Download Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide by Joseph Epstein PDF

By Joseph Epstein

Alexis de Tocqueville used to be one of the first foreigners to acknowledge and trumpet the grandness of the yankee undertaking. His two-volume vintage, Democracy in the United States , released in 1835, not just provided a vibrant account of what used to be then a brand new kingdom yet famously expected what that state may develop into. His startling prescience, in addition to the persistence of his political rules, has firmly proven Tocqueville's position in American background; his chronicle of our infancy is a fixture on each American background syllabus. the vast majority of his clairvoyant predictions approximately American political lifestyles, from the impact of Evangelical Christianity to the arrival of our ''consumer society,'' have come true—and at the time table he set.

but in his personal time, Tocqueville had little facts for the reality of his principles. Introspective, sickly, liable to self-doubt, he used to be an not going visionary. Joseph Epstein, America's such a lot flexible essayist, proves an excellent consultant to his predecessor. In wry, dependent prose, he engages Tocqueville's highbrow contributions, illuminates the improvement of his concept, and gives a referendum on his a number of prophecies. (His checklist used to be faraway from perfect—he suggestion the government could wither away because the states rose in power.) Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's advisor is an altogether human portrait of the Frenchman who could turn into an American icon.

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The entire length of Tocqueville and Beaumont’s visit would be 271 days, with another fifteen days spent traveling in Canada, and a fair portion of their time was wasted slogging through forests, on snow-laden roads, or bogged down in icy rivers on malfunctioning steamships. In this limited time, their observations and insights, a combination of both men’s thoughts eventually finely ground through the mind of Tocqueville, would result in a classic of political science and political philosophy: “the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America,” according to Harvey C.

The crisis, however hellish undergoing it at the time must have been for an adolescent boy, was of course ultimately a salutary one, for it turned the young Alexis into a man devoted to the lifelong study of how society works. He would no longer take any social structure or political action for granted: some arrangements might be God-given; God may have set out the larger directions of human destiny; but much remained in the hands of human beings to shape for better or worse. His life would be devoted to attempting to see that it would be shaped for better rather than worse.

Escaping the wreckage, they embarked on yet another ship for the burgeoning city of Cincinnati. Here Tocqueville had interesting talks with Salmon P. Chase, later secretary of the treasury under Lincoln and chief justice of the United States; an intelligent lawyer named John McClean (about the American electoral and jury systems); and Timothy Walker, a recent graduate of Harvard College who would go on to a brilliant career in the law. Tocqueville was alerted by these men of the danger that resided in majority rule—of what he would later famously refer to as the tyranny of the majority, or the despotism of democracy.

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