Friday, April 13, 2007

Quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville

Here are some quotations from the writings of French historian and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), author of Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He had some very shrewd insights.

~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 are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

~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?

~Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.

~Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

~Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.

~He was as great as a man can be without morality.

~History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.

~I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.

~In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.

~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 no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States, and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination toward doctrines which in any way threaten the way property is owned.

~In politics shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.

~In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

~Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.

~Life is to entered upon with courage.

~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.

~The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

~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 satisfaction.

~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 power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.

~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. Share

No comments: