a political party that emerged in the early 1830s to oppose what members saw as President Andrew Jackson's abuses of power. He came to study the American system. … Above all else, Tocqueville was a sociologist, and he attributes to social structure the emergence of the moral empire of the majority. Anyone suspicious of the power of a king ought likewise to be suspicious of the power of a majority. Have they become more patient before obstacles by becoming stronger? Motivated by his “love of liberty and human dignity,” his Democracy in America has been called “one of the wisest works of modern thought,” that for understanding and preserving liberty, “the … Ibid.,244 [I.2.7]. FrankGaffney. Ibid., 244 [I.2.7]. One can easily imagine an Iranian Tocqueville today issuing the same warning with regard to Shi’a Islam and cautioning his readers about the politicization of Islam in his country. His warnings about and solutions to despotic attempts at ruling democracies shine a light on the dangerous tendencies of certain governing practices. Throughout, students are challenged to read carefully, think critically, and draw analogies between Tocqueville’s statements and their own experience and knowledge. William Reddinger is Associate Professor of Government at Regent University, where he teaches courses in political theory and American politics. We can fairly summarize Tocqueville’s complex and lengthy reasoning on this point by saying that democratic society tends to make people rely first on their own reason and second on the reason of the democratic multitude that is so much like oneself. In 1831, an ambitious and unusually perceptive twenty-five-year-old French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited the United States. But he also saw and criticized the way white majorities supported the institution of slavery and the unjust treatment of free blacks and Native Americans. The foregoing point notwithstanding, Tocqueville argued that the majority’s greatest power lay not in the halls of the legislature but in the chamber of the mind. Alexis de Tocqueville: 15 Quotes on Democracy and Liberty. Gen. Barr recalled de Tocqueville’s warning that, in the absence of key checks that have protected our nation from the dangers of "totalitarian democracy," we would inevitably be reduced to the tyrannical rule of an intolerant majority. There are at least two reasons to think that they are. I wanted to know democracy, if only to know at least what we must hope or fear from it.”. We tackle big questions about what makes society free or prosperous and how we can improve the world we live in. De Tocqueville’s warning of the “tyranny of the majority” can be described as the unlimited power of determining the law, and justice, as granted to the people in the US Constitution. As Tocqueville writes “The master no longer says to [an individual]: You shall think as I do or you shall die; he says: You are free not to think as I do, your life, your goods, everything remains to you; but from this day on, you are a stranger among us.”. 5. In 1868, the House impeached Andrew Johnson for purely partisan reasons, and he was acquitted in the Senate. He is best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). His name was Alexis de Tocqueville. Over the past year, lots of people, I suspect, have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840) as they ask themselves how the United States could have found itself having to choose in 2016 between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to face off for the office of president.. Alexis de Tocqueville tells this chilling story in "Democracy in America," and warns that the greatest threat the United States faces is the tyranny of the majority, a phrase he is credited with coining. Anyone who would defend liberty must have the courage to support checks and limitations not only on the power of executives and courts but also on the power of majorities. Alexis de Tocqueville's phrase warning of the dangers of American democracy. For example, when people fear for their security: Historical factors contributed to America reaching this political point. We have provided teaching guides and glossaries for the academic vocabulary, as well. Jailed Joshua Wong Vows Hong Kong's Struggle Will Continue. 7. The notion that the people can do no wrong became widely held. Let’s consider some words of wisdom — and warning — from a Frenchman who last visited the United States in the 1830s. Tocqueville, in the light of his “new political science,” calls this an “impious and detestable maxim.”. De Tocqueville was warning about impeachment being used as a political tool to remove presidents purely on partisan grounds—as the authors of the piece and Hare's original quote explained. In 1852, Tocqueville believed that American democracy had “nothing more to fear than from itself, from the abuse of democracy, the spirit of adventure and conquest, from the sense and exaggerated pride in its strength, and from the impetuosity of youth.” EDSITEment’s new unit, Tocqueville on Tyranny of the Majority, breaks down Tocqueville’s argument into its component parts. He argued that a mild, stagnant despotism was the greatest threat to democracy. Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment,” in The Portable Enlightenment Reader, edited by Isaac Kramnick (London: Penguin Classics, 1995), 1. The frst daughter weighed in on her father’s impeachment Thursday evening with a quote from 19th century French historian Alexis de Tocqueville warning that impeachment could be used politically. Four years ago, when the present Comte de Tocqueville, a lateral descendant, was making some repairs, a blowtorch started a blaze and the central part burned out. While Tocqueville was a strong supporter of the separation of Church and State, he was also a … 1. To understand Tocqueville’s teaching on the tyranny of the majority completely, one must consult not only the portions from Volume I on that topic but also Volume II, Part 1, which is titled “Influence of Democracy on Intellectual Movement in the United States,” and from which this extended block quote is taken. Whigs. On the other hand, those who chose to violate the law were immediately branded as outcasts by the law-abiding majority. Tocqueville does not mean that the majority in a democracy will always act tyrannically, only that nothing can prevent it from so doing. de tocqueville, totalitarian, democracy. As Americans gather to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s freedom, we contemplate, on the one hand, the revolution in Egypt, where people crying out for freedom could only appeal to the military, having lost any power of self-government; and, on the other, the slow imposition of Obamacare in the United States, delayed only so … Others side with Tocqueville, who was as determined to oppose tyranny in monarchies as he was to ensure liberty in democracies: If you accept that one man vested with omnipotence can abuse it against his adversaries, why not accept the same thing for a majority? 5). Tocqueville presents democracy as a new form of freedom that displaced the servitude of the ancient and medieval world. Tocqueville was a great thinker, a philosopher greater even than his admirers believe, and Trump is great mainly in the amazing extent of his pettiness and willingness to level insults at his rivals. During this period … universal manhood suffrage. Some may be tempted to think that Tocqueville went overboard in his discussion of the dangers of majority tyranny. In America, he saw and praised a people who enjoyed an unprecedented equality of conditions and political and civil liberty without endangering order or prosperity. A complex informational text such as this poses an invigorating challenge to high school students. With this challenge in mind, we have developed a new unit that focuses on one of the most famous and controversial of Tocqueville’s arguments. The reason, he felt, was that the American citizens themselves held the ultimate power to change any laws they disliked. His nine-month sojourn led to the writing of Democracy in America, universally regarded as one of the most influential books ever written. Moreover, this vigilance may require courage, for the cost of independent thought may be great. In more recent times, Tocqueville’s warnings about democracy’s capacity to generate its own forms of despotism have been portrayed as prefiguring a political dynamic associated with the welfare state: i.e., people voting for politicians who promise to give them more things in return for which voters voluntarily surrender more and more of their freedom. The first lesson introduces students to Tocqueville’s thesis about the omnipotence, i.e., the all-powerful character, of the majority in a democracy and his way of developing an argument through well-chosen historical examples. The Warnings of Alex De Tocqueville In 1830 a young judge from France arrived in America. In 1831 an ambitious and unusually perceptive twenty-five-year-old French aristocrat visited the United States. When the mob leaders were brought before a jury, they were acquitted. Ibid., 236-237 [I.2.7]. There, Tocqueville argued, the opinion of the democratic majorities on matters of truth and morality often come to rest without examination. Still, Tocqueville has rightly been called prophetic for warning about the threat to liberty posed by the democratic tendency toward centralizing power (Democracy in America, Vol. Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville , colloquially known as Tocqueville (/ˈtɒkvɪl, ˈtoʊk-/), was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian. Equipped with a deep understanding of the achievements and failures of European civilization and an equally deep passion for liberty and human dignity, Tocqueville was able to bring his complex perspective to bear on his subject. The following statement regarding the tyranny of the majority is one of the most famous quotes from Tocqueville’s entire book: “I do not know any country where, in general, less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reign than in America.” To understand this quote, one must first understand why there existed in America what Tocqueville called “the moral empire of the majority.”. Ibid., 237 [I.2.7]. According to Tocqueville, these “intermediary” institutions that exist in aristocracies serve as a “dike” against the force of dominant political power and a vital protection for human dignity and liberty. The power of the democratic majority arises from the fact that every individual is assumed to be competent to guide his own life and is politically the equal of every other individual. In the third lesson, students confront and evaluate Tocqueville’s most shocking claim—that there is less freedom of discussion and independence of mind in America than in Europe, with negative consequences for American character and culture. It is rather the aristocracy, the clergy, the legal profession, and the rising merchant class—the independent centers of powers—that will resist and even oppose the sovereign. Paradoxically, when a whole society protects freedom of speech, thought, and judgment, people tend to believe that truth is “found on the side of the greatest number.” Tocqueville’s reasoning on this point is worth citing at some length: Not only is common opinion the sole guide that remains for individual reason among democratic peoples; but it has an infinitely greater power among these peoples than among any other. 2. 4. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. In my view, Tocqueville’s argument on this matter remains relevant for our own time. Alexis de Tocqueville There is a natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their inferior long after he is become their equal; Slavery received, but the prejudice to which it has given birth remains stationary. The organic industry is a case study in rent-seeking. This muscular democratic vision also captures the very core of what makes the United States the place of profound vision that foreigners Thomas Paine and Alexis De Tocqueville wrote of so powerfully. The notion that the people can do no wrong became widely held. 3. This is the same Alexis de Tocqueville … July 29 marks the birth of Alexis de Tocqueville. Undoubtedly, the United States’ size and diversity means that our nation “is partitioned among several great irreconcilable interests” such that “the privilege of the majority is often unrecognized.” Yet, social phenomena ranging from safe spaces to the use of public opinion polls in the place of argument in news reportage suggest that advocates of a free society must remain vigilant against the pressure to conform to the moral empire of the majority still today. Tocqueville offers two gripping and illuminating examples: mob violence against anti-war journalists in the War of 1812; and the way free blacks are preventing from voting in the Northern states. Ibid., 240 [I.2.7]. There are a great number of theories on matters of philosophy, morality, or politics that everyone thus adopts without examination, on the faith of the public.. Students For Liberty Any college student familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville knows his warning against the tyranny of the majority in democracies. Alexis de Tocqueville raised that point in his treatise, Democracy in America, where he warned that democracy could be destroyed by two forms of dictatorship: the despotism of a single ruler, and the tyranny of the majority. In the extension activities, students are asked to bring to bear the knowledge that they have acquired in the unit on Tocqueville’s next chapter, in which he discusses the factors that might mitigate the tyranny of the majority. 2221 S Clark Street, 12th Floor, Arlington, VA 22202. This is a position particularly attractive to those who think that there can never be danger in having more democracy. Tocqueville, in the light of his “new political science,” calls this an “impious and detestable maxim.” In Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 7, “Of the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects,” he lays out his argument against this view. 268. There is an assessment that offers a series of questions for students to answer in well-thought-out, short essays. 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