper order, I should say that the physical
circumstances are less efficient than the laws, and the laws very
subordinate to the manners of the people. I am convinced that the most
advantageous situation and the best possible laws cannot maintain a
constitution in spite of the manners of a country; whilst the latter
may turn the most unfavorable positions and the worst laws to some
advantage. The importance of manners is a common truth to which study
and experience incessantly direct our attention. It may be regarded as
a central point in the range of human observation, and the common
termination of all inquiry. So seriously do I insist upon this head,
that if I have hitherto failed in making the reader feel the important
influence which I attribute to the practical experience, the habits,
the opinions, in short, to the manners of the Americans, upon the
maintenance of their institutions, I have failed in the principal object
of my work.

Whether Laws And Manners Are Sufficient To Maintain Democratic
Institutions In Other Countries Besides America

The Anglo-Americans, if transported into Europe, would be obliged
to modify their laws--Distinction to be made between democratic
institutions and American institutions--Democratic laws may be conceived
better than, or at least different from, those which the American
democracy has adopted--The example of America only proves that it
is possible to regulate democracy by the assistance of manners and

I have asserted that the success of democratic institutions in the
United States is more intimately connected with the laws themselves, and
the manners of the people, than with the nature of the country. But
does it follow that the same causes would of themselves produce the same
results, if they were put into operation elsewhere; and if the country
is no adequate substitute for laws and manners, can laws and manners
in their turn prove a substitute for the country? It will readily be
understood that the necessary elements of a reply to this question are
wanting: other peoples are to be found in the New World besides the
Anglo-Americans, and as these people are affected by the same physical
circumstances as the latter, they may fairly be compared together. But
there are no nations out of America which have adopted the same laws
and manners, being destitute of the physical advantages peculiar to the
Anglo-Americans. No standard of comparison therefore exists, and we can
only hazard an opinion upon this subject.

It appears to me, in the first place, that a careful distinction must
be made between the institutions of the United States and democratic
institutions in general. When I reflect upon the state of Europe, its
mighty nations, its populous cities, its formidable armies, and
the complex nature of its politics, I cannot suppose that even the
Anglo-Americans, if they were transported to our hemisphere, with
their ideas, their religion, and their manners, could exist without
considerably altering their laws. But a democratic nation may be
imagined, organized differently from the American people. It is not
impossible to conceive a government really established upon the will
of the majority; but in which the majority, repressing its natural
propensity to equality, should consent, with a view to the order and the
stability of the State, to invest a family or an individual with all
the prerogatives of the executive. A democratic society might exist, in
which the forces of the nation would be more centralized than they are
in the United States; the people would exercise a less direct and
less irresistible influence upon public affairs, and yet every citizen
invested with certain rights would participate, within his sphere,
in the conduct of the government. The observations I made amongst the
Anglo-Americans induce me to believe that democratic institutions of
this kind, prudently introduced into society, so as gradually to mix
with the habits and to be interfused with the opinions of the people,
might subsist in other countries besides America. If the laws of the
United States were the only imaginable democratic laws, or the most
perfect which it is possible to conceive, I should admit that the
success of those institutions affords no proof of the success of
democratic institutions in general, in a country less favored by natural
circumstances. But as the laws of America appear to me to be defective
in several respects, and as I can readily imagine others of the same
general nature, the peculiar advantages of that country do not prove
that democratic institutions cannot succeed in a nation less favored by
circumstances, if ruled by better laws.

If human nature were different in America from what it is elsewhere; or
if the social condition of the Americans engendered habits and opinions
amongst them different from those which originate in the same social
condition in the Old World, the American democracies would afford
no means of predicting what may occur in other democracies. If the
Americans displayed the same propensities as all other democratic
nations, and if their legislators had relied upon the nature of the
country and the favor of circumstances to restrain those propensities
within due limits, the prosperity of the United States would be
exclusively attributable to physical causes, and it would afford no
encouragement to a people inclined to imitate their example, without
sharing their natural advantages. But neither of these suppositions is
borne out by facts.

In America the same passions are to be met with as in Europe; some
originating in human nature, others in the democratic condition of
society. Thus in the United States I found that restlessness of heart
which is natural to men, when all ranks are nearly equal and the chances
of elevation are the same to all. I found the democratic feeling of envy
expressed under a thousand different forms. I remarked that the people
frequently displayed, in the conduct of affairs, a consummate mixture
of ignorance and presumption; and I inferred that in America, men
are liable to the same failings and the same absurdities as amongst
ourselves. But upon examining the state of society more attentively,
I speedily discovered that the Americans had made great and successful
efforts to counteract these imperfections of human nature, and to
correct the natural defects of democracy. Their divers municipal laws
appeared to me to be a means of restraining the ambition of the citizens
within a narrow sphere, and of turning those same passions which might
have worked havoc in the State, to the good of the township or the
parish. The American legislators have succeeded to a certain extent in
opposing the notion of rights to the feelings of envy; the permanence
of the religious world to the continual shifting of politics; the
experience of the people to its theoretical ignorance; and its practical
knowledge of business to the impatience of its desires.

The Americans, then, have not relied upon the nature of their country to
counterpoise those dangers which originate in their Constitution and
in their political laws. To evils which are common to all democratic
peoples they have applied remedies which none but themselves had
ever thought of before; and although they were the first to make the
experiment, they have succeeded in it.

The manners and laws of the Americans are not the only ones which may
suit a democratic people; but the Americans have shown that it would be
wrong to despair of regulating democracy by the aid of manners and of
laws. If other nations should borrow this general and pregnant idea from
the Americans, without however intending to imitate them in the peculiar
application which they have made of it; if they should attempt to fit
themselves for that social condition, which it seems to be the will of
Providence to impose upon the generations of this age, and so to escape
from the despotism or the anarchy which threatens them; what reason is
there to suppose that their efforts would not be crowned with success?
The organization and the establishment of democracy in Christendom is
the great political problem of the time. The Americans, unquestionably,
have not resolved this problem, but they furnish useful data to those
who undertake the task.

Importance Of What Precedes With Respect To The State Of Europe

It may readily be discovered with what intention I undertook the
foregoing inquiries. The question here discussed is interesting not only
to the United States, but to the whole world; it concerns, not a nation,
but all mankind. If those nations whose social condition is democratic
could only remain free as long as they are inhabitants of the wilds,
we could not but despair of the future destiny of the human race; for
democracy is rapidly acquiring a more extended sway, and the wilds are
gradually peopled with men. If it were true that laws and manners are
insufficient to maintain democratic institutions, what refuge would
remain open to the nations, except the despotism of a single individual?
I am aware that there are many worthy persons at the present time who
are not alarmed at this latter alternative, and who are so tired of
liberty as to be glad of repose, far from those storms by which it
is attended. But these individuals are ill acquainted with the
haven towards which they are bound. They are so deluded by their
recollections, as to judge the tendency of absolute power by what it was
formerly, and not by what it might become at the present time.

If absolute power were re-established amongst the democratic nations of
Europe, I am persuaded that it would assume a new form, and appear under
features unknown to our forefathers. There was a time in Europe when
the laws and the consent of the people had invested princes with almost
unlimited authority; but they scarcely ever availed themselves of it.
I do not speak of the prerogatives of the nobility, of the authority of
supreme courts of justice, of corporations and their chartered rights,
or of provincial privileges, which served to break the blows of the
sovereign authority, and to maintain a spirit of resistance in the
nation. Independently of these political institutions--which, however
opposed they might be to personal liberty, served to keep alive the love
of freedom in the mind of the public, and which may be esteemed to have
been useful in this respect--the manners and opinions of the nation
confined the royal authority within barriers which were not less
powerful, although they were less conspicuous. Religion, the affections
of the people, the benevolence of the prince, the sense of honor, family
pride, provincial prejudices, custom, and public opinion limited the
power of kings, and restrained their authority within an invisible
circle. The constitution of nations was despotic at that time, but their
manners were free. Princes had the right, but they had neither the means
nor the desire, of doing whatever they pleased.

But what now remains of those barriers which formerly arrested the
aggressions of tyranny? Since religion has lost its empire over the
souls of men, the most prominent boundary which divided good from evil
is overthrown; the very elements of the moral world are indeterminate;
the princes and the peoples of the earth are guided by chance, and none
can define the natural limits of despotism and the bounds of license.
Long revolutions have forever destroyed the respect which surrounded the
rulers of the State; and since they have been relieved from the burden
of public esteem, princes may henceforward surrender themselves without
fear to the seductions of arbitrary power.

When kings find that the hearts of their subjects are turned towards
them, they are clement, because they are conscious of their strength,
and they are chary of the affection of their people, because the
affection of their people is the bulwark of the throne. A mutual
interchange of good-will then takes place between the prince and the
people, which resembles the gracious intercourse of domestic society.
The subjects may murmur at the sovereign's decree, but they are grieved
to displease him; and the sovereign chastises his subjects with the
light hand of parental affection.

But when once the spell of royalty is broken in the tumult of
revolution; when successive monarchs have crossed the throne, so as
alternately to display to the people the weakness of their right and the
harshness of their power, the sovereign is no longer regarded by any as
the Father of the State, and he is feared by all as its master. If he
be weak, he is despised; if he be strong, he is detested. He himself is
full of animosity and alarm; he finds that he is as a stranger in his
own country, and he treats his subjects like conquered enemies.

When the provinces and the towns formed so many different nations in the
midst of their common country, each of them had a will of its own, which
was opposed to the general spirit of subjection; but now that all the
parts of the same empire, after having lost their immunities, their
customs, their prejudices, their traditions, and their names, are
subjected and accustomed to the same laws, it is not more difficult to
oppress them collectively than it was formerly to oppress them singly.

Whilst the nobles enjoyed their power, and indeed long after that power
was lost, the honor of aristocracy conferred an extraordinary degree of
force upon their personal opposition. They afford instances of men who,
notwithstanding their weakness, still entertained a high opinion of
their personal value, and dared to cope single-handed with the efforts
of the public authority. But at the present day, when all ranks are more
and more confounded, when the individual disappears in the throng, and
is easily lost in the midst of a common obscurity, when the honor of
monarchy has almost lost its empire without being succeeded by public
virtue, and when nothing can enable man to rise above himself, who shall
say at what point the exigencies of power and the servility of weakness
will stop?

As long as family feeling was kept alive, the antagonist of oppression
was never alone; he looked about him, and found his clients, his
hereditary friends, and his kinsfolk. If this support was wanting, he
was sustained by his ancestors and animated by his posterity. But
when patrimonial estates are divided, and when a few years suffice to
confound the distinctions of a race, where can family feeling be found?
What force can there be in the customs of a country which has changed
and is still perpetually changing, its aspect; in which every act of
tyranny has a precedent, and every crime an example; in which there
is nothing so old that its antiquity can save it from destruction, and
nothing so unparalleled that its novelty can prevent it from being done?
What resistance can be offered by manners of so pliant a make that they
have already often yielded? What strength can even public opinion have
retained, when no twenty persons are connected by a common tie; when
not a man, nor a family, nor chartered corporation, nor class, nor free
institution, has the power of representing or exerting that opinion;
and when every citizen--being equally weak, equally poor, and equally
dependent--has only his personal impotence to oppose to the organized
force of the government?

The annals of France furnish nothing analogous to the condition in which
that country might then be thrown. But it may more aptly be assimilated
to the times of old, and to those hideous eras of Roman oppression, when
the manners of the people were corrupted, their traditions obliterated,
their habits destroyed, their opinions shaken, and freedom, expelled
from the laws, could find no refuge in the land; when nothing protected
the citizens, and the citizens no longer protected themselves; when
human nature was the sport of man, and princes wearied out the clemency
of Heaven before they exhausted the patience of their subjects. Those
who hope to revive the monarchy of Henry IV or of Louis XIV, appear
to me to be afflicted with mental blindness; and when I consider the
present condition of several European nations--a condition to which all
the others tend--I am led to believe that they will soon be left with
no other alternative than democratic liberty, or the tyranny of the
Caesars. *n

[Footnote n: [This prediction of the return of France to imperial
despotism, and of the true character of that despotic power, was written
in 1832, and realized to the letter in 1852.]]

And indeed it is deserving of consideration, whether men are to be
entirely emancipated or entirely enslaved; whether their rights are to
be made equal, or wholly taken away from them. If the rulers of society
were reduced either gradually to raise the crowd to their own level,
or to sink the citizens below that of humanity, would not the doubts of
many be resolved, the consciences of many be healed, and the community
prepared to make great sacrifices with little difficulty? In that case,
the gradual growth of democratic manners and institutions should be
regarded, not as the best, but as the only means of preserving freedom;
and without liking the government of democracy, it might be adopted
as the most applicable and the fairest remedy for the present ills of

It is difficult to associate a people in the work of government; but it
is still more difficult to supply it with experience, and to inspire
it with the feelings which it requires in order to govern well. I grant
that the caprices of democracy are perpetual; its instruments are rude;
its laws imperfect. But if it were true that soon no just medium would
exist between the empire of democracy and the dominion of a single arm,
should we not rather incline towards the former than submit voluntarily
to the latter? And if complete equality be our fate, is it not better to
be levelled by free institutions than by despotic power?

Those who, after having read this book, should imagine that my
intention in writing it has been to propose the laws and manners of
the Anglo-Americans for the imitation of all democratic peoples, would
commit a very great mistake; they must have paid more attention to the
form than to the substance of my ideas. My aim has been to show, by the
example of America, that laws, and especially manners, may exist which
will allow a democratic people to remain free. But I am very far from
thinking that we ought to follow the example of the American democracy,
and copy the means which it has employed to attain its ends; for I
am well aware of the influence which the nature of a country and its
political precedents exercise upon a constitution; and I should regard
it as a great misfortune for mankind if liberty were to exist all over
the world under the same forms.

But I am of opinion that if we do not succeed in gradually introducing
democratic institutions into France, and if we despair of imparting to
the citizens those ideas and sentiments which first prepare them
for freedom, and afterwards allow them to enjoy it, there will be no
independence at all, either for the middling classes or the nobility,
for the poor or for the rich, but an equal tyranny over all; and I
foresee that if the peaceable empire of the majority be not founded
amongst us in time, we shall sooner or later arrive at the unlimited
authority of a single despot.

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races In The United States--Part I

The Present And Probable Future Condition Of The Three Races Which
Inhabit The Territory Of The United States

The principal part of the task which I had imposed upon myself is now
performed. I have shown, as far as I was able, the laws and the manners
of the American democracy. Here I might stop; but the reader would
perhaps feel that I had not satisfied his expectations.

The absolute supremacy of democracy is not all that we meet with in
America; the inhabitants of the New World may be considered from more
than one point of view. In the course of this work my subject has often
led me to speak of the Indians and the Negroes; but I have never been
able to stop in order to show what place these two races occupy in the
midst of the democratic people whom I was engaged in describing. I have
mentioned in what spirit, and according to what laws, the Anglo-American
Union was formed; but I could only glance at the dangers which menace
that confederation, whilst it was equally impossible for me to give a
detailed account of its chances of duration, independently of its laws
and manners. When speaking of the united republican States, I hazarded
no conjectures upon the permanence of republican forms in the New World,
and when making frequent allusion to the commercial activity which
reigns in the Union, I was unable to inquire into the future condition
of the Americans as a commercial people.

These topics are collaterally connected with my subject without forming
a part of it; they are American without being democratic; and to portray
democracy has been my principal aim. It was therefore necessary to
postpone these questions, which I now take up as the proper termination
of my work.

The territory now occupied or claimed by the American Union spreads from
the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific Ocean. On the east
and west its limits are those of the continent itself. On the south it
advances nearly to the tropic, and it extends upwards to the icy regions
of the North. The human beings who are scattered over this space do not
form, as in Europe, so many branches of the same stock. Three races,
naturally distinct, and, I might almost say, hostile to each other, are
discoverable amongst them at the first glance. Almost insurmountable
barriers had been raised between them by education and by law, as well
as by their origin and outward characteristics; but fortune has brought
them together on the same soil, where, although they are mixed, they do
not amalgamate, and each race fulfils its destiny apart.

Amongst these 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. These two unhappy races have nothing in
common; neither birth, nor features, nor language, nor habits. Their
only resemblance lies in their misfortunes. Both of them occupy an
inferior rank in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and
if their wrongs are not the same, they originate, at any rate, with the
same authors.

If we reasoned from what passes in the world, we should almost say that
the European is to the other races of mankind, what man is to the lower
animals;--he makes them subservient to his use; and when he cannot
subdue, he destroys them. Oppression has, at one stroke, deprived the
descendants of the Africans of almost all the privileges of humanity.
The negro of the United States has lost all remembrance of his country;
the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he
abjured their religion and forgot their customs when he ceased to belong
to Africa, without acquiring any claim to European privileges. But he
remains half way between the two communities; sold by the one, repulsed
by the other; finding not a spot in the universe to call by the name
of country, except the faint image of a home which the shelter of his
master's roof affords.

The negro has no family; woman is merely the temporary companion of his
pleasures, and his children are upon an equality with himself from
the moment of their birth. Am I to call it a proof of God's mercy or
a visitation of his wrath, that man in certain states appears to be
insensible to his extreme wretchedness, and almost affects, with a
depraved taste, the cause of his misfortunes? The negro, who is plunged
in this abyss of evils, scarcely feels his own calamitous situation.
Violence made him a slave, and the habit of servitude gives him the
thoughts and desires of a slave; he admires his tyrants more than he
hates them, and finds his joy and his pride in the servile imitation of
those who oppress him: his understanding is degraded to the level of his

The negro enters upon slavery as soon as he is born: nay, he may have
been purchased in the womb, and have begun his slavery before he began
his existence. Equally devoid of wants and of enjoyment, and useless to
himself, he learns, with his first notions of existence, that he is the
property of another, who has an interest in preserving his life, and
that the care of it does not devolve upon himself; even the power of
thought appears to him a useless gift of Providence, and he quietly
enjoys the privileges of his debasement. If he becomes free,
independence is often felt by him to be a heavier burden than slavery;
for having learned, in the course of his life, to submit to everything
except reason, he is too much unacquainted with her dictates to obey
them. A thousand new desires beset him, and he is destitute of the
knowledge and energy necessary to resist them: these are masters which
it is necessary to contend with, and he has learnt only to submit and
obey. In short, he sinks to such a depth of wretchedness, that while
servitude brutalizes, liberty destroys him.

Oppression has been no less fatal to the Indian than to the negro race,
but its effects are different. Before the arrival of white men in the
New World, the inhabitants of North America lived quietly in their
woods, enduring the vicissitudes and practising the virtues and vices
common to savage nations. The Europeans, having dispersed the Indian
tribes and driven them into the deserts, condemned them to a wandering
life full of inexpressible sufferings.

Savage nations are only controlled by opinion and by custom. When the
North American Indians had lost the sentiment of attachment to their
country; when their families were dispersed, their traditions obscured,
and the chain of their recollections broken; when all their habits were
changed, and their wants increased beyond measure, European tyranny
rendered them more disorderly and less civilized than they were before.
The moral and physical condition of these tribes continually grew
worse, and they became more barbarous as they became more wretched.
Nevertheless, the Europeans have not been able to metamorphose the
character of the Indians; and though they have had power to destroy
them, they have never been able to make them submit to the rules of
civilized society.

The lot of the negro is placed on the extreme limit of servitude, while
that of the Indian lies on the uttermost verge of liberty; and slavery
does not produce more fatal effects upon the first, than independence
upon the second. The negro has lost all property in his own person, and
he cannot dispose of his existence without committing a sort of fraud:
but the savage is his own master as soon as he is able to act; parental
authority is scarcely known to him; he has never bent his will to
that of any of his kind, nor learned the difference between voluntary
obedience and a shameful subjection; and the very name of law is unknown
to him. To be free, with him, signifies to escape from all the shackles
of society. As he delights in this barbarous independence, and would
rather perish than sacrifice the least part of it, civilization has
little power over him.

The negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself
amongst men who repulse him; he conforms to the tastes of his
oppressors, adopts their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a
part of their community. Having been told from infancy that his race is
naturally inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition
and is ashamed of his own nature. In each of his features he discovers
a trace of slavery, and, if it were in his power, he would willingly rid
himself of everything that makes him what he is.

The Indian, on the contrary, has his imagination inflated with the
pretended nobility of his origin, and lives and dies in the midst of
these dreams of pride. Far from desiring to conform his habits to ours,
he loves his savage life as the distinguishing mark of his race, and he
repels every advance to civilization, less perhaps from the hatred which
he entertains for it, than from a dread of resembling the Europeans.
*a While he has nothing to oppose to our perfection in the arts but
the resources of the desert, to our tactics nothing but undisciplined
courage; whilst our well-digested plans are met by the spontaneous
instincts of savage life, who can wonder if he fails in this unequal

[Footnote a: The native of North America retains his opinions and the
most insignificant of his habits with a degree of tenacity which has
no parallel in history. For more than two hundred years the wandering
tribes of North America have had daily intercourse with the whites, and
they have never derived from them either a custom or an idea. Yet the
Europeans have exercised a powerful influence over the savages: they
have made them more licentious, but not more European. In the summer of
1831 I happened to be beyond Lake Michigan, at a place called Green Bay,
which serves as the extreme frontier between the United States and the
Indians on the north-western side. Here I became acquainted with an
American officer, Major H., who, after talking to me at length on the
inflexibility of the Indian character, related the following fact:--"I
formerly knew a young Indian," said he, "who had been educated at a
college in New England, where he had greatly distinguished himself, and
had acquired the external appearance of a member of civilized society.
When the war broke out between ourselves and the English in 1810, I saw
this young man again; he was serving in our army, at the head of the
warriors of his tribe, for the Indians were admitted amongst the ranks
of the Americans, upon condition that they would abstain from their
horrible custom of scalping their victims. On the evening of the battle
of . . ., C. came and sat himself down by the fire of our bivouac. I
asked him what had been his fortune that day: he related his exploits;
and growing warm and animated by the recollection of them, he concluded
by suddenly opening the breast of his coat, saying, 'You must not betray
me--see here!' And I actually beheld," said the Major, "between his body
and his shirt, the skin and hair of an English head, still dripping with

The negro, who earnestly desires to mingle his race with that of the
European, cannot effect if; while the Indian, who might succeed to a
certain extent, disdains to make the attempt. The servility of the one
dooms him to slavery, the pride of the other to death.

I remember that while I was travelling through the forests which still
cover the State of Alabama, I arrived one day at the log house of a
pioneer. I did not wish to penetrate into the dwelling of the American,
but retired to rest myself for a while on the margin of a spring, which
was not far off, in the woods. While I was in this place (which was
in the neighborhood of the Creek territory), an Indian woman appeared,
followed by a negress, and holding by the hand a little white girl of
five or six years old, whom I took to be the daughter of the pioneer.
A sort of barbarous luxury set off the costume of the Indian; rings
of metal were hanging from her nostrils and ears; her hair, which was
adorned with glass beads, fell loosely upon her shoulders; and I saw
that she was not married, for she still wore that necklace of shells
which the bride always deposits on the nuptial couch. The negress
was clad in squalid European garments. They all three came and seated
themselves upon the banks of the fountain; and the young Indian, taking
the child in her arms, lavished upon her such fond caresses as mothers
give; while the negress endeavored by various little artifices to
attract the attention of the young Creole.

The child displayed in her slightest gestures a consciousness of
superiority which formed a strange contrast with her infantine weakness;
as if she received the attentions of her companions with a sort of
condescension. The negress was seated on the ground before her mistress,
watching her smallest desires, and apparently divided between strong
affection for the child and servile fear; whilst the savage displayed,
in the midst of her tenderness, an air of freedom and of pride which was
almost ferocious. I had approached the group, and I contemplated them in
silence; but my curiosity was probably displeasing to the Indian woman,
for she suddenly rose, pushed the child roughly from her, and giving
me an angry look plunged into the thicket. I had often chanced to see
individuals met together in the same place, who belonged to the three
races of men which people North America. I had perceived from many
different results the preponderance of the whites. But in the picture
which I have just been describing there was something peculiarly
touching; a bond of affection here united the oppressors with the
oppressed, and the effort of nature to bring them together rendered
still more striking the immense distance placed between them by
prejudice and by law.

The Present And Probable Future Condition Of The Indian Tribes Which
Inhabit The Territory Possessed By The Union

Gradual disappearance of the native tribes--Manner in which it takes
place--Miseries accompanying the forced migrations of the Indians--The
savages of North America had only two ways of escaping destruction; war
or civilization--They are no longer able to make war--Reasons why they
refused to become civilized when it was in their power, and why they
cannot become so now that they desire it--Instance of the Creeks and
Cherokees--Policy of the particular States towards these Indians--Policy
of the Federal Government.

None of the Indian tribes which formerly inhabited the territory of New
England--the Naragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pecots--have any existence
but in the recollection of man. The Lenapes, who received William Penn,
a hundred and fifty years ago, upon the banks of the Delaware, have
disappeared; and I myself met with the last of the Iroquois, who were
begging alms. The nations I have mentioned formerly covered the country
to the sea-coast; but a traveller at the present day must penetrate more
than a hundred leagues into the interior of the continent to find an
Indian. Not only have these wild tribes receded, but they are destroyed;
*b and as they give way or perish, an immense and increasing people
fills their place. There is no instance upon record of so prodigious a
growth, or so rapid a destruction: the manner in which the latter change
takes place is not difficult to describe.

[Footnote b: In the thirteen original States there are only 6,273
Indians remaining. (See Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No. 117,
p. 90.) [The decrease in now far greater, and is verging on extinction.
See page 360 of this volume.]]

When the Indians were the sole inhabitants of the wilds from whence they
have since been expelled, their wants were few. Their arms were of their
own manufacture, their only drink was the water of the brook, and their
clothes consisted of the skins of animals, whose flesh furnished them
with food.

The Europeans introduced amongst the savages of North America fire-arms,
ardent spirits, and iron: they taught them to exchange for manufactured
stuffs, the rough garments which had previously satisfied their
untutored simplicity. Having acquired new tastes, without the arts by
which they could be gratified, the Indians were obliged to have recourse
to the workmanship of the whites; but in return for their productions
the savage had nothing to offer except the rich furs which still
abounded in his woods. Hence the chase became necessary, not merely to
provide for his subsistence, but in order to procure the only objects
of barter which he could furnish to Europe. *c Whilst the wants of the
natives were thus increasing, their resources continued to diminish.

[Footnote c: Messrs. Clarke and Cass, in their Report to Congress on
February 4, 1829, p. 23, expressed themselves thus:--"The time when
the Indians generally could supply themselves with food and clothing,
without any of the articles of civilized life, has long since passed
away. The more remote tribes, beyond the Mississippi, who live where
immense herds of buffalo are yet to be found and who follow those
animals in their periodical migrations, could more easily than any
others recur to the habits of their ancestors, and live without the
white man or any of his manufactures. But the buffalo is constantly
receding. The smaller animals, the bear, the deer, the beaver, the
otter, the muskrat, etc., principally minister to the comfort and
support of the Indians; and these cannot be taken without guns,
ammunition, and traps. Among the Northwestern Indians particularly, the
labor of supplying a family with food is excessive. Day after day is
spent by the hunter without success, and during this interval his family
must subsist upon bark or roots, or perish. Want and misery are around
them and among them. Many die every winter from actual starvation."

The Indians will not live as Europeans live, and yet they can neither
subsist without them, nor exactly after the fashion of their fathers.
This is demonstrated by a fact which I likewise give upon official
authority. Some Indians of a tribe on the banks of Lake Superior had
killed a European; the American government interdicted all traffic
with the tribe to which the guilty parties belonged, until they were
delivered up to justice. This measure had the desired effect.]

From the moment when a European settlement is formed in the neighborhood
of the territory occupied by the Indians, the beasts of chase take the
alarm. *d Thousands of savages, wandering in the forests and destitute
of any fixed dwelling, did not disturb them; but as soon as the
continuous sounds of European labor are heard in their neighborhood,
they begin to flee away, and retire to the West, where their instinct
teaches them that they will find deserts of immeasurable extent. "The
buffalo is constantly receding," say Messrs. Clarke and Cass in their
Report of the year 1829; "a few years since they approached the base
of the Alleghany; and a few years hence they may even be rare upon the
immense plains which extend to the base of the Rocky Mountains." I have
been assured that this effect of the approach of the whites is often
felt at two hundred leagues' distance from their frontier. Their
influence is thus exerted over tribes whose name is unknown to them; and
who suffer the evils of usurpation long before they are acquainted with
the authors of their distress. *e

[Footnote d: "Five years ago," (says Volney in his "Tableau des
Etats-Unis," p. 370) "in going from Vincennes to Kaskaskia, a territory
which now forms part of the State of Illinois, but which at the time
I mention was completely wild (1797), you could not cross a prairie
without seeing herds of from four to five hundred buffaloes. There are
now none remaining; they swam across the Mississippi to escape from the
hunters, and more particularly from the bells of the American cows."]

[Footnote e: The truth of what I here advance may be easily proved by
consulting the tabular statement of Indian tribes inhabiting the United
States and their territories. (Legislative Documents, 20th Congress,
No. 117, pp. 90-105.) It is there shown that the tribes in the centre
of America are rapidly decreasing, although the Europeans are still at a
considerable distance from them.]

Bold adventurers soon penetrate into the country the Indians have
deserted, and when they have advanced about fifteen or twenty
leagues from the extreme frontiers of the whites, they begin to build
habitations for civilized beings in the midst of the wilderness. This
is done without difficulty, as the territory of a hunting-nation is
ill-defined; it is the common property of the tribe, and belongs to no
one in particular, so that individual interests are not concerned in the
protection of any part of it.

A few European families, settled in different situations at a
considerable distance from each other, soon drive away the wild animals
which remain between their places of abode. The Indians, who had
previously lived in a sort of abundance, then find it difficult to
subsist, and still more difficult to procure the articles of barter
which they stand in need of.

To drive away their game is to deprive them of the means of existence,
as effectually as if the fields of our agriculturists were stricken with
barrenness; and they are reduced, like famished wolves, to prowl through
the forsaken woods in quest of prey. Their instinctive love of their
country attaches them to the soil which gave them birth, *f even after
it has ceased to yield anything but misery and death. At length they
are compelled to acquiesce, and to depart: they follow the traces of the
elk, the buffalo, and the beaver, and are guided by these wild animals
in the choice of their future country. Properly speaking, therefore, it
is not the Europeans who drive away the native inhabitants of America;
it is famine which compels them to recede; a happy distinction which had
escaped the casuists of former times, and for which we are indebted to
modern discovery!

[Footnote f: "The Indians," say Messrs. Clarke and Cass in their Report
to Congress, p. 15, "are attached to their country by the same feelings
which bind us to ours; and, besides, there are certain superstitious
notions connected with the alienation of what the Great Spirit gave to
their ancestors, which operate strongly upon the tribes who have made
few or no cessions, but which are gradually weakened as our intercourse
with them is extended. 'We will not sell the spot which contains
the bones of our fathers,' is almost always the first answer to a
proposition for a sale."]

It is impossible to conceive the extent of the sufferings which attend
these forced emigrations. They are undertaken by a people already
exhausted and reduced; and the countries to which the newcomers betake
themselves are inhabited by other tribes which receive them with jealous
hostility. Hunger is in the rear; war awaits them, and misery besets
them on all sides. In the hope of escaping from such a host of enemies,
they separate, and each individual endeavors to procure the means
of supporting his existence in solitude and secrecy, living in the
immensity of the desert like an outcast in civilized society. The social
tie, which distress had long since weakened, is then dissolved; they
have lost their country, and their people soon desert them: their very
families are obliterated; the names they bore in common are forgotten,
their language perishes, and all traces of their origin disappear.
Their nation has ceased to exist, except in the recollection of the
antiquaries of America and a few of the learned of Europe.

I should be sorry to have my reader suppose that I am coloring the
picture too highly; I saw with my own eyes several of the cases of
misery which I have been describing; and I was the witness of sufferings
which I have not the power to portray.

At the end of the year 1831, whilst I was on the left bank of the
Mississippi at a place named by Europeans, Memphis, there arrived a
numerous band of Choctaws (or Chactas, as they are called by the
French in Louisiana). These savages had left their country, and were
endeavoring to gain the right bank of the Mississippi, where they
hoped to find an asylum which had been promised them by the American
government. It was then the middle of winter, and the cold was unusually
severe; the snow had frozen hard upon the ground, and the river was
drifting huge masses of ice. The Indians had their families with them;
and they brought in their train the wounded and sick, with children
newly born, and old men upon the verge of death. They possessed neither
tents nor wagons, but only their arms and some provisions. I saw them
embark to pass the mighty river, and never will that solemn spectacle
fade from my remembrance. No cry, no sob was heard amongst the assembled
crowd; all were silent. Their calamities were of ancient date, and they
knew them to be irremediable. The Indians had all stepped into the bark
which was to carry them across, but their dogs remained upon the bank.
As soon as these animals perceived that their masters were finally
leaving the shore, they set up a dismal howl, and, plunging all together
into the icy waters of the Mississippi, they swam after the boat.

The ejectment of the Indians very often takes place at the present
day, in a regular, and, as it were, a legal manner. When the European
population begins to approach the limit of the desert inhabited by a
savage tribe, the government of the United States usually dispatches
envoys to them, who assemble the Indians in a large plain, and having
first eaten and drunk with them, accost them in the following manner:
"What have you to do in the land of your fathers? Before long, you must
dig up their bones in order to live. In what respect is the country you
inhabit better than another? Are there no woods, marshes, or prairies,
except where you dwell? And can you live nowhere but under your own sun?
Beyond those mountains which you see at the horizon, beyond the lake
which bounds your territory on the west, there lie vast countries where
beasts of chase are found in great abundance; sell your lands to us,
and go to live happily in those solitudes." After holding this language,
they spread before the eyes of the Indians firearms, woollen garments,
kegs of brandy, glass necklaces, bracelets of tinsel, earrings, and
looking-glasses. *g If, when they have beheld all these riches, they
still hesitate, it is insinuated that they have not the means of
refusing their required consent, and that the government itself will not
long have the power of protecting them in their rights. What are they to
do? Half convinced, and half compelled, they go to inhabit new deserts,
where the importunate whites will not let them remain ten years in
tranquillity. In this manner do the Americans obtain, at a very low
price, whole provinces, which the richest sovereigns of Europe could not
purchase. *h

[Footnote g: See, in the Legislative Documents of Congress (Doc. 117),
the narrative of what takes place on these occasions. This curious
passage is from the above-mentioned report, made to Congress by Messrs.
Clarke and Cass in February, 1829. Mr. Cass is now the Secretary of War.

"The Indians," says the report, "reach the treaty-ground poor and almost
naked. Large quantities of goods are taken there by the traders, and
are seen and examined by the Indians. The women and children become
importunate to have their wants supplied, and their influence is
soon exerted to induce a sale. Their improvidence is habitual and
unconquerable. The gratification of his immediate wants and desires is
the ruling passion of an Indian. The expectation of future advantages
seldom produces much effect. The experience of the past is lost, and
the prospects of the future disregarded. It would be utterly hopeless
to demand a cession of land, unless the means were at hand of gratifying
their immediate wants; and when their condition and circumstances are
fairly considered, it ought not to surprise us that they are so anxious
to relieve themselves."]

[Footnote h: On May 19, 1830, Mr. Edward Everett affirmed before the
House of Representatives, that the Americans had already acquired by
treaty, to the east and west of the Mississippi, 230,000,000 of acres.
In 1808 the Osages gave up 48,000,000 acres for an annual payment of
$1,000. In 1818 the Quapaws yielded up 29,000,000 acres for $4,000.
They reserved for themselves a territory of 1,000,000 acres for a
hunting-ground. A solemn oath was taken that it should be respected: but
before long it was invaded like the rest. Mr. Bell, in his Report of the
Committee on Indian Affairs, February 24, 1830, has these words:--"To
pay an Indian tribe what their ancient hunting-grounds are worth to
them, after the game is fled or destroyed, as a mode of appropriating
wild lands claimed by Indians, has been found more convenient, and
certainly it is more agreeable to the forms of justice, as well as more
merciful, than to assert the possession of them by the sword. Thus the
practice of buying Indian titles is but the substitute which humanity
and expediency have imposed, in place of the sword, in arriving at the
actual enjoyment of property claimed by the right of discovery, and
sanctioned by the natural superiority allowed to the claims of civilized
communities over those of savage tribes. Up to the present time
so invariable has been the operation of certain causes, first in
diminishing the value of forest lands to the Indians, and secondly in
disposing them to sell readily, that the plan of buying their right of
occupancy has never threatened to retard, in any perceptible degree, the
prosperity of any of the States." (Legislative Documents, 21st Congress,
No. 227, p. 6.)]

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part II

These are great evils; and it must be added that they appear to me to
be irremediable. I believe that the Indian nations of North America are
doomed to perish; and that whenever the Europeans shall be established
on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, that race of men will be no more.
*i The Indians had only the two alternatives of war or civilization;
in other words, they must either have destroyed the Europeans or become
their equals.

[Footnote i: This seems, indeed, to be the opinion of almost all
American statesmen. "Judging of the future by the past," says Mr.
Cass, "we cannot err in anticipating a progressive diminution of their
numbers, and their eventual extinction, unless our border should become
stationary, and they be removed beyond it, or unless some radical change
should take place in the principles of our intercourse with them, which
it is easier to hope for than to expect."]

At the first settlement of the colonies they might have found it
possible, by uniting their forces, to deliver themselves from the small
bodies of strangers who landed on their continent. *j They several
times attempted to do it, and were on the point of succeeding; but the
disproportion of their resources, at the present day, when compared
with those of the whites, is too great to allow such an enterprise to
be thought of. Nevertheless, there do arise from time to time among the
Indians men of penetration, who foresee the final destiny which awaits
the native population, and who exert themselves to unite all the tribes
in common hostility to the Europeans; but their efforts are unavailing.
Those tribes which are in the neighborhood of the whites, are too much
weakened to offer an effectual resistance; whilst the others, giving way
to that childish carelessness of the morrow which characterizes savage
life, wait for the near approach of danger before they prepare to meet
it; some are unable, the others are unwilling, to exert themselves.

[Footnote j: Amongst other warlike enterprises, there was one of the
Wampanaogs, and other confederate tribes, under Metacom in 1675, against
the colonists of New England; the English were also engaged in war in
Virginia in 1622.]

It is easy to foresee that the Indians will never conform to
civilization; or that it will be too late, whenever they may be inclined
to make the experiment.

Civilization is the result of a long social process which takes place in
the same spot, and is handed down from one generation to another, each
one profiting by the experience of the last. Of all nations, those
submit to civilization with the most difficulty which habitually live by
the chase. Pastoral tribes, indeed, often change their place of abode;
but they follow a regular order in their migrations, and often return
again to their old stations, whilst the dwelling of the hunter varies
with that of the animals he pursues.

Several attempts have been made to diffuse knowledge amongst the
Indians, without controlling their wandering propensities; by the
Jesuits in Canada, and by the Puritans in New England; *k but none of
these endeavors were crowned by any lasting success. Civilization began
in the cabin, but it soon retired to expire in the woods. The great
error of these legislators of the Indians was their not understanding
that, in order to succeed in civilizing a people, it is first necessary
to fix it; which cannot be done without inducing it to cultivate the
soil; the Indians ought in the first place to have been accustomed
to agriculture. But not only are they destitute of this indispensable
preliminary to civilization, they would even have great difficulty in
acquiring it. Men who have once abandoned themselves to the restless and
adventurous life of the hunter, feel an insurmountable disgust for the
constant and regular labor which tillage requires. We see this proved in
the bosom of our own society; but it is far more visible among peoples
whose partiality for the chase is a part of their national character.

[Footnote k: See the "Histoire de la Nouvelle France," by Charlevoix,
and the work entitled "Lettres edifiantes."]

Independently of this general difficulty, there is another, which
applies peculiarly to the Indians; they consider labor not merely as an
evil, but as a disgrace; so that their pride prevents them from becoming
civilized, as much as their indolence. *l

[Footnote l: "In all the tribes," says Volney, in his "Tableau des
Etats-Unis," p. 423, "there still exists a generation of old warriors,
who cannot forbear, when they see their countrymen using the hoe, from
exclaiming against the degradation of ancient manners, and asserting
that the savages owe their decline to these innovations; adding, that
they have only to return to their primitive habits in order to recover
their power and their glory."]

There is no Indian so wretched as not to retain under his hut of bark a
lofty idea of his personal worth; he considers the cares of industry
and labor as degrading occupations; he compares the husbandman to the ox
which traces the furrow; and even in our most ingenious handicraft,
he can see nothing but the labor of slaves. Not that he is devoid of
admiration for the power and intellectual greatness of the whites; but
although the result of our efforts surprises him, he contemns the means
by which we obtain it; and while he acknowledges our ascendancy, he
still believes in his superiority. War and hunting are the only pursuits
which appear to him worthy to be the occupations of a man. *m The
Indian, in the dreary solitude of his woods, cherishes the same ideas,
the same opinions as the noble of the Middle ages in his castle, and he
only requires to become a conqueror to complete the resemblance; thus,
however strange it may seem, it is in the forests of the New World,
and not amongst the Europeans who people its coasts, that the ancient
prejudices of Europe are still in existence.

[Footnote m: The following description occurs in an official document:
"Until a young man has been engaged with an enemy, and has performed
some acts of valor, he gains no consideration, but is regarded nearly as
a woman. In their great war-dances all the warriors in succession
strike the post, as it is called, and recount their exploits. On these
occasions their auditory consists of the kinsmen, friends, and comrades
of the narrator. The profound impression which his discourse produces on
them is manifested by the silent attention it receives, and by the loud
shouts which hail its termination. The young man who finds himself
at such a meeting without anything to recount is very unhappy; and
instances have sometimes occurred of young warriors, whose passions had
been thus inflamed, quitting the war-dance suddenly, and going off alone
to seek for trophies which they might exhibit, and adventures which they
might be allowed to relate."]

More than once, in the course of this work, I have endeavored to explain
the prodigious influence which the social condition appears to exercise
upon the laws and the manners of men; and I beg to add a few words on
the same subject.

When I perceive the resemblance which exists between the political
institutions of our ancestors, the Germans, and of the wandering tribes
of North America; between the customs described by Tacitus, and those of
which I have sometimes been a witness, I cannot help thinking that the
same cause has brought about the same results in both hemispheres; and
that in the midst of the apparent diversity of human affairs, a certain
number of primary facts may be discovered, from which all the others
are derived. In what we usually call the German institutions, then, I am
inclined only to perceive barbarian habits; and the opinions of savages
in what we style feudal principles.

However strongly the vices and prejudices of the North American Indians
may be opposed to their becoming agricultural and civilized, necessity
sometimes obliges them to it. Several of the Southern nations, and
amongst others the Cherokees and the Creeks, *n were surrounded by
Europeans, who had landed on the shores of the Atlantic; and who,
either descending the Ohio or proceeding up the Mississippi, arrived
simultaneously upon their borders. These tribes have not been driven
from place to place, like their Northern brethren; but they have been
gradually enclosed within narrow limits, like the game within the
thicket, before the huntsmen plunge into the interior. The Indians
who were thus placed between civilization and death, found themselves
obliged to live by ignominious labor like the whites. They took to
agriculture, and without entirely forsaking their old habits or manners,
sacrificed only as much as was necessary to their existence.

[Footnote n: These nations are now swallowed up in the States of
Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. There were formerly in the
South four great nations (remnants of which still exist), the Choctaws,
the Chickasaws, the Creeks, and the Cherokees. The remnants of these
four nations amounted, in 1830, to about 75,000 individuals. It is
computed that there are now remaining in the territory occupied
or claimed by the Anglo-American Union about 300,000 Indians. (See
Proceedings of the Indian Board in the City of New York.) The official
documents supplied to Congress make the number amount to 313,130. The
reader who is curious to know the names and numerical strength of all
the tribes which inhabit the Anglo-American territory should consult the
documents I refer to. (Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No.
117, pp. 90-105.) [In the Census of 1870 it is stated that the Indian
population of the United States is only 25,731, of whom 7,241 are in

The Cherokees went further; they created a written language; established
a permanent form of government; and as everything proceeds rapidly
in the New World, before they had all of them clothes, they set up a
newspaper. *o

[Footnote o: I brought back with me to France one or two copies of this
singular publication.]

The growth of European habits has been remarkably accelerated among
these Indians by the mixed race which has sprung up. *p Deriving
intelligence from their father's side, without entirely losing the
savage customs of the mother, the half-blood forms the natural link
between civilization and barbarism. Wherever this race has multiplied
the savage state has become modified, and a great change has taken place
in the manners of the people. *q

[Footnote p: See in the Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs, 21st
Congress, No. 227, p. 23, the reasons for the multiplication of Indians
of mixed blood among the Cherokees. The principal cause dates from the
War of Independence. Many Anglo-Americans of Georgia, having taken the
side of England, were obliged to retreat among the Indians, where they

[Footnote q: Unhappily the mixed race has been less numerous and less
influential in North America than in any other country. The American
continent was peopled by two great nations of Europe, the French and
the English. The former were not slow in connecting themselves with the
daughters of the natives, but there was an unfortunate affinity between
the Indian character and their own: instead of giving the tastes and
habits of civilized life to the savages, the French too often grew
passionately fond of the state of wild freedom they found them in. They
became the most dangerous of the inhabitants of the desert, and won the
friendship of the Indian by exaggerating his vices and his virtues. M.
de Senonville, the governor of Canada, wrote thus to Louis XIV in 1685:
"It has long been believed that in order to civilize the savages we
ought to draw them nearer to us. But there is every reason to suppose we
have been mistaken. Those which have been brought into contact with us
have not become French, and the French who have lived among them are
changed into savages, affecting to dress and live like them." ("History
of New France," by Charlevoix, vol. ii., p. 345.) The Englishman, on the
contrary, continuing obstinately attached to the customs and the most
insignificant habits of his forefathers, has remained in the midst of
the American solitudes just what he was in the bosom of European cities;
he would not allow of any communication with savages whom he despised,
and avoided with care the union of his race with theirs. Thus while the
French exercised no salutary influence over the Indians, the English
have always remained alien from them.]

The success of the Cherokees proves that the Indians are capable of
civilization, but it does not prove that they will succeed in it. This
difficulty which the Indians find in submitting to civilization proceeds
from the influence of a general cause, which it is almost impossible
for them to escape. An attentive survey of history demonstrates that,
in general, barbarous nations have raised themselves to civilization by
degrees, and by their own efforts. Whenever they derive knowledge from a
foreign people, they stood towards it in the relation of conquerors, and
not of a conquered nation. When the conquered nation is enlightened, and
the conquerors are half savage, as in the case of the invasion of Rome
by the Northern nations or that of China by the Mongols, the power
which victory bestows upon the barbarian is sufficient to keep up his
importance among civilized men, and permit him to rank as their equal,
until he becomes their rival: the one has might on his side, the other
has intelligence; the former admires the knowledge and the arts of the
conquered, the latter envies the power of the conquerors. The barbarians
at length admit civilized man into their palaces, and he in turn opens
his schools to the barbarians. But when the side on which the physical
force lies, also possesses an intellectual preponderance, the conquered
party seldom become civilized; it retreats, or is destroyed. It may
therefore be said, in a general way, that savages go forth in arms to
seek knowledge, but that they do not receive it when it comes to them.

If the Indian tribes which now inhabit the heart of the continent could
summon up energy enough to attempt to civilize themselves, they might
possibly succeed. Superior already to the barbarous nations which
surround them, they would gradually gain strength and experience, and
when the Europeans should appear upon their borders, they would be in a
state, if not to maintain their independence, at least to assert their
right to the soil, and to incorporate themselves with the conquerors.
But it is the misfortune of Indians to be brought into contact with a
civilized people, which is also (it must be owned) the most avaricious
nation on the globe, whilst they are still semi-barbarian: to find
despots in their instructors, and to receive knowledge from the hand
of oppression. Living in the freedom of the woods, the North American
Indian was destitute, but he had no feeling of inferiority towards
anyone; as soon, however, as he desires to penetrate into the social
scale of the whites, he takes the lowest rank in society, for he enters,
ignorant and poor, within the pale of science and wealth. After having
led a life of agitation, beset with evils and dangers, but at the
same time filled with proud emotions, *r he is obliged to submit to
a wearisome, obscure, and degraded state; and to gain the bread which
nourishes him by hard and ignoble labor; such are in his eyes the only
results of which civilization can boast: and even this much he is not
sure to obtain.

[Footnote r: There is in the adventurous life of the hunter a certain
irresistible charm, which seizes the heart of man and carries him away
in spite of reason and experience. This is plainly shown by the memoirs
of Tanner. Tanner is a European who was carried away at the age of six
by the Indians, and has remained thirty years with them in the woods.
Nothing can be conceived more appalling that the miseries which he
describes. He tells us of tribes without a chief, families without
a nation to call their own, men in a state of isolation, wrecks of
powerful tribes wandering at random amid the ice and snow and desolate
solitudes of Canada. Hunger and cold pursue them; every day their life
is in jeopardy. Amongst these men, manners have lost their empire,
traditions are without power. They become more and more savage. Tanner
shared in all these miseries; he was aware of his European origin; he
was not kept away from the whites by force; on the contrary, he came
every year to trade with them, entered their dwellings, and witnessed
their enjoyments; he knew that whenever he chose to return to civilized
life he was perfectly able to do so--and he remained thirty years in the
deserts. When he came into civilized society he declared that the rude
existence which he described, had a secret charm for him which he
was unable to define: he returned to it again and again: at length he
abandoned it with poignant regret; and when he was at length fixed among
the whites, several of his children refused to share his tranquil and
easy situation. I saw Tanner myself at the lower end of Lake Superior;
he seemed to me to be more like a savage than a civilized being. His
book is written without either taste or order; but he gives, even
unconsciously, a lively picture of the prejudices, the passions, the
vices, and, above all, of the destitution in which he lived.]

When the Indians undertake to imitate their European neighbors, and to
till the earth like the settlers, they are immediately exposed to a
very formidable competition. The white man is skilled in the craft of
agriculture; the Indian is a rough beginner in an art with which he is
unacquainted. The former reaps abundant crops without difficulty, the
latter meets with a thousand obstacles in raising the fruits of the

The European is placed amongst a population whose wants he knows and
partakes. The savage is isolated in the midst of a hostile people, with
whose manners, language, and laws he is imperfectly acquainted, but
without whose assistance he cannot live. He can only procure the
materials of comfort by bartering his commodities against the goods
of the European, for the assistance of his countrymen is wholly
insufficient to supply his wants. When the Indian wishes to sell the
produce of his labor, he cannot always meet with a purchaser, whilst the
European readily finds a market; and the former can only produce at a
considerable cost that which the latter vends at a very low rate. Thus
the Indian has no sooner escaped those evils to which barbarous nations
are exposed, than he is subjected to the still greater miseries of
civilized communities; and he finds is scarcely less difficult to live
in the midst of our abundance, than in the depth of his own wilderness.

He has not yet lost the habits of his erratic life; the traditions of
his fathers and his passion for the chase are still alive within him.
The wild enjoyments which formerly animated him in the woods, painfully
excite his troubled imagination; and his former privations appear to
be less keen, his former perils less appalling. He contrasts the
independence which he possessed amongst his equals with the servile
position which he occupies in civilized society. On the other hand,
the solitudes which were so long his free home are still at hand; a few
hours' march will bring him back to them once more. The whites offer him
a sum, which seems to him to be considerable, for the ground which he
has begun to clear. This money of the Europeans may possibly furnish him
with the means of a happy and peaceful subsistence in remoter regions;
and he quits the plough, resumes his native arms, and returns to the
wilderness forever. *s The condition of the Creeks and Cherokees, to
which I have already alluded, sufficiently corroborates the truth of
this deplorable picture.

[Footnote s: The destructive influence of highly civilized nations
upon others which are less so, has been exemplified by the Europeans
themselves. About a century ago the French founded the town of Vincennes
up on the Wabash, in the middle of the desert; and they lived there
in great plenty until the arrival of the American settlers, who first
ruined the previous inhabitants by their competition, and afterwards
purchased their lands at a very low rate. At the time when M. de Volney,
from whom I borrow these details, passed through Vincennes, the number
of the French was reduced to a hundred individuals, most of whom were
about to pass over to Louisiana or to Canada. These French settlers were
worthy people, but idle and uninstructed: they had contracted many of
the habits of savages. The Americans, who were perhaps their inferiors,
in a moral point of view, were immeasurably superior to them in
intelligence: they were industrious, well informed, rich, and accustomed
to govern their own community.

I myself saw in Canada, where the intellectual difference between the
two races is less striking, that the English are the masters of commerce
and manufacture in the Canadian country, that they spread on all sides,
and confine the French within limits which scarcely suffice to contain
them. In like manner, in Louisiana, almost all activity in commerce and
manufacture centres in the hands of the Anglo-Americans.

But the case of Texas is still more striking: the State of Texas is a
part of Mexico, and lies upon the frontier between that country and the
United States. In the course of the last few years the Anglo-Americans
have penetrated into this province, which is still thinly peopled; they
purchase land, they produce the commodities of the country, and supplant
the original population. It may easily be foreseen that if Mexico takes
no steps to check this change, the province of Texas will very shortly
cease to belong to that government.

If the different degrees--comparatively so slight--which exist
in European civilization produce results of such magnitude, the
consequences which must ensue from the collision of the most perfect
European civilization with Indian savages may readily be conceived.]

The Indians, in the little which they have done, have unquestionably
displayed as much natural genius as the peoples of Europe in their most
important designs; but nations as well as men require time to learn,
whatever may be their intelligence and their zeal. Whilst the savages
were engaged in the work of civilization, the Europeans continued to
surround them on every side, and to confine them within narrower limits;
the two races gradually met, and they are now in immediate juxtaposition
to each other. The Indian is already superior to his barbarous parent,
but he is still very far below his white neighbor. With their resources
and acquired knowledge, the Europeans soon appropriated to themselves
most of the advantages which the natives might have derived from the
possession of the soil; they have settled in the country, they have
purchased land at a very low rate or have occupied it by force, and the
Indians have been ruined by a competition which they had not the means
of resisting. They were isolated in their own country, and their race
only constituted a colony of troublesome aliens in the midst of a
numerous and domineering people. *t

[Footnote t: See in the Legislative Documents (21st Congress, No. 89)
instances of excesses of every kind committed by the whites upon the
territory of the Indians, either in taking possession of a part of their
lands, until compelled to retire by the troops of Congress, or carrying
off their cattle, burning their houses, cutting down their corn, and
doing violence to their persons. It appears, nevertheless, from all
these documents that the claims of the natives are constantly
protected by the government from the abuse of force. The Union has a
representative agent continually employed to reside among the Indians;
and the report of the Cherokee agent, which is among the documents
I have referred to, is almost always favorable to the Indians. "The
intrusion of whites," he says, "upon the lands of the Cherokees would
cause ruin to the poor, helpless, and inoffensive inhabitants." And he
further remarks upon the attempt of the State of Georgia to establish
a division line for the purpose of limiting the boundaries of the
Cherokees, that the line drawn having been made by the whites, and
entirely upon ex parte evidence of their several rights, was of no
validity whatever.]

Washington said in one of his messages to Congress, "We are more
enlightened and more powerful than the Indian nations, we are therefore
bound in honor to treat them with kindness and even with generosity."
But this virtuous and high-minded policy has not been followed. The
rapacity of the settlers is usually backed by the tyranny of the
government. Although the Cherokees and the Creeks are established
upon the territory which they inhabited before the settlement of the
Europeans, and although the Americans have frequently treated with them
as with foreign nations, the surrounding States have not consented to
acknowledge them as independent peoples, and attempts have been made to
subject these children of the woods to Anglo-American magistrates, laws,
and customs. *u Destitution had driven these unfortunate Indians to
civilization, and oppression now drives them back to their former
condition: many of them abandon the soil which they had begun to clear,
and return to their savage course of life.

[Footnote u: In 1829 the State of Alabama divided the Creek territory
into counties, and subjected the Indian population to the power of
European magistrates.

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part III

In 1830 the State of Mississippi assimilated the Choctaws and Chickasaws
to the white population, and declared that any of them that should take
the title of chief would be punished by a fine of $1,000 and a year's
imprisonment. When these laws were enforced upon the Choctaws, who
inhabited that district, the tribe assembled, their chief communicated
to them the intentions of the whites, and read to them some of the laws
to which it was intended that they should submit; and they unanimously
declared that it was better at once to retreat again into the wilds.]

If we consider the tyrannical measures which have been adopted by the
legislatures of the Southern States, the conduct of their Governors, and
the decrees of their courts of justice, we shall be convinced that the
entire expulsion of the Indians is the final result to which the efforts
of their policy are directed. The Americans of that part of the Union
look with jealousy upon the aborigines, *v they are aware that these
tribes have not yet lost the traditions of savage life, and before
civilization has permanently fixed them to the soil, it is intended
to force them to recede by reducing them to despair. The Creeks and
Cherokees, oppressed by the several States, have appealed to the central
government, which is by no means insensible to their misfortunes, and
is sincerely desirous of saving the remnant of the natives, and of
maintaining them in the free possession of that territory, which
the Union is pledged to respect. *w But the several States oppose
so formidable a resistance to the execution of this design, that the
government is obliged to consent to the extirpation of a few barbarous
tribes in order not to endanger the safety of the American Union.

[Footnote v: The Georgians, who are so much annoyed by the proximity of
the Indians, inhabit a territory which does not at present contain
more than seven inhabitants to the square mile. In France there are one
hundred and sixty-two inhabitants to the same extent of country.]

[Footnote w: In 1818 Congress appointed commissioners to visit the
Arkansas Territory, accompanied by a deputation of Creeks, Choctaws, and
Chickasaws. This expedition was commanded by Messrs. Kennerly,
M'Coy, Wash Hood, and John Bell. See the different reports of the
commissioners, and their journal, in the Documents of Congress, No. 87,
House of Representatives.]

But the federal government, which is not able to protect the Indians,
would fain mitigate the hardships of their lot; and, with this
intention, proposals have been made to transport them into more remote
regions at the public cost.

Between the thirty-third and thirty-seventh degrees of north latitude,
a vast tract of country lies, which has taken the name of Arkansas, from
the principal river that waters its extent. It is bounded on the
one side by the confines of Mexico, on the other by the Mississippi.
Numberless streams cross it in every direction; the climate is mild, and
the soil productive, but it is only inhabited by a few wandering hordes
of savages. The government of the Union wishes to transport the broken
remnants of the indigenous population of the South to the portion of
this country which is nearest to Mexico, and at a great distance from
the American settlements.

We were assured, towards the end of the year 1831, that 10,000
Indians had already gone down to the shores of the Arkansas; and fresh
detachments were constantly following them; but Congress has been unable
to excite a unanimous determination in those whom it is disposed to
protect. Some, indeed, are willing to quit the seat of oppression, but
the most enlightened members of the community refuse to abandon their
recent dwellings and their springing crops; they are of opinion that the
work of civilization, once interrupted, will never be resumed; they fear
that those domestic habits which have been so recently contracted, may
be irrevocably lost in the midst of a country which is still barbarous,
and where nothing is prepared for the subsistence of an agricultural
people; they know that their entrance into those wilds will be opposed
by inimical hordes, and that they have lost the energy of barbarians,
without acquiring the resources of civilization to resist their attacks.
Moreover, the Indians readily discover that the settlement which is
proposed to them is merely a temporary expedient. Who can assure them
that they will at length be allowed to dwell in peace in their new
retreat? The United States pledge themselves to the observance of the
obligation; but the territory which they at present occupy was formerly
secured to them by the most solemn oaths of Anglo-American faith. *x
The American government does not indeed rob them of their lands, but it
allows perpetual incursions to be made on them. In a few years the same
white population which now flocks around them, will track them to the
solitudes of the Arkansas; they will then be exposed to the same evils
without the same remedies, and as the limits of the earth will at last
fail them, their only refuge is the grave.

[Footnote x: The fifth article of the treaty made with the Creeks in
August, 1790, is in the following words:--"The United States solemnly
guarantee to the Creek nation all their land within the limits of the
United States."

The seventh article of the treaty concluded in 1791 with the Cherokees
says:--"The United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokee nation all
their lands not hereby ceded." The following article declared that if
any citizen of the United States or other settler not of the Indian race
should establish himself upon the territory of the Cherokees, the United
States would withdraw their protection from that individual, and give
him up to be punished as the Cherokee nation should think fit.]

The Union treats the Indians with less cupidity and rigor than the
policy of the several States, but the two governments are alike
destitute of good faith. The States extend what they are pleased to term
the benefits of their laws to the Indians, with a belief that the
tribes will recede rather than submit; and the central government, which
promises a permanent refuge to these unhappy beings is well aware of its
inability to secure it to them. *y

[Footnote y: This does not prevent them from promising in the most
solemn manner to do so. See the letter of the President addressed to the
Creek Indians, March 23, 1829 (Proceedings of the Indian Board, in the
city of New York, p. 5): "Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a
part of your nation has gone, your father has provided a country large
enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it. There your
white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to the
land, and you can live upon it, you and all your children, as long as
the grass grows, or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be
yours forever."

The Secretary of War, in a letter written to the Cherokees, April 18,
1829, (see the same work, p. 6), declares to them that they cannot
expect to retain possession of the lands at that time occupied by them,
but gives them the most positive assurance of uninterrupted peace if
they would remove beyond the Mississippi: as if the power which
could not grant them protection then, would be able to afford it them

Thus the tyranny of the States obliges the savages to retire, the Union,
by its promises and resources, facilitates their retreat; and these
measures tend to precisely the same end. *z "By the will of our Father
in Heaven, the Governor of the whole world," said the Cherokees in their
petition to Congress, *a "the red man of America has become small, and
the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of
these United States first came to the shores of America they found the
red man strong: though he was ignorant and savage, yet he received them
kindly, and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in
peace, and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man
wanted and asked of the Indian, the latter willingly gave. At that time
the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the
scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As
his neighbors increased in numbers his power became less and less,
and now, of the many and powerful tribes who once covered these United
States, only a few are to be seen--a few whom a sweeping pestilence has
left. The northern tribes, who were once so numerous and powerful, are
now nearly extinct. Thus it has happened to the red man of America.
Shall we, who are remnants, share the same fate?"

[Footnote z: To obtain a correct idea of the policy pursued by the
several States and the Union with respect to the Indians, it is
necessary to consult, 1st, "The Laws of the Colonial and State
Governments relating to the Indian Inhabitants." (See the Legislative
Documents, 21st Congress, No. 319.) 2d, The Laws of the Union on the
same subject, and especially that of March 30, 1802. (See Story's "Laws
of the United States.") 3d, The Report of Mr. Cass, Secretary of War,
relative to Indian Affairs, November 29, 1823.]

[Footnote a: December 18, 1829.]

"The land on which we stand we have received as an inheritance from
our fathers, who possessed it from time immemorial, as a gift from our
common Father in Heaven. They bequeathed it to us as their children, and
we have sacredly kept it, as containing the remains of our beloved men.
This right of inheritance we have never ceded nor ever forfeited. Permit
us to ask what better right can the people have to a country than the
right of inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession? We know it is
said of late by the State of Georgia and by the Executive of the United
States, that we have forfeited this right; but we think this is said
gratuitously. At what time have we made the forfeit? What great crime
have we committed, whereby we must forever be divested of our country
and rights? Was it when we were hostile to the United States, and
took part with the King of Great Britain, during the struggle for
independence? If so, why was not this forfeiture declared in the first
treaty of peace between the United States and our beloved men? Why
was not such an article as the following inserted in the treaty:--'The
United States give peace to the Cherokees, but, for the part they took
in the late war, declare them to be but tenants at will, to be removed
when the convenience of the States, within whose chartered limits they
live, shall require it'? That was the proper time to assume such a
possession. But it was not thought of, nor would our forefathers have
agreed to any treaty whose tendency was to deprive them of their rights
and their country."

Such is the language of the Indians: their assertions are true, their
forebodings inevitable. From whichever side we consider the destinies
of the aborigines of North America, their calamities appear to be
irremediable: if they continue barbarous, they are forced to retire; if
they attempt to civilize their manners, the contact of a more civilized
community subjects them to oppression and destitution. They perish if
they continue to wander from waste to waste, and if they attempt to
settle they still must perish; the assistance of Europeans is necessary
to instruct them, but the approach of Europeans corrupts and repels them
into savage life; they refuse to change their habits as long as their
solitudes are their own, and it is too late to change them when they are
constrained to submit.

The Spaniards pursued the Indians with bloodhounds, like wild beasts;
they sacked the New World with no more temper or compassion than a city
taken by storm; but destruction must cease, and frenzy be stayed; the
remnant of the Indian population which had escaped the massacre mixed
with its conquerors, and adopted in the end their religion and their
manners. *b The conduct of the Americans of the United States towards
the aborigines is characterized, on the other hand, by a singular
attachment to the formalities of law. Provided that the Indians retain
their barbarous condition, the Americans take no part in their affairs;
they treat them as independent nations, and do not possess themselves
of their hunting grounds without a treaty of purchase; and if an Indian
nation happens to be so encroached upon as to be unable to subsist upon
its territory, they afford it brotherly assistance in transporting it to
a grave sufficiently remote from the land of its fathers.

[Footnote b: The honor of this result is, however, by no means due to
the Spaniards. If the Indian tribes had not been tillers of the ground
at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, they would unquestionably
have been destroyed in South as well as in North America.]

The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those
unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor
did they even succeed in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the
Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose
with singular felicity; tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without
shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of
morality in the eyes of the world. *c It is impossible to destroy men
with more respect for the laws of humanity.

[Footnote c: See, amongst other documents, the report made by Mr. Bell
in the name of the Committee on Indian Affairs, February 24, 1830, in
which is most logically established and most learnedly proved, that "the
fundamental principle that the Indians had no right by virtue of
their ancient possession either of will or sovereignty, has never been
abandoned either expressly or by implication." In perusing this report,
which is evidently drawn up by an experienced hand, one is astonished
at the facility with which the author gets rid of all arguments founded
upon reason and natural right, which he designates as abstract and
theoretical principles. The more I contemplate the difference between
civilized and uncivilized man with regard to the principles of justice,
the more I observe that the former contests the justice of those rights
which the latter simply violates.]

[I leave this chapter wholly unchanged, for it has always appeared to me
to be one of the most eloquent and touching parts of this book. But it
has ceased to be prophetic; the destruction of the Indian race in the
United States is already consummated. In 1870 there remained but 25,731
Indians in the whole territory of the Union, and of these by far the
largest part exist in California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Dakota, and New
Mexico and Nevada. In New England, Pennsylvania, and New York the race
is extinct; and the predictions of M. de Tocqueville are fulfilled.
--Translator's Note.]

Situation Of The Black Population In The United States, And Dangers With
Which Its Presence Threatens The Whites

Why it is more difficult to abolish slavery, and to efface all vestiges
of it amongst the moderns than it was amongst the ancients--In the
United States the prejudices of the Whites against the Blacks seem to
increase in proportion as slavery is abolished--Situation of the
Negroes in the Northern and Southern States--Why the Americans
abolish slavery--Servitude, which debases the slave, impoverishes the
master--Contrast between the left and the right bank of the Ohio--To
what attributable--The Black race, as well as slavery, recedes towards
the South--Explanation of this fact--Difficulties attendant upon
the abolition of slavery in the South--Dangers to come--General
anxiety--Foundation of a Black colony in Africa--Why the Americans of
the South increase the hardships of slavery, whilst they are distressed
at its continuance.

The Indians will perish in the same isolated condition in which they
have lived; but the destiny of the negroes is in some measure interwoven
with that of the Europeans. These two races are attached to each other
without intermingling, and they are alike unable entirely to separate
or to combine. The most formidable of all the ills which threaten
the future existence of the Union arises from the presence of a black
population upon its territory; and in contemplating the cause of the
present embarrassments or of the future dangers of the United States,
the observer is invariably led to consider this as a primary fact.

The permanent evils to which mankind is subjected are usually produced
by the vehement or the increasing efforts of men; but there is one
calamity which penetrated furtively into the world, and which was at
first scarcely distinguishable amidst the ordinary abuses of power; it
originated with an individual whose name history has not preserved; it
was wafted like some accursed germ upon a portion of the soil, but it
afterwards nurtured itself, grew without effort, and spreads naturally
with the society to which it belongs. I need scarcely add that this
calamity is slavery. Christianity suppressed slavery, but the Christians
of the sixteenth century re-established it--as an exception, indeed, to
their social system, and restricted to one of the races of mankind; but
the wound thus inflicted upon humanity, though less extensive, was at
the same time rendered far more difficult of cure.

It is important to make an accurate distinction between slavery itself
and its consequences. The immediate evils which are produced by slavery
were very nearly the same in antiquity as they are amongst the moderns;
but the consequences of these evils were different. The slave, amongst
the ancients, belonged to the same race as his master, and he was often
the superior of the two in education *d and instruction. Freedom was the
only distinction between them; and when freedom was conferred they were
easily confounded together. The ancients, then, had a very simple
means of avoiding slavery and its evil consequences, which was that of
affranchisement; and they succeeded as soon as they adopted this
measure generally. Not but, in ancient States, the vestiges of servitude
subsisted for some time after servitude itself was abolished. There is a
natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their
inferior long after he is become their equal; and the real inequality
which is produced by fortune or by law is always succeeded by an
imaginary inequality which is implanted in the manners of the people.
Nevertheless, this secondary consequence of slavery was limited to a
certain term amongst the ancients, for the freedman bore so entire
a resemblance to those born free, that it soon became impossible to
distinguish him from amongst them.

[Footnote d: It is well known that several of the most distinguished
authors of antiquity, and amongst them Aesop and Terence, were, or had
been slaves. Slaves were not always taken from barbarous nations, and
the chances of war reduced highly civilized men to servitude.]

The greatest difficulty in antiquity was that of altering the law;
amongst the moderns it is that of altering the manners; and, as far as
we are concerned, the real obstacles begin where those of the ancients
left off. This arises from the circumstance that, amongst the moderns,
the abstract and transient fact of slavery is fatally united to the
physical and permanent fact of color. The tradition of slavery dishonors
the race, and the peculiarity of the race perpetuates the tradition of
slavery. No African has ever voluntarily emigrated to the shores of the
New World; whence it must be inferred, that all the blacks who are now
to be found in that hemisphere are either slaves or freedmen. Thus the
negro transmits the eternal mark of his ignominy to all his descendants;
and although the law may abolish slavery, God alone can obliterate the
traces of its existence.

The modern slave differs from his master not only in his condition,
but in his origin. You may set the negro free, but you cannot make him
otherwise than an alien to the European. Nor is this all; we scarcely
acknowledge the common features of mankind in this child of debasement
whom slavery has brought amongst us. His physiognomy is to our eyes
hideous, his understanding weak, his tastes low; and we are almost
inclined to look upon him as a being intermediate between man and the
brutes. *e The moderns, then, after they have abolished slavery, have
three prejudices to contend against, which are less easy to attack and
far less easy to conquer than the mere fact of servitude: the prejudice
of the master, the prejudice of the race, and the prejudice of color.

[Footnote e: To induce the whites to abandon the opinion they have
conceived of the moral and intellectual inferiority of their former
slaves, the negroes must change; but as long as this opinion subsists,
to change is impossible.]

It is difficult for us, who have had the good fortune to be born amongst
men like ourselves by nature, and equal to ourselves by law, to conceive
the irreconcilable differences which separate the negro from the
European in America. But we may derive some faint notion of them from
analogy. France was formerly a country in which numerous distinctions of
rank existed, that had been created by the legislation. Nothing can be
more fictitious than a purely legal inferiority; nothing more contrary
to the instinct of mankind than these permanent divisions which had
been established between beings evidently similar. Nevertheless these
divisions subsisted for ages; they still subsist in many places; and
on all sides they have left imaginary vestiges, which time alone can
efface. If it be so difficult to root out an inequality which solely
originates in the law, how are those distinctions to be destroyed which
seem to be based upon the immutable laws of Nature herself? When I
remember the extreme difficulty with which aristocratic bodies, of
whatever nature they may be, are commingled with the mass of the people;
and the exceeding care which they take to preserve the ideal boundaries
of their caste inviolate, I despair of seeing an aristocracy disappear
which is founded upon visible and indelible signs. Those who hope that
the Europeans will ever mix with the negroes, appear to me to delude
themselves; and I am not led to any such conclusion by my own reason, or
by the evidence of facts.

Hitherto, wherever the whites have been the most powerful, they have
maintained the blacks in a subordinate or a servile position; wherever
the negroes have been strongest they have destroyed the whites; such
has been the only retribution which has ever taken place between the two

I see that in a certain portion of the territory of the United States
at the present day, the legal barrier which separated the two races is
tending to fall away, but not that which exists in the manners of the
country; slavery recedes, but the prejudice to which it has given birth
remains stationary. Whosoever has inhabited the United States must have
perceived that in those parts of the Union in which the negroes are no
longer slaves, they have in no wise drawn nearer to the whites. On the
contrary, the prejudice of the race appears to be stronger in the States
which have abolished slavery, than in those where it still exists; and
nowhere is it so intolerant as in those States where servitude has never
been known.

It is true, that in the North of the Union, marriages may be legally
contracted between negroes and whites; but public opinion would
stigmatize a man who should connect himself with a negress as infamous,
and it would be difficult to meet with a single instance of such a
union. The electoral franchise has been conferred upon the negroes in
almost all the States in which slavery has been abolished; but if they
come forward to vote, their lives are in danger. If oppressed, they may
bring an action at law, but they will find none but whites amongst
their judges; and although they may legally serve as jurors, prejudice
repulses them from that office. The same schools do not receive the
child of the black and of the European. In the theatres, gold cannot
procure a seat for the servile race beside their former masters; in the
hospitals they lie apart; and although they are allowed to invoke the
same Divinity as the whites, it must be at a different altar, and in
their own churches, with their own clergy. The gates of Heaven are not
closed against these unhappy beings; but their inferiority is continued
to the very confines of the other world; when the negro is defunct, his
bones are cast aside, and the distinction of condition prevails even in
the equality of death. The negro is free, but he can share neither the
rights, nor the pleasures, nor the labor, nor the afflictions, nor the
tomb of him whose equal he has been declared to be; and he cannot meet
him upon fair terms in life or in death.

In the South, where slavery still exists, the negroes are less carefully
kept apart; they sometimes share the labor and the recreations of the
whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent,
and although the legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the
people are more tolerant and compassionate. In the South the master is
not afraid to raise his slave to his own standing, because he knows that
he can in a moment reduce him to the dust at pleasure. In the North the
white no longer distinctly perceives the barrier which separates
him from the degraded race, and he shuns the negro with the more
pertinacity, since he fears lest they should some day be confounded

Amongst the Americans of the South, nature sometimes reasserts her
rights, and restores a transient equality between the blacks and the
whites; but in the North pride restrains the most imperious of human
passions. The American of the Northern States would perhaps allow the
negress to share his licentious pleasures, if the laws of his country
did not declare that she may aspire to be the legitimate partner of his
bed; but he recoils with horror from her who might become his wife.

Thus it is, in the United States, that the prejudice which repels the
negroes seems to increase in proportion as they are emancipated, and
inequality is sanctioned by the manners whilst it is effaced from the
laws of the country. But if the relative position of the two races which
inhabit the United States is such as I have described, it may be asked
why the Americans have abolished slavery in the North of the Union,
why they maintain it in the South, and why they aggravate its hardships
there? The answer is easily given. It is not for the good of the
negroes, but for that of the whites, that measures are taken to abolish
slavery in the United States.

The first negroes were imported into Virginia about the year 1621. *f
In America, therefore, as well as in the rest of the globe, slavery
originated in the South. Thence it spread from one settlement to
another; but the number of slaves diminished towards the Northern
States, and the negro population was always very limited in New England.

[Footnote f: See Beverley's "History of Virginia." See also in
Jefferson's "Memoirs" some curious details concerning the introduction
of negroes into Virginia, and the first Act which prohibited the
importation of them in 1778.]

[Footnote g: The number of slaves was less considerable in the North,
but the advantages resulting from slavery were not more contested there
than in the South. In 1740, the Legislature of the State of New York
declared that the direct importation of slaves ought to be encouraged
as much as possible, and smuggling severely punished in order not to
discourage the fair trader. (Kent's "Commentaries," vol. ii. p. 206.)
Curious researches, by Belknap, upon slavery in New England, are to be
found in the "Historical Collection of Massachusetts," vol. iv. p. 193.
It appears that negroes were introduced there in 1630, but that the
legislation and manners of the people were opposed to slavery from the
first; see also, in the same work, the manner in which public opinion,
and afterwards the laws, finally put an end to slavery.]

A century had scarcely elapsed since the foundation of the colonies,
when the attention of the planters was struck by the extraordinary
fact, that the provinces which were comparatively destitute of slaves,
increased in population, in wealth, and in prosperity more rapidly than
those which contained the greatest number of negroes. In the former,
however, the inhabitants were obliged to cultivate the soil themselves,
or by hired laborers; in the latter they were furnished with hands for
which they paid no wages; yet although labor and expenses were on
the one side, and ease with economy on the other, the former were in
possession of the most advantageous system. This consequence seemed to
be the more difficult to explain, since the settlers, who all belonged
to the same European race, had the same habits, the same civilization,
the same laws, and their shades of difference were extremely slight.

Time, however, continued to advance, and the Anglo-Americans, spreading
beyond the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, penetrated farther and farther
into the solitudes of the West; they met with a new soil and an unwonted
climate; the obstacles which opposed them were of the most various
character; their races intermingled, the inhabitants of the South went
up towards the North, those of the North descended to the South; but in
the midst of all these causes, the same result occurred at every step,
and in general, the colonies in which there were no slaves became more
populous and more rich than those in which slavery flourished. The more
progress was made, the more was it shown that slavery, which is so cruel
to the slave, is prejudicial to the master.

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part IV

But this truth was most satisfactorily demonstrated when civilization
reached the banks of the Ohio. The stream which the Indians had
distinguished by the name of Ohio, or Beautiful River, waters one of
the most magnificent valleys that has ever been made the abode of man.
Undulating lands extend upon both shores of the Ohio, whose soil affords
inexhaustible treasures to the laborer; on either bank the air is
wholesome and the climate mild, and each of them forms the extreme
frontier of a vast State: That which follows the numerous windings of
the Ohio upon the left is called Kentucky, that upon the right bears
the name of the river. These two States only differ in a single respect;
Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the State of Ohio has prohibited the
existence of slaves within its borders. *h

[Footnote h: Not only is slavery prohibited in Ohio, but no free negroes
are allowed to enter the territory of that State, or to hold property in
it. See the Statutes of Ohio.]

Thus the traveller who floats down the current of the Ohio to the spot
where that river falls into the Mississippi, may be said to sail between
liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of the surrounding
objects will convince him as to which of the two is most favorable to
mankind. Upon the left bank of the stream the population is rare; from
time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert
fields; the primaeval forest recurs at every turn; society seems to be
asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and
of life. From the right bank, on the contrary, a confused hum is heard
which proclaims the presence of industry; the fields are covered with
abundant harvests, the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and
activity of the laborer, and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that
wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor. *i

[Footnote i: The activity of Ohio is not confined to individuals, but
the undertakings of the State are surprisingly great; a canal has been
established between Lake Erie and the Ohio, by means of which the valley
of the Mississippi communicates with the river of the North, and the
European commodities which arrive at New York may be forwarded by water
to New Orleans across five hundred leagues of continent.]

The State of Kentucky was founded in 1775, the State of Ohio only twelve
years later; but twelve years are more in America than half a century in
Europe, and, at the present day, the population of Ohio exceeds that
of Kentucky by two hundred and fifty thousand souls. *j These opposite
consequences of slavery and freedom may readily be understood, and they
suffice to explain many of the differences which we remark between the
civilization of antiquity and that of our own time.

[Footnote j: The exact numbers given by the census of 1830 were:
Kentucky, 688,-844; Ohio, 937,679. [In 1890 the population of Ohio was
3,672,316, that of Kentucky, 1,858,635.]]

Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of
slavery, upon the right bank it is identified with that of prosperity
and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is
honored; on the former territory no white laborers can be found, for
they would be afraid of assimilating themselves to the negroes; on the
latter no one is idle, for the white population extends its activity and
its intelligence to every kind of employment. Thus the men whose task
it is to cultivate the rich soil of Kentucky are ignorant and lukewarm;
whilst those who are active and enlightened either do nothing or pass
over into the State of Ohio, where they may work without dishonor.

It is true that in Kentucky the planters are not obliged to pay wages
to the slaves whom they employ; but they derive small profits from their
labor, whilst the wages paid to free workmen would be returned with
interest in the value of their services. The free workman is paid, but
he does his work quicker than the slave, and rapidity of execution is
one of the great elements of economy. The white sells his services, but
they are only purchased at the times at which they may be useful; the
black can claim no remuneration for his toil, but the expense of his
maintenance is perpetual; he must be supported in his old age as well
as in the prime of manhood, in his profitless infancy as well as in
the productive years of youth. Payment must equally be made in order to
obtain the services of either class of men: the free workman receives
his wages in money, the slave in education, in food, in care, and in
clothing. The money which a master spends in the maintenance of his
slaves goes gradually and in detail, so that it is scarcely perceived;
the salary of the free workman is paid in a round sum, which appears
only to enrich the individual who receives it, but in the end the slave
has cost more than the free servant, and his labor is less productive.

[Footnote k: Independently of these causes, which, wherever free workmen
abound, render their labor more productive and more economical than that
of slaves, another cause may be pointed out which is peculiar to the
United States: the sugar-cane has hitherto been cultivated with success
only upon the banks of the Mississippi, near the mouth of that river in
the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana the cultivation of the sugar-cane is
exceedingly lucrative, and nowhere does a laborer earn so much by his
work, and, as there is always a certain relation between the cost of
production and the value of the produce, the price of slaves is very
high in Louisiana. But Louisiana is one of the confederated States, and
slaves may be carried thither from all parts of the Union; the price
given for slaves in New Orleans consequently raises the value of slaves
in all the other markets. The consequence of this is, that in the
countries where the land is less productive, the cost of slave labor
is still very considerable, which gives an additional advantage to the
competition of free labor.]

The influence of slavery extends still further; it affects the character
of the master, and imparts a peculiar tendency to his ideas and his
tastes. Upon both banks of the Ohio, the character of the inhabitants is
enterprising and energetic; but this vigor is very differently exercised
in the two States. The white inhabitant of Ohio, who is obliged to
subsist by his own exertions, regards temporal prosperity as the
principal aim of his existence; and as the country which he occupies
presents inexhaustible resources to his industry and ever-varying lures
to his activity, his acquisitive ardor surpasses the ordinary limits of
human cupidity: he is tormented by the desire of wealth, and he boldly
enters upon every path which fortune opens to him; he becomes a sailor,
a pioneer, an artisan, or a laborer with the same indifference, and he
supports, with equal constancy, the fatigues and the dangers incidental
to these various professions; the resources of his intelligence are
astonishing, and his avidity in the pursuit of gain amounts to a species
of heroism.

But the Kentuckian scorns not only labor, but all the undertakings which
labor promotes; as he lives in an idle independence, his tastes are
those of an idle man; money loses a portion of its value in his eyes;
he covets wealth much less than pleasure and excitement; and the energy
which his neighbor devotes to gain, turns with him to a passionate love
of field sports and military exercises; he delights in violent bodily
exertion, he is familiar with the use of arms, and is accustomed from
a very early age to expose his life in single combat. Thus slavery not
only prevents the whites from becoming opulent, but even from desiring
to become so.

As the same causes have been continually producing opposite effects for
the last two centuries in the British colonies of North America, they
have established a very striking difference between the commercial
capacity of the inhabitants of the South and those of the North. At the
present day it is only the Northern States which are in possession
of shipping, manufactures, railroads, and canals. This difference is
perceptible not only in comparing the North with the South, but in
comparing the several Southern States. Almost all the individuals who
carry on commercial operations, or who endeavor to turn slave labor to
account in the most Southern districts of the Union, have emigrated from
the North. The natives of the Northern States are constantly spreading
over that portion of the American territory where they have less to fear
from competition; they discover resources there which escaped the notice
of the inhabitants; and, as they comply with a system which they do not
approve, they succeed in turning it to better advantage than those who
first founded and who still maintain it.

Were I inclined to continue this parallel, I could easily prove that
almost all the differences which may be remarked between the characters
of the Americans in the Southern and in the Northern States have
originated in slavery; but this would divert me from my subject, and my
present intention is not to point out all the consequences of servitude,
but those effects which it has produced upon the prosperity of the
countries which have admitted it.

The influence of slavery upon the production of wealth must have been
very imperfectly known in antiquity, as slavery then obtained throughout
the civilized world; and the nations which were unacquainted with
it were barbarous. And indeed Christianity only abolished slavery
by advocating the claims of the slave; at the present time it may be
attacked in the name of the master, and, upon this point, interest is
reconciled with morality.

As these truths became apparent in the United States, slavery receded
before the progress of experience. Servitude had begun in the South, and
had thence spread towards the North; but it now retires again. Freedom,
which started from the North, now descends uninterruptedly towards
the South. Amongst the great States, Pennsylvania now constitutes the
extreme limit of slavery to the North: but even within those limits
the slave system is shaken: Maryland, which is immediately below
Pennsylvania, is preparing for its abolition; and Virginia, which comes
next to Maryland, is already discussing its utility and its dangers. *l

[Footnote l: A peculiar reason contributes to detach the two
last-mentioned States from the cause of slavery. The former wealth of
this part of the Union was principally derived from the cultivation of
tobacco. This cultivation is specially carried on by slaves; but within
the last few years the market-price of tobacco has diminished, whilst
the value of the slaves remains the same. Thus the ratio between the
cost of production and the value of the produce is changed. The natives
of Maryland and Virginia are therefore more disposed than they were
thirty years ago, to give up slave labor in the cultivation of tobacco,
or to give up slavery and tobacco at the same time.]

No great change takes place in human institutions without involving
amongst its causes the law of inheritance. When the law of primogeniture
obtained in the South, each family was represented by a wealthy
individual, who was neither compelled nor induced to labor; and he was
surrounded, as by parasitic plants, by the other members of his family
who were then excluded by law from sharing the common inheritance,
and who led the same kind of life as himself. The very same thing
then occurred in all the families of the South as still happens in the
wealthy families of some countries in Europe, namely, that the younger
sons remain in the same state of idleness as their elder brother,
without being as rich as he is. This identical result seems to be
produced in Europe and in America by wholly analogous causes. In
the South of the United States the whole race of whites formed an
aristocratic body, which was headed by a certain number of privileged
individuals, whose wealth was permanent, and whose leisure was
hereditary. These leaders of the American nobility kept alive the
traditional prejudices of the white race in the body of which they were
the representatives, and maintained the honor of inactive life. This
aristocracy contained many who were poor, but none who would work; its
members preferred want to labor, consequently no competition was set on
foot against negro laborers and slaves, and, whatever opinion might be
entertained as to the utility of their efforts, it was indispensable to
employ them, since there was no one else to work.

No sooner was the law of primogeniture abolished than fortunes began
to diminish, and all the families of the country were simultaneously
reduced to a state in which labor became necessary to procure the means
of subsistence: several of them have since entirely disappeared, and
all of them learned to look forward to the time at which it would be
necessary for everyone to provide for his own wants. Wealthy individuals
are still to be met with, but they no longer constitute a compact and
hereditary body, nor have they been able to adopt a line of conduct in
which they could persevere, and which they could infuse into all ranks
of society. The prejudice which stigmatized labor was in the first place
abandoned by common consent; the number of needy men was increased, and
the needy were allowed to gain a laborious subsistence without blushing
for their exertions. Thus one of the most immediate consequences of the
partible quality of estates has been to create a class of free laborers.
As soon as a competition was set on foot between the free laborer and
the slave, the inferiority of the latter became manifest, and slavery
was attacked in its fundamental principle, which is the interest of the

As slavery recedes, the black population follows its retrograde course,
and returns with it towards those tropical regions from which it
originally came. However singular this fact may at first appear to
be, it may readily be explained. Although the Americans abolish the
principle of slavery, they do not set their slaves free. To illustrate
this remark, I will quote the example of the State of New York. In 1788,
the State of New York prohibited the sale of slaves within its limits,
which was an indirect method of prohibiting the importation of blacks.
Thenceforward the number of negroes could only increase according to
the ratio of the natural increase of population. But eight years later
a more decisive measure was taken, and it was enacted that all children
born of slave parents after July 4, 1799, should be free. No increase
could then take place, and although slaves still existed, slavery might
be said to be abolished.

From the time at which a Northern State prohibited the importation of
slaves, no slaves were brought from the South to be sold in its markets.
On the other hand, as the sale of slaves was forbidden in that State,
an owner was no longer able to get rid of his slave (who thus became a
burdensome possession) otherwise than by transporting him to the South.
But when a Northern State declared that the son of the slave should be
born free, the slave lost a large portion of his market value, since his
posterity was no longer included in the bargain, and the owner had then
a strong interest in transporting him to the South. Thus the same law
prevents the slaves of the South from coming to the Northern States, and
drives those of the North to the South.

The want of free hands is felt in a State in proportion as the number of
slaves decreases. But in proportion as labor is performed by free hands,
slave labor becomes less productive; and the slave is then a useless
or onerous possession, whom it is important to export to those Southern
States where the same competition is not to be feared. Thus the
abolition of slavery does not set the slave free, but it merely
transfers him from one master to another, and from the North to the

The emancipated negroes, and those born after the abolition of slavery,
do not, indeed, migrate from the North to the South; but their situation
with regard to the Europeans is not unlike that of the aborigines of
America; they remain half civilized, and deprived of their rights in
the midst of a population which is far superior to them in wealth and in
knowledge; where they are exposed to the tyranny of the laws *m and the
intolerance of the people. On some accounts they are still more to be
pitied than the Indians, since they are haunted by the reminiscence of
slavery, and they cannot claim possession of a single portion of the
soil: many of them perish miserably, *n and the rest congregate in the
great towns, where they perform the meanest offices, and lead a wretched
and precarious existence.

[Footnote m: The States in which slavery is abolished usually do what
they can to render their territory disagreeable to the negroes as
a place of residence; and as a kind of emulation exists between the
different States in this respect, the unhappy blacks can only choose the
least of the evils which beset them.]

[Footnote n: There is a very great difference between the mortality
of the blacks and of the whites in the States in which slavery is
abolished; from 1820 to 1831 only one out of forty-two individuals
of the white population died in Philadelphia; but one negro out of
twenty-one individuals of the black population died in the same space of
time. The mortality is by no means so great amongst the negroes who are
still slaves. (See Emerson's "Medical Statistics," p. 28.)]

But even if the number of negroes continued to increase as rapidly as
when they were still in a state of slavery, as the number of whites
augments with twofold rapidity since the abolition of slavery, the
blacks would soon be, as it were, lost in the midst of a strange

A district which is cultivated by slaves is in general more scantily
peopled than a district cultivated by free labor: moreover, America is
still a new country, and a State is therefore not half peopled at the
time when it abolishes slavery. No sooner is an end put to slavery than
the want of free labor is felt, and a crowd of enterprising adventurers
immediately arrive from all parts of the country, who hasten to profit
by the fresh resources which are then opened to industry. The soil
is soon divided amongst them, and a family of white settlers takes
possession of each tract of country. Besides which, European emigration
is exclusively directed to the free States; for what would be the
fate of a poor emigrant who crosses the Atlantic in search of ease and
happiness if he were to land in a country where labor is stigmatized as

Thus the white population grows by its natural increase, and at the same
time by the immense influx of emigrants; whilst the black population
receives no emigrants, and is upon its decline. The proportion which
existed between the two races is soon inverted. The negroes constitute a
scanty remnant, a poor tribe of vagrants, which is lost in the midst of
an immense people in full possession of the land; and the presence of
the blacks is only marked by the injustice and the hardships of which
they are the unhappy victims.

In several of the Western States the negro race never made its
appearance, and in all the Northern States it is rapidly declining. Thus
the great question of its future condition is confined within a narrow
circle, where it becomes less formidable, though not more easy of

The more we descend towards the South, the more difficult does it become
to abolish slavery with advantage: and this arises from several physical
causes which it is important to point out.

The first of these causes is the climate; it is well known that in
proportion as Europeans approach the tropics they suffer more from
labor. Many of the Americans even assert that within a certain latitude
the exertions which a negro can make without danger are fatal to them;
*o but I do not think that this opinion, which is so favorable to
the indolence of the inhabitants of southern regions, is confirmed by
experience. The southern parts of the Union are not hotter than the
South of Italy and of Spain; *p and it may be asked why the European
cannot work as well there as in the two latter countries. If slavery has
been abolished in Italy and in Spain without causing the destruction of
the masters, why should not the same thing take place in the Union? I
cannot believe that nature has prohibited the Europeans in Georgia and
the Floridas, under pain of death, from raising the means of subsistence
from the soil, but their labor would unquestionably be more irksome and
less productive to them than to the inhabitants of New England. As the
free workman thus loses a portion of his superiority over the slave in
the Southern States, there are fewer inducements to abolish slavery.

[Footnote o: This is true of the spots in which rice is cultivated;
rice-grounds, which are unwholesome in all countries, are particularly
dangerous in those regions which are exposed to the beams of a tropical
sun. Europeans would not find it easy to cultivate the soil in that part
of the New World if it must be necessarily be made to produce rice; but
may they not subsist without rice-grounds?]

[Footnote p: These States are nearer to the equator than Italy and
Spain, but the temperature of the continent of America is very much
lower than that of Europe.

The Spanish Government formerly caused a certain number of peasants
from the Acores to be transported into a district of Louisiana called
Attakapas, by way of experiment. These settlers still cultivate the soil
without the assistance of slaves, but their industry is so languid as
scarcely to supply their most necessary wants.]

All the plants of Europe grow in the northern parts of the Union; the
South has special productions of its own. It has been observed that
slave labor is a very expensive method of cultivating corn. The farmer
of corn land in a country where slavery is unknown habitually retains a
small number of laborers in his service, and at seed-time and harvest
he hires several additional hands, who only live at his cost for a short
period. But the agriculturist in a slave State is obliged to keep a
large number of slaves the whole year round, in order to sow his fields
and to gather in his crops, although their services are only required
for a few weeks; but slaves are unable to wait till they are hired, and
to subsist by their own labor in the mean time like free laborers; in
order to have their services they must be bought. Slavery, independently
of its general disadvantages, is therefore still more inapplicable to
countries in which corn is cultivated than to those which produce
crops of a different kind. The cultivation of tobacco, of cotton, and
especially of the sugar-cane, demands, on the other hand, unremitting
attention: and women and children are employed in it, whose services are
of but little use in the cultivation of wheat. Thus slavery is naturally
more fitted to the countries from which these productions are derived.
Tobacco, cotton, and the sugar-cane are exclusively grown in the South,
and they form one of the principal sources of the wealth of those
States. If slavery were abolished, the inhabitants of the South would
be constrained to adopt one of two alternatives: they must either change
their system of cultivation, and then they would come into competition
with the more active and more experienced inhabitants of the North; or,
if they continued to cultivate the same produce without slave labor,
they would have to support the competition of the other States of the
South, which might still retain their slaves. Thus, peculiar reasons
for maintaining slavery exist in the South which do not operate in the

But there is yet another motive which is more cogent than all the
others: the South might indeed, rigorously speaking, abolish slavery;
but how should it rid its territory of the black population? Slaves
and slavery are driven from the North by the same law, but this twofold
result cannot be hoped for in the South.

The arguments which I have adduced to show that slavery is more natural
and more advantageous in the South than in the North, sufficiently prove
that the number of slaves must be far greater in the former districts.
It was to the southern settlements that the first Africans were brought,
and it is there that the greatest number of them have always been
imported. As we advance towards the South, the prejudice which sanctions
idleness increases in power. In the States nearest to the tropics there
is not a single white laborer; the negroes are consequently much
more numerous in the South than in the North. And, as I have already
observed, this disproportion increases daily, since the negroes are
transferred to one part of the Union as soon as slavery is abolished in
the other. Thus the black population augments in the South, not only by
its natural fecundity, but by the compulsory emigration of the negroes
from the North; and the African race has causes of increase in the South
very analogous to those which so powerfully accelerate the growth of the
European race in the North.

In the State of Maine there is one negro in 300 inhabitants; in
Massachusetts, one in 100; in New York, two in 100; in Pennsylvania,
three in the same number; in Maryland, thirty-four; in Virginia,
forty-two; and lastly, in South Carolina *q fifty-five per cent. Such
was the proportion of the black population to the whites in the year
1830. But this proportion is perpetually changing, as it constantly
decreases in the North and augments in the South.

[Footnote q: We find it asserted in an American work, entitled "Letters
on the Colonization Society," by Mr. Carey, 1833, "That for the last
forty years the black race has increased more rapidly than the white
race in the State of South Carolina; and that if we take the average
population of the five States of the South into which slaves were first
introduced, viz., Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina,
and Georgia, we shall find that from 1790 to 1830 the whites have
augmented in the proportion of 80 to 100, and the blacks in that of 112
to 100."

In the United States, in 1830, the population of the two races stood as

States where slavery is abolished, 6,565,434 whites; 120,520 blacks.
Slave States, 3,960,814 whites; 2,208,102 blacks. [In 1890 the United
States contained a population of 54,983,890 whites, and 7,638,360

It is evident that the most Southern States of the Union cannot abolish
slavery without incurring very great dangers, which the North had no
reason to apprehend when it emancipated its black population. We
have already shown the system by which the Northern States secure the
transition from slavery to freedom, by keeping the present generation
in chains, and setting their descendants free; by this means the negroes
are gradually introduced into society; and whilst the men who might
abuse their freedom are kept in a state of servitude, those who are
emancipated may learn the art of being free before they become their own
masters. But it would be difficult to apply this method in the South. To
declare that all the negroes born after a certain period shall be free,
is to introduce the principle and the notion of liberty into the heart
of slavery; the blacks whom the law thus maintains in a state of slavery
from which their children are delivered, are astonished at so unequal a
fate, and their astonishment is only the prelude to their impatience
and irritation. Thenceforward slavery loses, in their eyes, that kind
of moral power which it derived from time and habit; it is reduced to
a mere palpable abuse of force. The Northern States had nothing to fear
from the contrast, because in them the blacks were few in number, and
the white population was very considerable. But if this faint dawn
of freedom were to show two millions of men their true position, the
oppressors would have reason to tremble. After having affranchised the
children of their slaves the Europeans of the Southern States would
very shortly be obliged to extend the same benefit to the whole black

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part V

In the North, as I have already remarked, a twofold migration ensues
upon the abolition of slavery, or even precedes that event when
circumstances have rendered it probable; the slaves quit the country
to be transported southwards; and the whites of the Northern States, as
well as the emigrants from Europe, hasten to fill up their place. But
these two causes cannot operate in the same manner in the Southern
States. On the one hand, the mass of slaves is too great for any
expectation of their ever being removed from the country to be
entertained; and on the other hand, the Europeans and Anglo-Americans of
the North are afraid to come to inhabit a country in which labor has not
yet been reinstated in its rightful honors. Besides, they very justly
look upon the States in which the proportion of the negroes equals or
exceeds that of the whites, as exposed to very great dangers; and they
refrain from turning their activity in that direction.

Thus the inhabitants of the South would not be able, like their Northern
countrymen, to initiate the slaves gradually into a state of freedom by
abolishing slavery; they have no means of perceptibly diminishing the
black population, and they would remain unsupported to repress its
excesses. So that in the course of a few years, a great people of free
negroes would exist in the heart of a white nation of equal size.

The same abuses of power which still maintain slavery, would then become
the source of the most alarming perils which the white population of the
South might have to apprehend. At the present time the descendants of
the Europeans are the sole owners of the land; the absolute masters of
all labor; and the only persons who are possessed of wealth, knowledge,
and arms. The black is destitute of all these advantages, but he
subsists without them because he is a slave. If he were free, and
obliged to provide for his own subsistence, would it be possible for
him to remain without these things and to support life? Or would not the
very instruments of the present superiority of the white, whilst slavery
exists, expose him to a thousand dangers if it were abolished?

As long as the negro remains a slave, he may be kept in a condition
not very far removed from that of the brutes; but, with his liberty,
he cannot but acquire a degree of instruction which will enable him to
appreciate his misfortunes, and to discern a remedy for them. Moreover,
there exists a singular principle of relative justice which is very
firmly implanted in the human heart. Men are much more forcibly struck
by those inequalities which exist within the circle of the same class,
than with those which may be remarked between different classes. It is
more easy for them to admit slavery, than to allow several millions
of citizens to exist under a load of eternal infamy and hereditary
wretchedness. In the North the population of freed negroes feels these
hardships and resents these indignities; but its numbers and its powers
are small, whilst in the South it would be numerous and strong.

As soon as it is admitted that the whites and the emancipated blacks
are placed upon the same territory in the situation of two alien
communities, it will readily be understood that there are but two
alternatives for the future; the negroes and the whites must either
wholly part or wholly mingle. I have already expressed the conviction
which I entertain as to the latter event. *r I do not imagine that
the white and black races will ever live in any country upon an equal
footing. But I believe the difficulty to be still greater in the
United States than elsewhere. An isolated individual may surmount the
prejudices of religion, of his country, or of his race, and if this
individual is a king he may effect surprising changes in society; but a
whole people cannot rise, as it were, above itself. A despot who should
subject the Americans and their former slaves to the same yoke, might
perhaps succeed in commingling their races; but as long as the American
democracy remains at the head of affairs, no one will undertake so
difficult a task; and it may be foreseen that the freer the white
population of the United States becomes, the more isolated will it
remain. *s

[Footnote r: This opinion is sanctioned by authorities infinitely
weightier than anything that I can say: thus, for instance, it is stated
in the "Memoirs of Jefferson" (as collected by M. Conseil), "Nothing is
more clearly written in the book of destiny than the emancipation of the
blacks; and it is equally certain that the two races will never live in
a state of equal freedom under the same government, so insurmountable
are the barriers which nature, habit, and opinions have established
between them."]

[Footnote s: If the British West India planters had governed themselves,
they would assuredly not have passed the Slave Emancipation Bill which
the mother-country has recently imposed upon them.]

I have previously observed that the mixed race is the true bond of union
between the Europeans and the Indians; just so the mulattoes are the
true means of transition between the white and the negro; so that
wherever mulattoes abound, the intermixture of the two races is not
impossible. In some parts of America, the European and the negro races
are so crossed by one another, that it is rare to meet with a man who is
entirely black, or entirely white: when they are arrived at this point,
the two races may really be said to be combined; or rather to have been
absorbed in a third race, which is connected with both without being
identical with either.

Of all the Europeans the English are those who have mixed least with the
negroes. More mulattoes are to be seen in the South of the Union than in
the North, but still they are infinitely more scarce than in any other
European colony: mulattoes are by no means numerous in the United
States; they have no force peculiar to themselves, and when quarrels
originating in differences of color take place, they generally side
with the whites; just as the lackeys of the great, in Europe, assume the
contemptuous airs of nobility to the lower orders.

The pride of origin, which is natural to the English, is singularly
augmented by the personal pride which democratic liberty fosters amongst
the Americans: the white citizen of the United States is proud of his
race, and proud of himself. But if the whites and the negroes do not
intermingle in the North of the Union, how should they mix in the South?
Can it be supposed for an instant, that an American of the Southern
States, placed, as he must forever be, between the white man with all
his physical and moral superiority and the negro, will ever think of
preferring the latter? The Americans of the Southern States have two
powerful passions which will always keep them aloof; the first is the
fear of being assimilated to the negroes, their former slaves; and the
second the dread of sinking below the whites, their neighbors.

If I were called upon to predict what will probably occur at some future
time, I should say, that the abolition of slavery in the South will,
in the common course of things, increase the repugnance of the white
population for the men of color. I found this opinion upon the analogous
observation which I already had occasion to make in the North. I there
remarked that the white inhabitants of the North avoid the negroes with
increasing care, in proportion as the legal barriers of separation are
removed by the legislature; and why should not the same result
take place in the South? In the North, the whites are deterred from
intermingling with the blacks by the fear of an imaginary danger; in the
South, where the danger would be real, I cannot imagine that the fear
would be less general.

If, on the one hand, it be admitted (and the fact is unquestionable)
that the colored population perpetually accumulates in the extreme
South, and that it increases more rapidly than that of the whites; and
if, on the other hand, it be allowed that it is impossible to foresee
a time at which the whites and the blacks will be so intermingled as to
derive the same benefits from society; must it not be inferred that the
blacks and the whites will, sooner or later, come to open strife in the
Southern States of the Union? But if it be asked what the issue of the
struggle is likely to be, it will readily be understood that we are
here left to form a very vague surmise of the truth. The human mind may
succeed in tracing a wide circle, as it were, which includes the course
of future events; but within that circle a thousand various chances
and circumstances may direct it in as many different ways; and in
every picture of the future there is a dim spot, which the eye of the
understanding cannot penetrate. It appears, however, to be extremely
probable that in the West Indian Islands the white race is destined to
be subdued, and the black population to share the same fate upon the

In the West India Islands the white planters are surrounded by an
immense black population; on the continent, the blacks are placed
between the ocean and an innumerable people, which already extends over
them in a dense mass, from the icy confines of Canada to the frontiers
of Virginia, and from the banks of the Missouri to the shores of the
Atlantic. If the white citizens of North America remain united, it
cannot be supposed that the negroes will escape the destruction with
which they are menaced; they must be subdued by want or by the sword.
But the black population which is accumulated along the coast of
the Gulf of Mexico, has a chance of success if the American Union is
dissolved when the struggle between the two races begins. If the federal
tie were broken, the citizens of the South would be wrong to rely upon
any lasting succor from their Northern countrymen. The latter are
well aware that the danger can never reach them; and unless they are
constrained to march to the assistance of the South by a positive
obligation, it may be foreseen that the sympathy of color will be
insufficient to stimulate their exertions.

Yet, at whatever period the strife may break out, the whites of the
South, even if they are abandoned to their own resources, will enter
the lists with an immense superiority of knowledge and of the means of
warfare; but the blacks will have numerical strength and the energy of
despair upon their side, and these are powerful resources to men who
have taken up arms. The fate of the white population of the Southern
States will, perhaps, be similar to that of the Moors in Spain. After
having occupied the land for centuries, it will perhaps be forced to
retire to the country whence its ancestors came, and to abandon to the
negroes the possession of a territory, which Providence seems to have
more peculiarly destined for them, since they can subsist and labor in
it more easily that the whites.

The danger of a conflict between the white and the black inhabitants of
the Southern States of the Union--a danger which, however remote it may
be, is inevitable--perpetually haunts the imagination of the Americans.
The inhabitants of the North make it a common topic of conversation,
although they have no direct injury to fear from the struggle; but they
vainly endeavor to devise some means of obviating the misfortunes which
they foresee. In the Southern States the subject is not discussed: the
planter does not allude to the future in conversing with strangers; the
citizen does not communicate his apprehensions to his friends; he seeks
to conceal them from himself; but there is something more alarming in
the tacit forebodings of the South, than in the clamorous fears of the
Northern States.

This all-pervading disquietude has given birth to an undertaking which
is but little known, but which may have the effect of changing the fate
of a portion of the human race. From apprehension of the dangers which
I have just been describing, a certain number of American citizens have
formed a society for the purpose of exporting to the coast of Guinea,
at their own expense, such free negroes as may be willing to escape from
the oppression to which they are subject. *t In 1820, the society to
which I allude formed a settlement in Africa, upon the seventh degree
of north latitude, which bears the name of Liberia. The most recent
intelligence informs us that 2,500 negroes are collected there; they
have introduced the democratic institutions of America into the country
of their forefathers; and Liberia has a representative system of
government, negro jurymen, negro magistrates, and negro priests;
churches have been built, newspapers established, and, by a singular
change in the vicissitudes of the world, white men are prohibited from
sojourning within the settlement. *u

[Footnote t: This society assumed the name of "The Society for
the Colonization of the Blacks." See its annual reports; and more
particularly the fifteenth. See also the pamphlet, to which allusion has
already been made, entitled "Letters on the Colonization Society, and on
its probable Results," by Mr. Carey, Philadelphia, 1833.]

[Footnote u: This last regulation was laid down by the founders of
the settlement; they apprehended that a state of things might arise
in Africa similar to that which exists on the frontiers of the United
States, and that if the negroes, like the Indians, were brought into
collision with a people more enlightened than themselves, they would be
destroyed before they could be civilized.]

This is indeed a strange caprice of fortune. Two hundred years have now
elapsed since the inhabitants of Europe undertook to tear the negro
from his family and his home, in order to transport him to the shores of
North America; at the present day, the European settlers are engaged in
sending back the descendants of those very negroes to the Continent from
which they were originally taken; and the barbarous Africans have been
brought into contact with civilization in the midst of bondage, and have
become acquainted with free political institutions in slavery. Up to the
present time Africa has been closed against the arts and sciences of the
whites; but the inventions of Europe will perhaps penetrate into those
regions, now that they are introduced by Africans themselves. The
settlement of Liberia is founded upon a lofty and a most fruitful idea;
but whatever may be its results with regard to the Continent of Africa,
it can afford no remedy to the New World.

In twelve years the Colonization Society has transported 2,500 negroes
to Africa; in the same space of time about 700,000 blacks were born in
the United States. If the colony of Liberia were so situated as to be
able to receive thousands of new inhabitants every year, and if the
negroes were in a state to be sent thither with advantage; if the Union
were to supply the society with annual subsidies, *v and to transport
the negroes to Africa in the vessels of the State, it would still be
unable to counterpoise the natural increase of population amongst the
blacks; and as it could not remove as many men in a year as are born
upon its territory within the same space of time, it would fail in
suspending the growth of the evil which is daily increasing in the
States. *w The negro race will never leave those shores of the American
continent, to which it was brought by the passions and the vices of
Europeans; and it will not disappear from the New World as long as it
continues to exist. The inhabitants of the United States may retard
the calamities which they apprehend, but they cannot now destroy their
efficient cause.

[Footnote v: Nor would these be the only difficulties attendant upon
the undertaking; if the Union undertook to buy up the negroes now in
America, in order to transport them to Africa, the price of slaves,
increasing with their scarcity, would soon become enormous; and the
States of the North would never consent to expend such great sums for a
purpose which would procure such small advantages to themselves. If the
Union took possession of the slaves in the Southern States by force, or
at a rate determined by law, an insurmountable resistance would arise in
that part of the country. Both alternatives are equally impossible.]

[Footnote w: In 1830 there were in the United States 2,010,327 slaves
and 319,439 free blacks, in all 2,329,766 negroes: which formed about
one-fifth of the total population of the United States at that time.]

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 United
States. The negroes may long remain slaves without complaining; but if
they are once raised to the level of free men, they will soon revolt at
being deprived of all their civil rights; and as they cannot become the
equals of the whites, they will speedily declare themselves as enemies.
In the North everything contributed to facilitate the emancipation of
the slaves; and slavery was abolished, without placing the free negroes
in a position which could become formidable, since their number was too
small for them ever to claim the exercise of their rights. But such is
not the case in the South. The question of slavery was a question of
commerce and manufacture for the slave-owners in the North; for those of
the South, it is a question of life and death. God forbid that I should
seek to justify the principle of negro slavery, as has been done by
some American writers! But I only observe that all the countries which
formerly adopted that execrable principle are not equally able to
abandon it at the present time.

When I contemplate the condition of the South, I can only discover two
alternatives which may be adopted by the white inhabitants of those
States; viz., either to emancipate the negroes, and to intermingle
with them; or, remaining isolated from them, to keep them in a state of
slavery as long as possible. All intermediate measures seem to me likely
to terminate, and that shortly, in the most horrible of civil wars, and
perhaps in the extirpation of one or other of the two races. Such is the
view which the Americans of the South take of the question, and they
act consistently with it. As they are determined not to mingle with the
negroes, they refuse to emancipate them.

Not that the inhabitants of the South regard slavery as necessary to the
wealth of the planter, for on this point many of them agree with their
Northern countrymen in freely admitting that slavery is prejudicial to
their interest; but they are convinced that, however prejudicial it may
be, they hold their lives upon no other tenure. The instruction which is
now diffused in the South has convinced the inhabitants that slavery is
injurious to the slave-owner, but it has also shown them, more clearly
than before, that no means exist of getting rid of its bad consequences.
Hence arises a singular contrast; the more the utility of slavery is
contested, the more firmly is it established in the laws; and whilst
the principle of servitude is gradually abolished in the North, that
self-same principle gives rise to more and more rigorous consequences in
the South.

The legislation of the Southern States with regard to slaves, presents
at the present day such unparalleled atrocities as suffice to show how
radically the laws of humanity have been perverted, and to betray the
desperate position of the community in which that legislation has
been promulgated. The Americans of this portion of the Union have not,
indeed, augmented the hardships of slavery; they have, on the contrary,
bettered the physical condition of the slaves. The only means by which
the ancients maintained slavery were fetters and death; the Americans of
the South of the Union have discovered more intellectual securities
for the duration of their power. They have employed their despotism and
their violence against the human mind. In antiquity, precautions were
taken to prevent the slave from breaking his chains; at the present day
measures are adopted to deprive him even of the desire of freedom. The
ancients kept the bodies of their slaves in bondage, but they placed
no restraint upon the mind and no check upon education; and they
acted consistently with their established principle, since a natural
termination of slavery then existed, and one day or other the slave
might be set free, and become the equal of his master. But the Americans
of the South, who do not admit that the negroes can ever be commingled
with themselves, have forbidden them to be taught to read or to write,
under severe penalties; and as they will not raise them to their own
level, they sink them as nearly as possible to that of the brutes.

The hope of liberty had always been allowed to the slave to cheer the
hardships of his condition. But the Americans of the South are well
aware that emancipation cannot but be dangerous, when the freed man can
never be assimilated to his former master. To give a man his freedom,
and to leave him in wretchedness and ignominy, is nothing less than to
prepare a future chief for a revolt of the slaves. Moreover, it has long
been remarked that the presence of a free negro vaguely agitates the
minds of his less fortunate brethren, and conveys to them a dim notion
of their rights. The Americans of the South have consequently taken
measures to prevent slave-owners from emancipating their slaves in most
cases; not indeed by a positive prohibition, but by subjecting that step
to various forms which it is difficult to comply with. I happened
to meet with an old man, in the South of the Union, who had lived in
illicit intercourse with one of his negresses, and had had several
children by her, who were born the slaves of their father. He had indeed
frequently thought of bequeathing to them at least their liberty; but
years had elapsed without his being able to surmount the legal obstacles
to their emancipation, and in the mean while his old age was come, and
he was about to die. He pictured to himself his sons dragged from market
to market, and passing from the authority of a parent to the rod of
the stranger, until these horrid anticipations worked his expiring
imagination into frenzy. When I saw him he was a prey to all the anguish
of despair, and he made me feel how awful is the retribution of nature
upon those who have broken her laws.

These evils are unquestionably great; but they are the necessary and
foreseen consequence of the very principle of modern slavery. When the
Europeans chose their slaves from a race differing from their own, which
many of them considered as inferior to the other races of mankind,
and which they all repelled with horror from any notion of intimate
connection, they must have believed that slavery would last forever;
since there is no intermediate state which can be durable between the
excessive inequality produced by servitude and the complete equality
which originates in independence. The Europeans did imperfectly feel
this truth, but without acknowledging it even to themselves. Whenever
they have had to do with negroes, their conduct has either been dictated
by their interest and their pride, or by their compassion. They first
violated every right of humanity by their treatment of the negro
and they afterwards informed him that those rights were precious and
inviolable. They affected to open their ranks to the slaves, but the
negroes who attempted to penetrate into the community were driven back
with scorn; and they have incautiously and involuntarily been led to
admit of freedom instead of slavery, without having the courage to be
wholly iniquitous, or wholly just.

If it be impossible to anticipate a period at which the Americans of the
South will mingle their blood with that of the negroes, can they allow
their slaves to become free without compromising their own security? And
if they are obliged to keep that race in bondage in order to save their
own families, may they not be excused for availing themselves of the
means best adapted to that end? The events which are taking place in
the Southern States of the Union appear to me to be at once the most
horrible and the most natural results of slavery. When I see the order
of nature overthrown, and when I hear the cry of humanity in its vain
struggle against the laws, my indignation does not light upon the men of
our own time who are the instruments of these outrages; but I reserve
my execration for those who, after a thousand years of freedom, brought
back slavery into the world once more.

Whatever may be the efforts of the Americans of the South to maintain
slavery, they will not always succeed. Slavery, which is now confined to
a single tract of the civilized earth, which is attacked by Christianity
as unjust, and by political economy as prejudicial; and which is now
contrasted with democratic liberties and the information of our age,
cannot survive. By the choice of the master, or by the will of the
slave, it will cease; and in either case great calamities may be
expected to ensue. If liberty be refused to the negroes of the South,
they will in the end seize it for themselves by force; if it be given,
they will abuse it ere long. *x

[Footnote x: [This chapter is no longer applicable to the condition of
the negro race in the United States, since the abolition of slavery
was the result, though not the object, of the great Civil War, and the
negroes have been raised to the condition not only of freedmen, but of
citizens; and in some States they exercise a preponderating political
power by reason of their numerical majority. Thus, in South Carolina
there were in 1870, 289,667 whites and 415,814 blacks. But the
emancipation of the slaves has not solved the problem, how two races so
different and so hostile are to live together in peace in one country on
equal terms. That problem is as difficult, perhaps more difficult than
ever; and to this difficulty the author's remarks are still perfectly

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part VI

What Are The Chances In Favor Of The Duration Of The American Union, And
What Dangers Threaten It *y

[Footnote y: [This chapter is one of the most curious and interesting
portions of the work, because it embraces almost all the constitutional
and social questions which were raised by the great secession of the
South and decided by the results of the Civil War. But it must be
confessed that the sagacity of the author is sometimes at fault in these
speculations, and did not save him from considerable errors, which the
course of events has since made apparent. He held that "the legislators
of the Constitution of 1789 were not appointed to constitute the
government of a single people, but to regulate the association of
several States; that the Union was formed by the voluntary agreement
of the States, and in uniting together they have not forfeited their
nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the
same people." Whence he inferred that "if one of the States chose to
withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove
its right of doing so; and that the Federal Government would have no
means of maintaining its claims directly, either by force or by right."
This is the Southern theory of the Constitution, and the whole case of
the South in favor of secession. To many Europeans, and to some
American (Northern) jurists, this view appeared to be sound; but it was
vigorously resisted by the North, and crushed by force of arms.

The author of this book was mistaken in supposing that the "Union was a
vast body which presents no definite object to patriotic feeling." When
the day of trial came, millions of men were ready to lay down their
lives for it. He was also mistaken in supposing that the Federal
Executive is so weak that it requires the free consent of the governed
to enable it to subsist, and that it would be defeated in a struggle
to maintain the Union against one or more separate States. In 1861 nine
States, with a population of 8,753,000, seceded, and maintained for four
years a resolute but unequal contest for independence, but they were

Lastly, the author was mistaken in supposing that a community of
interests would always prevail between North and South sufficiently
powerful to bind them together. He overlooked the influence which the
question of slavery must have on the Union the moment that the majority
of the people of the North declared against it. In 1831, when the author
visited America, the anti-slavery agitation had scarcely begun; and the
fact of Southern slavery was accepted by men of all parties, even in the
States where there were no slaves: and that was unquestionably the view
taken by all the States and by all American statesmen at the time of the
adoption of the Constitution, in 1789. But in the course of thirty years
a great change took place, and the North refused to perpetuate what had
become the "peculiar institution" of the South, especially as it gave
the South a species of aristocratic preponderance. The result was the
ratification, in December, 1865, of the celebrated 13th article or
amendment of the Constitution, which declared that "neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude--except as a punishment for crime--shall exist
within the United States." To which was soon afterwards added the 15th
article, "The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged
by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or
previous servitude." The emancipation of several millions of negro
slaves without compensation, and the transfer to them of political
preponderance in the States in which they outnumber the white
population, were acts of the North totally opposed to the interests
of the South, and which could only have been carried into effect by
conquest.--Translator's Note.]]

Reason for which the preponderating force lies in the States rather than
in the Union--The Union will only last as long as all the States choose
to belong to it--Causes which tend to keep them united--Utility of
the Union to resist foreign enemies, and to prevent the existence
of foreigners in America--No natural barriers between the several
States--No conflicting interests to divide them--Reciprocal interests
of the Northern, Southern, and Western States--Intellectual ties of
union--Uniformity of opinions--Dangers of the Union resulting from the
different characters and the passions of its citizens--Character of the
citizens in the South and in the North--The rapid growth of the
Union one of its greatest dangers--Progress of the population to the
Northwest--Power gravitates in the same direction--Passions originating
from sudden turns of fortune--Whether the existing Government of the
Union tends to gain strength, or to lose it--Various signs of its
decrease--Internal improvements--Waste lands--Indians--The Bank--The
Tariff--General Jackson.

The maintenance of the existing institutions of the several States
depends in some measure upon the maintenance of the Union itself. It is
therefore important in the first instance to inquire into the probable
fate of the Union. One point may indeed be assumed at once: if
the present confederation were dissolved, it appears to me to be
incontestable that the States of which it is now composed would not
return to their original isolated condition, but that several unions
would then be formed in the place of one. It is not my intention to
inquire into the principles upon which these new unions would probably
be established, but merely to show what the causes are which may effect
the dismemberment of the existing confederation.

With this object I shall be obliged to retrace some of the steps which
I have already taken, and to revert to topics which I have before
discussed. I am aware that the reader may accuse me of repetition, but
the importance of the matter which still remains to be treated is my
excuse; I had rather say too much, than say too little to be thoroughly
understood, and I prefer injuring the author to slighting the subject.

The legislators who formed the Constitution of 1789 endeavored to confer
a distinct and preponderating authority upon the federal power. But they
were confined by the conditions of the task which they had undertaken
to perform. They were not appointed to constitute the government of a
single people, but to regulate the association of several States; and,
whatever their inclinations might be, they could not but divide the
exercise of sovereignty in the end.

In order to understand the consequences of this division, it is
necessary to make a short distinction between the affairs of the
Government. There are some objects which are national by their very
nature, that is to say, which affect the nation as a body, and can
only be intrusted to the man or the assembly of men who most completely
represent the entire nation. Amongst these may be reckoned war and
diplomacy. There are other objects which are provincial by their very
nature, that is to say, which only affect certain localities, and which
can only be properly treated in that locality. Such, for instance, is
the budget of a municipality. Lastly, there are certain objects of
a mixed nature, which are national inasmuch as they affect all the
citizens who compose the nation, and which are provincial inasmuch as
it is not necessary that the nation itself should provide for them all.
Such are the rights which regulate the civil and political condition of
the citizens. No society can exist without civil and political rights.
These rights therefore interest all the citizens alike; but it is not
always necessary to the existence and the prosperity of the nation that
these rights should be uniform, nor, consequently, that they should be
regulated by the central authority.

There are, then, two distinct categories of objects which are submitted
to the direction of the sovereign power; and these categories occur in
all well-constituted communities, whatever the basis of the political
constitution may otherwise be. Between these two extremes the objects
which I have termed mixed may be considered to lie. As these objects
are neither exclusively national nor entirely provincial, they may be
obtained by a national or by a provincial government, according to the
agreement of the contracting parties, without in any way impairing the
contract of association.

The sovereign power is usually formed by the union of separate
individuals, who compose a people; and individual powers or collective
forces, each representing a very small portion of the sovereign
authority, are the sole elements which are subjected to the general
Government of their choice. In this case the general Government is more
naturally called upon to regulate, not only those affairs which are
of essential national importance, but those which are of a more local
interest; and the local governments are reduced to that small share of
sovereign authority which is indispensable to their prosperity.

But sometimes the sovereign authority is composed of preorganized
political bodies, by virtue of circumstances anterior to their union;
and in this case the provincial governments assume the control, not only
of those affairs which more peculiarly belong to their province, but of
all, or of a part of the mixed affairs to which allusion has been made.
For the confederate nations which were independent sovereign States
before their union, and which still represent a very considerable share
of the sovereign power, have only consented to cede to the general
Government the exercise of those rights which are indispensable to the

When the national Government, independently of the prerogatives inherent
in its nature, is invested with the right of regulating the affairs
which relate partly to the general and partly to the local interests,
it possesses a preponderating influence. Not only are its own rights
extensive, but all the rights which it does not possess exist by its
sufferance, and it may be apprehended that the provincial governments
may be deprived of their natural and necessary prerogatives by its

When, on the other hand, the provincial governments are invested
with the power of regulating those same affairs of mixed interest, an
opposite tendency prevails in society. The preponderating force resides
in the province, not in the nation; and it may be apprehended that the
national Government may in the end be stripped of the privileges which
are necessary to its existence.

Independent nations have therefore a natural tendency to centralization,
and confederations to dismemberment.

It now only remains for us to apply these general principles to the
American Union. The several States were necessarily possessed of the
right of regulating all exclusively provincial affairs. Moreover these
same States retained the rights of determining the civil and political
competency of the citizens, or regulating the reciprocal relations of
the members of the community, and of dispensing justice; rights which
are of a general nature, but which do not necessarily appertain to the
national Government. We have shown that the Government of the Union is
invested with the power of acting in the name of the whole nation in
those cases in which the nation has to appear as a single and undivided
power; as, for instance, in foreign relations, and in offering a common
resistance to a common enemy; in short, in conducting those affairs
which I have styled exclusively national.

In this division of the rights of sovereignty, the share of the Union
seems at first sight to be more considerable than that of the States;
but a more attentive investigation shows it to be less so. The
undertakings of the Government of the Union are more vast, but their
influence is more rarely felt. Those of the provincial governments are
comparatively small, but they are incessant, and they serve to keep
alive the authority which they represent. The Government of the Union
watches the general interests of the country; but the general interests
of a people have a very questionable influence upon individual
happiness, whilst provincial interests produce a most immediate effect
upon the welfare of the inhabitants. The Union secures the independence
and the greatness of the nation, which do not immediately affect private
citizens; but the several States maintain the liberty, regulate the
rights, protect the fortune, and secure the life and the whole future
prosperity of every citizen.

The Federal Government is very far removed from its subjects, whilst the
provincial governments are within the reach of them all, and are ready
to attend to the smallest appeal. The central Government has upon its
side the passions of a few superior men who aspire to conduct it; but
upon the side of the provincial governments are the interests of all
those second-rate individuals who can only hope to obtain power within
their own State, and who nevertheless exercise the largest share of
authority over the people because they are placed nearest to its level.
The Americans have therefore much more to hope and to fear from the
States than from the Union; and, in conformity with the natural tendency
of the human mind, they are more likely to attach themselves to the
former than to the latter. In this respect their habits and feelings
harmonize with their interests.

When a compact nation divides its sovereignty, and adopts a confederate
form of government, the traditions, the customs, and the manners of the
people are for a long time at variance with their legislation; and the
former tend to give a degree of influence to the central government
which the latter forbids. When a number of confederate states unite to
form a single nation, the same causes operate in an opposite direction.
I have no doubt that if France were to become a confederate republic
like that of the United States, the government would at first display
more energy than that of the Union; and if the Union were to alter
its constitution to a monarchy like that of France, I think that the
American Government would be a long time in acquiring the force
which now rules the latter nation. When the national existence of the
Anglo-Americans began, their provincial existence was already of long
standing; necessary relations were established between the townships and
the individual citizens of the same States; and they were accustomed
to consider some objects as common to them all, and to conduct other
affairs as exclusively relating to their own special interests.

The Union is a vast body which presents no definite object to
patriotic feeling. The forms and limits of the State are distinct and
circumscribed; since it represents a certain number of objects which are
familiar to the citizens and beloved by all. It is identified with the
very soil, with the right of property and the domestic affections, with
the recollections of the past, the labors of the present, and the hopes
of the future. Patriotism, then, which is frequently a mere extension of
individual egotism, is still directed to the State, and is not excited
by the Union. Thus the tendency of the interests, the habits, and the
feelings of the people is to centre political activity in the States, in
preference to the Union.

It is easy to estimate the different forces of the two governments, by
remarking the manner in which they fulfil their respective functions.
Whenever the government of a State has occasion to address an individual
or an assembly of individuals, its language is clear and imperative; and
such is also the tone of the Federal Government in its intercourse with
individuals, but no sooner has it anything to do with a State than it
begins to parley, to explain its motives and to justify its conduct, to
argue, to advise, and, in short, anything but to command. If doubts are
raised as to the limits of the constitutional powers of each government,
the provincial government prefers its claim with boldness, and takes
prompt and energetic steps to support it. In the mean while the
Government of the Union reasons; it appeals to the interests, to the
good sense, to the glory of the nation; it temporizes, it negotiates,
and does not consent to act until it is reduced to the last extremity.
At first sight it might readily be imagined that it is the provincial
government which is armed with the authority of the nation, and that
Congress represents a single State.

The Federal Government is, therefore, notwithstanding the precautions of
those who founded it, naturally so weak that it more peculiarly requires
the free consent of the governed to enable it to subsist. It is easy
to perceive that its object is to enable the States to realize with
facility their determination of remaining united; and, as long as this
preliminary condition exists, its authority is great, temperate, and
effective. The Constitution fits the Government to control individuals,
and easily to surmount such obstacles as they may be inclined to
offer; but it was by no means established with a view to the possible
separation of one or more of the States from the Union.

If the sovereignty of the Union were to engage in a struggle with
that of the States at the present day, its defeat may be confidently
predicted; and it is not probable that such a struggle would be
seriously undertaken. As often as a steady resistance is offered to the
Federal Government it will be found to yield. Experience has hitherto
shown that whenever a State has demanded anything with perseverance
and resolution, it has invariably succeeded; and that if a separate
government has distinctly refused to act, it was left to do as it
thought fit. *z

[Footnote z: See the conduct of the Northern States in the war of 1812.
"During that war," says Jefferson in a letter to General Lafayette,
"four of the Eastern States were only attached to the Union, like so
many inanimate bodies to living men."]

But even if the Government of the Union had any strength inherent in
itself, the physical situation of the country would render the exercise
of that strength very difficult. *a The United States cover an immense
territory; they are separated from each other by great distances; and
the population is disseminated over the surface of a country which is
still half a wilderness. If the Union were to undertake to enforce the
allegiance of the confederate States by military means, it would be in
a position very analogous to that of England at the time of the War of

[Footnote a: The profound peace of the Union affords no pretext for a
standing army; and without a standing army a government is not prepared
to profit by a favorable opportunity to conquer resistance, and take the
sovereign power by surprise. [This note, and the paragraph in the text
which precedes, have been shown by the results of the Civil War to be a
misconception of the writer.]]

However strong a government may be, it cannot easily escape from the
consequences of a principle which it has once admitted as the foundation
of its constitution. The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement
of the States; and, in uniting together, they have not forfeited their
nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the
same people. If one of the States chose to withdraw its name from the
contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so; and
the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims
directly, either by force or by right. In order to enable the Federal
Government easily to conquer the resistance which may be offered to it
by any one of its subjects, it would be necessary that one or more of
them should be specially interested in the existence of the Union, as
has frequently been the case in the history of confederations.

If it be supposed that amongst the States which are united by the
federal tie there are some which exclusively enjoy the principal
advantages of union, or whose prosperity depends on the duration of that
union, it is unquestionable that they will always be ready to support
the central Government in enforcing the obedience of the others. But the
Government would then be exerting a force not derived from itself, but
from a principle contrary to its nature. States form confederations in
order to derive equal advantages from their union; and in the case
just alluded to, the Federal Government would derive its power from the
unequal distribution of those benefits amongst the States.

If one of the confederate States have acquired a preponderance
sufficiently great to enable it to take exclusive possession of
the central authority, it will consider the other States as subject
provinces, and it will cause its own supremacy to be respected under the
borrowed name of the sovereignty of the Union. Great things may then
be done in the name of the Federal Government, but in reality that
Government will have ceased to exist. *b In both these cases, the power
which acts in the name of the confederation becomes stronger the more
it abandons the natural state and the acknowledged principles of

[Footnote b: Thus the province of Holland in the republic of the Low
Countries, and the Emperor in the Germanic Confederation, have sometimes
put themselves in the place of the union, and have employed the federal
authority to their own advantage.]

In America the existing Union is advantageous to all the States, but it
is not indispensable to any one of them. Several of them might break
the federal tie without compromising the welfare of the others, although
their own prosperity would be lessened. As the existence and the
happiness of none of the States are wholly dependent on the present
Constitution, they would none of them be disposed to make great personal
sacrifices to maintain it. On the other hand, there is no State which
seems hitherto to have its ambition much interested in the maintenance
of the existing Union. They certainly do not all exercise the same
influence in the federal councils, but no one of them can hope to
domineer over the rest, or to treat them as its inferiors or as its

It appears to me unquestionable that if any portion of the Union
seriously desired to separate itself from the other States, they would
not be able, nor indeed would they attempt, to prevent it; and that
the present Union will only last as long as the States which compose
it choose to continue members of the confederation. If this point be
admitted, the question becomes less difficult; and our object is, not
to inquire whether the States of the existing Union are capable of
separating, but whether they will choose to remain united.

Amongst the various reasons which tend to render the existing Union
useful to the Americans, two principal causes are peculiarly evident to
the observer. Although the Americans are, as it were, alone upon their
continent, their commerce makes them the neighbors of all the nations
with which they trade. Notwithstanding their apparent isolation, the
Americans require a certain degree of strength, which they cannot retain
otherwise than by remaining united to each other. If the States were to
split, they would not only diminish the strength which they are now able
to display towards foreign nations, but they would soon create foreign
powers upon their own territory. A system of inland custom-houses would
then be established; the valleys would be divided by imaginary boundary
lines; the courses of the rivers would be confined by territorial
distinctions; and a multitude of hindrances would prevent the Americans
from exploring the whole of that vast continent which Providence has
allotted to them for a dominion. At present they have no invasion to
fear, and consequently no standing armies to maintain, no taxes to levy.
If the Union were dissolved, all these burdensome measures might ere
long be required. The Americans are then very powerfully interested
in the maintenance of their Union. On the other hand, it is almost
impossible to discover any sort of material interest which might at
present tempt a portion of the Union to separate from the other States.

When we cast our eyes upon the map of the United States, we perceive
the chain of the Alleghany Mountains, running from the northeast to the
southwest, and crossing nearly one thousand miles of country; and we are
led to imagine that the design of Providence was to raise between the
valley of the Mississippi and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean one of
those natural barriers which break the mutual intercourse of men, and
form the necessary limits of different States. But the average height of
the Alleghanies does not exceed 2,500 feet; their greatest elevation is
not above 4,000 feet; their rounded summits, and the spacious valleys
which they conceal within their passes, are of easy access from several
sides. Besides which, the principal rivers which fall into the Atlantic
Ocean--the Hudson, the Susquehanna, and the Potomac--take their rise
beyond the Alleghanies, in an open district, which borders upon the
valley of the Mississippi. These streams quit this tract of country,
make their way through the barrier which would seem to turn them
westward, and as they wind through the mountains they open an easy and
natural passage to man. No natural barrier exists in the regions which
are now inhabited by the Anglo-Americans; the Alleghanies are so far
from serving as a boundary to separate nations, that they do not even
serve as a frontier to the States. New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
comprise them within their borders, and they extend as much to the
west as to the east of the line. The territory now occupied by the
twenty-four States of the Union, and the three great districts which
have not yet acquired the rank of States, although they already contain
inhabitants, covers a surface of 1,002,600 square miles, *c which is
about equal to five times the extent of France. Within these limits the
qualities of the soil, the temperature, and the produce of the country,
are extremely various. The vast extent of territory occupied by the
Anglo-American republics has given rise to doubts as to the maintenance
of their Union. Here a distinction must be made; contrary interests
sometimes arise in the different provinces of a vast empire, which often
terminate in open dissensions; and the extent of the country is then
most prejudicial to the power of the State. But if the inhabitants of
these vast regions are not divided by contrary interests, the extent of
the territory may be favorable to their prosperity; for the unity of the
government promotes the interchange of the different productions of the
soil, and increases their value by facilitating their consumption.

[Footnote c: See "Darby's View of the United States," p. 435. [In 1890
the number of States and Territories had increased to 51, the population
to 62,831,900, and the area of the States, 3,602,990 square miles.
This does not include the Philippine Islands, Hawaii, or Porto Rico.
A conservative estimate of the population of the Philippine Islands is
8,000,000; that of Hawaii, by the census of 1897, was given at 109,020;
and the present estimated population of Porto Rico is 900,000. The area
of the Philippine Islands is about 120,000 square miles, that of Hawaii
is 6,740 square miles, and the area of Porto Rico is about 3,600 square

It is indeed easy to discover different interests in the different parts
of the Union, but I am unacquainted with any which are hostile to each
other. The Southern States are almost exclusively agricultural. The
Northern States are more peculiarly commercial and manufacturing. The
States of the West are at the same time agricultural and manufacturing.
In the South the crops consist of tobacco, of rice, of cotton, and
of sugar; in the North and the West, of wheat and maize. These are
different sources of wealth; but union is the means by which these
sources are opened to all, and rendered equally advantageous to the
several districts.

The North, which ships the produce of the Anglo-Americans to all parts
of the world, and brings back the produce of the globe to the Union,
is evidently interested in maintaining the confederation in its present
condition, in order that the number of American producers and consumers
may remain as large as possible. The North is the most natural agent
of communication between the South and the West of the Union on the one
hand, and the rest of the world upon the other; the North is therefore
interested in the union and prosperity of the South and the West,
in order that they may continue to furnish raw materials for its
manufactures, and cargoes for its shipping.

The South and the West, on their side, are still more directly
interested in the preservation of the Union, and the prosperity of the
North. The produce of the South is, for the most part, exported
beyond seas; the South and the West consequently stand in need of the
commercial resources of the North. They are likewise interested in
the maintenance of a powerful fleet by the Union, to protect them
efficaciously. The South and the West have no vessels, but they cannot
refuse a willing subsidy to defray the expenses of the navy; for if the
fleets of Europe were to blockade the ports of the South and the delta
of the Mississippi, what would become of the rice of the Carolinas, the
tobacco of Virginia, and the sugar and cotton which grow in the valley
of the Mississippi? Every portion of the federal budget does therefore
contribute to the maintenance of material interests which are common to
all the confederate States.

Independently of this commercial utility, the South and the West of the
Union derive great political advantages from their connection with the
North. The South contains an enormous slave population; a population
which is already alarming, and still more formidable for the future. The
States of the West lie in the remotest parts of a single valley; and all
the rivers which intersect their territory rise in the Rocky Mountains
or in the Alleghanies, and fall into the Mississippi, which bears them
onwards to the Gulf of Mexico. The Western States are consequently
entirely cut off, by their position, from the traditions of Europe and
the civilization of the Old World. The inhabitants of the South, then,
are induced to support the Union in order to avail themselves of its
protection against the blacks; and the inhabitants of the West in order
not to be excluded from a free communication with the rest of the globe,
and shut up in the wilds of central America. The North cannot but desire
the maintenance of the Union, in order to remain, as it now is, the
connecting link between that vast body and the other parts of the world.

The temporal interests of all the several parts of the Union are, then,
intimately connected; and the same assertion holds true respecting those
opinions and sentiments which may be termed the immaterial interests of

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races--Part VII

The inhabitants of the United States talk a great deal of their
attachment to their country; but I confess that I do not rely upon
that calculating patriotism which is founded upon interest, and which
a change in the interests at stake may obliterate. Nor do I attach much
importance to the language of the Americans, when they manifest, in
their daily conversations, the intention of maintaining the federal
system adopted by their forefathers. A government retains its sway
over a great number of citizens, far less by the voluntary and rational
consent of the multitude, than by that instinctive, and to a certain
extent involuntary agreement, which results from similarity of feelings
and resemblances of opinion. I will never admit that men constitute a
social body, simply because they obey the same head and the same laws.
Society can only exist when a great number of men consider a great
number of things in the same point of view; when they hold the same
opinions upon many subjects, and when the same occurrences suggest the
same thoughts and impressions to their minds.

The observer who examines the present condition of the United States
upon this principle, will readily discover, that although the citizens
are divided into twenty-four distinct sovereignties, they nevertheless
constitute a single people; and he may perhaps be led to think that the
state of the Anglo-American Union is more truly a state of society than
that of certain nations of Europe which live under the same legislation
and the same prince.

Although the Anglo-Americans have several religious sects, they all
regard religion in the same manner. They are not always agreed upon the
measures which are most conducive to good government, and they vary upon
some of the forms of government which it is expedient to adopt; but
they are unanimous upon the general principles which ought to rule
human society. From Maine to the Floridas, and from the Missouri to the
Atlantic Ocean, the people is held to be the legitimate source of all
power. The same notions are entertained respecting liberty and equality,
the liberty of the press, the right of association, the jury, and the
responsibility of the agents of Government.

If we turn from their political and religious opinions to the moral and
philosophical principles which regulate the daily actions of life and
govern their conduct, we shall still find the same uniformity. The
Anglo-Americans *d acknowledge the absolute moral authority of the
reason of the community, as they acknowledge the political authority of
the mass of citizens; and they hold that public opinion is the surest
arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. The majority
of them believe that a man will be led to do what is just and good by
following his own interest rightly understood. They hold that every man
is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one
has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They
have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of
opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily
be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all
consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a
changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they
admit that what appears to them to be good to-day may be superseded by
something better-to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true,
but I quote them as characteristic of the Americans.

[Footnote d: It is scarcely necessary for me to observe that by the
expression Anglo-Americans, I only mean to designate the great majority
of the nation; for a certain number of isolated individuals are of
course to be met with holding very different opinions.]

The Anglo-Americans are not only united together by these common
opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a common
feeling of pride. For the last fifty years no pains have been spared to
convince the inhabitants of the United States that they constitute the
only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for
the present, their own democratic institutions succeed, whilst those
of other countries fail; hence they conceive an overweening opinion
of their superiority, and they are not very remote from believing
themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.

The dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in the
diversity of interests or of opinions, but in the various characters and
passions of the Americans. The men who inhabit the vast territory of
the United States are almost all the issue of a common stock; but the
effects of the climate, and more especially of slavery, have gradually
introduced very striking differences between the British settler of the
Southern States and the British settler of the North. In Europe it is
generally believed that slavery has rendered the interests of one
part of the Union contrary to those of another part; but I by no means
remarked this to be the case: slavery has not created interests in the
South contrary to those of the North, but it has modified the character
and changed the habits of the natives of the South.

I have already explained the influence which slavery has exercised upon
the commercial ability of the Americans in the South; and this same
influence equally extends to their manners. The slave is a servant who
never remonstrates, and who submits to everything without complaint. He
may sometimes assassinate, but he never withstands, his master. In the
South there are no families so poor as not to have slaves. The citizen
of the Southern States of the Union is invested with a sort of domestic
dictatorship, from his earliest years; the first notion he acquires
in life is that he is born to command, and the first habit which he
contracts is that of being obeyed without resistance. His education
tends, then, to give him the character of a supercilious and a hasty
man; irascible, violent, and ardent in his desires, impatient of
obstacles, but easily discouraged if he cannot succeed upon his first

The American of the Northern States is surrounded by no slaves in
his childhood; he is even unattended by free servants, and is usually
obliged to provide for his own wants. No sooner does he enter the world
than the idea of necessity assails him on every side: he soon learns
to know exactly the natural limit of his authority; he never expects to
subdue those who withstand him, by force; and he knows that the surest
means of obtaining the support of his fellow-creatures, is to win their
favor. He therefore becomes patient, reflecting, tolerant, slow to act,
and persevering in his designs.

In the Southern States the more immediate wants of life are always
supplied; the inhabitants of those parts are not busied in the materi