Advertisement

Alexis de Tocqueville

  • Michael Levin

Abstract

In 1857, just two years before his death, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote to his nephew Hubert of his investigation of family documents in the ‘charter room’ and how he had ‘encountered the line of our fathers through nearly four hundred years, always finding them again in Tocqueville, and their history mingled with that of the whole population that surrounds me’.1 This letter is more than just the response of an older man forced out of the political arena and ruminating on his place in the wider order of things, for the weight, and indeed the presence, of history, both personal and national, were central to Tocqueville’s sense of self-identity and purpose. The name of his Norman baronial ancestor, Clérel de Tocqueville, can be found in a document from the Court of William the Conqueror. Half a dozen of his immediate relatives were guillotined in the French Revolutionary Terror. His father was in prison and rescued from a similar fate by the fall of Robespierre. Tocqueville’s whole identity was conditioned by being a member of a family that had a long history and a profound sense of belonging to an aristocratic class with appropriate obligations and outlook. His contemporary, Karl Marx, once remarked that the lord does not so much inherit the land as that the land inherits him.2 Thus Tocqueville had a circumscribed place in society bequeathed to him by historical circumstances. Though born a Comte, Tocqueville rejected the title, as he also rejected the legitimist politics of the rural notables with whom he intermingled, sitting to the left of centre in the French parliamentary assembly. Yet to the end he still bore the traits, manners, tastes and obligations of the aristocracy into which he had been born.

Keywords

Democratic Society French Revolution Broad Outline Universal Suffrage Ancien Regime 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters on Politics and Society, ed. R. Boesche (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1985), p. 350.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Marx Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 3 (London. 1975) p. 266.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    E. Wright, ‘Liberty, Equality and Clemency’ in The Times Higher Education Supplement, 23 December 1988, p. 16.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, p. 121.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    M. Hereth, Alexis de Tocqueville. Threats to Freedom in Democracy (Durham, 1988), p. 19.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, p. 253.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner (New York, 1960), p. 36.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 36 and 26.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., pp. 27 and 28.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid., p. 29.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., pp. 28–9 and 30.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    A. de Tocqueville, Journeys to England and Ireland (New Brunswick and Oxford, 1988), p. 28.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 29. Also see A. de Tocqueville, Journeys to England and Ireland, pp. 66–70.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 29. In the conclusion to Part I Tocqueville noted that whereas ‘other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits’ the Russians and the Americans ‘are still in the act of growth... their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe’. Ibid., p. 142.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution (New York, 1955), p. 135.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    A. de Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau (Westport, Conn., 1974), p. 79. See also pp. 83, 169.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., p. 191.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    D. Goldstein, Trials of Faith. Religion and Politics in Tocqueville’s Thought (New York, Oxford, Amsterdam, 1975), p. 125.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    A. de Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau, p. 268.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    R. Nisbet, ‘Tocqueville’s Ideal Types’, in A.S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Reconsidering Tocqueville’sDemocracy in America’ (New Brunswick and London, 1988), p. 182. See also ibid., p. 196. For a contrasting view, see R. Aron, Main Currents in Sociological Thought, Vol. 1 (Harmondsworth, 1979), p. 232.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    A.S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Reconsidering Tocqueville’sDemocracy in America’, p. 6.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    M. Hereth, Alexis de Tocqueville, p. 54.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ibid., p. 54.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner (Evanston and London, 1966), p. 383. Also see A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, pp. 56, 93, 99, 101, 102.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 30.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    M. Zetterbaum, Tocqueville and the Problem of Democracy (Stanford, 1967), p. 20.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    A.S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Reconsidering Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’, p. 182.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 317.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Marx Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 11 (London, 1979), p. 103.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    K. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (Harmondsworth, 1976), p. 920.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 317.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. lxxxviii.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    A. de Tocqueville. Democracy in America, eds R.D. Heffner, p. 36.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    A. de Tocqueville, On Democracy, Revolution and Society, eds J. Stone and S. Mennell (Chicago and London, 1980), p. 131.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    R. Nisbet in A.S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Reconsidering Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’, p. 188.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 32.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 181.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 107.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid., p. 109. Also see A. de Tocqueville, On Democracy, Revolution and Society, pp. 121–7.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 251.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ibid., p. 329.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 57.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 406.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    A. de Tocqueville, Recollections (New York, 1975), p. 42.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ibid., p. 5.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 251.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    A. de Tocqueville, Recollections, p. 320.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, pp. 712, 713.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, pp. 115–6.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    G.A. Kelly, ‘Parnassian Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century France. Tocqueville, Renan, Flaubert’, History of Political Thought, 8 (1987), 482.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, p. xiv.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    D. Goldstein, Trials of Faith, p. 128.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 30.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Ibid., p. 192.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 269.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, p. 96.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    A. de Tocqueville, On Democracy, Revolution and Society, p. 366.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    See A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 67.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    See A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds J.P. Mayer and M. Lerner, p. 703.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, p. 121.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 114.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Quoted in J. Lively, The Social and Political Thought of Alexis de Tocqueville (Oxford, 1965), p. 108. Also see pp. 114–15, 121, 122.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    A. de Tocqueville, Recollections, p. 15 and also see Selected Letters, pp. 202, 206–8, 213.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    A. de Tocqueville, Recollections, p. 94.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ibid., pp. 147–8. Also see S. Drescher, Dilemmas of Democracy. Tocqueville and Modernization (Pittsburgh, 1968), pp. 210, 223, 227, 237.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London, 1964), p. 8.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, p. xxii.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    H. Brogan, Tocqueville (Bungay, Suffolk, 1973), p. 78.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, pp. xv, 115. Also see p. 168.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    A. de Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau, p. 159.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    A. de Tocqueville, Selected Letters, p. 210.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, p. 153.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Ibid., pp. 135, 98.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    A. de Tocqueville, Journeys to England and Ireland, p. 59.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime, pp. 141, 145–6.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    S. Drescher, Dilemmas of Democracy, p. 68.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. R.D. Heffner, p. 306.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Ibid., p. 57.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    A. de Tocqueville, On Democracy, Revolution and Society, p. 123.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    A. Cobban, A History of Modern France, Vol. 1 (Harmondsworth, 1963), p. 125; R. Aron, Main Currents in Sociological Thought, Vol. 1, p. 240; R. Boesche, The Strange Liberalism of Alexis de Tocqueville (Ithaca, New York and London, 1987), p. 265.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    C. Strout, ‘Tocqueville and Republican Religion: Revisiting “the Visitor”’, Political Theory, 9 (1980), p. 15.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    R. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (London, 1972), p. 130.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    See A.S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Reconsidering Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’, p. 176.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Levin
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths’ CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

Personalised recommendations