Tocqueville and the Two Democracies by Jean-Claude Lamberti

Jean Claude Lamberti.  Tocqueville and the Two Democracies, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989)


The American National Character and Democratic State:

Near the end of volume one of Democracy in America, Tocqueville points out the need to “distinguish carefully between the institutions of the United States and democratic institutions in general” so that proper conclusions may be drawn from the American experience. He was no doubt aware, however, of the difficulty of following his own advice, because five years later, in the preface to volume two, he recognized that many factors other than democracy had exerted “an immense influence” on the way Americans thought and acted. Nevertheless, he deliberately limits his goal to describing the influence of equality on the ideas and inclinations of citizens in democratic societies. The brevity of this pronouncement may strike the reader as an imposition. But with the help of manuscripts in the Yale archives, we can reconstruct what the preface to volume two was originally supposed to look like and understand how between 1836 and 1838 Tocqueville gradually abandoned the idea of justifying his intentions in a lengthy introduction. In one draft, for instance, he proposes to identify “what is American or English without being democratic.” It is very difficult, he adds, “to separate out what is democratic, commercial, English, and Puritan. To be set forth in preface.”