41 Famous Alexis De Tocqueville Quotes

41 Famous Alexis De Tocqueville Quotes

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Alexis De Tocqueville was a historian from Cannes, France. He is most famous for his work of political literature, Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. His main focus was on the importance of the French Revolution. He died on April 16, 1859 at the age of 53.

“A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.”

“All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

“Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations… In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other
forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.”

“An American cannot converse, but he can discuss, and his talk falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting; and if he should chance to become warm in the
discussion, he will say “Gentlemen” to the person with whom he is conversing.”

“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much
money will it bring in?”

“As the past has ceased to throw its light upon the future, the mind of man wanders in obscurity.”

“Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it. Thus, our opinion
of liberty does not reveal our differences but the relative value which we place on our fellow man. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man’s support for absolute government is
in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.”

“General ideas are no proof of the strength, but rather of the insufficiency of the human intellect.”

“He who seeks freedom for anything but freedom’s self is made to be a slave.”

“I am far from denying that newspapers in democratic countries lead citizens to do very ill-considered things in common; but without newspapers there would be hardly any common action at
all. So they mend many more ills than they cause.”

“I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold on the affections of men, and where the profounder contempt is expressed for the theory of the permanent
equality of property.”

“I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it.”

“In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

“In America, more than anywhere else in the world, care has been taken constantly to trace clearly distinct spheres of action for the two sexes, and both are required to keep in step, but
along paths that are never the same.”

in politics, where a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendships.”

“In the United States, except for slaves, servants and the destitute fed by townships, everyone has the vote and this is an indirect contributor to law-making. Anyone wishing to attack the
law is thus reduced to adopting one of two obvious courses: they must either change the nation’s opinion or trample its wishes under foot.”

“Laws are always unstable unless they are founded on the manners of a nation; and manners are the only durable and resisting power in a people.”

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.”

“Nothing seems at first sight less important than the outward form of human actions, yet there is nothing upon which men set more store: they grow used to everything except to living in a
society which has not their own manners.”

“So many of my thoughts and feelings are shared by the English that England has turned into a second native land of the mind for me.”

“The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.”

“The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage. That is a commonplace truth, but one to which my studies are always bringing
me back. It is the central point in my conception. I see it at the end of all my reflections.”

“The debates of that great assembly are frequently vague and perplexed, seeming to be dragged rather than to march, to the intended goal. Something of this sort must, I think, always happen
in public democratic assemblies.”

“The French want no-one to be their superior. The English want inferiors. The Frenchman constantly raises his eyes above him with anxiety. The Englishman lowers his beneath him with

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“The Indian knew how to live without wants, to suffer without complaint, and to die singing.”

“The last thing abandoned by a party is its phraseology.”

“The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.”

“There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult – to begin a war and to end it.”

“They all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America I did not
meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point.”

“They certainly are not great writers, but they speak their country’s language and they make themselves heard.”

“Useful undertakings which require sustained attention and vigorous precision in order to succeed often end up by being abandoned, for, in America, as elsewhere, the people move forward by
sudden impulses and short-lived efforts.”

“Variant: What is not yet done is only what we have not yet attempted to do.”

“We are sleeping on a volcano… A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.”

“What chiefly diverts the men of democracies from lofty ambition is not the scantiness of their fortunes, but the vehemence of the exertions they daily make to improve them.”

“What most astonishes me in the United States, is not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertakings, as the innumerable multitude of small ones.”

“When an opinion has taken root in a democracy and established itself in the minds of the majority, it afterward persists by itself, needing no effort to maintain it since no one attacks it.
“Those who at first rejected it as false come in the end to adopt it as accepted, and even those who still at the bottom of their hearts oppose it keep their views to themselves, taking
great care to avoid a dangerous and futile contest.”

“With much care and skill power has been broken into fragments in the American township, so that the maximum possible number of people have some concern with public affairs.”