Democracy in America

Democracy in America Summary and Analysis of Vol. I, Part 2, Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6: The Real Advantages Derived by American Society From Democratic Government

The General Tendency of Laws Under the Sway of American Democracy and the Instincts of Those Who Apply Them

The defects of democracy are obvious, but the advantages can only be seen in the long run. Laws in America "are often defective or incomplete." Democracy's laws tend toward the good of the greatest number, but an aristocracy is much more skilled in legislation. Democracy's lack of skill is not fatal, however, because mistakes are retrievable. In addition, the people keep watch on the actions of their legislators and make sure that they are not deviating from the public interest. Legislators may not be highly skilled, but they will never pursue aims hostile to the majority.

Public Spirit in the United States

There are two types of patriotism. One type stems from an instinctive love, based on feeling rather than reason, and is often ephemeral. The other is a more rational and lasting patriotism, "engendered by enlightenment," and "mingled with personal interest." The best way to promote this more steady patriotism is to make people take a personal interest in their country's fate by giving them a share in government. This is what the United States has done, and the result is that Americans are extremely patriotic.

The Idea of Rights in the United States

Rights are absolutely essential for a cohesive and prosperous society. In America, because everyone has some sort of property, all recognize the right of property in principle. Likewise, the democratic government "makes the idea of political rights penetrate right down to the last citizen." A moral and religious conception of rights seems to be disappearing; therefore it is absolutely essential to link the idea of rights to personal interest. America has been able to do this by giving people political rights from the beginning, but in other countries it may be difficult to extend political rights because, having been deprived of rights for so long, the people may use them unwisely.

Respect for Laws in the United States

Giving the people a part in lawmaking can result in a lower quality of legislation but also can give the laws greater moral strength. In America people have a personal interest in obeying the laws, even laws which they disagree with, because they know that at some point they will share the opinion of the majority and will want the minority to follow the law as well. While the rich may often be in the minority, their discontent is not dangerous because their wealth makes breaking the law too risky.

Activity Prevailing in All Parts of the Political Body in the United States; the Influence Thereby Exerted on Society

The rush of political activity always present in the United States is remarkable. There are always people calling for reform, lobbying for a cause, or expressing some concern. The American's greatest pleasure comes from talking about and taking a hand in the government of society. These habits of freedom are a great guard against despotism.

While the people may not manage public affairs well, it is good for society anyway because taking responsibility for government broadens people's concerns beyond their own interests and makes them care for society at large. Things may not be done well, but many things are accomplished because of the extraordinary amount of political energy and activity. Democracy does not engender great virtue or nobility, but it also lessens the number of great crimes and increases general well-being.


This chapter expands on some of the previous chapters ideas about the generally poor quality of American legislation, but also point out many of the advantages of the democratic method. One advantage is that while the laws in a democracy may not be crafted with the utmost skill, they are at least not positively dangerous or aimed against the well-being of the majority, as they very well might be in an aristocracy. Furthermore, the popular origin of laws gives them greater moral force. In addition, allowing people to have a role in the government of the nation makes them see the nation's interests as their and be more patriotic. The most important effect of the people's ability to take part in making the laws, however, the strong public spirit and practice in freedom which such activity provides. Because the people have had political rights from the beginning in America, the habits of freedom are deeply entrenched. Tocqueville writes that "if despotism ever came to be established in the United States it would find it even more difficult to overcome the habits that have sprung from freedom than to conquer the love of freedom itself."

In discussing the benefits of America's deep-rooted habits of political freedom, Tocqueville makes a very significant comment in relation to the nature of freedom and the difficulty of acquiring and maintaining it. He states: "It cannot be repeated too often: nothing is more fertile in marvels than the art of being free, but nothing is harder than freedom's apprenticeship. The same is not true of despotism. Despotism often presents itself as the repairer of all the ills suffered, the support of just rights, defender of the oppressed, and founder of order. Peoples are lulled to sleep by the temporary prosperity it engenders, and when they do wake up, they are wretched. But liberty is generally born in stormy weather, growing with difficulty amid civil discords, and only when it is already old does one see the blessings it has brought." This statement is crucial in that it reveals one of the most pressing dilemma's which Tocqueville faces, especially in regard to his desire to improve the political situation in France. Tocqueville realizes that the French lack the "apprenticeship" in liberty which the Americans have had, and that it is very difficult to make people appreciate freedom enough to make the sacrifices necessary to attain it. Tending to be short-sighted, people will see that despotism can bring great stability, order, and even prosperity to the country, and so may be willing to surrender their freedom. Tocqueville elaborates on this idea, especially with regard to the tension between liberty and equality, in Volume II, Part II, Chapter 1.

The idea that democracy has a "middling effect" on the people is also explained more fully in this chapter. Tocqueville had mentioned this tendency briefly earlier in the book, but here he speaks about it more at length. He observes that democracies do not tend to produce men of great heroism or virtue, but rather mild, average characters. "If you think it profitable to turn man's intellectual and moral activity toward the necessities of physical life and use them to produce well-being, if you think that reason is more use to men than genius, if your object is not to create heroic virtues but rather tranquil habits, if you would rather contemplate vices than crimes, . . . then it is good to make conditions equal and to establish democratic government." Significantly, however, Tocqueville notes that whatever a person may think is best actually does not matter, because forces beyond human control are naturally leading to an ever-increasing equality of conditions. The only way to react is simply to make the best of the situations, trying to enhance democracy's strengths and minimize its weaknesses.

Chapter 7: The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects

The essence of democratic government is the sovereignty of the majority's will. The Americans want their legislators to be elected directly and to serve short terms in office so that the people have more chances to exert their influence. The legislature is also the most powerful branch of the government. In some states, even the judges are elected by majority vote.

The moral authority of the majority stems from "the theory of equality applied to brains"‹that is, since everyone's opinion is of equal worth, the best opinion must be the opinion of the majority. The majority's authority is further strengthened by the idea that the interest of the greater number should take precedence over that of the lesser number.

These ideas have not created class antagonisms in the United States because most colonial settlers were already relatively equal in status, wealth and education. In addition, most people support the rights of the majority because the hope one day to profit from them.

How in America the Omnipotence of the Majority Increases the Legislative and Administrative Instability Natural to Democracies

The vices of democracy increase with the growing power of the majority. For instance, legislative instability plagues the United States, because the legislative power‹the power most influenced by the will of the majority‹is sovereign. As a result, American laws have an extremely short duration, and execution of the laws is unstable as well. The public easily becomes impassioned to fight for certain causes, but when achieving goals require patience and tenacity, they quickly give up.

Tyranny of the Majority

Justice places boundaries on the will of the majority. If a single person can abuse authority against his adversaries, a majority can do the same against a minority. For a society to function, it is necessary to have some social power superior to all others, but that power is dangerous when there is no obstacle to restrain and moderate it.

The biggest problem with the democratic government of the United States is not its weakness but its overwhelming strength, and "the shortage of guarantees against tyranny." There is no one to whom a person can turn if has suffered injustice, because everything is controlled by the majority. The fact that America has not yet fallen into this tyranny of the majority is due not to its governmental institutions or laws but to its mores.

Effect of the Omnipotence of the Majority on the Arbitrary Power of the American Public Officials

The majority allows the magistrates to have a large amount of arbitrary power because it knows that they are constantly under its supervision. "It treats them as a master treats his servants if, always seeing them under his eyes, he could direct or correct them at any moment."

The Power Exercised by the Majority in America over Thought

Control of public thought is the most complete form of tyranny. In America, once the majority's opinion has been pronounced, no one contradicts it. There is extremely little independence of mind and freedom of discussion. People who disagree with the majority have no other power to whom they can resort for help, because the majority is the sole authority and source of strength. This control extends over writing as well as speech. There may be no official restrictions on writing, but if a person challenges the opinion of the majority all doors‹professionally and socially‹are shut to him. In democratic republics, tyranny "leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul." This tyranny of the majority is the reason for the lack of literary genius in America, because great writers need freedom of spirit. Right now the power of the majority is well-used, because mores are good, but it may not always be so.

Effects of the Majority's Tyranny on American National Character; the Courtier Spirit in the United States

The rareness of outstanding politicians in America is due to the despotism of the majority. In democracies the temptation to live off of one's passions is much greater than in monarchies or aristocracies, and the result is that standards of conduct in general are lowered.

When speaking to people in private one finds that their opinions differ and that they may criticize the government, but in public everyone seems to be of one mind. Politicians in the United States are of such poor quality because they are the flatterers of the majority and have submitted themselves to its tyranny in order to gain power.

The Greatest Danger to the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence of the Majority

The power directing society in a democracy may be unstable, but it is extremely strong. America thus has to fear tyranny much more than anarchy, and if anarchy comes about it will be the result of tyranny driving the minority to desperation. Tocqueville quotes Jefferson, who writes that it is necessary "Œto guard one part of society against the injustice of the other part,'" and that "Œthe tyranny of the legislature is the most formidable dread at present.'"


Always concerned with the maintenance of freedom in a nation, Tocqueville is especially troubled by the tendency of democracies to succumb to the tyranny of the majority, a tyranny no less real and no less terrible than an autocratic tyranny. In the United States, where the principle of the sovereignty of the people reigns supreme, the force of the majority is overpowering. While so far the omnipotence of the majority has only resulted in small inconveniences such as legislative incompleteness, "the consequences of this state of affairs are fate-laden and dangerous for the future." Omnipotence in human hands is always dangerous; "only God can be omnipotent without danger, because His wisdom and justice are always equal to His power." The rule of the majority in America is living proof that majority's power is well out of proportion with its wisdom and justice.

The dangerous effects of the omnipotence of the majority are already evident in the lack of free thought in America. While, in principle and by law, everyone can say, think or write whatever he likes, in reality the opinion of the majority becomes an unquestionable dogma. "Formerly," write Tocqueville, "tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen; nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing more to learn, has been perfected by civilization." Tyranny in democracies goes straight to the soul. It is all the more dangerous precisely because it is hidden and exercises no external physical constraints; thus hardly anyone is able to recognize and no one reacts against it. Besides, a majority of the people are benefiting from it, and consequently will not want to oppose it. Therefore the tyranny of the majority is a great danger to all nations in which the ideals of equality and sovereignty of the people are paramount. The ways to combat this fatal tendency have been touched upon in previous chapters‹for instance, local liberties, good mores, an independent executive, and a strong judiciary‹but they will be systematically discussed in the following chapter.

Chapter 8: What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States

Absence of Administrative Centralization

While America is highly centralized governmentally, its administration is very decentralized. As a result, "the majority, though it often has a despot's tastes and instincts, still lacks the most improved instruments of tyranny." The central government operates only within a limited sphere, and consequently the tyranny of the majority is limited to that small sphere as well. In addition, the majority does not have the administrative ability to enforce its will everywhere.

The Temper of the American Legal Profession and How it Serves to Counterbalance Democracy

Lawyers act as an aristocratic class, tempering the negative effects of democracy. From their studies, lawyers derive a taste for order and formalities, and a dislike for the whims and passions of democracy. Lawyers' knowledge also makes them a somewhat privileged class, and their common profession provides a common link among them. "Hidden at the bottom of a lawyer's soul one finds the tastes and habits of an aristocracy." Lawyers love order above all, and as a result they are conservative and supportive of authority.

In a democracy lawyers' are especially able to gain political power, because they step into the place that the rich and the nobles would occupy in an aristocracy. The people do not dislike lawyers because they come from among their own ranks. They therefore have a unique capability to mingle an aristocratic element into a democracy.

The aristocrat element in lawyers is due not only to their knowledge but also to the type of laws that exist in the United States. Because laws are often founded on precedent, it is difficult for the common people to follow them on their own. Where laws are all simply written out, as in France, lawyers are not needed as much and are not respected as highly.

For the most part, lawyers and judges influence democracy through the courts. Laws diminishing judicial power, especially making judges elected officials and subjecting them to frequent reelection, are extremely harmful to a democracy. The influence of lawyers can be seen in that while political laws are constantly changing, civil laws‹over which lawyers have great influence‹have changed so little that they are practically outdated.

Even beyond its official powers, the laws influence spreads out into all areas of political life. Legal language is often used, and most public officials are or have been lawyers and retain their legal habits. The power of lawyers is inconspicuous yet highly effective; it enwraps the whole of society, penetrating each component class and constantly working in secret upon its unconscious patient, till in the end it has molded it to its desire."

The Jury in the United States Considered as a Political Institution

Judicially speaking, the effectiveness of the jury system is contestable, since the members of juries often lack the expertise necessary to make good decisions. Yet its principle importance and its benefits can be seen in considering the jury as a political institution. The idea of a jury is an eminently republican one, because it places control of society directly into the hands of the people. The jury system is a direct consequence of the sovereignty of the people.

Juries are excellent for inculcating good mores into the minds of the people. They instill "habits of the judicial mind," which are necessary for the proper use of freedom, and they teach people to be equitable and to take responsibility for their own actions. Furthermore, juries force citizens to pay attention to the affairs of others, thereby combating individualism. Juries are therefore "the most effective means of popular education."


After last chapter's dismal predictions, this chapter provides a few rays of hope, and explains why the tyranny of the majority is not absolutely overwhelming in America.

The first mitigating factor is the lack of administrative centralization, an attribute of American democracy which Tocqueville discusses in more detail in chapter five. In a place like France, where the administration is highly centralized, there would be no obstacles to the tyranny of the majority, but in America, even "if the laws were oppressive, liberty would still find some shelter from the way the law is carried into execution, and the majority would not know how to enter into . . . the puerilities of administrative tyranny."

Lawyers and the judiciary branch of the government in general also provide a necessary aristocratic force which tempers the despotic tendencies of democracy. In chapters six and seven Tocqueville describes the judiciary and hints at its importance, but here he shows clearly how it counteracts some of democracy's defects. Tocqueville writes that "it is at the bar or the bench that the American aristocracy is found. The more one reflects on what happens in the United States, the more one feels convinced that the legal body forms the most powerful and, so today, the only counterbalance to democracy in the country." This counterbalance comes in just where democracy needs it, to provide a healthy sense of order and rationality when the people tend to be easily swayed by their whims. Tocqueville observes that "when the American people get intoxicated by their passions or carried away by their ideas, the lawyers apply an almost invisible brake which slows them down and halts them."

Tocqueville also has a unique and highly insightful view on the importance of the jury system. Its benefit does not lie at all in its ability to render just judgments. In fact, Tocqueville thinks that a judge with more legal expertise would do a much better job. Yet the jury system is highly beneficent in the political sphere, because it is a powerful tool for public education, particularly in teaching people how to use their freedom responsibly, a lesson which is extremely crucial for the well-being of a democracy. As Tocqueville remarks, the jury system "should be regarded as a free school which is always open and in which each juror learns his rights, comes into daily contact with the best-educated and most-enlightened members of the upper classes, and is given practical lessons in the law, lessons which the advocate's efforts, the judge's advice, and also the very passions of the litigants bring within his mental grasp. I think that the main reason for the practical intelligence and the political good sense of the Americans is their long experience with juries in civil cases." Juries thus provide a way both to allow the people to exercise their freedom and to teach them how to use it well.

Chapter 9: Causes Tending to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States

Accidental or Providential Causes Helping to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States

America has no powerful nations and consequently no great wars. There is no great capital in the country that has an influence over the whole land, and this situation helps to maintain the local liberties which are so important for freedom. The land itself has helped America to remain strong because it gave the people the ability to remain equal and free, and provided the means for general prosperity which aids government stability.

The western migration is an extraordinary phenomenon, in which people band together in search of fortune. The restless spirit which drives people to move west is very good for the country, because it prevents the population from being concentrated in only a few places. Material concerns are what really move the American people, driving them to action and exerting a strong influence over their opinions.

Influence of the Laws upon the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic in the United States

It is not necessary to repeat all the details about American laws found in other chapters, but there are three main factors in these laws that help to maintain a democratic republic in the United States: the federal form of government, the communal institutions which moderate the despotism of the majority, and the organization of judicial power.

Influence of Mores upon the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic in the United States

Tocqueville uses the word mores to mean "the whole moral and intellectual states of a people." Mores are one of the great causes helping to maintain American democracy.

Religion Considered as a Political Institution and How it Powerfully Contributes to the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic Among the Americans

Religion and politics go hand in hand in America, because the Christianity of the settlers was highly democratic and republican in character. There have also been many Catholic immigrants that came to America. Catholicism is actually very favorable to equality of condition, because the same standards and ideas apply to everyone. While the Catholics are very obedient on articles of faith, political ideas are believed to be open to debate, and consequently they are very independent citizens. Therefore all religious ideas in the United States are quite to conducive to democratic and republican institutions.

Indirect Influence of Religious Beliefs upon Political Society in the United States

It is very important for society that its members should profess some religion, because it provides a common morality. America is one of the most religious countries, and religious beliefs have a powerful influence in directing mores. Women tend to be more influenced by religion than men, and women also have a very important role in shaping mores through their domestic work. In morality, everything in America is certain and absolute, but in politics everything is up for debate. Religion is thus the primary political institution in that it teaches people how to use their freedom wisely. Even those who are not very religious realize religion's importance for the maintenance of republican institutions.

The Main Causes That Make Religion Powerful in America

Eighteenth-century philosophers were incorrect when they said that enlightenment would replace religion, because in America one finds that the most free and enlightened people are also the most religious. The main reason for religion's strength in America is the separation of church and state. In America the clergy never hold public office and are not politically active. While the power of religion seems diminished without an alliance with political power, it is actually stronger. Religion is natural for the human person, and widespread irreligiousity only comes about in unnatural circumstances. Political power is by nature ephemeral, and thus if religion wants to have lasting influence it is best for it to remain independent of politics. In addition, in a democratic country it is extremely important that religion remain apolitical because the political sphere is constantly in a state of flux and is always changing according to public opinion.

The two dangers which religion faces are schism and indifference. In the case of schism, beliefs are modified but do not die. But when religion is slowly undermined by doctrines that assert its falseness without offering another belief in its place, people lose their belief without even being completely aware of it. In such a situation, unbelievers still consider religion useful and often do not proclaim their unbelief, while believers are not afraid to manifest their beliefs. Religion is therefore still honored publicly.

In France this analysis does not apply because the close union of religion and politics has created an unnatural state of vehement unbelief.

How the Enlightenment, Habits and Practical Experience of the Americans Contribute to the Success of Democratic Institutions

The American spirit is highly pragmatic. They are few highly learned people, but also extremely few uneducated people. Public education is a great contribution to the maintenance of a democratic republic, especially when education also teaches proper mores. Americans have gained most of their knowledge of government from experience‹from taking a share in legislation. Education in the United States is directed toward political life.

The Laws Contribute More the Maintenance of the Democratic Republic in the United States Than Do the Physical Circumstances of the Country, and Mores Do More Than the Laws

The United States is the only democracy which has been able to maintain itself without violence. This situation is not due only to geography, because in South America the people have not even been to maintain any sort of stable government. American legislation, as a whole, has also contributed to the success of democracy. But the greatest factor allowing the United States to maintain a democracy is mores.

Elsewhere Than in America, Would Laws and Mores Be Enough to Maintain Democratic Institutions?

If one just transplanted the Anglo-Americans, with their particular ideas and mores, to Europe in its present state, they would to modify their laws to live there. But perhaps in Europe one could have a democratic society with more centralized national strength. Americans have many of the same negative democratic passions as Europeans, such as a uniquely democratic envy expressed toward anyone who seemed to place himself above the level of others. But Americans have combated some of democracy's weaknesses, opposing "the idea of rights to feelings of envy" and balancing "the stability of religious morality to the constant changes in the world of politics."

The Importance of the Foregoing in Relation to Europe

The reason so much time has been spent discussing these matters is that they are relevant to the whole world. The barriers holding tyranny back in most of Europe are gone, particularly the loss of religion and the degeneration of mores. European nations will soon either become tyrannies or democracies. The gradual development of good mores and democratic institutions is therefore the only way to remain free. While democracy has its faults and imperfections, it is preferable to despotism.


Living in the wake of the French Revolution and witnessing the turmoil and instability of his nation, Alexis de Tocqueville was confronted first-hand with the problem of how religion and the state should relate. In comparing and contrasting the general political and social situations in America and France, Tocqueville found two highly disparate configurations of the church-state relationship and was able to observe the ramifications of those configurations in society as a whole. Tocqueville's observations led him to argue in both Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the French Revolution that religion is one of the main factors necessary for the maintenance of democratic society. When church and state are separate, democracy and religion complement each almost perfectly, although tensions do exist between the two. In Democracy in America, Tocqueville argues that religion corrects many of the prominent flaws of democracy‹individualism, materialism, lack of stability, and the tendency to misuse or undervalue liberty‹while the separation of church and state helps religion to maintain and even increase its influence in society.

In contrasting America and France, the one all-important factor that Tocqueville sees as creating a salutary religious situation in America as opposed to France is the separation of church and state. Tocqueville believes that the discarding of religion was one of the main reasons for the French Revolution's failure and for the huge social and political turmoil which ensued. The revolutionaries did not realize that Christian beliefs were actually in line with their principles and could have aided their cause. Tocqueville remarks: "By a strange concatenation of events, religion for the moment has become entangled with those institutions which democracy overthrows, and so is it is often brought to rebuff the equality which it loves and to abuse freedom as its adversary, whereas by taking it by the hand it could sanctify its striving" (Introduction)

During Tocqueville's travels in America, he found that "the main reason for the quiet sway of religion over their country was the complete separation of church and state." Upon investigating the situation, Tocqueville was surprised to find that priests "held no public appointments," that "most of [the clergy] seemed voluntarily to steer clear of power," and that "they were careful to keep clear of all parties." To an eighteenth-century Frenchman, accustomed to the political interference of the Church, the attitudes of the clergy in America must have indeed seemed strange. Yet what was even more striking to Tocqueville was that "by diminishing the apparent power of religion one increased its real strength." What he came to understand was that religion is not an accidental phenomenon which must be forced upon a people by the power of the government. On the contrary, "Religion . . . is only one particular form of hope, and it is as natural to the human heart as hope itself. It is by a sort of intellectual aberration, and in a way by doing violence to their own nature, that men detach themselves from religious beliefs; an invincible alienation draws them back. Incredulity is an accident; faith is the only permanent state of mankind." As a result of this natural religious inclination in man, separating the church from the state does not in any way reduce religion's force but actually tends to increase its strength in society.

Political power is by nature transient and ephemeral; even the most permanent and stable governments are not immune to changes in laws or even complete revolutions. "The powers of society are all more or less transitory," posits Tocqueville, "and there has never been a government supported by some invariable disposition of the human heart or one founded upon some interest that is immortal." Religion, on the other hand, is a timeless and eternal force in the heart of man. If it connects itself to earthly powers, religion will suffer the misfortune of being dragged down by the vicissitudes of politics: "Alone, [a religion] may hope for immortality; linked to ephemeral powers, it follows their fortunes and often falls together with the passions of a day sustaining them." This idea is especially true in democratic nations, where the sway of opinion can so easily change the social and legal arrangements. Therefore it is particularly important that America has kept religion completely separate from the political sphere. As Tocqueville asserts, "If the Americans, who change the head of state every four years, elect new legislators every two years and replace provincial administrators every year, and if the Americans, who had handed over the world of politics to the experiments of innovators, had not placed religion beyond their reach, what could it hold on to in the ebb and flow of human opinions?" While religion in America may not have the same powerful, external force that it does in nations where the church is connected to the state, "its influence is more lasting" because it has not tied itself to the transitory earthly regime.

Tocqueville's experiences clearly demonstrate that religion will fare much better in a society where church and state are separate, but now the question is whether society itself fares better as a result of religion's influence. The answer from Tocqueville is a resounding yes, especially for democratic republics. In fact, religion is one of the most powerful forces working for the maintenance of democratic society. As a result of their excessive love for equality and their misunderstanding of and lack of appreciation for liberty, democracies are in danger of degenerating into individualistic, unstable, materialistic, and even despotic societies. Religion is among the most effective and important counters to these maleficent tendencies of democratic nations.

These tendencies are discussed much more in Volume Two, but in this chapter Tocqueville focuses on how religion fulfills the essential role of teaching people to use their liberty well. One of the most important ways in which religion performs this task is through its influence on women. While with the many temptations prompted by ambition and greed "religion is often powerless to restrain men," "it reigns supreme in the souls of women, and it is women who shape mores." Women's vehicle for shaping mores is their influence in domestic life. Tocqueville observes that "of all countries in the world America is the one in which the marriage tie is most respected." The societal significance of strong and happy marriages is not to be underestimated. As Tocqueville points out, "In Europe all the disorders of society are born around the domestic hearth and not far from the nuptial bed." The problem is that when domestic life is unsettled, disorderly and unstable, these tendencies carry over into political life as well. On the other hand, "when the American returns from the turmoil of politics to the bosom of the family, he immediately finds a perfect picture of order and peace. . . . And as the regularity of life brings him happiness, he easily forms the habit of regulating his opinions as well as his tastes." Even beyond helping to temper his passions, domestic life provides the American with "that love of order which he carries over into the affairs of the state."

The laws in democratic societies are relatively lenient, and there are few restrictions on the types of new legislation that can be enacted. This leniency can be dangerous, for it can lead to the enactment of laws which may ostensibly be for the benefit of society but which in fact can lead to tyranny. Thanks to the prominence of Christian moral principles, however, "no one in the United States has dared to profess the maxim that everything is allowed in the interests of society, an impious maxim apparently invented in an age of freedom in order to legitimize every future tyrant." Religion therefore acts as a powerful force to prevent Americans from abusing their freedom in order to gain power at the cost of their countrymen's liberty. As Tocqueville asserts, "While the law allows the American people to do everything, there are things which religion prevents them from imagining and forbids them to dare." It is for the reason that Tocqueville makes the rather bold claim that religion "should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions, for although it did not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use thereof." Tocqueville's warning to the French revolutionaries who would like to eradicate religion from their country is particularly relevant in this context. He writes that "despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot. Religion is much more needed in the republic they advocate than in the monarchy they attack, and in democratic republics most of all. How could society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? And what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to God?"

What Tocqueville's analysis‹both in this chapter and in Volume Two‹demonstrates is that religion is one of the key forces that tends to the preservation of democratic societies. Indeed, considering his lengthy and detailed treatment of it and his constant praise for its benefits, it is not too much to claim that in Tocqueville's opinion religion is the important and most necessary element in any democracy. It buoys up and corrects democratic societies at their weakest points, helping society to run more smoothly in both political and private matters, and helping individuals within society to leader happier and more fulfilling lives.

Chapter 10: Some Considerations Concerning the Present State and Probably Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States

In the United States, the European, the Negro and Indian coexist uneasily, with the Europeans dominating the other races tyrannically. The situation of the negroes has led them to a state of submission and demoralization, while the Indians have remained independent but their civilization has split up and has consequently degenerated.

The Present State and the Probably Future of the Indian Tribes Inhabiting the Territory of the Union

The Indian tribes are gradually disappearing from America as a result of pressure from the white man and encroachment on their land by settlers. The situation has led to great misery and hardship for the Indian peoples. The Indian race seems doomed to perish because they do not want to assimilate themselves and are not strong enough to prevent the European's takeover. The Indians are equally intelligent, but simply have a different social state and way of life incompatible with European civilization. Both the states and the Union treat the Indians cruelly and pitilessly.

Situation of the Black Race in the United States; Dangers Entailed for the Whites by Its Presence

The presence of blacks is the greatest danger threatening the United States. Abolishing slavery will be extremely difficult because they will not be able to blend easily with the rest of the population. Even in areas where legal barriers are coming down, prejudices seem immovable. Slavery was abolished in the North only because it was not profitable there. Even if they wanted to, the southerners would have difficulty abolishing slavery because they are afraid of the high proportion of blacks in the South.

The only possibility for the future is that blacks and whites must completely mingle or completely separate. The first possibility seems nearly impossible. Some whites have tried to bring the blacks back to Africa by establishing the country of Liberia, but the project has been unsuccessful. To solve the problem the southerners need either to free the slaves and accept them as equal members of society or to keep them in slavery as long as possible. The situation in the South is terrible but is the natural consequence of slavery. In the end the blacks will either e freed or seize freedom themselves, but the consequences for the whites do not look promising.

What Are the Chances That the American Union Will Last? What Dangers Threaten It?

Will it may seem that the government of the Union is stronger than that of the states because of its powers to handle exclusively national concerns such as foreign relations, the states actually have a larger portion of sovereignty. Local and state governments carry out the activities which have a much more direct effect on citizens and the citizens tend to have more attachment to it. The federal government is thus rather feeble in its powers and requires the free support of the governed to be effective. In battles between states and the federal government, the states so far have always gotten their way.

Currently the Union is useful for the states but not necessary for them. They could easily separate if they wanted to. Yet for economic and security it is much better for the states to remain united. Furthermore, the people in general want to remain united because of similar feelings and opinions, and agree about the general principles of government and morality. Slavery does not create conflicting interests between the North and South, but it does create a strong difference in mores. Perhaps the greatest danger threatening the Union is its prosperity, because certain areas are growing rich more rapidly and others, especially the South may be envious and distrustful of the growing power of the North.

The Americans' biggest fear is against too much centralization of power, but they ought to fear the opposite. The Union has been strengthened by increased communication, mingling of the population, and commercial interdependence, but at the same time now that America has become stable and prosperous the people do not feel the need for a strong union to provide stability and security. An example of the weakness of the Union is the attempt nullification in South Carolina in 1832. Although the Union held together, it conceded to South Carolina the tariff reductions that it had asked for.

Concerning the Republican Institutions of the United States and Their Chances of Survival

The republican nature of America is deeply rooted and will survive even if the Union doesn't. In order to destroy the republican institutions in America it would be necessary to destroy all the laws and substantially change the people's mores at the same time. America will never become a monarchy or an aristocracy because the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people is paramount. Still, the instability of laws and administrative procedures does endanger the future of republican government because it may be seen as ineffective. In general, however, the present trend is toward ever-increasing democracy.

Some Considerations Concerning the Causes of the Commercial Greatness of the United States

America has the best and most secure ports of any nation in the world. American sailors, with their innovative and adventurous nature, are taking the upper hand in international trade. One day America will probably be the leading naval power of the globe.


As much of its ideas and observations are now basically obsolete, this chapter does not provide many insights into the book's main themes, which are timeless in their relevance. It is interesting to see, however, that in this pre-Civil War era Tocqueville recognizes the danger of the Union's breaking up as a result of a conflict over state's rights. Though he does not see slavery as a key factor in the conflict, he does predict that resolving the issue will be highly problematic for the southerners.

In this chapter we also find a brief reiteration of the deep-seated, powerful and lasting influence of republican institutions, particularly local liberties, on the America people.


The Union is bound to expand beyond its current boundaries to take over the land currently in Spanish control. Even if the Union were to dissolve or the republic were to degenerate into a tyranny, the American people are destined to expand throughout the whole continent. All sharing in a common English ancestry, there is no foreseeable time when equality of conditions will cease to exist in America. There are two great nations currently in existence: America and Russia. While their government and national character are extremely diverse, "each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world."