Democracy in America

Translated versions of Democracy in America and effects on meaning

  • Henry Reeve, translated 1835[16]
This translation was completed by Reeve and later revised by Francis Bowen. In 1945, it was reissued in a modern edition by Alfred A. Knopf edited and with an extensive historical essay by Phillips Bradley. Tocqueville wrote to Reeve providing a critique of the translation: "Without wishing to do so and by following the instinct of your opinions, you have quite vividly colored what was contrary to Democracy and almost erased what could do harm to Aristocracy." This statement indicates, first, that Tocqueville believed Reeve's translation to be problematic, and second, that he believed that Reeve's political views induced him, albeit unconsciously, to distort the original book's meaning.[17]
  • George Lawrence, translated in 1966 with an introduction by J. P. Mayer[18]
  • Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, translated circa 2000[19]
  • Gerald Bevan, translated circa 2003[20]
  • Arthur Goldhammer, translated circa 2004[21]
This authoritative translation of the text by Tocqueville, published by the Library of America, requires the reader to think more about the text instead of relying on "instant opinions" provided by previous translations. A speech from the translator given at Harvard University provides a keen insight into his development of his translation:[17]

To shed light on the possible inaccuracies of the original translation, the title of the text should be "On Democracy in America", however this was changed by Reeve. Although not a complete rewrite, the clarity that Tocqueville wrote with depended on its concreteness and by making words interchangeable at will, it does have an effect on the meaning especially to readers who do not put the effort to research the text or read it in its native French.

  • James T. Schleifer, edited by Eduardo Nolla and published by Liberty Fund in March 2010[22]
Bilingual edition based on the authoritative edition of the original French-language text.

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