Read Democracy in America Volume 1 by Alexis de Tocqueville Free Online
Book Title: Democracy in America Volume 1|
The author of the book: Alexis de Tocqueville
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 11.20 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.2
Date of issue: August 11th 1990
ISBN 13: 9780679728252
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The book's basis was a nine month visit to America by De Tocqueville in 1831, ostensibly to study America's prison system. It was an interesting time to visit America, half-way between the establishment of the constitution and the Civil War. In the course of the visit he met former president John Quincy Adams, then incumbent Andrew Jackson, Senator Daniel Webster and Sam Houston among others. He traveled the length and breath of a country much smaller than what we see on the map now. Before the Mexican-American War and Western expansion and he visited both North and South: New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans.
The book is labelled as both American History and Political Science. De Tocqueville said the first volume was more about America, the second about democracy. The introduction by Mansfield and Winthrop, the translators and editors of the edition I read, called it both the best book on America and the best on democracy. That despite it being written by a French aristocrat--at least by birth although the introduction describes him as a democrat and liberal by conviction.
De Tocqueville says in his own introduction he did not mean to write a "panegyric" to America. He's critical, at times presciently so, of America and democracy both, and doesn't pull his punches about how slavery and racism might pull apart the country. He doesn't hesitate to call slavery "evil" and his depiction of the plight of Native Americans is both insightful and heartbreaking. Surprisingly so, not what I expected from a Westerner writing in the 19th Century. Yet despite some sharp criticisms--and it being written by an outsider, a foreigner, the book has been embraced and quoted by Americans both from the Left and Right. It's said to be commonly assigned in political science courses and I wish some excerpts had been assigned in mine, instead of the execrable People's History by Zinn. De Tocqueville in the end strikes me as much more credible, still relevant and much more thought-provoking about democracy and its faultlines--especially the "tyranny of the majority."
That's not to say this first volume is easy--and this is the more "popular" half of the two volume work. At times I considered giving up on it, slapping a two star rating as too tedious to read. Parts are a slog. I suggest anyone tackling this buy a paperback copy they don't feel hesitant to mark up and highlight and that they take it in short doses. This isn't one of those light, entertaining books. This isn't dessert or junk food. It's a meaty dish; one you chew on and parts can be hard to digest. But the man is brilliant. And it's surprising to me how 200 years later so much resonates in this book and is relevant to contemporary America and its politics. Well worth the effort to anyone interested in democracy or America.
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Read information about the authorAlexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (July 29, 1805 – April 16, 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies.
Democracy in America (1835), his major work, published after his travels in the United States, is today considered an early work of sociology and political science. An eminent representative of the classical liberal political tradition, Tocqueville was an active participant in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded to the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's December 2, 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I. After obtaining a law degree, Alexis de Tocqueville was named auditor-magistrate at the court of Versailles. There, he met Gustave de Beaumont, a prosecutor substitute, who collaborated with him on various literary works. Both were sent to the United States to study the penitentiary system. During this trip, they wrote Du système pénitentiaire aux Etats-Unis et de son application (1832). Back in France, Tocqueville became a lawyer. He met the English economist Nassau William Senior in 1833, and they became good friends and corresponded for many years. He published his master-work, De la démocratie en Amérique, in 1835. The success of this work, an early model for the science that would become known as sociology, led him to be named chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) in 1837, and to be elected the next year to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques. In 1841 he was elected to the Académie française.
Tocqueville, who despised the July Monarchy (1830–1848), began his political career in the same period. Thus, he became deputy of the Manche department (Valognes), a position which he maintained until 1851. In parliament, he defended abolitionist views and upheld free trade, while supporting the colonization of Algeria carried on by Louis-Philippe's regime. Tocqueville was also elected general counsellor of the Manche in 1842, and became the president of the department's conseil général between 1849 and 1851.
Apart from Canada, Tocqueville also made an observational tour of England, producing Memoir on Pauperism. In 1841 and 1846, he traveled to Algeria. His first travel inspired his Travail sur l'Algérie, in which he criticized the French model of colonization, based on an assimilationist view, preferring instead the British model of indirect rule, which did not mix different populations together. He went as far as openly advocating racial segregation between the European colonists and the "Arabs" through the implementation of two different legislative systems (a half century before its effective implementation with the 1881 Indigenous code).
After the fall of the July Monarchy during the February 1848 Revolution, Tocqueville was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of 1848, where he became a member of the Commission charged with the drafting of the new Constitution of the Second Republic (1848–1851). He defended bicameralism (two parliamentary chambers) and the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage. As the countryside was thought to be more conservative than the laboring population of Paris, universal suffrage was conceived as a means to block the revolutionary spirit of Paris.
During the Second Republic, Tocqueville sided with the parti de l'Ordre against the "socialists" and workers. A few days after the February insurrection, he believed a violent clash between the workers' population agitating in favor of a "Democratic and Social Republic" and
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