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Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013 @ 1:09 AM EDT
Apr 16 2013

Alexis-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 analyzed the rising living standards and social conditions of individuals and their relationship to the market and 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.
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A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.

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 a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement.

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

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?

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

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

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

I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.

I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.

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

I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men's hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property.

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 democratic society each citizen is habitually busy with the contemplation of a very petty object, which is himself.

In order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.

In politics, a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendship.

In reality it is far less prejudicial to witness the immorality of the great than to witness that immorality which leads to greatness.

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.

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.

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

Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.

Nothing is quite so wretchedly corrupt as an aristocracy which has lost its power but kept its wealth and which still has endless leisure to devote to nothing but banal enjoyments. All its great thoughts and passionate energy are things of the past, and nothing but a host of petty, gnawing vices now cling to it like worms to a corpse." - See more at: http://quotationsbook.com/quotes/author/7251/#sthash.tSMtewpv.hl79U7kf. .dpufNothing is quite so wretchedly corrupt as an aristocracy which has lost its power but kept its wealth and which still has endless leisure to devote to nothing but banal enjoyments. All its great thoughts and passionate energy are things of the past, and nothing but a host of petty, gnawing vices now cling to it like worms to a corpse.

Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question."

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

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

The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune.

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

The last thing a political party gives up is its vocabulary.

The main business of religions is to purify, control, and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.

The more alike men are, the weaker each feels in the face of all.

The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.

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

The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle.

"The will of the nation" is one of those expressions which have been most profusely abused by the wily and the despotic of every age.

There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.

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

Under wage labor, the art advances, the artisan declines.

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.

What is called family pride is often founded on the illusion of self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself.

What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands.

When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right of the majority to command, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind.

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

Not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is for ever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.


Categories: Alexis de Tocqueville, Quotes of the day


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