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Title: American Institutions and Their Influence
Author: Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1805-1859
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Institutions and Their Influence" ***


By Alexis De Tocqueville.

With Notes, by Hon. John C. Spencer.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the

Southern District of New York.


The American publishers of M. De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America,"
have been frequently solicited to furnish the work in a form adapted
to seminaries of learning, and at a price which would secure its more
general circulation, and enable trustees of School District Libraries,
and other libraries, to place it among their collections. Desirous to
attain these objects, they have consulted several gentlemen, in whose
judgment they confided, and particularly the editor of the American
editions, to ascertain whether the work was capable of abridgment or
condensation, so as to bring the expense of its publication within the
necessary limits. They are advised that the nature of the work renders
it impossible to condense it by omitting any remarks or illustrations of
the author upon any subject discussed by him, even if common justice to
him did not forbid any such attempt; and that the only mode of reducing
its bulk, is to exclude wholly such subjects as are deemed not to be

It will be recollected that the first volume was originally published
separately, and was complete in itself. It treated of the influence
of democracy upon the political institutions of the United States,
and exhibited views of the nature of our government, and of their
complicated machinery, so new, so striking, and so just, as to excite
the admiration and even the wonder of our countrymen. It was universally
admitted to be the best, if not the first systematic and philosophic
view of the great principles of our constitutions which has been
presented to the world. As a treatise upon the spirit of our
governments, it was full and finished, and was deemed worthy of being
introduced as a text-book in some of our Seminaries of Learning.
The publication of the first volume alone would therefore seem to be
sufficient to accomplish in the main the objects of the publishers above

And upon a careful re-examination of the second volume, this impression
is confirmed. It is entirely independent of the first volume, and is
in no way essential to a full understanding of the principles and views
contained in that volume. It discusses the effects of the democratic
principle upon the tastes, feelings, habits, and manners of the
Americans; and although deeply interesting and valuable, yet the
observations of the author on these subjects are better calculated for
foreign countries than for our own citizens. As he wrote for Europe
they were necessary to his plan. They follow naturally and properly the
profound views which had already been presented, and which they carry
out and illustrate. But they furnish no new developments of those views,
nor any facts that would be new to us.

The publishers were therefore advised that the printing of the first
volume complete and entire, was the only mode of attaining the object
they had in view. They have accordingly determined to adopt that course,
intending, if the public sentiment should require it, hereafter to print
the second volume in the same style, so that both may be had at the same
moderate price.

A few notes, in addition to those contained in the former editions, have
been made by the American editor, which upon a reperusal of the volume
seemed useful if not necessary: and some statistical results of the
census of 1840 have been added, in connection with similar results given
by the author from returns previous to that year.


The following work of M. DE TOCQUEVILLE has attracted great attention
throughout Europe, where it is universally regarded as a sound,
philosophical, impartial, and remarkably clear and distinct view of our
political institutions, and of our manners, opinions, and habits, as
influencing or influenced by those institutions. Writers, reviewers, and
statesmen of all parties, have united in the highest commendations of
its ability and integrity. The people, described by a work of such a
character, should not be the only one in Christendom unacquainted with
its contents. At least, so thought many of our most distinguished men,
who have urged the publishers of this edition to reprint the work, and
present it to the American public. They have done so in the hope of
promoting among their countrymen a more thorough knowledge of their
frames of government, and a more just appreciation of the great
principles on which they are founded.

But it seemed to them that a reprint in America of the views of an
author so well entitled to regard and confidence, without any correction
of the few errors or mistakes that might be found, would be in effect
to give authenticity to the whole work, and that foreign readers,
especially, would consider silence, under such circumstances, as strong
evidence of the accuracy of its statements. The preface to the English
edition, too, was not adapted to this country, having been written, as
it would seem, in reference to the political questions which agitate
Great Britain. The publishers, therefore, applied to the writer of this,
to furnish them with a short preface, and such notes upon the text as
might appear necessary to correct any erroneous impressions. Having had
the honor of a personal acquaintance with M. DE TOCQUEVILLE while he was
in this country; having discussed with him many of the topics treated
of in this book; having entered deeply into the feelings and sentiments
which guided and impelled him in his task, and having formed a high
admiration of his character and of this production, the writer felt
under some obligation to aid in procuring for one whom he ventures
to call his friend, a hearing from those who were the subjects of his
observations. These circumstances furnish to his own mind an apology for
undertaking what no one seemed willing to attempt, notwithstanding
his want of practice in literary composition, and notwithstanding
the impediments of professional avocations, constantly recurring, and
interrupting that strict and continued examination of the work, which
became necessary, as well to detect any errors of the author, as any
misunderstanding or misrepresentation of his meaning by his translator.
If the same circumstances will atone in the least for the imperfections
of what the editor has contributed to this edition, and will serve to
mitigate the severity of judgment upon those contributions, it is all he
can hope or ask.

The NOTES are confined, with very few exceptions, to the correction of
what appeared to be misapprehensions of the author in regard to some
matters of fact, or some principles of law, and to explaining his
meaning where the translator had misconceived it. For the latter purpose
the original was consulted; and it affords great pleasure to bear
witness to the general fidelity with which Mr. REEVE has transferred
the author's ideas from French into English. He has not been a literal
translator, and this has been the cause of the very few errors which
have been discovered: but he has been more and better: he has caught the
spirit of M. DE TOCQUEVILLE, has understood the sentiment he meant to
express, and has clothed it in the language which M. DE TOCQUEVILLE
would have himself used, had he possessed equal facility in writing the
English language.

Being confined to the objects before mentioned, the reader will not find
any comments on the theoretical views of our author. He has discussed
many subjects on which very different opinions are entertained in the
United States; but with an ability, a candor, and an evident devotion
to the cause of truth, which will commend his views to those who most
radically dissent from them. Indeed, readers of the most discordant
opinions will find that he frequently agrees with both sides, and as
frequently differs from them. As an instance, his remarks on slavery
will not be found to coincide throughout with the opinions either of
abolitionists or of slaveholders: but they will be found to present a
masterly view of a most perplexing and interesting subject, which seems
to cover the whole ground, and to lead to the melancholy conclusion of
the utter impotency of human effort to eradicate this acknowledged evil.
But on this, and on the various topics of the deepest interest which are
discussed in this work, it was thought that the American readers would
be fully competent to form their own opinions, and to detect any errors
of the author, if such there are, without any attempt of the present
editor to enlighten them. At all events, it is to be hoped that
the citizens of the United States will patiently read, and candidly
consider, the views of this accomplished foreigner, however hostile they
may be to their own preconceived opinions or prejudices. He says: "There
are certain truths which Americans can only learn from strangers, or
from experience." Let us, then, at least listen to one who admires us
and our institutions, and whose complaints, when he makes any, are, that
we have not perfected our own glorious plans, and that there are some
things yet to be amended. We shall thus furnish a practical proof, that
public opinion in this country is not so intolerant as the author may be
understood to represent it. However mistaken he may be, his manly appeal
to our understandings and to our consciences, should at least be heard.
"If ever," he says, "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 voice to condemn me; and, in the second place, that very many of
them will acquit me at the bottom of their consciences." He is writing
on that very sore subject, the tyranny of public opinion in the United

Fully to comprehend the scope of the present work, the author's motive
and object in preparing it should be distinctly kept in view. He has
written, not for America, but for France. "It was not, then, merely to
satisfy a legitimate curiosity," he says, "that I have examined America:
my wish has been to find instruction, by which we might ourselves
profit."--"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 hope or fear from its progress." He thinks that
the principle of democracy has sprung into new life throughout Europe,
and particularly in France, and that it is advancing: with a firm and
steady march to the control of all civilized governments. In his own
country, he had seen a recent attempt to repress its energies within due
bounds, and to prevent the consequences of its excesses. And it seems
to be a main object with him, to ascertain whether these bounds can be
relied upon; whether the dikes and embankments of human contrivance
can keep within any appointed channel this mighty and majestic stream.
Giving the fullest confidence to his declaration, that his book "is
written to favor no particular views and with no design of serving or
attacking any party," it is yet evident that his mind has been very open
to receive impressions unfavorable to the admission into France of the
unbounded and unlimited democracy which reigns in these United States.
A knowledge of this inclination of his mind will necessarily induce some
caution in his readers, while perusing those parts of the work which
treat of the effects of our democracy upon the stability of our
government and its administration. While the views of the author,
respecting the application of the democratic principle, in the extent
that it exists with us, to the institutions of France, or to any of
the European nations, are of the utmost importance to the people and
statesmen of those countries, they are scarcely less entitled to the
attention of Americans. He has exhibited, with admirable skill, the
causes and circumstances which prepared our forefathers, gradually, for
the enjoyment of free institutions, and which enable them to sustain,
without abusing, the utmost liberty that was ever enjoyed by any people.
In tracing these causes, in examining how far they continue to influence
our conduct, manners, and opinions, and in searching for the means of
preventing their decay or destruction, the intelligent American reader
will find no better guide than M. DE TOCQUEVILLE.

Fresh from the scenes of the "three days" revolution in France, the
author came among us to observe, carefully and critically, the operation
of the new principle on which the happiness of his country, and, as he
seems to believe, the destinies of the civilized world, depend. Filled
with the love of liberty, but remembering the atrocities which, in its
name, had been committed under former dynasties at home, he sought to
discover the means by which it was regulated in America, and reconciled
with social order. By his laborious investigations, and minute
observations of the history of the settlement of the country, and of its
progress through the colonial state to independence, he found the object
of his inquiry in the manners, habits, and opinions, of a people who had
been gradually prepared, by a long course of peculiar circumstances, and
by their local position, for self-government; and he has explained, with
a pencil of light, the mystery that has baffled Europeans and perplexed
Americans. He exhibits us, in our present condition, a new, and to
Europeans, a strange people. His views of our political institutions are
more general, comprehensive, and philosophic than have been presented by
any writer, domestic or foreign. He has traced them from their source,
democracy--the power of the people--and has steadily pursued this
foundation-principle in all its forms and modifications: in the frame of
our governments, in their administration by the different executives, in
our legislation, in the arrangement of our judiciary, in our manners,
in religion, in the freedom and licentiousness of the press, in the
influence of public opinion, and in various subtle recesses, where its
existence was scarcely suspected. In all these, he analyzes and dissects
the tendencies of democracy; heartily applauds where he can, and
faithfully and independently gives warning of dangers that he foresees.
No one can read the result of his observations without better and
clearer perceptions of the structure of out governments, of the great
pillars on which they rest, and of the dangers to which they are
exposed: nor without a more profound and more intelligent admiration
of the harmony and beauty of their formation, and of the safeguards
provided for preserving and transmitting them to a distant posterity.
The more that general and indefinite notions of our own liberty,
greatness, happiness, &c., are made to give place to precise and
accurate knowledge of the true merits of our institutions, the peculiar
objects they are calculated to attain or promote, and the means provided
for that purpose, the better will every citizen be enabled to discharge
his great political duty of guarding those means against the approach
of corruption, and of sustaining them against the violence of party
commotions. No foreigner has ever exhibited such a deep, clear, and
correct insight of the machinery of our complicated systems of federal
and state governments. The most intelligent Europeans are confounded
with our _imperium in imperio_; and their constant wonder is, that these
systems are not continually jostling each other. M. DE TOCQUEVILLE has
clearly perceived, and traced correctly and distinctly, the orbits
in which they move, and has described, or rather defined, our federal
government, with an accurate precision, unsurpassed even by an American
pen. There is no citizen of this country who will not derive instruction
from our author's account of our national government, or, at least, who
will not find his own ideas systematised, and rendered more fixed and
precise, by the perusal of that account.

Among other subjects discussed by the author, that of the _political
influence_ of the institution of trial by jury, is one of the most
curious and interesting. He has certainly presented it in a light
entirely new, and as important as it is new. It may be that he has
exaggerated its influence as "a gratuitous public school;" but if he
has, the error will be readily forgiven.

His views of religion, as connected with patriotism, in other words,
with the democratic principle, which he steadily keeps in view, are
conceived in the noblest spirit of philanthropy, and cannot fail to
confirm the principles already so thoroughly and universally entertained
by the American people. And no one can read his observations on the
union of "church and state," without a feeling of deep gratitude to the
founders of our government, for saving us from such a prolific source of

These allusions to topics that have interested the writer, are not
intended as an enumeration of the various subjects which will arrest the
attention of the American reader. They have been mentioned rather with a
view of exciting an appetite for the whole feast, than as exhibiting the
choice dainties which cover the board.

It remains only to observe, that in this edition the constitutions of
the United States and of the state of New York, which had been published
at large in the original and in the English edition, have been omitted,
as they are documents to which every American reader has access. The
map which the author annexed to his work, and which has been hitherto
omitted, is now for the first time inserted in the American edition, to
which has been added the census of 1840.



  Exterior form of North America

  Origin of the Anglo-Americans, and its Importance in Relation to their
      future Condition
  Reasons of certain Anomalies which the Laws and Customs of the
      Anglo-Americans present

  Social Condition of the Anglo-Americans
  The striking Characteristic of the social Condition of the
      Anglo-Americans is its essential Democracy
  Political Consequences of the social Condition of the Anglo-Americans

  The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America

  Necessity of examining the Condition of the States before that of the
      Union at large
  The American System of Townships and municipal Bodies
  Limits of the Townships
  Authorities of the Township in New England
  Existence of the Township
  Public Spirit of the Townships of New England
  The Counties of New England
  Administration in New England
  General Remarks on the Administration of the United States
      Of the State
  Legislative Power of the State
  The executive Power of the State
  Political Effects of the System of local Administration in the
      United States

  Judicial Power in the United States, and its Influence on Political
  Other Powers granted to the American Judges

  Political Jurisdiction in the United States

  The federal Constitution
  History of the federal Constitution
  Summary of the federal Constitution
  Prerogative of the federal Government
  Federal Powers
  Legislative Powers
  A farther Difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives
  The executive Power
  Differences between the Position of the President of the United States
      and that of a constitutional King of France.
  Accidental Causes which may increase the Influence of the executive
  Why the President of the United States does not require the Majority of
      the two Houses in Order to carry on the Government
  Election of the President
  Mode of Election
  Crisis of the Election
  Re-Election of the President
  Federal Courts
  Means of determining the Jurisdiction of the federal Courts
  Different Cases of Jurisdiction
  Procedure of the federal Courts
  High Rank of the supreme Courts among the great Powers of the State
  In what Respects the federal Constitution is superior to that of the
  Characteristics which distinguish the federal Constitution of the United
      States of America from all other federal Constitutions
  Advantages of the federal System in General, and its special Utility in
  Why the federal System is not adapted to all Peoples, and how the
      Anglo-Americans were enabled to adopt it

  Why the People may strictly be said to govern in the United States

  Parties in the United States
  Remains of the aristocratic Party in the United States

  Liberty of the Press in the United States

  Political Associations in the United States

  Government of the Democracy in America
  Universal Suffrage
  Choice of the People, and instinctive Preferences of the American
  Causes which may partly correct the Tendencies of the Democracy
  Influence which the American Democracy has exercised on the Laws
      relating to Elections
  Public Officers under the control of the Democracy in America
  Arbitrary Power of Magistrates under the Rule of the American Democracy
  Instability of the Administration in the United States
  Charges levied by the State under the rule of the American Democracy
  Tendencies of the American Democracy as regards the Salaries of public
  Difficulties of distinguishing the Causes which contribute to the
      Economy of the American Government
  Whether the Expenditure of the United States can be compared to that of
  Corruption and vices of the Rulers in a Democracy, and consequent
      Effects upon public Morality
  Efforts of which a Democracy is capable
  Self-control of the American Democracy
  Conduct of foreign Affairs, by the American Democracy

  What the real Advantages are which American Society derives from the
      Government of the Democracy
  General Tendency of the Laws under the Rule of the American Democracy,
      and Habits of those who apply them
  Public Spirit in the United States
  Notion of Rights in the United States
  Respect for the Law in the United States
  Activity which pervades all the Branches of the Body politic in the
      United States; Influence which it exercises upon Society

  Unlimited Power of the Majority in the United States, and its
  How the unlimited Power of the Majority increases in America, the
      Instability of Legislation inherent in Democracy
  Tyranny of the Majority
  Effects of the unlimited Power of the Majority upon the arbitrary
      Authority of the American public Officers
  Power exercised by the Majority in America upon public Opinion
  Effects of the Tyranny of the Majority upon the national Character of
      the Americans
  The greatest Dangers of the American Republics proceed from the
      unlimited Power of the Majority

  Causes which Mitigate the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States
  Absence of central Administration
  The Profession of the Law in the United States serves to Counterpoise
      the Democracy
  Trial by Jury in the United States considered as a political Institution

  Principal Causes which tend to maintain the democratic Republic in the
      United States
  Accidental or providential Causes which contribute to the Maintenance of
      the democratic Republic in the United States
  Influence of the Laws upon the Maintenance of the democratic Republic in
      the United States
  Influence of Manners upon the Maintenance of the democratic Republic in
      the United States
  Religion considered as a political Institution, which powerfully
      Contributes to the Maintenance of the democratic Republic among the
  Indirect Influence of religious Opinions upon political Society in the
      United States
  Principal Causes which render Religion powerful in America
  How the Instruction, the Habits, and the practical Experience of the
      Americans, promote the Success of their democratic Institutions
  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
  Whether Laws and Manners are sufficient to maintain democratic
      Institutions in other Countries beside America
  Importance of what precedes with respect to the State of Europe

  The present and probable future Condition of the three Races which
      Inhabit the Territory of the United States
  The present and probable future Condition of the Indian Tribes which
      Inhabit the Territory possessed by the Union
  Situation of the black Population in the United States, and Dangers with
      which its Presence threatens the Whites
  What are the Chances in favor of the Duration of the American Union, and
      what Dangers threaten it
  Of the republican Institutions of the United States, and what their
      Chances of Duration are
  Reflections on the Causes of the commercial Prosperity of the United




Among 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, 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
advancing 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 among 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 among 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 villain 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 unfrequently 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.

While 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 the 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

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 toward the universal level. The taste for
luxury, the love of war, the sway of fashion, 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 germe 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 civilisation and knowledge; and literature
became an arsenal, where the poorest and 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 communes introduced an
element of democratic liberty into the bosom of feudal monarchy; the
invention of firearms equalized the villain 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 discover 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

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 fingers.

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

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 descried upon the shore we have left, while the current sweeps us
along, and drives us backward toward 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 exigences, 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
have 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
toward his flock; and without acknowledging the poor as their equals,
they watched over the destiny of those whose welfare Providence had
intrusted 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, but 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 any one 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 power which they believe to be
illegal, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped
and oppressive.

On one side were wealth, strength, and leisure, accompanied by the
refinement of luxury, the elegance of taste, the pleasures of wit, and
the religion of art. On the other were 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 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
the 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 forward; 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 melioration, 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 have 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 to 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;
having destroyed an aristocracy, 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 control over 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 beholding.

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

Zealous Christians may be found among 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 farther; 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, while 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 civilisation 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 materialise
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 civilisation, 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, while men without
patriotism and without principles, are the apostles of civilisation 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 would be strangely mistaken, and on reading this book, he
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 among
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 progress.

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.

It was my intention to depict, in a second part, the influence which the
equality of conditions and the rule of democracy exercise on the civil
society, the habits, the ideas, and the manners of the Americans;
I begin, however, to feel less ardor for the accomplishment of this
project, since the excellent work of my friend and travelling companion
M. de Beaumont has been given to the world.[1] 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 facts.

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.[2] I have cited my authorities in the notes, and any one
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 fireside of his host,
which the latter would perhaps conceal even 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 any one 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 consistency 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 design
of serving or attacking any party: I have undertaken not to see
differently, but to look farther than parties, and while they are busied
for the morrow, I have turned my thoughts to the future.

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] This work is entitled, Marie, ou l'Esclavage aux Etats-Unis.

[2] Legislative and administrative documents have been furnished me with
a degree of politeness which I shall always remember with gratitude.
Among the American functionaries who thus favored my inquiries I am
proud to name Mr. Edward Livingston, then Secretary of State and late
American minister at Paris. During my stay at the session of Congress,
Mr. Livingston was kind enough to furnish me with the greater part
of the documents I possess relative to the federal government. Mr.
Livingston is one of those rare individuals whom one loves, respects,
and admires, from their writings, and to whom one is happy to incur the
debt of gratitude on further acquaintance.




North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining toward the
Pole, the other toward 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.

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 amid the confusion of objects and the prodigious variety of

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 toward the south, forming a
triangle, whose irregular sides meet at length below the great lakes of

The second region begins where the other terminates, and includes all
the remainder of the continent.

The one slopes gently toward the pole, the other toward the equator.

The territory comprehended in the first regions descends toward 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 toward
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 Allegany 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.[3] 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 Alleganies, while
the other rises in an uninterrupted course toward the tops of the Rocky

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 the river
St. Louis. The Indians, in their pompous language, have named it the
Father of Waters, or the Mississippi.

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,[4]
which empties itself into the polar seas. The course of the Mississippi
is at first devious: it winds several times toward the north, whence it
rose; and, at length, after having been delayed in lakes and marshes, it
flows slowly onward 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.[5] 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; among 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 1000 miles in length, viz., the
Illinois, the St. Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a
countless number of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary

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 granitic 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, afterward carried away portions of the rocks themselves;
and these, dashed and bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left
scattered like wrecks at their feet.[6]

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.

On the eastern side of the Alleganies, between the base of these
mountains and the Atlantic ocean, 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. This 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 there; while in the backward
States the true elements of the great people, to whom the future control
of the continent belongs, are secretly springing up.

When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the Antilles, 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.[7] 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 in the harmony of a world teeming with life and

Underneath this brilliant exterior death was concealed. The air of these
climates had so enervating an influence that man, completely absorbed by
the present enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future.

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 girded round by a belt of granite
rocks, or by wide plains 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 forests,
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

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 moss 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 nature.

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 germes 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:[9] 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 cheek-bones very prominent. The languages
spoken by the North American tribes were various as far as regarded
their words, but they were subject to the same grammatical rules. Those
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.[10]

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 that is
usually joined with ignorance and rudeness among nations which, after
advancing to civilisation, 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 are
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.[11] 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.[12] 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

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 a 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 afterward so
completely disappeared from the earth, that the remembrance of their
very name is effaced: their languages are lost; their glory is vanished
like a sound without an echo; but perhaps there is not one which has
not left behind it a 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 seeing the completion of it.
They seemed to have been placed by Providence amid 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[3] Darby's "View of the United States."

[4] Mackenzie's river.

[5] Warden's "Description of the United States."

[6] See Appendix A.

[7] 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 the 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.

[8] See Appendix B.

[9] 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,
Moguls, 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 Américains;" Adair,
"History of the American Indians."

[10] See Appendix C.

[11] 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.

[12] 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, and of
the matter-of-fact age in which he lived.

[13] See Appendix D.



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 the 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 Liberty.

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 germe of the vices and the virtues of his maturer years is then

This, if I am not mistaken, is a great error. We must begin higher up;
we must watch the infant in his 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 beholds; 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 primary 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 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 along 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 turned their
attention to contemplate 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 study
the natural and tranquil growth of society, and where the influence
exercised on the future condition of states by their origin is clearly

At the period when the people 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 civilisation 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 farther 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 germe 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 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 the first emigrations, the parish system, that fruitful germe
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 even 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 reflecting, became argumentative and austere. General
information had been increased by intellectual debate, and the mind
had received a deeper cultivation. While 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
entirely 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 behold 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 has as yet furnished no complete

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[14] were seekers
of gold, adventurers without resources and without character, whose
turbulent and restless spirits endangered the infant colony,[15] and
rendered its progress uncertain. The artisans and agriculturists arrived
afterward; 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.[16] No lofty conceptions, no intellectual system directed the
foundation of these new settlements. The colony was scarcely established
when slavery was introduced,[17] 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 afterward 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 mariners and the social condition of the
southern states.

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 British colonies, more generally denominated the states of
New England.[18] 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 embued the whole confederation. They now extend
their influence beyond its limits over the whole American world. The
civilisation 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.

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, at the
present day, the criminal courts of England supply 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
adventurers than all we can say of them. Nathaniel Morton,[19]
the historian of the first years of the settlement, thus opens his

"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 beginning of this plantation in New
England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that
behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not only 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 the seas, appears to the reader as the
germe 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, 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 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 among 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 loath 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."

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.[20]

"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
toward 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 succor; 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 hue; 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 their first
care was to constitute a society, by passing the following act:[21]--

"IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN! We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal
subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James, &c., &c., having
undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith,
and the honor 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 politic, 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," &c.[22]

This happened in 1620, and from that time forward the emigration went
on. The religious and political passions which ravished 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 while 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 dreamed of, started in full size and panoply from the midst of an
ancient feudal society.

The English government was not dissatisfied with an emigration which
removed the elements of fresh discord and of future revolutions. On the
contrary, everything was done to encourage it, and little attention
was paid to the destiny 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 toward 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;[23] this is the colonial system adopted
by the other countries of Europe. Sometimes grants of certain tracts
were made by the crown to an individual or to a company,[24] 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 adopted only in
New England.[25]

In 1628,[26] 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,[27] 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 head 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 afterward, under Charles II., that their existence was legally
recognised by a royal charter.

This frequently renders 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
perpetually 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.[28]
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.

Among these documents we shall notice as especially characteristic, the
code of laws promulgated by the little state of Connecticut in 1650.[29]

The legislators of Connecticut[30] begin with the penal laws, and,
strange to say, they borrow their provisions from the text of holy writ.

"Whoever 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,[31]
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 transferred 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 toward the guilty.

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 they did 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,[32] on the misdemeanants; and if the records of the old
courts of New Haven may be believed, prosecutions of this kind were
not infrequent. We find a sentence bearing date the first of May, 1660,
inflicting a fine and a reprimand on a young woman who was accused of
using improper language, and of allowing herself to be kissed.[33] The
code of 1650 abounds in preventive measures. It punishes idleness and
drunkenness with severity.[34] Innkeepers are forbidden to furnish more
than a certain quantity of liquor to each customer; and simple lying,
whenever it may be injurious,[35] 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,[36] and goes so far as to visit
with severe punishment,[37] and even with death, the Christians who
chose to worship God according to a ritual differing from his own.[38]
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.[39] 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.[40]

These errors are no doubt discreditable to the 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 recognised 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,[41]
when we recollect that this people enjoyed an almost perfect equality of
fortune, and a still greater uniformity of capacity.[42] In Connecticut,
at this period, all the executive functionaries were elected, including
the governor of the state.[43] 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.[44]

In the laws of Connecticut, as well as in those of New England, we find
the germe 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 always
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
around 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
recognised the supremacy of the mother-country; monarchy was still the
law of the state; but the republic was already established in every

The towns named their own magistrates of every kind, rated themselves,
and levied their own taxes.[45] In the townships 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.

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 toward 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;[46] strict measures were taken for the maintenance of
roads, and surveyors were appointed to attend to them;[47] registers
were established in every parish, in which the results of public
deliberations, and the births, deaths, and marriages of the citizens
were entered;[48] clerks were directed to keep these registers;[49]
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.[50] The law enters into a thousand useful provisions for
a number of social wants which are at present very inadequately felt in

But it is by the attention it pays to public education that the original
character of American civilisation 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."[51] 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 cases
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 men to
civil freedom.

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 precedent was produced off-hand
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 amid general acclamations the following fine
definition of liberty:[52]--

"Nor would I have you to mistake in the point of your own liberty. There
is a liberty of corrupt nature, which is affected 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_;'
it is 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 civilisation 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 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

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
acquirements of wealth, moral enjoyment, and the comforts as well as the
liberties of the world, was 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 a 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 besides 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 as well as the surest pledge of freedom.[53]

       *       *       *       *       *


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 it was
not in their power to found a state of things originating solely in
themselves; no man can entirely shake off the influence of the past, and
the settlers, unintentionally or involuntarily, mingled habits 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 carefully to distinguish what is of puritanical from what is
of English origin.

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 general
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 or 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.[54] 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,[55] 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 reflection.

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.[56]

       *       *       *       *       *


[14] The charter granted by the crown of England, in 1609, stipulated,
among 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.

[15] 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.

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

[17] Slavery was introduced about the year 1620, by a Dutch vessel,
which landed twenty negroes on the banks of the river James. See

[18] 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.

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

[20] 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 that 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?

[21] "New England Memorial," p. 37.

[22] 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 submitted to the approval of all
the interested parties. See "Pitkin's History," pp 42, 47.

[23] This was the case in the state of New York.

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

[25] 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 Hazard, Philadelphia, 1792, for a
great number of documents relating to the commencement of the colonies,
which are valuable from their contents and their authenticity; among
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.

[26] See Pitkin's History, p. 35. See the History of the Colony of
Massachusetts Bay, by Hutchinson, vol. i., p. 9.

[27] See Pitkin's History, pp. 42, 47.

[28] 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.

[29] Code of 1650, p. 28. Hartford, 1830.

[30] 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

[31] 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.

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

[33] New Haven Antiquities, p. 104. See also Hutchinson's History for
several causes equally extraordinary.

[34] Code of 1650, pp. 50, 57.

[35] Ibid, p. 64.

[36] Ibid, p. 44.

[37] This was not peculiar to Connecticut. See for instance the law
which, on the 13th of September, 1644, banished the ana-baptists from
the state of Massachusetts. (Historical Collection of State Papers, vol.
i., p. 538.) See also the law against the quakers, passed on the 14th
of October, 1656. "Whereas," says the preamble, "an accursed race of
heretics called quakers has sprung up," &c. 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.)

[38] 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.

[39] Code of 1650, p. 96.

[40] New England's Memorial, p. 316. See Appendix E.

[41] Constitution of 1638, p. 17.

[42] 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.

[43] Pitkin's History, p. 47.

[44] Constitution of 1638, p. 12.

[45] Code of 1650, p 80.

[46] Code of 1650, p. 78.

[47] Code of 1750, p. 94.

[48] Ibid, p. 86.

[49] See Hutchinson's History, vol. i. p. 455.

[50] Ibid, p. 40.

[51] Code of 1650, p. 90.

[52] 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 forward he was always re-elected governor of the state. See
Marshall, vol. i., p. 166.

[53] See Appendix F.

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

[55] See Blackstone; and Delolme, book i., chap. x.

[56] The author is not quite accurate in this statement. A person
accused of crime is, in the first instance, arrested by virtue of a
warrant issued by the magistrate, upon a complaint granted upon proof of
a crime having been committed by the person charged. He is then brought
before the magistrate, the complainant examined in his presence, other
evidence adduced, and he is heard in explanation or defence. If the
magistrate is satisfied that a crime has been committed, and that the
accused is guilty, the latter is, then, and then only, required to give
security for his appearance at the proper court to take his trial, if an
indictment shall be found against him by a Grand Jury of twenty-three
of his fellow-citizens. In the event of his inability or refusal to give
the security he is incarcerated, so as to secure his appearance at a

In France, after the preliminary examination, the accused, unless
absolutely discharged, is in all cases incarcerated, to secure his
presence at the trial. It is the relaxation of this practice in England
and the United States, in order to attain the ends of justice at the
least possible inconvenience to the accused, by accepting what is
deemed an adequate pledge for his appearance, which our author considers
hostile to the poor man and favorable to the rich. And yet it is very
obvious, that such is not its design or tendency. Good character, and
probable innocence, ordinarily obtain for the accused man the required
security. And if they do not, how can complaint be justly made that
others are not treated with unnecessary severity, and punished in
anticipation, because some are prevented by circumstances from availing
themselves of a benign provision so favorable to humanity, and to that
innocence which our law presumes, until guilt is proved? To secure the
persons of suspected criminals, that they may abide the sentence of the
law, is indispensable to all jurisprudence. And instead of reproof
or aristocratic tendency, our system deserves credit for having
ameliorated, as far as possible, the condition of persons accused.
That this amelioration cannot be made in all instances, flows from the
necessity of the case.

It would be a mistake to suppose, as the author seems to have done,
that the forfeiture of the security given, exonerates the accused from
punishment. He may be again arrested and detained in prison, as security
would not ordinarily be received from a person who had given such
evidence of his guilt as would be derived from his attempt to escape.
And the difficulty of escape is rendered so great by our constitutional
provisions for the delivery, by the different states, of fugitives
from justice, and by our treaties with England and France for the same
purpose, that the instances of successful evasion are few and rare.



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 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 germe
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
invariable transmission from father to son.

This was the state of things to the east of the Hudson: to the southwest
of that river, and in the direction of the Floridas, the case was
different. In most of the states situated to the southwest 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
southwest 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.[57] 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, while 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

Through their means man acquires a kind of preternatural power over
the future lot of his fellow-creatures. When the legislator has once
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, toward 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 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 among 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 a
family to consist of two children (and in a country peopled as France
is, the average number is not above three), these children, sharing
among 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 the 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

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 befriend them, may indeed entertain the
hope of being as wealthy as their father, but not that of possessing the
same property as he did; their riches must necessarily be composed of
elements different from his.

Now, from the moment when you divest the land-owner 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.[58] The calculations of gain, therefore, which
decided the rich man to sell his domain, will still more powerfully
influence him against buying small estates to unite them into a large

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 the 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

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 extinction.

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.[59]

Most certainly is it not for us, Frenchmen of the nineteenth century,
who daily behold 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.[60] The first 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
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 have 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

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 a 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 overcharged, still gives a
very imperfect idea of what is taking place in the new states of
the west and southwest. 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 their 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.

It is not only the fortunes of men which are equal in America; even
their acquirements partake in some degree of the same uniformity. I do
not believe 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 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 afterward, 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.

[This paragraph does not fairly render the meaning of the author. The
original French is as follows:--

"En Amérique il y a peu de riches; presque tous les Américains ont
donc besoin d'exercer une profession. Or, toute profession exige an
apprentissage. Les Américains ne peuvent donc donner a la culture
générale de l'intelligence que les premières années de la vie: à quinze
ans ils entrent dans une carrière: ainsi leur education finit le plus
souvent à l'époque où la nôtre commence."

What is meant by the remark; that "at fifteen they enter upon a career,
and thus their education is very often finished at the epoch when ours
commences," is not clearly perceived. Our professional men enter upon
their course of preparation for their respective professions, wholly
between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. Apprentices to trades
are bound out, ordinarily, at fourteen, but what general education they
receive is after that period. Previously, they have acquired the mere
elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But it is supposed there
is nothing peculiar to America, in the age at which apprenticeship
commences. In England, they commence at the same age, and it is believed
that the same thing occurs throughout Europe. It is feared that the
author has not here expressed himself with his usual clearness and
precision.--_American Editor_.]

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 the 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 middling 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


The political consequences of such a social condition as this are easily

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 for ever 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 have 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 aggression of power. No one among them being strong enough
to engage singly 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 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[57] I understand by the law of descent all those laws whose principal
object it 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 a 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.

[58] 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.

[59] 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 land-owner, 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 family.

[60] See Appendix G.



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.

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

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 recognised, 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 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

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 recognised
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 the
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

It could not ostensibly disclose itself in the laws of the 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 limit the exercise of social authority within 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 dependant 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, 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 scarcely 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
became 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 interest; 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

The state of Maryland, which had been founded by men of rank, was the
first to proclaim universal suffrage,[61] 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 farther electoral rights are extended, the more is felt 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 met with
who would venture to conceive, or, still more, 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.[62]

       *       *       *       *       *


[61] See the amendments made to the constitution of Maryland in 1801 and

[62] See Appendix H.



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 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 these 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 clew 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 foci of action, which may not inaptly be
compared to the different nervous centres which convey motion to the
human body. The township is in the lowest order, then the county, and
lastly the state; and I propose to devote the following chapter to the
examination of these three divisions.

       *       *       *       *       *


Why the Author begins the Examination of the Political Institutions with
the Township.--Its Existence in all Nations.--Difficulty of Establishing
and Preserving Independence.--Its Importance.--Why the Author has
selected the Township System of New England as the main Object 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 eludes the exertions of man; 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.
Municipal institutions 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 organisations of the counties and townships of the United
States rest, 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
farther 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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;[64] so that, on the one hand, the interests of the
inhabitants are not likely to conflict, and, on the other, men capable
of conducting its affairs are always to be found among its citizens.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 Functions.

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 exigences 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 township, 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 anything that exceeds the simple and
ordinary executive business of the state.[65]

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 farther on; but the large proportion of
administrative power is vested in the hands of a small number of
individuals called "the selectmen."[66]

The general laws of the state impose a certain number of obligations on
the selectmen, which may they fulfil without the authorization of
the body they govern, 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 the 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 recognised 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 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.

The selectmen alone have the right of calling a town-meeting; but they
may be requested to do so: if the 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.[67]

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 municipal
magistrates, who are intrusted 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 farther subdivided; and among 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.[68]

There are nineteen principal offices in a township. Every inhabitant
is constrained, on pain of being fined, to undertake these different
functions; which, however, are almost all paid, in order that the poor
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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Every one the best Judge of his own Interest.--Corollary of the
Principle of the Sovereignty of the People.--Application of these
Doctrines in the Townships of America.--The Township of New England is
Sovereign in that which concerns itself alone; subject to the State
in all other matters.--Bond of Township and the State.--In France the
Government lends its Agents to the _Commune_.--In America the Reverse

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 recognised, 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 recognise 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 seem, on the contrary, to have
surrendered 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 among 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, prosecute or are indicted, 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
organised 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 assessed 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 would give to it a real importance, even if its extent and
population did not ensure it.

It is to be remembered that the affections of men are generally turned
only where there is strength. 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 strong and free 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; every
one agrees that there is no surer guarantee of order and tranquillity,
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 county 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 corporation 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 infrequent. 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 of the balance of powers, and collects
clear practical notions on the nature of his duties and the extent of
his rights.

       *       *       *       *       *


The division of the counties 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 connexion, no common traditional or natural sympathy; their
object is simply to facilitate the administration of public affairs.

The extent of the township was too small to contain a system of judicial
institutions; each county has, however, a court of justice,[69] 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[70] of his council.[71] 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 only drawn up by its officers, and is voted by the legislature.[72]
There is no assembly which directly or indirectly represents the county;
it has, therefore, properly speaking, no political existence.

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; but this distinct existence
could only be fictitiously introduced into the county, where its utility
had not been felt. 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 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 among the town
Officers.--No trace of an administrative Hierarchy 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 a European traveller in the United States
than the absence of what we term 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 people 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 portion 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 paralysing
its efforts, but in distributing the exercise of its privileges among
various hands, and in multiplying functionaries, to each of whom the
degree of power necessary for him to perform his duty is intrusted.
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 suppressed.

The revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and
deliberate taste for freedom, 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 discerned.

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 intrusted.[73] Beside the general laws, the state sometimes
passes general police regulations; but more commonly the townships and
town officers, conjointly with the 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.[74] Lastly, these municipal magistrates provide of their
own accord and without any delegated powers, for those unforeseen
emergencies which frequently occur in society.[75]

It results, from what we have said, that in the state of Massachusetts
the administrative authority is almost entirely restricted to the
township,[76] 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 dignities
is to be found. It sometimes happens that the county officers alter a
decision of the townships, or town magistrates,[77] but in general
the authorities of the county have no right to interfere with the
authorities of the township,[78] except in such matters as concern the

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.[79] 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 reprimand
their faults. There is no point which serves as a centre to the radii of
the administration.

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 intrusted 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 pre-supposes 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 elective 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 counter-balance 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
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 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[80] appoints a certain number of justices of the peace
in every county, whose functions last seven years.[81] He farther
designates three individuals from among 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 intrusted
with administrative functions in conjunction with elected officers;[82]
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[83] of public officers.[84] 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 intrusted to any of them in

In all that concerns county business, the duties of the court
of sessions are therefore 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,[86] or as a guarantee to
the community over which it presides. But when the administration of the
township is brought before it, it almost always acts as a judicial body,
and in some few cases as an administrative assembly.

The first difficulty is to procure the obedience of an authority so
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.[87] The fine is levied on each of
the inhabitants; and the sheriff of the county, who is an 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 the influence is at the same time fortified by
that irresistible power with which men have invested the formalities of

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.[88] 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:

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 to town elections, they may be condemned to
pay a fine;[89] 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 administrative 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 subordinate 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 for 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.

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.[90]

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.

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,[91] 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
officers of inspection and of prosecution as well as all the other
functions of the administration. Grand-jurors are bound by the law to
apprize the court to which they belong of all the misdemeanors which
may have been committed in their county.[92] There are certain great
offences which are officially prosecuted by the state;[93] 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 especial appeal is made
by American legislation to the private interest of the citizen,[94] 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 might 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;[95] and to ensure 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Difference of the States of the Union in their Systems of
Administration.--Activity and Perfection of the local Authorities
decreases towards the South.--Power of the Magistrates 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 promised 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 in New England. The
more we descend toward 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 debates less numerous. The power of the elected magistrate is
augmented, and that of the elector diminished, while the public spirit
of the local communities is less awakened and less influential.[96]

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.

We have seen that in Massachusetts the principal part of the 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 town 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[97] 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.[98] 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 Massachusetts.

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 farther 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 every one is the best judge
of what concerns himself alone, and the person most able 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 among 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. The 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,[99] 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
cognisance of the ordinary tribunals.

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 centralised 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 of control
over the secondary bodies.[100] At other times they constitute a court
of appeal for the decision of affairs.[101] 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.[102] The same tendency is faintly
observable in some other states;[103] but in general the prominent
feature of the administration in the United States is its excessive
local independence.

       *       *       *       *       *


I have described the townships and the administration: it now remains
for me to speak of the state and 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.[104] 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 afterward to pass judgment upon what I now

       *       *       *       *       *


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;[105] 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.[106] 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.

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, while 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

       *       *       *       *       *


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 suspensive veto, 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.[107] 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 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 revoke.[108]

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
on the majority who returned him.

       *       *       *       *       *


Necessary Distinction between the general Centralisation of
Government and the Centralisation of the local Administration.--Local
Administration not centralized in the United States; great general
Centralisation of the Government.--Some bad Consequences resulting
to the United States from the local Administration.--Administrative
Advantages attending the 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.

Centralisation is become a word of general and daily use, without any
precise meaning being attached to it. Nevertheless, there exist two
distinct kinds of centralisation, 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
in the same persons, it constitutes a central government. The power of
directing partial or local interests, when brought together, in like
manner constitutes what may be termed a central administration.

Upon some points these two kinds of centralisation 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 centralisation. 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 the union of power subdue them by force, but
it affects them in the ordinary habits of life, and influences each
individual, first separately, and then collectively.

These two kinds of centralisation 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 being 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 centralisation 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
centralisation 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 people.

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
centralisation 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 has never been 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 centralisation 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 among 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 have even produced some disadvantageous
consequences in America. But in the United States the centralisation
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
monarchies 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 numerous district assemblies and county courts have in general been
avoided, 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 its 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. 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. In general
it is desirable that in what ever 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.

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.[109] As
the state has no administrative functionaries of its own, stationed on
different parts 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 them at first to imagine that society is
in a state of anarchy; nor do they perceive their mistake till they have
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.

The partisans of centralisation in Europe 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 centralisation, 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.

Centralisation succeeds more easily, indeed, in subjecting the external
actions of men to a certain uniformity, which at last 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.
Centralisation imparts without difficulty an admirable regularity to
the routine of business; rules 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;[110] 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 while 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 co-operated, 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.

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 civilisation. 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 a 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,[111] 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

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 protects the tranquillity of my pleasures, and
constantly averts all danger from my path, without my care or my
concern, if the same authority is the absolute mistress of my liberty
and of my life, and if it so monopolises 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 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 conquest; 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 the vague reminiscence of its by-gone fame,
suffices to give them the impulse of self-preservation.

Nor can the prodigious exertions made by certain people in the defence
of a country, in which they may almost be said to have lived as aliens,
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, and
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
sultans 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, 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 absolute governments. 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 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 his success, to which he conceives
himself to have contributed; and he rejoices in the general prosperity
by which he profits. The feeling he entertains toward 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 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 effect.

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.[112] In America, the means which the authorities have at
their disposal for the discovery of crimes and the arrest of criminals
are few. A state police does not exist, and passports are unknown. The
criminal police of the United States cannot be compared with 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 saw 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, while 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.

I believe that provincial institutions are useful to all nations, but
nowhere do they appear to me to be more indispensable than among 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, among 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 an indiscriminate hatred; and its tendency was at once to
republicanism and to centralisation. 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 of the revolution?[113] 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

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 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 among
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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[63] It is by this periphrasis that I attempt to render the French
expressions "_Commune_" and "_Système Communal_." I am not aware that
any English word precisely corresponds to the general term of the
original. In France every association of human dwellings forms a
_commune_, and every commune is governed by a _maire_ and a _conseil
municipal_. In other words, the _mancipium_ or municipal privilege,
which belongs in England to chartered corporations alone, is alike
extended to every commune into which the cantons and departments of
France were divided at the revolution. Thence the different application
of the expression, which is general in one country and restricted in the
other. In America, the counties of the northern states are divided into
townships, those of the southern into parishes; besides which, municipal
bodies, bearing the name of corporations, exist in the cities. I shall
apply these several expressions to render the term _commune_. The term
"parish," now commonly used in England, belongs exclusively to the
ecclesiastical division; it denotes the limits over which a
_parson's_ (_personae ecclesiae_ or perhaps _parochianus_) rights
extend.--_Translator's Note_.

[64] 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.

[65] 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 a sanction of a law. See the
act of 22d February, 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's Register_.

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

[67] See laws of Massachusetts, vol. i., p. 150 Act of the 25th March,

[68] 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.

[69] See the act of 14th February, 1821. Laws of Massachusetts, vol i.,
p. 551.

[70] See the act of 20th February, 1819. Laws of Massachusetts, vol ii.,
p. 494.

[71] The council of the governor is an elective body.

[72] See the act of 2d November, 1791. Laws of Massachusetts, vol i., p.

[73] See "The Town Officer," especially at the words SELECTMEN,
example in a thousand: the state prohibits travelling on a Sunday; the
_tything-men_, who are town-officers, are especially 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 24th February, 1796; _Ib_., vol. i., p. 488.

[74] Thus, for instance, the selectmen authorise 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 7th June, 1735;
Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i., p. 193.

[75] The selectmen take measures for the security of the public in case
of contagious disease, conjointly with the justices of the peace. See
the act of 22d June, 1797; vol. i., p. 539.

[76] 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 28th Feb., 1787; vol. i., p. 297.

[77] 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 the act of
12th March, 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 the act of 23d March, 1786; vol. i., p. 254.

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

[79] 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 the
act of 10th March, 1827; vol. iii., p. 183.

[80] 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.

[81] See the constitution of Massachusetts, chap ii., § 1; chap iii., §

[82] 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 22d June, 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.

[83] I say the greater number because certain administrative
misdemeanors are brought before the 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 the act of 10th March, 1827; laws of
Massachusetts, vol. iii., p. 190. Or when a township neglects to provide
the necessary war-stores. Act of 21st February, 1822; Id. vol. ii., p.

[84] In their individual capacity, the justices of the peace take a part
in the business of the counties and townships. The more important
acts of the municipal government are rarely decided upon without the
co-operation of one of their body.

[85] These affairs may be brought under the following heads: 1. The
erection of prisons and courts of justice. 2. The county budget, which
is afterward voted by the state. 3. The assessment of the taxes so
voted. 4. Grants of certain patents. 5. The laying down and repairs of
the county roads.

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

[87] See the act of the 20th February, 1786; laws of Massachusetts, vol.
1., p. 217.

[88] 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 the act of 5th March, 1787; laws of Massachusetts, vol.
1., p. 305.

[89] Laws of Massachusetts, vol. 2., p. 45.

[90] 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, 20th February, 1787.

[91] I say the court of sessions, because in common courts there is a
magistrate who exercises some of the functions of a public prosecutor.

[92] The grand-jurors are, for instance, bound to inform the court of
the bad state of the roads. Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i., p. 308.

[93] If, for instance, the treasurer of the county holds back his
account. Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i., p. 406.

[94] 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.

[95] 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 two to five hundred dollars.
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 the fine shall belong to the
plaintiff. See the act of 6th March, 1810; vol. ii., p. 236. The same
clause is frequently to be met with in the laws of Massachusetts. Not
only are private individuals thus incited to prosecute 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.

[96] For details, see 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,
and in the acts of a general nature of the state of Ohio, the act of
25th February, 1834, relating to townships, p. 412; beside the peculiar
dispositions relating to divers town officers, such as township's
clerks, trustees, overseers of the poor, fence-viewers, appraisers of
property, township's treasurer, constables, supervisors of highways.

[97] The author means the state legislature. The congress has no control
over the expenditure of the counties or of the states.

[98] See the Revised Statutes of the state of New York, part i., chap.
xi., vol. i., p. 410. _Idem_, chap, xii., p. 366: also in the acts
of the state of Ohio, an act relating to county commissioners, 26th
February, 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

[99] 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, &c.

[100] 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
lieutenant-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.,
"Public Instruction," Revised Statutes, vol i., p. 455.

The school commissioners are obliged to send an annual report to the
superintendent of the state. _Idem_, p. 448.

A similar report is annually made to the same person on the number and
condition of the poor. _Idem_, p. 631.

[101] 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 centralisation 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.

[102] Thus the district-attorney is directed to recover all fines,
unless such a right has been specially awarded to another magistrate.
Revised Statutes, vol. i., p. 383.

[103] Several traces of centralisation 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.

[104] See the constitution of New York.

[105] In Massachusetts the Senate is not invested with any
administrative functions.

[106] As in the state of New York.

[107] 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

[108] In some of the states the Justices of the peace are not nominated
by the governor.

[109] 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 county,
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 accidental cognizance of the offences they are meant to

[This note seems to have been written without reference to the provision
existing, it is believed in every state of the Union, by which a local
officer is appointed in each county, to conduct all public prosecutions
at the expense of the state. And in each county, a grand-jury is
assembled three or four times at least in every year, to which all who
are aggrieved have free access, and where every complaint, particularly
those against public officers, which has the least color of truth, is
sure to be heard and investigated.

Such an agent as the author suggests would soon come to be considered a
public informer, the most odious of all characters in the United States;
and he would lose all efficiency and strength. With the provision above
mentioned, there is little danger that a citizen, oppressed by a public
officer, would find any difficulty in becoming his own informer,
and inducing a rigid inquiry into the alleged misconduct.--_American

[110] 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.

[111] 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 centralisation, 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 in 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 keeps 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.

[112] See Appendix I.

[113] See Appendix K.



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.

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 on 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 adopted
by the Americans. The judicial organization of the United States is
the institution which the 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
by 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 a 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 represent 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 the 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.[114]

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.[115]

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 reason 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; 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 sanction. The persons
to whose interest 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
be 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, the 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 every day. 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 parties, and he cannot
refuse to decide it without abdicating the duties of his post. He
performs his functions as a citizen by fulfilling the strict 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 precise 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 efficacy which in some cases might 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 have ever been devised against the tyranny of
political assemblies.

       *       *       *       *       *


In the United States all the Citizens have the Right of indicting the
public Functionaries before the ordinary Tribunals.--How they use this
Right.--Art. 75 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 have 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 careful
not to furnish these grounds of complaint, when they are afraid of being

This does not depend upon the republican form of the 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 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 had 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 annulled by the authority
of the crown. Despotism then displayed itself openly, and obedience was
extorted by force. We have then retrograded from the point which our
forefathers had reached, since we allow things to pass under the color
of justice and the sanction of the law, which violence alone could
impose upon them.

       *       *       *       *       *


[114] See Appendix L.

[115] See Appendix M.



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.

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 may be neglected, and that his authority
may 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
society. 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 in their laws; and it is curious to examine the different
use which these three great nations have made of the principle. In
England and in France the house of lords and the chambre des pairs
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, while in
France the deputies can only employ this mode of prosecution against the
ministers of the crown.

In both countries the upper house 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, while 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 a 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 therefore 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 favor is
the first of authorities, and where the strength of many a leader 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
judgment, 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 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 judicial investigation. 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, while the military,
whose crimes are nevertheless more formidable, are exempt from that
tribunal. In the civil service none of the American functionaries can
be said to be removeable; the places which some of them occupy are
inalienable, and the others derive their rights from a power which
cannot be abrogated. 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 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 before-hand submitted
to its authority upon accepting office are exposed to its severity. 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 iv., of the constitution of the
United States runs thus: "The president, vice-president, and all the
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,[116] "shall be impeached for misconduct or
mal-administration." The constitution of Virginia declares that all
the civil officers who shall have offended against the state by
mal-administration, 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.[117] 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 consequences of the penalty he is to
undergo, and that in America they constitute the penalty itself. The
result 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 liberty, may
appear to be the fair issue of the struggle. But this sentence, which 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 act directly
upon the governed, but it renders the majority more absolute over those
who govern; it does not confer an unbounded authority on the legislator
which can only 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 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

       *       *       *       *       *


[116] Chapter I., sect. ii., § 8.

[117] See the constitutions of Illinois, Maine, Connecticut, and

[118] See Appendix N.



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 the partial sovereignty which has been conceded to the Union,
and to cast a rapid glance over the federal constitution.[119]

       *       *       *       *       *


Origin of the first Union.--Its Weakness.--Congress appeals to the
constituent Authority.--Interval of two Years between the Appeal and the
Promulgation of the new Constitution.

The thirteen colonies which simultaneously threw off the yoke of
England toward the end of the last century, possessed, 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.[120] 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, saw the outrages
offered to its flag by the great nations of Europe, while 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.[121]

If America ever approached (for however brief a time) that lofty
pinnacle of glory to which the proud 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 war to the wars of the French revolution, or the efforts of the
Americans to those of the French, who, when they were attacked by the
whole of Europe, without credit and without allies, were still capable
of opposing a twentieth part of their population to their foes, and
of bearing the torch of revolution beyond their frontiers while 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 had 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;[122] 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.[123] 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Division of Authority between the Federal Government and the
States.--The Government of the States is the Rule: the Federal
Government the Exception.

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,
while the entire nation, represented by the Union, should continue to
form a compact body, and to provide for the exigencies of the people. It
was as impossible to determine beforehand, with any degree of accuracy,
the share of authority which each of the 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 penetrated into all the details of
social life. The attributes of the federal government were, therefore,
carefully enumerated, and all that was not included among 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.[124]

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,[125] which was destined, among other
functions, to maintain the balance of power which had been established
by the constitution between the two rival governments.[126]

       *       *       *       *       *


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 the 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 therefore granted to the Union.[127] The
necessity of a national government was less imperiously felt in the
conduct of the internal affairs 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 communication between the different
parts of the country.[128] 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[129] in a few predetermined cases, in which an indiscreet abuse
of their independence might compromise the security of the Union at
large. Thus, while 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.[130] 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.[131]

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 centralisation 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, 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
customhouse 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; and I am here discussing the
theory of the constitution.

       *       *       *       *       *


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

       *       *       *       *       *


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 constitution 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
each 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 different.

The question was, whether a league was to be established instead of a
national government; whether the majority of the states, instead of a
majority of the inhabitants of the Union, was to give the law; for every
state, the small as well as the great, then retained the character of
an independent power, and entered the Union upon a footing of perfect
equality. If, on the contrary, the inhabitants of the United States were
to be considered as belonging to one and the same nation, it was natural
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. 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.[132] 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,
while 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 government.

The 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 interest of
independence for the separate states, and the interest of union for
the whole people, were the only two conflicting interests which existed
among the Anglo-Americans; and a compromise was necessarily made between

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 wants, 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 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

       *       *       *       *       *


The Senate named by the provincial Legislature--the Representatives,
by the People.--Double Election of the Former--Single Election of the
Latter.--Term of the different Offices.--Peculiar Functions of each

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 definitively approved by the same

       *       *       *       *       *


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 representatives 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 fulfill 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 re-elected; 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
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, while 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Executive Power in the United 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
successors 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, while 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.

The first 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 almost 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 jealous scrutiny. He may make, but he
cannot conclude a treaty; he may designate, but he cannot appoint, a
public officer.[135] The king of France is absolute in the sphere of the
executive power.

The president of the United States is responsible for his actions; but
the person of the king is declared inviolable by the French charter.

Nevertheless, the supremacy of public opinion is no less above the head
of 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 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, while 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. Among 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[136] 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.[137]

[Those who are desirous of tracing the question respecting the power
of the president to remove every executive officer of the government
without the sanction of the senate, will find some light upon it by
referring to 5th Marshall's Life of Washington, p. 196: 5 Sergeant and
Rawle's Reports (Pennsylvania), 451: Elliot's Debates on the Federal
Constitution, vol iv., p. 355, contains the debate in the House of
Representatives, June 16, 1799, when the question was first mooted:
Report of a committee of the senate in 1822, in Niles's Register of 29th
August in that year. It is certainly very extraordinary that such a vast
power, and one so extensively affecting the whole administration of the
government, should rest on such slight foundations, as an _inference_
from an act of congress, providing that when the secretary of the
treasury should be removed by the president, his assistant should
discharge the duties of the office. How congress could confer the
power, even by a direct act, is not perceived. It must be a necessary
implication from the words of the constitution, or it does not exist.
It has been repeatedly denied in and out of congress, and must be
considered, as yet, an unsettled question.--_American Editor_.]

       *       *       *       *       *


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 power 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 vigor. If the existence of
the Union were perpetually threatened, and its chief interest were in
daily connexion 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

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, for that reason, 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 much greater.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 power of 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 where he is independent
of it 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

       *       *       *       *       *


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 denies.

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 are not solely
attributable to the elective system in general, but to the fact that the
elected magistrate was the head of a powerful monarchy. 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 among 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
farther from the designs of the republicans of Europe than this course:
as many of them only owe their hatred of tyranny to the sufferings which
they have personally undergone, the extent of the executive power does
not excite their hostility, and they only attack its origin without
perceiving how nearly the two things are connected.

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
among 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 people.

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 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.

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
removeable 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 ministers 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; and 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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.

Beside 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, beside
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 the
social condition of the United States, we are struck by the admirable
harmony of the gifts of fortune and the efforts of man. That 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 complete 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. The
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 intrusted to the 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 represented 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,[138] 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 intrusted 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.[139] 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 the president; but
with the condition that it must fix upon one of the three candidates who
have the highest numbers.[140]

Thus it is only in case of an event which cannot often happen, and which
can never be foreseen, that the election is intrusted 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 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[141] which are not inherent in the elective system.

In the forty 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. John Quincy
Adams was chosen.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
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

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. Moreover, political parties in the United States, as
well as elsewhere, are led to rally around 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 forth 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
elected, 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 several 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 has nearly broken its banks,
sinks to its usual level; but who can refrain from astonishment at the
causes of the storm?

       *       *       *       *       *


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, especially 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 lists, the cares of government dwindle into
second-rate importance, and the success of his election is his first
concern. All laws and negotiations are then 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 governments still more extensive and pernicious.
It tends to degrade the political morality of the people, and to
substitute adroitness for patriotism.

In America it exercises a still more fatal influence on the sources of
national existence. Every government seems to be afflicted by some evil
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 perceived.

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
consequences should long appear to be imperceptible. 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 invested 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.

[The question of the propriety of leaving the president re-eligible,
is one of that class which probably must for ever remain undecided. The
author himself, at page 125, gives a strong reason for re-eligibility,
"so that the chance of a prolonged administration may inspire him with
hopeful undertakings for the public good, and with the means of carrying
them into execution,"--considerations of great weight. There is an
important fact bearing upon this question, which should be stated in
connexion with it. President Washington established the practice of
declining a third election, and every one of his successors, either from
a sense of its propriety or from apprehensions of the force of public
opinion, has followed the example. So that it has become as much a
part of the constitution, that no citizen can be a third time elected
president, as if it were expressed in that instrument in words. This may
perhaps be considered a fair adjustment of objections on either side.
Those against a continued and perpetual re-eligibility are certainly
met: while the arguments in favor of an opportunity to prolong an
administration under circumstances that may justify it, are allowed
their due weight. One effect of this practical interpolation of the
constitution unquestionably is, to increase the chances of a president's
being once re-elected; as men will be more disposed to acquiesce in a
measure that thus practically excludes the individual from ever again
entering the field of competition.--_American Editor_]

       *       *       *       *       *


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. Judicial institutions exercise
a great influence on the condition of the Anglo-Americans, and they
occupy a prominent place among what are properly 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 on
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 prolix 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 of 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 it 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 opposed
to formidable opposition.[143] 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 repel the attacks which might be directed
against them. The question then remained what tribunals were to exercise
these privileges; were they to be intrusted 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 state 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 ensure 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 intrust
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.

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.[144]
It was easy to proclaim the principle of a federal judiciary, but
difficulties multiplied when the extent of its jurisdiction was to be

       *       *       *       *       *


Difficulty of determining the Jurisdiction of separate courts of Justice
in Confederation.--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 connexion 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 jurisprudence 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.[145]

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 appear 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

       *       *       *       *       *


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 Tribunal.--Causes
relating to the Non-performance of Contracts tried by the federal
Courts.--Consequences 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 bases 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 I 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 involved 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.[146]

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.[147] 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.

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 intentions 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.[148] 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 farther 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 to
the Union, the natural consequence is that it should come within the
jurisdiction of a federal court.

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 interest 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 the 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.

[The remark of the author, that 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, which is more strongly expressed
in the original, is erroneous and calculated to mislead on a point
of some importance. By the grant of power to the courts of the United
States to decide certain cases, the powers of the state courts are not
suspended, but are exercised concurrently, subject to an appeal to the
courts of the United States. But if the decision of the state court
is _in favor_ of the right, title, or privilege claimed under the
constitution, a treaty, or under a law of congress, no appeal lies
to the federal courts. The appeal is given only when the decision _is
against_ the claimant under the treaty or law. See 3d Cranch, 268. 1
Wheaton, 304.--_American Editor._]

Thus the jurisdiction of the general 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.[149] 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.[150]

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 obligations of contracts,
which may thus furnish an easy pretext for the aggressions of the
central authority.

[The fears of the author respecting the danger to the independence of
the states of that provision of the constitution, which gives to the
federal courts the authority of deciding when a state law impairs the
obligation of a contract, are deemed quite unfounded. The citizens of
every state have a deep interest in preserving the obligation of the
contracts entered into by them in other states: indeed without such a
controlling power, "commerce among several states" could not exist.
The existence of this common arbiter is of the last importance to the
continuance of the Union itself, for if there were no peaceable means
of enforcing the obligations of contracts, independent of all state
authority, the states themselves would inevitably come in collision in
their efforts to protect their respective citizens from the consequences
of the legislation of another state.

M. De Tocqueville's observation, that the rights with which the clause
in question invests the federal government "are not clearly appreciable
or accurately defined," proceeds upon a mistaken view of the clause
itself. It relates to the _obligation_ of a contract, and forbids any
act by which that obligation is impaired. To American lawyers, this
seems to be as precise and definite as any rule can be made by human
language. The distinction between the _right_ to the fruits of a
contract, and the time, tribunal, and manner, in which that right is to
be enforced, seems very palpable. At all events, since the decision
of the supreme court of the United States in those cases in which this
clause has been discussed, no difficulty is found, practically, in
understanding the exact limits of the prohibition.

The next observation of the author, that "there are vast numbers of
political laws which influence the obligations of contracts, which
may thus furnish an easy pretext for the aggressions of the central
authority," is rather obscure. Is it intended that political laws may
be passed by the central authority, influencing the obligation of a
contract, and thus the contracts themselves be destroyed? The answer
to this would be, that the question would not arise under the clause
forbidding laws impairing the obligation of contracts, for that clause
applies only to the states and not to the federal government.

If it be intended, that the states may find it necessary to pass
political laws, which affect contracts, and that under the pretence of
vindicating the obligation of contracts, the central authority may make
aggressions on the states and annul their political laws:--the answer
is, that the motive to the adoption of the clause was to reach laws of
every description, political as well as all others, and that it was the
abuse by the states of what may be called political laws, viz.: acts
confiscating demands of foreign creditors, that gave rise to the
prohibition. The settled doctrine now is, that states may pass laws in
respect to the making of contracts, may prescribe what contracts shall
be made, and how, but that they cannot impair any that are already made.

The writer of this note is unwilling to dismiss the subject, without
remarking upon what he must think a fundamental error of the author,
which is exhibited in the passage commented on, as well as in other
passages:--and that is, in supposing the judiciary of the United States,
and particularly the supreme court, to be a part of the _political_
federal government, and as the ready instrument to execute its designs
upon the state authorities. Although the judges are in form commissioned
by the United States, yet, in fact, they are appointed by the delegates
of the state, in the senate of the United States, concurrently with, and
acting upon, the nomination of the president. If the legislature of each
state in the Union were to elect a judge of the supreme court, he would
not be less a political officer of the United States than he now is.
In truth, the judiciary have no political duties to perform; they are
arbiters chosen by the federal and state governments, jointly, and when
appointed, as independent of the one as of the other. They cannot be
removed without the consent of the states represented in the senate, and
they can be removed without the consent of the president, and against
his wishes. Such is the theory of the constitution. And it has been
felt practically, in the rejection by the senate of persons nominated
as judges, by a president of the same political party with a majority
of the senators. Two instances of this kind occurred during the
administration of Mr. Jefferson.

If it be alleged that they are exposed to the influence of the executive
of the United States, by the expectation of offices in his gift, the
answer is, that judges of state courts are equally exposed to the same
influence--that all state officers, from the highest to the lowest, are
in the same predicament; and that this circumstance does not, therefore,
deprive them of the character of impartial and independent arbiters.

These observations receive confirmation from every recent decision
of the supreme court of the United States, in which certain laws of
individual states have been sustained, in cases where, to say the least,
it was very questionable whether they did not infringe the provisions of
the constitution, and where a disposition to construe those previsions
broadly and extensively, would have found very plausible grounds to
indulge itself in annulling the state laws referred to. See the cases of
_City of New York vs. Miln_, 11th _Peters_, 103; _Briscoe vs. the Bank
of the Commonwealth of Kentucky_, ib., 257; _Charles River Bridge vs.
Warren Bridge_, ib., 420.--_American Ed._]

       *       *       *       *       *


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 Prosecutions of private Individuals in the federal
Courts.--Indirect Prosecution in 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
is 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 state; and a law so enacted may impair the
privileges of the Union, in which case a collision is unavoidable
between that body and the state which had 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.[151]

It may be conceived that, in the case under consideration, the Union
might have sued 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 individuals 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, is 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.[152] This, 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 it.

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

       *       *       *       *       *


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 successfully 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 among 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 invested 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 renders its
existence necessary.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
Consequences 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
melioration 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 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.

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,
while 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.[153]

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 monopolise 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 constitution 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

[It is not universally correct, as supposed by the author, that the
state legislatures can deprive their governor of his salary at pleasure.
In the constitution of New York it is provided, that the governor "shall
receive for his services a compensation which shall neither be increased
nor diminished during the term for which he shall have been elected;"
and similar provisions are believed to exist in other states. Nor is the
remark strictly correct, that the federal constitution "provides for the
independence of the judges, by declaring that their salary shall not be
_altered_." The provision of the constitution is, that they shall, "at
stated times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not
be diminished during their continuance in office."--_American Editor_.]

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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
people 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 it should execute its
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

In all the confederations which have 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 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 other states in its
name,[154] or the federal government has been abandoned by its natural
supporters, anarchy has arisen between the confederates, and the Union
has lost all power of action.[155]

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 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 with 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 afterward 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 of 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 farther
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
among 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 country.

       *       *       *       *       *


Happiness and Freedom of small Nations.--Power of Great Nations.--Great
Empires favorable to the Growth of Civilisation.--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,
Melioration, 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 we 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 cradles 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 their 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 a republican government for a long series of years,[156]
and this had 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.

All the passions which are most fatal to republican institutions spread
with an increasing territory, while 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 while 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 among 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 more frequently afflicted than ruined by the evil.

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; and 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 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 imaging 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 melioration. 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 melioration 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 afterward 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 into 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
interests; 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. The 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 flag 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
the Government common among 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 beside the Laws.--What these Causes
are among the Anglo-Americans.--Maine and Georgia, separated by a
Distance of a thousand Miles, more naturally united than Normandy and
Britany.--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, while 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
render 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 farther 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 the

The most prominent evil of all federal systems is the very complex
nature of the means they employ. Two sovereignties are necessarily in
the 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 running 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 notion 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, numerous 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 long been 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.[157] But although they
had borrowed the letter of the law, they were unable to create or
to introduce the spirit and the sense which gave 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.

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 the 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
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 the 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.

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.[158]

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
sovereignties less probable, destroyed the causes 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 affects only 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 the superiority of a power which is interwoven with every
circumstance that renders the love of one's native country instinctive
to the human heart.

Since legislators are unable to obviate such dangerous collisions
as occur between the two sovereignties which co-exist 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 dependance 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 people 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 interest. A certain uniformity of
civilisation 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 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 civilisation; 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 civilisation of Maine and that of Georgia is
slighter than the difference between the habits of Normandy and those of
Britany. 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 Britany,
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 struggle 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 the
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 defect 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 cases 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
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.[159]

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 among
nations. As for the powers of Europe, they are too distant to be

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 improbable.

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 centralised. 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[119] See the constitution of the United States.

[120] 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 "Commentary on the Constitution of the
United States," pp. 85-115.

[121] Congress made this declaration on the 21st of February, 1787.

[122] It consisted of fifty-five members: Washington, Madison, Hamilton,
and the two Morrises, were among the number.

[123] 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 assemblies.

[124] See the amendment to the federal constitution; Federalist, No. 32.
Story, p. 711. Kent's Commentaries, Vol. i., p. 364.

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
of bankruptcy, which, however, it neglects to do. Each state is then
at liberty to make a law for itself. This point, however, has been
established by discussion in the law-courts, and may be said to belong
more properly to jurisprudence.

[125] The action of this court is indirect, as we shall hereafter show.

[126] 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.

[127] See constitution, sect. 8. Federalist, Nos. 41 and 42. Kent's
Commentaries, vol. i., p. 207. Story, pp. 358-382; 409-426.

[128] 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 necessary.

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

[130] Federal Constitution, sect. 10, art. 1.

[131] Constitution, sect. 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.

[132] 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
upon. 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 (14th April, 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 1822, fixes the proportion at one for 48,000. The population
represented is composed of all the freemen and of three-fifths of the

[133] See the Federalist, Nos. 52-66, inclusive. Story, pp. 199-314
Constitution of the United States, sections 2 and 3.

[134] See the Federalist, Nos. 67-77. Constitution of the United States,
a. t. 2. Story, pp. 115; 515-780. Kent's Commentaries, p. 255.

[135] 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.

[136] The sums annually paid by the state to these officers amount to
200,000,000 francs (eight millions sterling).

[137] 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.

[138] As many as it sends members to congress. The number of electors at
the election of 1833 was 288. (See the National Calendar, 1833.)

[139] 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.

[140] 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.

[141] Jefferson, in 1801, was not elected until the thirty-sixth time of

[142] See chapter 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 Federalist, 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 the 24th September,
1789, in the collection of the laws of the United States, by Story, vol.
i., p. 53.

[143] 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 commanding to
the federal executive, and very prudently reserved the right of
non-compliance to themselves.

[144] 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 states.

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. 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 24th September, 1789,
laws of the United States, by Story, vol. i., p. 53.

[145] 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., pp. 350, 370, _et
seq._; Story's Commentaries, p. 646; and "The Organic Law of the United
States," vol. i., p. 35

[146] 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. This
question was most elaborately considered in the case of _Chisholme_ 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, § 1677.

[147] As, for instance, all cases of piracy.

[148] 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.

[149] It is perfectly clear, says Mr. Story (Commentaries, p. 503, or in
the large edition, § 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 ensures, 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.

[150] A remarkable instance of this is given by Mr. Story (p. 508, or in
the large edition, § 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, sect. 10), and that the amendatory
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 funds."

[151] See chapter vi., on judicial power in America.

[152] See Kent's Commentaries, vol. i., p. 387.

[153] 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 purpose 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 intrust the managements 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
would 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 at the peril of their displeasure."

[154] 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 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.

[155] Such has always been the situation of the Swiss confederation,
which would have perished ages ago but for the mutual jealousies of its

[156] I do not speak of a confederation of small republics, but of a
great consolidated republic.

[157] See the Mexican constitution of 1824.

[158] 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 name 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, while the other competitor was ordered to retain
possession by the tribunals of the state of Ohio?

[The difficulty supposed by the author in this note is imaginary. The
question of title to the lands in the case put, must depend upon the
constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States; and a decision in
the state court adverse to the claim or title set up under those laws,
must, by the very words of the constitution and of the judiciary act,
be subject to review by the supreme court of the United States, whose
decision is final.

The remarks in the text of this page upon the relative weakness of
the government of the Union, are equally applicable to any form of
republican or democratic government, and are not peculiar to a federal
system. Under the circumstances supposed by the author, of all the
citizens of a state, or a large majority of them, aggrieved at the
same time and in the same manner, by the operation of any law, the same
difficulty would arise in executing the laws of the state as those of
the Union. Indeed, such instances of the total inefficacy of state
laws are not wanting. The fact is, that all republics depend on the
willingness of the people to execute the laws. If they will not enforce
them, there is, so far, an end to the government, for it possesses no
power adequate to the control of the physical power of the people.

Not only in theory, but in fact, a republican government must be
administered by the people themselves. They, and they alone, must
execute the laws. And hence, the first principles in such governments,
that on which all others depend, and without which no other can exist,
is and must be, obedience to the existing laws at all times and under
all circumstances. It is the vital condition of the social compact.
He who claims a dispensing power for himself, by which he suspends the
operation of the law in his own case, is worse than a usurper, for
he not only tramples under foot the constitution of his country,
but violates the reciprocal pledge which he has given to his
fellow-citizens, and has received from them, that he will abide by the
laws constitutionally enacted; upon the strength of which pledge, his
own personal rights and acquisitions are protected by the rest of the
community.--_American Editor_.]

[159] 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.

[160] Appendix O.



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. This majority is principally composed
of peaceable 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.



Great Division 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 and democratic Character to
be met with in all Parties.--Struggle of General Jackson against the

A great division 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 off 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 toward 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 intrigue.

The political parties which I style great are those which cling to
principles more than to 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
person 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 insure 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 the 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 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.

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 their country. But whether their theories were good or bad, they
had the defect 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 afterward 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.

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 misery to serve as a 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 its 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 that 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 these two divisions which
have always existed in free communities. The deeper we penetrate into
the workings 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Secret Opposition of wealthy Individuals to Democracy.--Their
retirement.--Their tastes for exclusive Pleasures and for Luxury at
Home.--Their Simplicity Abroad.--Their affected Condescension toward the

It sometimes happens in a people among 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 a 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 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 mal-administration 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_.



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.

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 determine 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 can 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 permanent magistrates; 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 carcase 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 amid the passions of a listening
assembly, have more weight 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
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 proposed 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 irreconcileably 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,
after 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 for ever 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

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 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 subtlety 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, among 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 skilfully 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
centralisation: 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 centralisation exists in America. The United
States have no metropolis; the intelligence as well as the power of the
country is 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 the printers, no securities demanded from
editors, as in France, and no stamp duty as in France and 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 appear 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 neutralise the effect of public
journals is to multiply them indefinitely. I cannot conceive why a truth
which is so self-evident has not already 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 laws, 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 constantly 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 it 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 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.[161]

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

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 among 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 say 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 onward by the light it gives

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 that 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 torch
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
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, every one 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 interest 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 the aristocracy or the
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 farther

       *       *       *       *       *


[161] 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 mis-statement of facts.

[162] See Appendix P.

[163] 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.



Daily use which the Anglo-Americans make of the Right of
Association.--Three kinds of political Association.--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.

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. Beside 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 the 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 associating 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 toward 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 afterward 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 in 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 the 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 afterward took up arms
in the same cause, sent sixty-three delegates. On the 1st October, 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 is declared:

I. The 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
has become preponderant, all the 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

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 those 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

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 to be 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 the 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

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 afterward 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

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 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 reply 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, toward
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



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
onward by a daily and irresistible impulse, toward a state of things
which may prove either despotic or republican, but which will assuredly
be democratic.

       *       *       *       *       *


I have already observed that universal suffrage has been adopted in
all the states of the Union: it consequently occurs among different
populations which occupy very different positions in the scale of
society. I have had opportunities of observing its effects in different
localities, and among 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


In the United States the most talented Individuals are rarely placed
at the Head of Affairs.--Reasons 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 intrusts 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 talented 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
when 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 the 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
class of society; but it is not very favorably inclined toward 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.

While 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 eulogium 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
succeed 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 temples 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 the 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 urn
of an election.

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 toward 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 southwestern 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 at 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, while 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 of 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 generous 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 among 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
consequence 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, this recurrence keeps society in
a perpetual state of feverish excitement, and imparts a continual
instability to public affairs.

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

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 may 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 but
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 government."--(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 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 as yet produced, pointed out the same evils.

"The instability of our laws," he said in a letter to Madison, "is
really a very serious inconvenience. I think 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

       *       *       *       *       *


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
all 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 while 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 a prisoner, or derides a 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
intrusted 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

When a democratic republic renders offices which had formerly been
remunerated, gratuitous, it may safely be believed that that 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 a 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
conditions 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


For what Reason the arbitrary Power of Magistrates is greater in
absolute Monarchies and in democratic Republics that it is in limited
Monarchies.--Arbitrary Power of the Magistrates in New England.

In two different kinds of government the magistrates 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.

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 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

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.[165] In France the lives and liberties of the subjects
would be thought to be in danger, if a public officer of any kind
was intrusted 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.[166] 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.

Nowhere has so much been left by the law to the arbitrary determination
of the magistrates 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 the
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.

[The observations respecting the arbitrary powers of magistrates are
practically among the most erroneous in the work. The author seems to
have confounded the idea of magistrates being _independent_ with their
being arbitrary. Yet he had just before spoken of their dependance on
popular election as a reason why there was no apprehension of the abuse
of their authority. The independence, then, to which he alludes must
be an immunity from responsibility to any other department. But it is
a fundamental principle of our system, that all officers are liable to
criminal prosecution "whenever they act partially or oppressively from
a malicious or corrupt motive." See 15 Wendell's Reports, 278. That
our magistrates are independent when they do not act partially or
oppressively is very true, and, it is to be hoped, is equally true in
every form of government. There would seem, therefore, not to be such
a degree of independence as necessarily to produce arbitrariness. The
author supposes that magistrates are more arbitrary in a despotism
and in a democracy than in a limited monarchy. And yet, the limits of
independence and of responsibility existing in the United States are
borrowed from and identical with those established in England--the most
prominent instance of a limited monarchy. See the authorities referred
to in the case in Wendell's Reports, before quoted. Discretion in
the execution of various ministerial duties, and in the awarding of
punishment by judicial officers, is indispensable in every system of
government, from the utter impossibility of "laying down beforehand a
line of conduct" (as the author expresses it) in such cases. The very
instances of discretionary power to which he refers, and which he
considers _arbitrary_, exist in England. There, the persons from whom
juries are to be formed for the trial of causes, civil and criminal,
are selected by the sheriffs, who are appointed by the crown--a
power, certainly more liable to abuse in their hands, than in those of
selectmen or other town-officers, chosen annually by the people.
The other power referred to, that of posting the names of habitual
drunkards, and forbidding their being supplied with liquor, is but a
reiteration of the principles contained in the English statute of 32
Geo. III., ch. 45, respecting idle and disorderly persons. Indeed it
may be said with great confidence, that there is not an instance of
discretionary power being vested in American magistrates which does not
find its prototype in the English laws. The whole argument of the author
on this point, therefore, would seem to fail.--_American Editor_.]

       *       *       *       *       *


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 for ever, 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 among 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 farthest 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.[167] 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.

[These remarks upon the "instability of administration" in America,
are partly correct, but partly erroneous. It is certainly true that
our public men are not educated to the business of government; even our
diplomatists are selected with very little reference to their experience
in that department. But the universal attention that is paid by the
intelligent, to the measures of government and to the discussions
to which they give rise, is in itself no slight preparation for
the ordinary duties of legislation. And, indeed, this the author
subsequently seems to admit. As to there being "no archives formed"
of public documents, the author is certainly mistaken. The journals
of congress, the journals of state legislatures, the public documents
transmitted to and originating in those bodies, are carefully preserved
and disseminated through the nation: and they furnish in themselves the
materials of a full and accurate history. Our great defect, doubtless,
is in the want of statistical information. Excepting the annual reports
of the state of our commerce, made by the secretary of the treasury,
under law, and excepting the census which is taken every ten years under
the authority of congress, and those taken by the states, we have no
official statistics. It is supposed that the author had this species of
information in his mind when he alluded to the general deficiency of our
archives.--_American Editor_.]

       *       *       *       *       *


In all Communities Citizens divisible into three Classes.--Habits of
each of these Classes in the Direction of public Finances.--Why public
Expenditures 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, while 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 possess
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 burthensome 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[168] 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.

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 passions 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 is possessed of
some fortune, is in a still more favorable position than France.

There are still farther causes which may increase the sum of public
expenditures 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 wellbeing 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 farther 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 meliorations. 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 engenders 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 wellbeing, 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 civilisation
spreads, and that the 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 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

       *       *       *       *       *


In 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
economise 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 appoint 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 toward 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;[169] 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 conceptions 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 two or three hundred
a year, is a very fortunate and enviable being.[170] 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, while the others are raised above it. The
former may therefore excite his interest, but the latter begins to
arouse his envy.

This is very clearly seen in the United States, where the salaries seem
to decrease as the authority of those who receive them augments.[171]

Under the rule of an aristocracy it frequently happens, on the contrary,
that while 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 see 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 the 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 toward 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.[172] 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 the aristocratic
countries, where the money of the state is expended to the profit of the
persons who are at the head of affairs.

       *       *       *       *       *


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.

There 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 in 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.

Among 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 the nation, and which
eludes the strictest analysis by the diversity and 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 multitude 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 can 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 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 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.[173]

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 designs would be counteracted by the neglect of those subordinate
officers whom it would be obliged to employ.[174] 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.[175]

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
the central government of the former country, and that the expenditure
must consequently be much smaller. If I contrast the budgets of the
departments to 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 finance;
and it is, again, doubtful whether the corresponding expenses should
be referred to the budget of the state or to those of the municipal

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 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 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

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 of America. I will even add, that it would be dangerous to attempt
this comparison; for when statistics are not founded upon computations
which are strictly accurate, they mislead instead of guiding aright. The
mind is easily imposed upon by the false affectation of exactitude which
prevails even in the mis-statements of the science, and adopts with
confidence the errors which are apparelled in the forms of mathematical

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 meliorate 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 otherwise.

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.[176] How, then, can the inhabitant of the Union be
called upon to contribute as largely as the inhabitant of France?
No parallel can be drawn between the finances of two countries so
differently situated.

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 among 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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

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; while
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, while 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 prevents it
from spreading abroad.

The people can never penetrate 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
practise in his turn.

In reality it is far less prejudicial to be a witness to the immorality
of the great, than to 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 of his defects; and an odious
mixture is thus formed of the ideas of turpitude and power, unworthiness
and success, utility and dishonor.

       *       *       *       *       *


The Union has only had one struggle hitherto for its
Existence.--Enthusiasm at the Commencement of the War.--Indifference
toward its Close.--Difficulty of establishing a 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 the 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, while it exercises
that moral influence which belongs to the decisions 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, at 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.[177] 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

The United States have not had any serious war to carry on 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

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 enlistments, that I do not
imagine that 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 engagement. 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.

[The remark that "in America the use of conscription is unknown, and men
are induced to enlist by bounties," is not exactly correct. During the
last war with Great Britain, the state of New York, in October, 1814
(see the laws of that session, p. 15), passed an act to raise troops for
the defence of the state, in which the whole body of the militia were
directed to be classed, and each class to furnish one soldier, so as to
make up the whole number of 12,000 directed to be raised. In case of the
refusal of a class to furnish a man, one was to be detached from them by
ballot, and was compelled to procure a substitute or serve personally.
The intervention of peace rendered proceedings under the act
unnecessary, and we have not, therefore, the light of experience to
form an opinion whether such a plan of raising a military force is
practicable. Other states passed similar laws. The system of classing
was borrowed from the practice of the revolution.--_American Editor_.]

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 pleasure 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 in 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
every one 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.

Some one 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," I replied, "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, while 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 civilisation. 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
cause 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 see 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 civilisation.

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 phrensy. 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 intrusts the permanent
direction of the external interests of the nation to the president
and the senate;[178] 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. 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,
extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little
_political_ connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed
engagements, let them lie fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us

"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 patronising
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 toward another an
habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is, in some degree, a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or 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, while 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 farther, and 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; while 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 among 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 a 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 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 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
interests 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.[179]

If the constitution and the favor of the public had not intrusted 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.

Almost all the nations which have 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--beside 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 its perpetuity.

       *       *       *       *       *


[164] 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.

[165] See the act 27th February, 1813, General Collection of the Laws of
Massachusetts, vol. ii., p. 331. It should be added that the Jurors are
afterward drawn from these lists by lot.

[166] See the act of 28th February, 1787, General Collection of the Laws
of Massachusetts, vol. i., p. 302.

[167] It is needless to observe, that I speak here of the democratic
form of government as applied to a people, not merely to a tribe.

[168] The word _poor_ is used here, and throughout the remainder of this
chapter, in a relative and 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 be styled poor in comparison with their more affluent

[169] 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 taste for economy.

[170] The state of Ohio, which contains a million of inhabitants, gives
its governor a salary of only $1,200 (260_l_.) a year.

[171] 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, to complete the comparison:--

      UNITED  STATES.                        FRANCE.
      _Treasury Department_.              _Ministere des Finances_
  Messenger .  .   .  $   700   150l. Huissier, 3,500 fr.   .   .   60l.
  Clerk with lowest salary            Clerk with lowest salary,
     .     .     .      1,000   217     1,000 to 1,300 fr.  .   40 to 72
  Clerk with highest                  Clerk with highest salary
     salary.     .      1,600   347     3,200 to 3,600 fr.  . 128 to 144
  Chief clerk    .      2,000   434   Secretaire-general, 20,000 fr. 800
  Secretary of state .  6,000 1,300   The minister, 80,000 fr.  .  3,200
  The President  .   . 25,000 5,400   The king, 12,000,000 fr.   480,000

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 lowest 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.

[172] See the American budgets for the cost of indigent citizens and
gratuitous instruction. In 1831, 50,000_l_. were spent in the state of
New York for the maintenance of the poor; and at least 200,000_l_. were
devoted to gratuitous instruction. (Williams's New York Annual Register,
1832, pp. 205, 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.

[173] 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,
Allegany, 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 72,330_l_., or nearly 3_s_. for each
inhabitant, and calculating that each of them contributed in the same
year about 10_s_. 2_d_. toward the Union, and about 3_s_. 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
16_s_. 2_d_. 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.

[174] 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 expenditures 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.

[175] 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 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, beside 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 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 versâ_. 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 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 subjected 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.

[176] See the details in the budget of the French minister of marine,
and for America, the National Calendar of 1833, p. 228.

[177] 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 and obscure sacrifice which was made by
a whole people.

[178] "The president," says the constitution, art. ii., sect. 2, § 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 state.

[179] 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 torrents 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."



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 be obtained only from the same laws.

       *       *       *       *       *


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, while 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 a 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 a 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 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 officers. It is easy to
perceive that the American democracy frequently errs in the choice of
the individuals to whom it intrusts 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 been sometimes
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 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 mistake; 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 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 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

But under aristocratic governments public men are swayed by the
interests 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.

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; while 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 acquire
it.--Interest of the Individual intimately connected with that of the

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 mansion 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.
While the manners of a people are simple, and its faith unshaken,
while 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, while 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 intrench themselves within the dull precincts of a narrow egotism.
They are emancipated from prejudice, without having acknowledged
the empire of reason; they are animated neither by the instinctive
patriotism of monarchical subjects, nor by the thinking patriotism of
republican citizens; but they have stopped half-way 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 for ever.

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 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 every one takes as
zealous an interest in the affairs of his township, his country, and
of the whole state, as if they were his own, because every one, 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 regard 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 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

       *       *       *       *       *


No great People without a Notion of Rights.--How the Notion of
Rights can be given to a People.--Respect of Rights in the United
States.--Whence it arises.

After the idea of virtue, I am acquainted with 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 also 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 purpose; 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 every one has property
of his own to defend, every one recognizes the principle upon which he
holds it.

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. While 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?

The government of the 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 perish.

I am not, however, inclined to exaggerate the example which America
furnishes. In those states the people was 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 very 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 a 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Respect of the Americans for the Law.--Parental Affection which they
entertain for it.--Personal Interest of every one 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 contribute
indirectly 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 farther adduced:
in the United States every one 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 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. Among 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, while the citizens whose interests
might be promoted by the infraction of them, are induced, by their
character and their station, to submit to the decisions of the
legislature, whatever they may be. Beside 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


More difficult to conceive the political Activity which pervades the
United States than the Freedom and Equality which reign here.--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 Government.

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, melioration 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, while 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 melioration 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 among 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;
while 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

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 were addressing a meeting; and
if he should 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.[181] 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.

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 meliorations 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

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 great 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 while it is yet in
its early growth; and others are ready with their vows of adoration for
this new duty 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 are 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 for
ever 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 men than genius; if your object be not to stimulate the virtues of
heroism, but to create habits of peace; if you had rather behold 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 condition
of men, and establishing democratic institutions.

But if the time be past at which such a choice was possible, and if
some superhuman power impel us toward 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[180] 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.

[181] 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.



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.--Opinions as to its Infallibility.--Respect for its Rights,
how augmented in the United States.

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.[182]

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 passions 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 while 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 completely 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 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 an equal rank among 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 while 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 rights 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


The Americans increase the mutability of the Laws which is inherent in
Democracy by changing the Legislature every Year, and by vesting it
with unbounded Authority.--The same Effect is produced upon the
Administration.--In America social Melioration 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 in 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, while 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

The omnipotence of the majority and the rapid as well as absolute manner
in which its decisions are executed in the United States, have not only
the effect of rendering the law unstable, but they exercise 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; while 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 meliorations 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 meliorate 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. While the new penitentiaries were being erected (and it was the
pleasure of the majority 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
afterward 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 ages.

       *       *       *       *       *


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.[184] 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.

I do not think 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-predominate 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 instructions: if to the executive
power, it is appointed by the majority and is 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.[185]

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 its laws.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 magistrates. 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

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 cooperation 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

       *       *       *       *       *


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; so 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 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 for ever, 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, while 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 civilisation 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
political 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 incomparably worse than death."

Absolute monarchies 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
time; Labruyère inhabited the palace of Louis XIV. when he composed his
chapter upon the Great, and Molière 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 exercise 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
beneficent exercise is an accidental occurrence.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 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 lacquey.

In free countries, where every one is more or less called upon to give
his opinions 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 great 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 he 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 constitute 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.

[The author's views upon what he terms the tyranny of the majority, the
despotism of public opinion in the United States, have already excited
some remarks in this country, and will probably give occasion to more.
As stated in the preface to this edition, the editor does not conceive
himself called upon to discuss the speculative opinions of the
author and supposes he will best discharge his duty by confining his
observations to what he deems errors of fact or law. But in reference to
this particular subject, it seems due to the author to remark, that
he visited the United States at a particular time, when a successful
political chieftain had succeeded in establishing his party in power, as
it seemed, firmly and permanently; when the preponderance of that party
was immense, and when there seemed little prospect of any change. He may
have met with men, who sank under the astonishing popularity of General
Jackson, who despaired of the republic, and who therefore shrank from
the expression of their opinions. It must be confessed, however, that
the author is obnoxious to the charge which has been made, of the want
of perspicuity and distinctness in this part of his work. He does not
mean that the press was silent, for he has himself not only noticed, but
furnished proof of the great freedom, not to say licentiousness, with
which it assailed the character of the president, and the measures of
his administration.

He does not mean to represent the opponents of the dominant party
as having thrown down their weapons of warfare, for his book shows
throughout his knowledge of the existence of an active and able party,
constantly opposing and harassing the administration.

But, after a careful perusal of the chapters on this subject, the editor
is inclined to the opinion, that M. De Tocqueville intends to speak of
the _tyranny of the party_ in excluding from public employment all those
who do not adopt the _Shibboleth_ of the majority. The language at pp.
266, 267, which he puts in the mouth of a majority, and his observations
immediately preceding this note, seem to furnish the key to his meaning;
although it must be admitted that there are other passages to which a
wider construction may be given. Perhaps they may be reconciled by the
idea that the author considers the acts and opinions of the dominant
party as the just and true expression of public opinion. And hence,
when he speaks of the intolerance of public opinion, he means
the exclusiveness of the party, which, for the time being, may be
predominant. He had seen men of acknowledged competency removed from
office, or excluded from it, wholly on the ground of their entertaining
opinions hostile to those of the dominant party, or majority. And he had
seen this system extended to the very lowest officers of the government,
and applied by the electors in their choice of all officers of all
descriptions; and this he deemed persecution--tyranny--despotism. But he
surely is mistaken in representing the effect of this system of terror
as stifling all complaint, silencing all opposition, and inducing
"enemies and friends to yoke themselves alike to the triumphant car of
the majority." He mistook a temporary state of parties for a permanent
and ordinary result, and he was carried away by the immense majority
that then supported the administration, to the belief of a universal
acquiescence. Without intending here to speak of the merits or demerits
of those who represented that majority, it is proper to remark, that
the great change which has taken place since the period when the author
wrote, in the political condition of the very persons who he supposed
then wielded the terrors of disfranchisement against their opponents, in
itself furnishes a full and complete demonstration of the error of
his opinions respecting the "true independence of mind and freedom of
discussion" in America. For without such discussion to enlighten the
minds of the people, and without a stern independence of the rewards
and threats of those in power, the change alluded to could not have

There is reason to complain not only of the ambiguity, but of the style
of exaggeration which pervades all the remarks of the author on this
subject--so different from the well considered and nicely adjusted
language employed by him on all other topics. Thus, p. 262, he implies
that there is no means of redress afforded even by the judiciary, for a
wrong committed by the majority. His error is, _first_, in supposing the
jury to constitute the judicial power; _second_, overlooking what he has
himself elsewhere so well described, the independence of the judiciary,
and its means of controlling the action of a majority in a state or
in the federal government; and _thirdly_, in omitting the proper
consideration of the frequent changes of popular sentiment by which the
majority of yesterday becomes the minority of to-day, and its acts of
injustice are reversed.

Certain it is that the instances which he cites at this page, do not
establish his position respecting the disposition of the majority. The
riot at Baltimore was, like other riots in England and in France, the
result of popular phrensy excited to madness by conduct of the
most provoking character. The majority in the state of Maryland and
throughout the United States, highly disapproved the acts of violence
committed on the occasion. The acquittal by a jury of those arraigned
for the murder of General Lingan, proves only that there was not
sufficient evidence to identify the accused, or that the jury was
governed by passion. It is not perceived how the majority of the people
are answerable for the verdicts rendered. The guilty have often been
erroneously acquitted in all countries, and in France particularly,
recent instances are not wanting of acquittals especially in
prosecutions for political offences, against clear and indisputable
testimony. And it was entirely fortuitous that the jury was composed of
men whose sympathies were with the rioters and murderers, if the
fact was so. It not unfrequently happens that a jury taken from lists
furnished years perhaps, and always a long time, before the trial, are
decidedly hostile to the temporary prevailing sentiments of their city,
county, or state.

As in the other instance, if the inhabitant of Pennsylvania intended
to intimate to our author, that a colored voter would be in personal
jeopardy for venturing to appear at the polls to exercise his right,
it must be said in truth, that the incident was local and peculiar, and
contrary to what is annually seen throughout the states where colored
persons are permitted to vote, who exercise that privilege with as full
immunity from injury or oppression, as any white citizen. And, after
all, it is believed that the state of feeling intimated by the informant
of our author, is but an indication of dislike to a _caste_ degraded
by servitude and ignorance; and it is not perceived how it proves the
despotism of a majority over the freedom and independence of opinion.
If it be true, it proves a detestable tyranny over _acts_, over the
exercise of an acknowledged right. The apprehensions of a mob committing
violence deterred the colored voters from approaching the polls. Are
instances unknown in England or even in France, of peaceable subjects
being prevented by mobs or the fear of them, from the exercise of a
right, from the discharge of a duty? And are they evidences of the
despotism of a majority in those countries?--_American Editor._]

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 for ever 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 are
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

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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 noticed the anarchy of
domestic 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
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[186] 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.[187]

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 rights under the
popular form of government within such narrow limits, would be displayed
by such reiterated oppression 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 expressed himself in a letter to Madison:[188] "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 forth.

       *       *       *       *       *


[182] 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 states are in reality the authorities which
direct society in America.

[183] 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.

[184] 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 toward another nation, it
cannot be denied that a party may do the same toward another party.

[185] 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 phrensy 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 country?"

"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 the 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?"

[186] 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.

[187] 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.

[188] 15th March, 1789.



       *       *       *       *       *


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 would penetrate into the privacy of individual interest, 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 of 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 desire 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
intrust 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 breakwaters, 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 absolute monarchies of Europe; or indeed than any which could be
found on this side the confines of Asia.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 Lawyer.--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 intrusted 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 are 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 connexion
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 any 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 would combine their

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 may 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 than it can find places to
content and to employ; 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 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 takes upon itself to deprive men of their
independence, they are not dissatisfied.[189]

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
intrusted 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 decisions of
their forefathers. In the mind of an English or an American lawyer, a
taste and a reverence for what is old are 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 produces precedents;
the latter reasons. A French observer is surprised to hear how often an
English or American lawyer quotes the opinions of others, and how little
he alludes to his own; while 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 remark that English and American lawyers found their opinions and
their decisions upon those of their forefathers, is calculated to excite
surprise in an American reader, who supposes that law, as a prescribed
rule of action, can only be ascertained in cases where the statutes are
silent, by reference to the decisions of courts. On the continent, and
particularly in France, as the writer of this note learned from the
conversation of M. De Tocqueville, the judicial tribunals do not
deem themselves bound by any precedents, or by any decisions of their
predecessors or of the appellate tribunals. They respect such decisions
as the opinions of distinguished men, and they pay no higher regard to
their own previous adjudications of any case. It is not easy to perceive
how the law can acquire any stability under such a system, or how any
individual can ascertain his rights, without a lawsuit. This note should
not be concluded without a single remark upon what the author calls an
implicit deference to the opinions of our forefathers, and abnegation of
our own opinions. The common law consists of principles founded on the
common sense of mankind, and adapted to the circumstances of man in
civilized society. When these principles are once settled by competent
authority, or rather _declared_ by such authority, they are supposed to
express the common sense and the common justice of the community; and
it requires but a moderate share of modesty for any one entertaining
a different view of them, to consider that the disinterested and
intelligent judges who have declared them, are more likely to be right
than he is. Perfection, even in the law, he does not consider attainable
by human beings, and the greatest approximation to it is all he expects
or desires. Besides, there are very few cases of positive and abstract
rule, where it is of any consequence which, of any two or more
modifications of it, should be adopted. The great point is, that there
should be _a rule_ by which conduct may be regulated. Thus, whether
in mercantile transactions notice of a default by a principal shall be
given to an endorser, or a guarantor, and when and how such notice shall
be given, are not so important in themselves, as it is that there
should be some rule to which merchants may adapt themselves and their
transactions. Statutes cannot or at least do not, prescribe the rules in
a large majority of cases. If then they are not drawn from the decision
of courts, they will not exist, and men will be wholly at a loss for
a guide in the most important transactions of business. Hence the
deference paid to legal decisions. But this is not implicit, as the
author supposes. The course of reasoning by which the courts have come
to their conclusions, is often assailed by the advocate and shown to be
fallacious, and the instances are not unfrequent of courts disregarding
prior decisions and overruling them when not fairly deducible from sound

Again, the principles of the common law are flexible, and adapt
themselves to changes in society, and a well-known maxim in our system,
that when the reason of the law ceases, the law itself ceases, has
overthrown many an antiquated rule. Within these limits, it is conceived
that there is range enough for the exercise of all the reason of the
advocate and the judge, without unsettling everything and depriving the
conduct of human affairs of all guidance from human authority;--and the
talent of our lawyers and courts finds sufficient exercise in applying
the principles of one case to facts of another.--_American Editor_.]

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 tastes and the ideas of the
aristocratic circles in which they move, with the aristocratic interest
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 to 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 of so great a crime. This spirit more especially appertains 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 tittle 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 literary men, 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 among 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,[190]
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.

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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
ensure 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.[191]

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.[192] 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 civilisation, in all the climates of the earth, and under
every form of human government, cannot be contrary to the spirit of

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 grounds:--

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

In England the jury is returned from the aristocratic portion of the
nation,[195] 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.[196] 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 direction, 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

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 arise 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 intrusted, 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 must worthy of the attention of the
legislator; and all that remains is merely accessary.

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 sees 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; every one 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 civil jury, 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 more destructive passion. It teaches men
to practise 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, while 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 toward 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 judgment, 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 decisions of the judge; they, by the
authority of society which they represent, and he, by that of reason and
of law.[197]

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 afterward 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.[198]
Upon these occasions they are, accidentally, placed in the position
which the French judges habitually occupy: but 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 character of the individuals who took a part in his

[The remark in the text, that "in some cases, and they are frequently
the most important ones, the American judges have the right of deciding
causes alone," and the author's note, that "the federal judges decide,
upon their own authority, almost all the questions most important to the
country," seem to require explanation in consequence of their connexion
with the context in which the author is speaking of the trial by jury.
They seem to imply that there are some cases which ought to be tried by
jury, that are decided by the judges. It is believed that the learned
author, although a distinguished advocate in France, never thoroughly
comprehended the grand divisions of our complicated system of law, in
civil cases. _First_, is the distinction between cases in equity and
those in which the rules of the common law govern.--Those in equity
are always decided by the judge or judges, who _may_, however, send
questions of fact to be tried in the common law courts by a jury. But as
a general rule this is entirely in the discretion of the equity judge.
_Second_, in cases at common law, there are questions of fact and
questions of law:--the former are invariably tried by a jury, the
latter, whether presented in the course of a jury trial, or by pleading,
in which the facts are admitted, are always decided by the judges.

_Third_, cases of admiralty jurisdiction, and proceedings _in rem_ of an
analogous nature, are decided by the judges without the intervention
of a jury. The cases in this last class fall within the peculiar
jurisdiction of the federal courts, and, with this exception, the
federal judges do not decide upon their own authority any questions,
which, if presented in the state courts, would not also be decided by
the judges of those courts. The supreme court of the United States, from
the nature of its institution as almost wholly an appellant court, is
called on to decide merely questions of law, and in no case can that
court decide a question of fact, unless it arises in suits peculiar to
equity or admiralty jurisdiction. Indeed the author's original note is
more correct than the translation. It is as follows: "Les juges fédéraux
tranchent presque toujours seuls les questions qui touchent de plus près
au _gouvernement_ du pays." And it is very true that the supreme court
of the United States, in particular, decides those questions which most
nearly affect the _government_ of the country, because those are the
very questions which arise upon the constitutionality of the laws
of congress and of the several states, the final and conclusive
determination of which is vested in that tribunal.--_American Editor_.]

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.

       *       *       *       *       *


[189] This translation does not accurately convey the meaning of M. de
Tocqueville's expression. He says: "Ils craignent moins la tyrannie que
l'arbitraire, et pourvu que le législateur se charge lui-même d'enlever
aux hommes leur indépendance, ils sont à peu près content."

The more correct rendering would be: 'They fear tyranny less than
arbitrary sway, and provided it is the legislator himself who
undertakes to deprive men of their independence, they are almost

[190] See chapter vi., p. 94, on the judicial power in the United

[191] 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 generally combining with each other. See the "Digeste des Lois
de la Louisiane," in two volumes; and the "Traité sur les Regles des
Actions civiles," printed in French and English at New Orleans in 1830.

[192] 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, ch. xxxviii.).

[193] 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 among 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 new comers. The
ambition of the magistrates is therefore continually excited, and they
are naturally made dependant upon the will of the majority, or the
individual who fills up vacant appointments: the officers of the courts
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 is 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 obtaining 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 skilfull judge, than to judges, a majority of whom
are imperfectly acquainted with jurisprudence and with the laws.

[I venture to remind the reader, lest this note should appear somewhat
redundant to an English eye, that the jury is an institution which has
only been naturalized in France within the present century; that it is
even now exclusively applied to those criminal causes which come before
the courts of assize, or to the prosecutions of the public press; and
that the judges and counsellors of the numerous local tribunals of
France--forming a body of many thousand judicial functionaries--try all
civil causes, appeals from criminal causes, and minor offences, without
the jury.--_Translator's Note_.]

[194] 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

[195] In France, the qualification of the jurors is the same as the
electoral qualification, namely, the payment of 200 francs per annum in
direct taxes: they are chosen by lot. In England they are returned by
the sheriff; the qualifications of jurors were raised to 10_l_ per annum
in England, and 6_l_ in Wales, of freehold land or copyhold, by the
statute W. and M., c. 24: leaseholders for a time determinable upon life
or lives, of the clear yearly value of 20_l_ per annum over and above
the rent reserved, are qualified to serve on juries; and jurors in
the courts of Westminster and city of London must be householders,
and possessed of real and personal estates of the value of 100_l_.
The qualifications, however, prescribed in different statutes,
vary according to the object for which the jury is impannelled. See
Blackstone's Commentaries, b. iii., c. 23.--_Translator's Note_.

[196] See Appendix Q.

[197] See Appendix R.

[198] The federal judges decide upon their own authority almost all the
questions most important to the country.



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 voluntarily 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 part 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 among

The Americans have no neighbors, and consequently they have no great
wars, or financial crises, or inroads, or conquests 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 be the head of their government, is a
man of 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 who are thus carried away by the
illusions of glory, are 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 city,[199] 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.

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 being acquainted with that system.

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 among 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 settlers
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 Americans 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 disposition 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 civilisation,
but which occupied and cultivated the soil. To found their new states,
it was necessary to extirpate or to subdue a numerous population, until
civilisation 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, that 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 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 civilisation 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, while 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 country for the
transatlantic shores; and the American, who is born on that very coast,
plunges 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 toward 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.

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 forward
in the same direction to meet and struggle on the same spot; but the
designs of Providence were not the same; then, every new comer 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 American
toward the west; but we can hardly 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 59 inhabitants to the square mile, the population has not
been increased by more than one quarter in forty years, while 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.[200] 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 80 inhabitants
to the square mile, which is much 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 right 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

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 state 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 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 toward 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
onward by a passion more intense than the love of life. Before him lies
a boundless continent, and he urges onward 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
meliorate it still more; fortune awaits them everywhere, but happiness
they cannot attain. The desire of prosperity has 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 those 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 shore of a lake, which was
embosomed with 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 at 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 an 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
attachment 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 the 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, while
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 among 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 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 established 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 so 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

[The sentence beginning "I was poor, I become rich," &c, struck the
editor, on perusal, as obscure, if not contradictory. The original seems
more explicit, and justice to the author seems to require that it should
be presented to the reader. "J'étais pauvre, me voici riche; du moins,
si le bien-être, en agissant sur ma conduite, laissait mon jugement en
liberté! Mais non, mes opinions sont en effet changées avec ma fortune,
et, dans l'événement heureux dont je profite, j'ai réellement découvert
la raison déterminante qui jusque-là m'avait manqué."--_American

The influence of prosperity acts still more freely upon the American
than upon strangers. The American has always seen the connexion 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 education.

       *       *       *       *       *


Three principal Causes of the Maintenance of the democratic
Republic.--Federal Constitutions.--Municipal Institutions.--Judicial

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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 use 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 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. These 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 cause by
which it is occasioned may easily be discovered upon reflection.

I think that the catholic religion has erroneously been looked upon as
the natural enemy of democracy. Among 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 the 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 compromises
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

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 make his place among 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 it 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 ensure 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 preponderant.

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 holds the same
language; their opinions are consonant to the laws, and the human
intellect flows onward 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, while 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 no 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 beheld 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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
slightest 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 women 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. While the European endeavors to forget his domestic troubles
by agitating society, the American derives from his own home that love
of order, which he afterward carries with him into public affairs.

In the United States the influence of religion is not confined to the
manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people. Among
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
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 minds 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 while the law permits the Americans to do what they please,
religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what
is rash and 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, every one abandons him, and he
remains alone.

While 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.[201] The newspapers related the fact without any
farther comment.

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
civilisation, 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, toward 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?

       *       *       *       *       *


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, while
in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world
fulfils all the outward duties of religion with 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 peaceable
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 fill no public appointments;[202] 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[203] 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.

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 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 the 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 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 government appears 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 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 approach.

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, amid 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 in 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. Prodigious 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 object 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, while they condemn their weaknesses, and
lament their errors.

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 among 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.

Amid 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 know 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 connexion 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 authority.

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 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 all the full exercise of the strength which
it still retains.

       *       *       *       *       *


What is to be understood by the instruction of the American People.--The
human Mind is 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 principles of their legislation. The Americans have lawyers
and commentators, but no jurists; 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.

[The remark that in America "there are very good workmen but very
few inventors," will excite surprise in this country. The inventive
character of Fulton he seems to admit, but would apparently deprive us
of the credit of his name, by the remark that he was obliged to proffer
his services to foreign nations for a long time. He might have added,
that those proffers were disregarded and neglected, and that it was
finally in his own country that he found the aid necessary to put in
execution his great project. If there be patronage extended by the
citizens of the United States to any one thing in preference to another,
it is to the results of inventive genius. Surely Franklin, Rittenhouse,
and Perkins, have been heard of by our author; and he must have heard
something of that wonderful invention, the cotton-gin of Whitney, and
of the machines for making cards to comb wool. The original machines of
Fulton for the application of steam have been constantly improving, so
that there is scarcely a vestige of them remaining. But to sum up the
whole in one word, can it be possible that our author did not visit the
patent office at Washington? Whatever may be said of the _utility_ of
nine-tenths of the inventions of which the descriptions and models are
there deposited, no one who has ever seen that depository, or who has
read a description of its contents, can doubt that they furnish the most
incontestible evidence of extraordinary inventive genius--a genius that
has excited the astonishment of other European travellers.--_American

The observer who is desirous of forming an opinion on the state of
instruction among 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
indiscriminately 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 civilisation; their progress has been unequal; some
of them have improved apace, while others have loitered in their course,
and some have stopped, and are still sleeping upon the way.

Such has not been the case in the United States. The Anglo-Americans
settled in a state of civilisation, upon that territory which their
descendants occupy; they had not to begin to learn, and it was
sufficient 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 among them; and they are alike unacquainted with
the virtues, the vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces of an
early stage of civilisation. 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 log-house. Nothing can offer a more
miserable aspect than these isolated dwellings. The traveller who
approaches one of them toward night-fall, 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 back-woods, and who penetrates into the wilds of a 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.[204] I do not
think that so much intellectual intercourse takes place in the most
enlightened and populous districts of France.[205] 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 farther
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.

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 school-boys, and
parliamentary forms are observed in the order of a feast.

       *       *       *       *       *


All the Nations of America have a democratic State of Society.--Yet
democratic Institutions subsist only among 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.[206] 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.

It is true that the Anglo-Americans settled in the New World in a state
of social equality; the low-born and the noble were not to be found
among 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 transatlantic colonies were founded by men equal among
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.

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 fortunes 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 while 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 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 me 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 these 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

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 durability which mark its acts,
while 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
civilisation of their parents. Their passions are more intense; their
religious morality less authoritative; and their convictions are
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: while 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 a 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 beside the
Anglo-Americans, and as these peoples 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 among 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 infused with the opinions of the people, might
subsist in other countries beside 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
among 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 among 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 of 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 to
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
what it might become at the present time.

If absolute power were re-established among 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 for ever 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 toward
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 occupied the throne, and
alternately displayed to the people the weakness of right, and the
harshness of 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 is himself
full of animosity and alarm; he finds that he is 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.

While 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 afforded 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 servility of weakness will

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 that opinion; and when every
citizen--being equally weak, equally poor, and equally dependant--has
only his personal impotence to oppose to the organized force of the

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

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
be 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 society.

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 toward 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 afterward 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
among us in time, we shall sooner or later arrive at the unlimited
authority of a single despot.

       *       *       *       *       *


[199] 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 an 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 succeed in creating an armed force,
which, while it remains under the control of the majority of the nation,
will be independent of the town population, and able to repress its

[200] In New England the estates are exceedingly small, but they are
rarely subjected to farther division.

[201] 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 instance given by the author, of a person offered as a witness
having been rejected on the ground that he did not believe in the
existence of a God, seems to be adduced to prove either his assertion
that the Americans hold religion to be indispensable to the maintenance
of republican institutions--or his assertion, that if a man attacks all
the sects together, every one abandons him and he remains alone. But
it is questionable how far the fact quoted proves either of these
positions. The rule which prescribes as a qualification for a witness
the belief in a Supreme Being who will punish falsehood, without which
he is deemed wholly incompetent to testify, is established for the
protection of personal rights, and not to compel the adoption of any
system of religious belief. It came with all our fundamental principles
from England as a part of the common law which the colonists brought
with them. It is supposed to prevail in every country in Christendom,
whatever may be the form of its government; and the only doubt that
arises respecting its existence in France, is created by our author's
apparent surprise at finding such a rule in America.--_American

[202] Unless this term be applied to the functions which many of them
fill in the schools. Almost all education is intrusted to the clergy.

[203] See the constitution of New York, art. 7, § 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

See also the constitutions of North Carolina, art. 31. Virginia. South
Carolina, art. 1, § 23. Kentucky, art. 2, § 26. Tennessee, art S, § 1.
Louisiana, art. 2, § 22.

[204] 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 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 journied along by the light they
cast. From time to time we came to a hut in the midst of the forest,
which was a postoffice. 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.

[205] In 1832, each inhabitant of Michigan paid a sum equivalent to 1
franc, 22 centimes (French money) to the postoffice 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 department du
Nord, paid 1 fr. 4 cent, to the revenue of the French postoffice. (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 instruction and the commercial
activity of these districts are inferior to those of most of the
states in the Union; while the department du Nord, which contains
3,400 inhabitants per square league, is one of the most enlightened and
manufacturing parts of France.

[206] 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.



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 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 places 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, while 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 upward to the icy
regions of the north.[207]

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
among 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.

Among 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 learned
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 the 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 their 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 utmost 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, or 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, civilisation has
little power over him.

The negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself among
men who repulse him; he conforms to the taste 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 civilisation, less perhaps from the hatred
which he entertains for it, than from a dread of resembling the
Europeans.[208] 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; while our well-digested plans are met by the
spontaneous instincts of savage life, who can wonder if he fails in this
unequal contest?

The negro who earnestly desires to mingle his race with that of the
European, cannot effect it; 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 the 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; while 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


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 Civilisation.--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 Creek
and Cherokees.--Policy of the particular States toward these
Indians.--Policy of the federal Government.

None of the Indian tribes which formerly inhabited the territory of New
England--the Narragansets, the Mohicans, the Pequots--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 seacoast; 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;[209] and as they give way or perish, an immense and
increasing people fills their place. There is no instance on 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.

When the Indians were the sole inhabitants of the wilds whence they
have 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 skin of animals, whose flesh furnished them
with food.

The Europeans introduced among the savages of North America firearms,
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.[210] While the wants of the natives
were thus increasing, their resources continued to diminish. 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.[211] Thousands of savages, wandering in the forest and destitute
of any fixed dwelling, did not disturb them; but as soon as the
continuous sounds of European labor are heard in the 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 Allegany;
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 the 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.[212]

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,[213] 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 those 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.

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 new-comers 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 deserts them; their very
families are obliterated; the names they bore in common are forgotten,
their language perishes, and all the 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, while 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 in 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 the 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
among 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 despatches
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 land to us, and
go to live happily in those solitudes." After holding this language,
they spread before the eyes of the Indians fire-arms, woollen garments,
kegs of brandy, glass necklaces, bracelets of tinsel, ear-rings, and
looking-glasses.[214] 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

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.[216] 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.

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.[217] 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; while 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.

It is easy to foresee that the Indians will never conform to
civilisation; or that it will be too late, whenever they may be inclined
to make the experiment.

Civilisation is the result of 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 civilisation with the most difficulty, which habitually live
by the chase. Pastoral tribes, indeed, often change their place of
abode; but they follow in regular order in their migrations, and often
return again to their old stations, while the dwelling of the hunter
varies with that of the animals he pursues.

Several attempts have been made to diffuse knowledge among the Indians,
without controlling their wandering propensities; by the Jesuits in
Canada, and by the puritans in New England;[218] but none of these
endeavors were crowned by any lasting success. Civilisation 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
civilisation, 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 natural character.

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.[219]

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 ascendency, 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.[220] 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 among the Europeans who people its coasts, that the ancient
prejudices of Europe are still in existence.

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 among
them the Cherokees and the Creeks,[221] 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 civilisation 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.

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

The growth of European habits has been remarkably accelerated among
these Indians by the mixed race which has sprung up[223]: Deriving
intelligence from the father's side, without entirely losing the savage
customs of the mother, the half-blood forms the natural link between
civilisation 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.[224]

The success of the Cherokees proves that the Indians are capable of
civilisation, but it does not prove that they will succeed in it. The
difficulty which the Indians find in submitting to civilisation 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 civilisation by
degrees, and by their own efforts. Whenever they derived knowledge from
a foreign people, they stood toward it in the relation of conquerors,
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 Moguls, 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 becomes 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 may be owned) the most avaricious
nation on the globe, while 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 toward any
one; 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,[225] 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 civilisation can boast: and even this much he is not
sure to obtain.

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 among 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, while 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 it 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 among 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 remote regions;
and he quits the plough, resumes his native arms, and returns to the
wilderness for ever.[226] The condition of the Creeks and Cherokees,
to which I have already alluded, sufficiently corroborates the truth of
this deplorable picture.

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. While the savages
were engaged in the work of civilisation, 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.[227]

Washington said in one of his messages to congress, "We are more
enlightened and 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 an independent people, and attempts have been made to subject
these children of the woods to Anglo-American magistrates, laws, and
customs.[228] Destitution had driven these unfortunate Indians to
civilisation, 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.

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,[229] they are aware that these
tribes have not yet lost the traditions of savage life, and before
civilisation 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.[230] 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.

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 33d and 37th 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, toward the end of the year 1831, that 10,000 Indians
had already gone 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 the springing crops; they are of opinion that the work of
civilisation, once interrupted, will never be resumed; they fear that
those domestic habits which have been so recently contracted, may be
irrecoverably 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 civilisation 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.[231]
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.

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.[232]

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.[233] "By the will of our Father
in heaven, the governor of the whole world," said the Cherokees in their
petition to congress,[234] "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 the United States,
only a few are to be seen--a few whom a sweeping pestilence had 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?

"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 their remains. 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 it is said gratuitously.
At what time have we made the forfeit? What great crime have we
committed, whereby we must for ever 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 which
followed that war? 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 last 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 blood-hounds, like wild beasts;
and they sacked the New World with no more temper or compassion than a
city taken by storm: but destruction must cease, and phrensy be stayed;
the remnant of the Indian population, which had escaped the massacre,
mixed with its conquerors and adopted their religion and manners.[235]
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.

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.[236] It is impossible to destroy men
with more respect for the laws of humanity.

       *       *       *       *       *


Why it is more difficult to abolish Slavery, and to efface all Vestiges
of it among the Moderns, than it was among 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 toward
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, while 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 United States, arises from the presence of a
black population upon its territory; and in contemplating the causes
of the present embarrassments or of the future dangers of the United
States, the observer is invariably led to consider this as a primary

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 amid 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
afterward 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 among the moderns;
but the consequences of these evils were different. The slave, among the
ancients, belonged to the same race as his master, and he was often the
superior of the two in education[237] 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
enfranchisement; 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 was abolished. There is a
natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their
inferior, long after he has 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 among the ancients; for the freedman bore so entire
a resemblance to those born free, that it soon became impossible to
distinguish him from among them.

The greatest difficulty in antiquity was that of altering the law;
among the moderns it is 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, among 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 among 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.[238] 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.

It is difficult for us, who have had the good fortune to be born among
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 founded 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 course of events which has ever taken place between
the two races.

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 nowise 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 among
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 pleasure, 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, because he fears lest they should be some day confounded

Among 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 while 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.[239]
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 toward the northern states,
and the negro population was always very limited in New England.[240]

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 expense 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 civilisation,
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 toward the north, those of the north descended to the south; but in
the midst of all these causes, the same result recurred 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.

But this truth was most satisfactorily demonstrated when civilisation
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 which have 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.[241]

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 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 primeval 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 are the reward of labor.[242]

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 250,000 souls.[243] 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 civilisation of antiquity
and that of our own time.

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;
while 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, while 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

The influence of slavery extends still farther; 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,
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 that 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 toward the north; but it now retires again. Freedom,
which started from the north, now descends uninterruptedly toward the
south. Among 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

No great change takes place in human institutions, without involving
among 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 that 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 every one 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 principles, which
is, the interest of the master.

As slavery recedes, the black population follows its retrograde course,
and returns with it to 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 the 4th of July, 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 slaves (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
an 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,[246] 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,[247] and the rest congregate in the
great towns, where they perform the meanest offices, and lead a wretched
and precarious existence.

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 abolished 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 among 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 degrading?

Thus the white population grows by its natural increase, and at the
same time by the immense influx of emigrants; while 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 toward 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;[248] 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;[249] 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[250] to them than 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.

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 meantime 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 toward 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 three hundred inhabitants;
in Massachusetts, one in one hundred; in New York, two in one hundred;
in Pennsylvania, three in the same number; in Maryland, thirty-four;
in Virginia, forty-two; and lastly, in South Carolina, fifty-five per
cent.[251] 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.

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 while 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
enfranchised 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 population.

In the north, as I have already remarked, a two-fold 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 southward; 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 the 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 if 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, while 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 circles 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 members and its powers
are small, while 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.[252] I do not imagine that the
white and the 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

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 lacqueys 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 among
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 for ever 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 India 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 accumulating 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 than 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.[254] In 1820, the society to
which I allude formed a settlement in Africa, upon the 7th degree
of north latitude, which bears the name of Liberia. The most recent
intelligence informs us that two thousand five hundred 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.[255]

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 civilisation 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 two thousand
five hundred negroes to Africa; in the same space of time about seven
hundred thousand 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,[256] and to transport the negroes to Liberia, there
is little chance that the negro population of the United States would

In the South, however, this leaves two choices: either for the whites
to remain in communities with 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 interests; 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 while
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 meanwhile 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 phrensy. 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 consequences 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
connexion, they must have believed that slavery would last for ever;
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 afterward informed him that those rights were precious and
inviolable. They affected to open their ranks to the slave, 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.[257]

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 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 were 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 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.

       *       *       *       *       *


Reasons why 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 Improvement.--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 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. Among 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 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
attained by a national or 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 prerogative inherent
in its nature, is invested with the right of regulating the affairs
which relate partly to the general and partly to the local interest,
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 right of determining the civil and political
competency of the citizens, of 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 government 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; while 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, while 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 claims with
boldness, and takes prompt and energetic steps to support it. In
the meanwhile 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 consideration 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 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.[258]

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.[259] 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

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
compact, 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 especially interested in the existence of the Union, as
has frequently been the case in the history of confederations.

If it be supposed that among 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 among the states.

If one of the confederated 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 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.[260] 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

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.

[The remarks respecting the inability of the federal government to
retain within the Union any state that may choose "to withdraw its name
from the contract," ought not to pass through an American edition of
this work, without the expression of a dissent by the editor from the
opinion of the author. The laws of the United States must remain in
force in a revolted state, until repealed by congress; the customs and
postages must be collected; the courts of the United States must sit,
and must decide the causes submitted to them; as has been very happily
explained by the author, the courts act upon individuals. If their
judgments are resisted, the executive arm must interpose, and if the
state authorities aid in the resistance, the military power of the whole
Union must be invoked to overcome it. So long as the laws affecting
the citizens of such a state remain, and so long as there remain any
officers of a general government to enforce them, these results must
follow not only theoretically but actually. The author probably formed
the opinions which are the subject of these remarks, at the commencement
of the controversy with South Carolina respecting the tariff. And when
they were written and published, he had not learned the result of
that controversy, in which the supremacy of the Union and its laws
was triumphant. There was doubtless great reluctance in adopting the
necessary measures to collect the customs, and to bring every legal
question that could possibly arise out of the controversy, before the
judiciary of the United States, but they were finally adopted, and were
not the less successful for being the result of deliberation and of
necessity. Out of that controversy have arisen some advantages of a
permanent character, produced by the legislation which it required.
There were defects in the laws regulating the manner of bringing from
the state courts into those of the United States, a cause involving the
constitutionality of acts of congress or of the states, through which
the federal authority might be evaded. Those defects were remedied
by the legislation referred to; and it is now more emphatically and
universally true, than when the author wrote, that the acts of the
general government operate through the judiciary, upon individual
citizens, and not upon the states.--_American Editor._]

Among 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 toward 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 Allegany 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 coasts 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 Alleganies 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. Beside which, the principal rivers that fall into the Atlantic
ocean, the Hudson, the Susquehannah, and the Potomac, take their rise
beyond the Alleganies, in an open district, which borders upon
the valley of the Mississippi. These streams quit this tract of
country,[261] 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 Alleganies 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 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,[262] 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 the 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.

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 connexion 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 remoter part of a single valley; and all
the rivers which intersect their territory rise in the Rocky mountains
or in the Alleganies, and fall into the Mississippi, which bears them
onward to the gulf of Mexico. The western states are consequently
entirely cut off, by their position, from the traditions of Europe and
the civilisation 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

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 interest at stake may obliterate. Nor do I attach much
importance to the language of the Americans, when they manifest in their
daily conversation, 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 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[263] 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 interests, 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