American Institutions and Their Influence
Alexis de Tocqueville et al

Part 8 out of 11

its interests. Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are
comprised within the great unity of christianity, and Christian morality
is everywhere the same.

It may be believed without unfairness, that a certain number of
Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship, from habit more than from
conviction. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious,
and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in
the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater
influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no
greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature,
than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most
enlightened and free nation of the earth.

I have remarked that the members of the American clergy in general,
without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are all
in favor of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular
political system. They keep aloof from parties, and from public affairs.
In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the
laws, and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the manners
of the community, and by regulating domestic life, it regulates the

I do not question that the great austerity of manners which is
observable in the United States, arises, in the first instance, from
religious faith. Religion is often unable to restrain man from the
numberless temptations of fortune; nor can it check that passion for
gain which every incident of his life contributes to arouse; but its
influence over the mind of women is supreme, and women are the
protectors of morals. There is certainly no country in the world where
the tie of marriage is so much respected as in America, or where
conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated. In Europe
almost all the disturbances of society arise from the irregularities of
domestic life. To despise the natural bonds and legitimate pleasures of
home, is to contract a taste for excesses, a restlessness of heart, and
the evil of fluctuating desires. Agitated by the tumultuous passions
which frequently disturb his dwelling, the European is galled by the
obedience which the legislative powers of the state exact. But when the
American retires from the turmoil of public life to the bosom of his
family, he finds in it the image of order and of peace. There his
pleasures are simple and natural, his joys are innocent and calm; and as
he finds that an orderly life is the surest path to happiness, he
accustoms himself without difficulty to moderate his opinions as well as
his tastes. While the European endeavors to forget his domestic troubles
by agitating society, the American derives from his own home that love
of order, which he afterward carries with him into public affairs.

In the United States the influence of religion is not confined to the
manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people. Among the
Anglo-Americans, there are some who profess the doctrines of
Christianity from a sincere belief in them, and others who do the same
because they are afraid to be suspected of unbelief. Christianity,
therefore, reigns without any obstacle, by universal consent; the
consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the
moral world is fixed and determinate, although the political world is
abandoned to the debates and the experiments of men. Thus the human mind
is never left to wander across a boundless field; and, whatever may be
its pretensions, it is checked from time to time by barriers which it
cannot surmount. Before it can perpetrate innovation, certain primal and
immutable principles are laid down, and the boldest conceptions of human
device are subjected to certain forms which retard and stop their

The imagination of the Americans, even in its greatest flights, is
circumspect and undecided; its impulses are checked, and its works
unfinished. These habits of restraint recur in political society, and
are singularly favorable both to the tranquillity of the people and the
durability of the institutions it has established. Nature and
circumstances concurred to make the inhabitants of the United States
bold men, as is sufficiently attested by the enterprising spirit with
which they seek for fortune. If the minds of the Americans were free
from all trammels, they would very shortly become the most daring
innovators and the most implacable disputants in the world. But the
revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect
for Christian morality and equity, which does not easily permit them to
violate the laws that oppose their designs; nor would they find it easy
to surmount the scruples of their partisans, even if they were able to
get over their own. Hitherto no one, in the United States, has dared to
advance the maxim, that everything is permissible with a view to the
interests of society; an impious adage, which seems to have been
invented in an age of freedom, to shelter all the tyrants of future
ages. Thus while the law permits the Americans to do what they please,
religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what
is rash and unjust.

Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society,
but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political
institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for
freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions. Indeed, it is in
this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States
themselves look upon religious belief. I do not know whether all the
Americans have a sincere faith in their religion; for who can search the
human heart? but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to
the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar
to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole
nation, and to every rank of society.

In the United States, if a political character attacks a sect, this may
not prevent even the partisans of that very sect, from supporting him;
but if he attacks all the sects together, every one abandons him, and he
remains alone.

While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the
assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he
did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the
soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the
witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the court in what
he was about to say.[201] The newspapers related the fact without any
farther comment.

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so
intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive
the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring
from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul
rather than to live.

I have known of societies formed by the Americans to send out ministers
of the gospel into the new western states, to found schools and churches
there, lest religion should be suffered to die away in those remote
settlements, and the rising states be less fitted to enjoy free
institutions than the people from which they emanated. I met with
wealthy New Englanders who abandoned the country in which they were
born, in order to lay the foundations of Christianity and of freedom on
the banks of the Missouri or in the prairies of Illinois. Thus religious
zeal is perpetually stimulated in the United States by the duties of
patriotism. These men do not act from an exclusive consideration of the
promises of a future life; eternity is only one motive of their devotion
to the cause; and if you converse with these missionaries of Christian
civilisation, you will be surprised to find how much value they set upon
the goods of this world, and that you meet with a politician where you
expected to find a priest. They will tell you that "all the American
republics are collectively involved with each other; if the republics of
the west were to fall into anarchy, or to be mastered by a despot, the
republican institutions which now flourish upon the shores of the
Atlantic ocean would be in great peril. It is therefore our interest
that the new states should be religious, in order to maintain our

Such are the opinions of the Americans; and if any hold that the
religious spirit which I admire is the very thing most amiss in America,
and that the only element wanting to the freedom and happiness of the
human race is to believe in some blind cosmogony, or to assert with
Cabanis the secretion of thought by the brain, I can only reply, that
those who hold this language have never been in America, and that they
have never seen a religious or a free nation. When they return from
their expedition, we shall hear what they have to say.

There are persons in France who look upon republican institutions as a
temporary means of power, of wealth and distinction; men who are the
_condottieri_ of liberty, and who fight for their own advantage,
whatever be the colors they wear: it is not to these that I address
myself. But there are others who look forward to the republican form of
government as a tranquil and lasting state, toward which modern society
is daily impelled by the ideas and manners of the time, and who
sincerely desire to prepare men to be free. When these men attack
religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions to the
prejudice of their interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but
liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic which
they set forth in glowing colors, than in the monarchy which they
attack; and it is more needed in democratic republics than in any
others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the
moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is
relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if
it be not submissive to the Divinity?

* * * * *


Care taken by the Americans to separate the Church from the State.--The
Laws, public Opinion, and even the Exertions of the Clergy concur to
promote this end.--Influence of Religion upon the Mind, in the United
States, attributable to this Cause.--Reason of this.--What is the
natural State of Men with regard to Religion at the present time.--What
are the peculiar and incidental Causes which prevent Men, in certain
Countries, from arriving at this State.

The philosophers of the eighteenth century explained the gradual decay
of religious faith in a very simple manner. Religious zeal, said they,
must necessarily fail, the more generally liberty is established and
knowledge diffused. Unfortunately, facts are by no means in accordance
with their theory. There are certain populations in Europe whose
unbelief is only equalled by their ignorance and their debasement, while
in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world
fulfils all the outward duties of religion with fervor.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the
country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I
stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences
resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In
France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of
freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in
America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned
in common over the same country. My desire to discover the causes of
this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it, I
questioned the members of all the different sects; and I more especially
sought the society of the clergy, who are the depositaries of the
different persuasions, and who are more especially interested in their
duration. As a member of the Roman catholic church I was more
particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, with whom
I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my
astonishment and I explained my doubts: I found that they differed upon
matters of detail alone; and that they mainly attributed the peaceable
dominion of religion in their country, to the separation of church and
state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did
not meet with a single individual, of the clergy or of the laity, who
was not of the same opinion upon this point.

This led me to examine more attentively than I had hitherto done, the
station which the American clergy occupy in political society. I learned
with surprise that they fill no public appointments;[202] not one of
them is to be met with in the administration, and they are not even
represented in the legislative assemblies. In several states[203] the
law excludes them from political life; public opinion in all. And when I
came to inquire into the prevailing spirit of the clergy, I found that
most of its members seemed to retire of their own accord from the
exercise of power, and that they made it the pride of their profession
to abstain from politics.

I heard them inveigh against ambition and deceit, under whatever
political opinions these vices might chance to lurk; but I learned from
their discourses that men are not guilty in the eye of God for any
opinions concerning political government, which they may profess with
sincerity, any more than they are for their mistakes in building a house
or in driving a furrow. I perceived that these ministers of the gospel
eschewed all parties, with the anxiety attendant upon personal interest.
These facts convinced me that what I had been told was true; and it then
became my object to investigate their causes, and to inquire how it
happened that the real authority of religion was increased by a state of
things which diminished its apparent force: these causes did not long
escape my researches.

The short space of threescore years can never content the imagination of
man; nor can the imperfect joys of this world satisfy his heart. Man
alone, of all created beings, displays a natural contempt of existence,
and yet a boundless desire to exist; he scorns life, but he dreads
annihilation. These different feelings incessantly urge his soul to the
contemplation of a future state, and religion directs his musings
thither. Religion, then, is simply another form of hope; and it is no
less natural to the human heart than hope itself. Men cannot abandon
their religious faith without a kind of aberration of intellect, and a
sort of violent distortion of their true natures; but they are
invincibly brought back to more pious sentiments; for unbelief is an
accident, and faith is the only permanent state of mankind. If we only
consider religious institutions in a purely human point of view, they
may be said to derive an inexhaustible element of strength from man
himself, since they belong to one of the constituent principles of human

I am aware that at certain times religion may strengthen this influence,
which originates in itself, by the artificial power of the laws, and by
the support of those temporal institutions which direct society.
Religions, intimately united to the governments of the earth, have been
known to exercise a sovereign authority derived from the twofold source
of terror and of faith; but when a religion contracts an alliance of
this nature, I do not hesitate to affirm that it commits the same error,
as a man who should sacrifice his future to his present welfare; and in
obtaining a power to which it has no claim, it risks that authority
which is rightfully its own. When a religion founds its empire upon the
desire of immortality which lives in every human heart, it may aspire to
universal dominion: but when it connects itself with a government, it
must necessarily adopt maxims which are only applicable to certain
nations. Thus, in forming an alliance with a political power, religion
augments its authority over a few, and forfeits the hope of reigning
over all.

As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are the
consolation of all affliction, it may attract the affections of mankind.
But if it be mixed up with the bitter passions of the world, it may be
constrained to defend allies whom its interests, and not the principle
of love, have given to it; or to repel as antagonists men who are still
attached to its own spirit, however opposed they may be to the powers to
which it is allied. The church cannot share the temporal power of the
state, without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the
latter excites.

The political powers which seem to be most firmly established have
frequently no better guarantee for their duration, than the opinions of
a generation, the interests of the time, or the life of an individual. A
law may modify the social condition which seems to be most fixed and
determinate; and with the social condition everything else must change.
The powers of society are more or less fugitive, like the years which we
spend upon the earth; they succeed each other with rapidity like the
fleeting cares of life; and no government has ever yet been founded upon
an invariable disposition of the human heart, or upon an imperishable

As long as religion is sustained by those feelings, propensities, and
passions, which are found to occur under the same forms at all the
different periods of history, it may defy the efforts of time; or at
least it can only be destroyed by another religion. But when religion
clings to the interests of the world, it becomes almost as fragile a
thing as the powers of the earth. It is the only one of them all which
can hope for immortality; but if it be connected with their ephemeral
authority, it shares their fortunes, and may fall with those transient
passions which supported them for a day. The alliance which religion
contracts with political powers must needs be onerous to itself; since
it does not require their assistance to live, and by giving them its
assistance it may be exposed to decay.

The danger which I have just pointed out always exists, but it is not
always equally visible. In some ages governments seem to be
imperishable, in others the existence of society appears to be more
precarious than the life of man. Some constitutions plunge the citizens
into a lethargic somnolence, and others rouse them to feverish
excitement. When government appears to be so strong, and laws so stable,
men do not perceive the dangers which may accrue from a union of church
and state. When governments display so much inconstancy, the danger is
self-evident, but it is no longer possible to avoid it; to be effectual,
measures must be taken to discover its approach.

In proportion as a nation assumes a democratic condition of society, and
as communities display democratic propensities, it becomes more and more
dangerous to connect religion with political institutions; for the time
is coming when authority will be bandied from hand to hand, when
political theories will succeed each other, and when men, laws and
constitutions, will disappear or be modified from day to day, and this
not for a season only, but unceasingly. Agitation and mutability are
inherent in the nature of democratic republics, just as stagnation and
inertness are the law of absolute monarchies.

If the Americans, who change the head of the government once in four
years, who elect new legislators every two years, and renew the
provincial officers every twelvemonth; if the Americans, who have
abandoned the political world to the attempts of innovators, had not
placed religion beyond their reach, where could it abide in the ebb and
flow of human opinions? where would that respect which belongs to it be
paid, amid the struggles of faction? and what would become of its
immortality in the midst of perpetual decay? The American clergy were
the first to perceive this truth, and to act in conformity with it. They
saw that they must renounce their religious influence, if they were to
strive for political power; and they chose to give up the support of the
state, rather than to share in its vicissitudes.

In America, religion is perhaps less powerful than it has been at
certain periods in the history of certain peoples; but its influence is
more lasting. It restricts itself to its own resources, but of those
none can deprive it: its circle is limited to certain principles, but
those principles are entirely its own, and under its undisputed control.

On every side in Europe we hear voices complaining of the absence of
religious faith, and inquiring the means of restoring to religion some
remnant of its pristine authority. It seems to me that we must first
attentively consider what ought to be _the natural state_ of men with
regard to religion, at the present time; and when we know what we have
to hope and to fear, we may discern the end to which our efforts ought
to be directed.

The two great dangers which threaten the existence of religions are
schism and indifference. In ages of fervent devotion, men sometimes
abandon their religion, but they only shake it off in order to adopt
another. Their faith changes the objects to which it is directed, but it
suffers no decline. The old religion, then, excites enthusiastic
attachment or bitter enmity in either party; some leave it with anger,
others cling to it with increased devotedness, and although persuasions
differ, irreligion is unknown. Such, however, is not the case when a
religious belief is secretly undermined by doctrines which may be termed
negative, since they deny the truth of one religion without affirming
that of any other. Prodigious revolutions then take place in the human
mind, without the apparent co-operation of the passions of man, and
almost without his knowledge. Men lose the object of their fondest
hopes, as if through forgetfulness. They are carried away by an
imperceptible current which they have not the courage to stem, but which
they follow with regret, since it bears them from a faith they love, to
a scepticism that plunges them into despair.

In ages which answer to this description, men desert their religious
opinions from lukewarmness rather than from dislike; they do not reject
them, but the sentiments by which they were once fostered disappear. But
if the unbeliever does not admit religion to be true, he still considers
it useful. Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view, he
acknowledges their influence upon manners and legislation. He admits
that they may serve to make men live in peace with one another and to
prepare them gently for the hour of death. He regrets the faith which he
has lost; and as he is deprived of a treasure which he has learned to
estimate at its full value, he scruples to take it from those who still
possess it.

On the other hand, those who continue to believe, are not afraid openly
to avow their faith. They look upon those who do not share their
persuasion as more worthy of pity than of opposition; and they are
aware, that to acquire the esteem of the unbelieving, they are not
obliged to follow their example. They are hostile to no one in the
world; and as they do not consider the society in which they live as an
arena in which religion is bound to face its thousand deadly foes, they
love their contemporaries, while they condemn their weaknesses, and
lament their errors.

As those who do not believe, conceal their incredulity; and as those who
believe, display their faith, public opinion pronounces itself in favor
of religion: love, support, and honor, are bestowed upon it, and it is
only by searching the human soul, that we can detect the wounds which it
has received. The mass of mankind, who are never without the feeling of
religion, do not perceive anything at variance with the established
faith. The instinctive desire of a future life brings the crowd about
the altar, and opens the hearts of men to the precepts and consolations
of religion.

But this picture is not applicable to us; for there are men among us who
have ceased to believe in Christianity, without adopting any other
religion; others who are in the perplexities of doubt, and who already
affect not to believe; and others, again, who are afraid to avow that
Christian faith which they still cherish in secret.

Amid these lukewarm partisans and ardent antagonists, a small number of
believers exist, who are ready to brave all obstacles, and to scorn all
dangers in defence of their faith. They have done violence to human
weakness, in order to rise superior to public opinion. Excited by the
effort they have made, they scarcely know where to stop; and as they
know that the first use which the French made, of independence, was to
attack religion, they look upon their contemporaries with dread, and
they recoil in alarm from the liberty which their fellow-citizens are
seeking to obtain. As unbelief appears to them to be a novelty, they
comprise all that is new in one indiscriminate animosity. They are at
war with their age and country, and they look upon every opinion which
is put forth there as the necessary enemy of the faith.

Such is not the natural state of men with regard to religion at the
present day; and some extraordinary or incidental cause must be at work
in France, to prevent the human mind from following its original
propensities, and to drive it beyond the limits at which it ought
naturally to stop.

I am intimately convinced that this extraordinary and incidental cause
is the close connexion of politics and religion. The unbelievers of
Europe attack the Christians as their political opponents, rather than
as their religious adversaries; they hate the Christian religion as the
opinion of a party, much more than as an error of belief; and they
reject the clergy less because they are the representatives of the
Divinity, than because they are the allies of authority.

In Europe, Christianity has been intimately united to the powers of the
earth. Those powers are now in decay, and it is, as it were, buried
under their ruins. The living body of religion has been bound down to
the dead corpse of superannuated polity; cut the bonds which restrain
it, and that which is alive will rise once more. I know not what could
restore the Christian church of Europe to the energy of its earlier
days; that power belongs to God alone; but it may be the effect of human
policy to leave the faith in all the full exercise of the strength which
it still retains.

* * * * *


What is to be understood by the instruction of the American People.--The
human Mind is more superficially instructed in the United States than in
Europe.--No one completely uninstructed.--Reason of this Rapidity with
which Opinions are diffused even in the uncultivated States of the
West.--Practical Experience more serviceable to the Americans than

I have but little to add to what I have already said, concerning the
influence which the instruction and the habits of the Americans exercise
upon the maintenance of their political institutions.

America has hitherto produced very few writers of distinction; it
possesses no great historians, and not a single eminent poet. The
inhabitants of that country look upon what are properly styled literary
pursuits with a kind of disapprobation; and there are towns of very
second rate importance in Europe, in which more literary works are
annually published, than in the twenty-four states of the Union put
together. The spirit of the Americans is averse to general ideas; and it
does not seek theoretical discoveries. Neither politics nor manufactures
direct them to these occupations; and although new laws are perpetually
enacted in the United States, no great writers have hitherto inquired
into the principles of their legislation. The Americans have lawyers and
commentators, but no jurists; and they furnish examples rather than
lessons to the world. The same observation applies to the mechanical
arts. In America, the inventions of Europe are adopted with sagacity;
they are perfected, and adapted with admirable skill to the wants of the
country. Manufactures exist, but the science of manufacture is not
cultivated; and they have good workmen, but very few inventors. Fulton
was obliged to proffer his services to foreign nations for a long time
before he was able to devote them to his own country.

[The remark that in America "there are very good workmen but very few
inventors," will excite surprise in this country. The inventive
character of Fulton he seems to admit, but would apparently deprive us
of the credit of his name, by the remark that he was obliged to proffer
his services to foreign nations for a long time. He might have added,
that those proffers were disregarded and neglected, and that it was
finally in his own country that he found the aid necessary to put in
execution his great project. If there be patronage extended by the
citizens of the United States to any one thing in preference to another,
it is to the results of inventive genius. Surely Franklin, Rittenhouse,
and Perkins, have been heard of by our author; and he must have heard
something of that wonderful invention, the cotton-gin of Whitney, and of
the machines for making cards to comb wool. The original machines of
Fulton for the application of steam have been constantly improving, so
that there is scarcely a vestige of them remaining. But to sum up the
whole in one word, can it be possible that our author did not visit the
patent office at Washington? Whatever may be said of the _utility_ of
nine-tenths of the inventions of which the descriptions and models are
there deposited, no one who has ever seen that depository, or who has
read a description of its contents, can doubt that they furnish the most
incontestible evidence of extraordinary inventive genius--a genius that
has excited the astonishment of other European travellers.--_American

The observer who is desirous of forming an opinion on the state of
instruction among the Anglo-Americans, must consider the same object
from two different points of view. If he only singles out the learned,
he will be astonished to find how rare they are; but if he counts the
ignorant, the American people will appear to be the most enlightened
community in the world. The whole population, as I observed in another
place, is situated between these two extremes.

In New England, every citizen receives the elementary notions of human
knowledge; he is moreover taught the doctrines and the evidences of his
religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of its
constitution. In the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, it is
extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these
things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is a sort of phenomenon.

When I compare the Greek and Roman republics with these American states;
the manuscript libraries of the former, and their rude population, with
the innumerable journals and the enlightened people of the latter; when
I remember all the attempts which are made to judge the modern republics
by the assistance of those of antiquity, and to infer what will happen
in our time from what took place two thousand years ago, I am tempted to
burn my books, in order to apply none but novel ideas to so novel a
condition of society.

What I have said of New England must not, however, be applied
indiscriminately to the whole Union: as we advance towards the west or
the south, the instruction of the people diminishes. In the states which
are adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, a certain number of individuals may
be found, as in our own countries, who are devoid of the rudiments of
instruction. But there is not a single district in the United States
sunk in complete ignorance; and for a very simple reason; the peoples of
Europe started from the darkness of a barbarous condition to advance
toward the light of civilisation; their progress has been unequal; some
of them have improved apace, while others have loitered in their course,
and some have stopped, and are still sleeping upon the way.

Such has not been the case in the United States. The Anglo-Americans
settled in a state of civilisation, upon that territory which their
descendants occupy; they had not to begin to learn, and it was
sufficient not to forget. Now the children of these same Americans are
the persons who, year by year, transport their dwellings into the wilds:
and with their dwellings their acquired information and their esteem for
knowledge. Education has taught them the utility of instruction, and has
enabled them to transmit that instruction to their posterity. In the
United States society has no infancy, but it is born in man's estate.

The Americans never use the word "peasant," because they have no idea of
the peculiar class which that term denotes; the ignorance of more remote
ages, the simplicity of rural life, and the rusticity of the villager,
have not been preserved among them; and they are alike unacquainted with
the virtues, the vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces of an
early stage of civilisation. At the extreme borders of the confederate
states, upon the confines of society and of the wilderness, a population
of bold adventurers have taken up their abode, who pierce the solitudes
of the American woods, and seek a country there, in order to escape that
poverty which awaited them in their native provinces. As soon as the
pioneer arrives upon the spot which is to serve him for a retreat, he
fells a few trees and builds a log-house. Nothing can offer a more
miserable aspect than these isolated dwellings. The traveller who
approaches one of them toward night-fall, sees the flicker of the
hearth-flame through the chinks in the walls; and at night, if the wind
rises, he hears the roof of boughs shake to and fro in the midst of the
great forest trees. Who would not suppose that this poor hut is the
asylum of rudeness and ignorance? Yet no sort of comparison can be drawn
between the pioneer and the dwelling which shelters him. Everything
about him is primitive and unformed, but he is himself the result of the
labor and the experience of eighteen centuries. He wears the dress, and
he speaks the language of cities; he is acquainted with the past,
curious of the future, and ready for argument upon the present; he is,
in short, a highly civilized being, who consents, for a time, to inhabit
the back-woods, and who penetrates into the wilds of a New World with
the Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.

It is difficult to imagine the incredible rapidity with which public
opinion circulates in the midst of these deserts.[204] I do not think
that so much intellectual intercourse takes place in the most
enlightened and populous districts of France.[205] It cannot be doubted
that in the United States, the instruction of the people powerfully
contributes to the support of a democratic republic; and such must
always be the case, I believe, where instruction, which awakens the
understanding, is not separated from moral education which amends the
heart. But I by no means exaggerate this benefit, and I am still farther
from thinking, as so many people do think in Europe, that men can be
instantaneously made citizens by teaching them to read and write. True
information is mainly derived from experience, and if the Americans had
not been gradually accustomed to govern themselves, their book-learning
would not assist them much at the present day.

I have lived a great deal with the people in the United States, and I
cannot express how much I admire their experience and their good sense.
An American should never be allowed to speak of Europe; for he will then
probably display a vast deal of presumption and very foolish pride. He
will take up with those crude and vague notions which are so useful to
the ignorant all over the world. But if you question him respecting his
own country, the cloud which dimmed his intelligence will immediately
disperse; his language will become as clear and as precise as his
thoughts. He will inform you what his rights are, and by what means he
exercises them; he will be able to point out the customs which obtain in
the political world. You will find that he is well acquainted with the
rules of the administration, and that he is familiar with the mechanism
of the laws. The citizen of the United States does not acquire his
practical science and his positive notions from books; the instruction
he has acquired may have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but it
did not furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by
participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the
forms of government, from governing. The great work of society is ever
going on beneath his eyes, and, as it were, under his hands.

In the United States politics are the end and aim of education; in
Europe its principal object is to fit men for private life. The
interference of the citizens in public affairs is too rare an occurrence
for it to be anticipated beforehand. Upon casting a glance over society
in the two hemispheres, these differences are indicated even by its
external aspect.

In Europe, we frequently introduce the ideas and the habits of private
life into public affairs; and as we pass at once from the domestic
circle to the government of the state, we may frequently be heard to
discuss the great interests of society in the same manner in which we
converse with our friends. The Americans, on the other hand, transfuse
the habits of public life into their manners in private; and in their
country the jury is introduced into the games of school-boys, and
parliamentary forms are observed in the order of a feast.

* * * * *


All the Nations of America have a democratic State of Society.--Yet
democratic Institutions subsist only among the Anglo-Americans.--The
Spaniards of South America, equally favored by physical Causes as the
Anglo-Americans, unable to maintain a democratic Republic.--Mexico,
which has adopted the Constitution of the United States, in the same
Predicament.--The Anglo-Americans of the West less able to maintain it
than those of the East.--Reason of these different Results.

I have remarked that the maintenance of democratic institutions in the
United States is attributable to the circumstances, the laws, and the
manners of that country.[206] Most Europeans are only acquainted with
the first of these three causes, and they are apt to give it a
preponderating importance which it does not really possess.

It is true that the Anglo-Americans settled in the New World in a state
of social equality; the low-born and the noble were not to be found
among them; and professional prejudices were always as entirely unknown
as the prejudices of birth. Thus, as the condition of society was
democratic, the empire of democracy was established without difficulty.
But this circumstance is by no means peculiar to the United States;
almost all the transatlantic colonies were founded by men equal among
themselves, or who became so by inhabiting them. In no one part of the
New World have Europeans been able to create an aristocracy.
Nevertheless democratic institutions prosper nowhere but in the United

The American Union has no enemies to contend with; it stands in the
wilds like an island in the ocean. But the Spaniards of South America
were no less isolated by nature; yet their position has not relieved
them from the charge of standing armies. They make war upon each other
when they have no foreign enemies to oppose; and the Anglo-American
democracy is the only one which has hitherto been able to maintain
itself in peace.

The territory of the Union presents a boundless field to human activity,
and inexhaustible materials for industry and labor. The passion of
wealth takes the place of ambition, and the warmth of faction is
mitigated by a sense of prosperity. But in what portion of the globe
shall we meet with more fertile plains, with mightier rivers, or with
more unexplored and inexhaustible riches, than in South America?

Nevertheless South America has been unable to maintain democratic
institutions. If the welfare of nations depended on their being placed
in a remote position, with an unbounded space of habitable territory
before them, the Spaniards of South America would have no reason to
complain of their fate. And although they might enjoy less prosperity
than the inhabitants of the United States, their lot might still be such
as to excite the envy of some nations in Europe. There are, however, no
nations upon the face of the earth more miserable than those of South

Thus, not only are physical causes inadequate to produce results
analogous to those which occur in North America, but they are unable to
raise the population of South America above the level of European
states, where they act in a contrary direction. Physical causes do not
therefore affect the destiny of nations so much as has been supposed.

I have met with men in New England who were on the point of leaving a
country, where they might have remained in easy circumstances, to go to
seek their fortunes in the wilds. Not far from that district I found a
French population in Canada, which was closely crowded on a narrow
territory, although the same wilds were at hand; and while the emigrant
from the United States purchased an extensive estate with the earnings
of a short term of labor, the Canadian paid as much for land as he would
have done in France. Nature offers the solitudes of the New World to
Europeans; but they are not always acquainted with the means of turning
her gifts to account. Other peoples of America have the same physical
conditions of prosperity as the Anglo-Americans, but without their laws
and their manners; and these peoples are wretched. The laws and manners
of the Anglo-Americans are therefore that cause of their greatness which
is the object of my inquiry.

I am far from supposing that the American laws are preeminently good in
themselves; I do not hold them to be applicable to all democratic
peoples; and several of them seem to me to be dangerous, even in the
United States. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the American
legislation, taken collectively, is extremely well adapted to the genius
of the people and the nature of the country which it is intended to
govern. The American laws are therefore good, and to them must be
attributed a large portion of the success which attends the government
of democracy in America: but I do not believe them to be the principal
cause of that success; and if they seem to me to have more influence
upon the social happiness of the Americans than the nature of the
country, on the other hand there is reason to believe that their effect
is still inferior to that produced by the manners of the people.

The federal laws undoubtedly constitute the most important part of the
legislation of the United States. Mexico, which is not less fortunately
situated than the Anglo-American Union, has adopted these same laws, but
is unable to accustom itself to the government of democracy. Some other
cause is therefore at work independently of those physical circumstances
and peculiar laws which enable the democracy to rule in the United

Another still more striking proof may be adduced. Almost all the
inhabitants of the territory of the Union are the descendants of a
common stock; they speak the same language, they worship God in the same
manner, they are affected by the same physical causes, and they obey the
same laws. Whence, then, do their characteristic differences arise? Why,
in the eastern states of the Union, does the republican government
display vigor and regularity, and proceed with mature deliberation?
Whence does it derive the wisdom and durability which mark its acts,
while in the western states, on the contrary, society seems to be ruled
by the powers of chance? There, public business is conducted with an
irregularity, and a passionate and feverish excitement, which does not
announce a long or sure duration.

I am no longer comparing the Anglo-American states to foreign nations;
but I am contrasting them with each other, and endeavoring to discover
why they are so unlike. The arguments which are derived from the nature
of the country and the difference of legislation, are here all set
aside. Recourse must be had to some other cause; and what other cause
can there be except the manners of the people?

It is in the eastern states that the Anglo-Americans have been longest
accustomed to the government of democracy, and that they have adopted
the habits and conceived the notions most favorable to its maintenance.
Democracy has gradually penetrated into their customs, their opinions,
and the forms of social intercourse; it is to be found in all the
details of daily life equally as in the laws. In the eastern states the
instruction and practical education of the people have been most
perfected, and religion has been most thoroughly amalgamated with
liberty. Now these habits, opinions, customs, and convictions, are
precisely the constituent elements of that which I have denominated

In the western states, on the contrary, a portion of the same advantages
is still wanting. Many of the Americans of the west were born in the
woods, and they mix the ideas and the customs of savage life with the
civilisation of their parents. Their passions are more intense; their
religious morality less authoritative; and their convictions are less
secure. The inhabitants exercise no sort of control over their
fellow-citizens, for they are scarcely acquainted with each other. The
nations of the west display, to a certain extent, the inexperience and
the rude habits of a people in its infancy; for although they are
composed of old elements, their assemblage is of recent date.

The manners of the Americans of the United States are, then, the real
cause which renders that people the only one of the American nations
that is able to support a democratic government; and it is the influence
of manners which produces the different degrees of order and of
prosperity, that may be distinguished in the several Anglo-American
democracies. Thus the effect which the geographical position of a
country may have upon the duration of democratic institutions is
exaggerated in Europe. Too much importance is attributed to legislation,
too little to manners. These three great causes serve, no doubt, to
regulate and direct the American democracy; but if they were to be
classed in their proper order, I should say that the physical
circumstances are less efficient than the laws, and the laws very
subordinate to the manners of the people. I am convinced that the most
advantageous situation and the best possible laws cannot maintain a
constitution in spite of the manners of a country: while the latter may
turn the most unfavorable positions and the worst laws to some
advantage. The importance of manners is a common truth to which study
and experience incessantly direct our attention. It may be regarded as a
central point in the range of human observation, and the common
termination of all inquiry. So seriously do I insist upon this head,
that if I have hitherto failed in making the reader feel the important
influence which I attribute to the practical experience, the habits, the
opinions, in short, to the manners of the Americans, upon the
maintenance of their institutions, I have failed in the principal object
of my work.

* * * * *


The Anglo-Americans, if transported into Europe, would be obliged to
modify their Laws.--Distinction to be made between democratic
Institutions and American Institutions.--Democratic Laws may be
conceived better than, or at least different from, those which the
American Democracy has adopted.--The Example of America only proves that
it is possible to regulate Democracy by the assistance of Manners and

I have asserted that the success of democratic institutions in the
United States is more intimately connected with the laws themselves, and
the manners of the people, than with the nature of the country. But does
it follow that the same causes would of themselves produce the same
results, if they were put into operation elsewhere; and if the country
is no adequate substitute for laws and manners, can laws and manners in
their turn prove a substitute for a country? It will readily be
understood that the necessary elements of a reply to this question are
wanting: other peoples are to be found in the New World beside the
Anglo-Americans, and as these peoples are affected by the same physical
circumstances as the latter, they may fairly be compared together. But
there are no nations out of America which have adopted the same laws and
manners, being destitute of the physical advantages peculiar to the
Anglo-Americans. No standard of comparison therefore exists, and we can
only hazard an opinion upon this subject.

It appears to me in the first place, that a careful distinction must be
made between the institutions of the United States and democratic
institutions in general. When I reflect upon the state of Europe, its
mighty nations, its populous cities, its formidable armies, and the
complex nature of its politics, I cannot suppose that even the
Anglo-Americans, if they were transported to our hemisphere, with their
ideas, their religion, and their manners, could exist without
considerably altering their laws. But a democratic nation may be
imagined, organized differently from the American people. It is not
impossible to conceive a government really established upon the will of
the majority; but in which the majority, repressing its natural
propensity to equality, should consent, with a view to the order and the
stability of the state, to invest a family or an individual with all the
prerogatives of the executive. A democratic society might exist, in
which the forces of the nation would be more centralized than they are
in the United States; the people would exercise a less direct and less
irresistible influence upon public affairs, and yet every citizen,
invested with certain rights, would participate, within his sphere, in
the conduct of the government. The observations I made among the
Anglo-Americans induce me to believe that democratic institutions of
this kind, prudently introduced into society, so as gradually to mix
with the habits and to be infused with the opinions of the people, might
subsist in other countries beside America. If the laws of the United
States were the only imaginable democratic laws, or the most perfect
which it is possible to conceive, I should admit that the success of
those institutions affords no proof of the success of democratic
institutions in general, in a country less favored by natural
circumstances. But as the laws of America appear to me to be defective
in several respects, and as I can readily imagine others of the same
general nature, the peculiar advantages of that country do not prove
that democratic institutions cannot succeed in a nation less favored by
circumstances, if ruled by better laws.

If human nature were different in America from what it is elsewhere; or
if the social condition of the Americans engendered habits and opinions
among them different from those which originate in the same social
condition in the Old World, the American democracies would afford no
means of predicting what may occur in other democracies. If the
Americans displayed the same propensities as all other democratic
nations, and if their legislators had relied upon the nature of the
country and the favor of circumstances to restrain those propensities
within due limits, the prosperity of the United States would be
exclusively attributable to physical causes, and it would afford no
encouragement to a people inclined to imitate their example, without
sharing their natural advantages. But neither of these suppositions is
borne out by facts.

In America the same passions are to be met with as in Europe; some
originating in human nature, others in the democratic condition of
society. Thus in the United States I found that restlessness of heart
which is natural to men, when all ranks are nearly equal and the chances
of elevation are the same to all. I found the democratic feeling of envy
expressed under a thousand different forms. I remarked that the people
frequently displayed, in the conduct of affairs, a consummate mixture of
ignorance and presumption, and I inferred that, in America, men are
liable to the same failings and the same absurdities as among ourselves.
But upon examining the state of society more attentively, I speedily
discovered that the Americans had made great and successful efforts to
counteract these imperfections of human nature, and to correct the
natural defects of democracy. Their divers municipal laws appeared to me
to be a means of restraining the ambition of the citizens within a
narrow sphere, and of turning those same passions, which might have
worked havoc in the state, to the good of the township or the parish.
The American legislators have succeeded to a certain extent in opposing
the notion of rights, to the feelings of envy; the permanence of the
religious world, to the continual shifting of politics; the experience
of the people, to its theoretical ignorance; and its practical knowledge
of business, to the impatience of its desires.

The Americans, then, have not relied upon the nature of their country,
to counterpoise those dangers which originate in their constitution and
in their political laws. To evils which are common to all democratic
peoples, they have applied remedies which none but themselves had ever
thought of before; and although they were the first to make the
experiment, they have succeeded in it.

The manners and laws of the Americans are not the only ones which may
suit a democratic people; but the Americans have shown that it would be
wrong to despair of regulating democracy by the aid of manners and of
laws. If other nations should borrow this general and pregnant idea from
the Americans, without however intending to imitate them in the peculiar
application which they have made of it; if they should attempt to fit
themselves for that social condition, which it seems to be the will of
Providence to impose upon the generations of this age, and so to escape
from the despotism of the anarchy which threatens them; what reason is
there to suppose that their efforts would not be crowned with success?
The organization and the establishment of democracy in Christendom, is
the great political problem of the time. The Americans, unquestionably,
have not resolved this problem, but they furnish useful data to those
who undertake the task.

* * * * *


It may readily be discovered with what intention I undertook the
foregoing inquiries. The question here discussed is interesting not only
to the United States, but to the whole world; it concerns, not a nation,
but all mankind. If those nations whose social condition is democratic
could only remain free as long as they are inhabitants of the wilds, we
could not but despair of the future destiny of the human race; for
democracy is rapidly acquiring a more extended sway, and the wilds are
gradually peopled with men. If it were true that laws and manners are
insufficient to maintain democratic institutions, what refuge would
remain open to the nations except the despotism of a single individual?
I am aware that there are many worthy persons at the present time who
are not alarmed at this latter alternative, and who are so tired of
liberty as to be glad of repose, far from those storms by which it is
attended. But these individuals are ill acquainted with the haven to
which they are bound. They are so deluded by their recollections, as to
judge the tendency of absolute power by what it was formerly, and not
what it might become at the present time.

If absolute power were re-established among the democratic nations of
Europe, I am persuaded that it would assume a new form, and appear under
features unknown to our forefathers. There was a time in Europe, when
the laws and the consent of the people had invested princes with almost
unlimited authority; but they scarcely ever availed themselves of it. I
do not speak of the prerogatives of the nobility, of the authority of
supreme courts of justice, of corporations and their chartered rights,
or of provincial privileges, which served to break the blows of the
sovereign authority, and to maintain a spirit of resistance in the
nation. Independently of these political institutions--which, however
opposed they might be to personal liberty, served to keep alive the love
of freedom in the mind of the public, and which may be esteemed to have
been useful in this respect--the manners and opinions of the nation
confined the royal authority within barriers which were not less
powerful, although they were less conspicuous. Religion, the affections
of the people, the benevolence of the prince, the sense of honor, family
pride, provincial prejudices, custom, and public opinion, limited the
power of kings, and restrained their authority within an invisible
circle. The constitution of nations was despotic at that time but their
manners were free. Princes had the right, but they had neither the means
nor the desire, of doing whatever they pleased.

But what now remains of those barriers which formerly arrested the
aggressions of tyranny? Since religion has lost its empire over the
souls of men, the most prominent boundary which divided good from evil
is overthrown: the very elements of the moral world are indeterminate;
the princes and the peoples of the earth are guided by chance, and none
can define the natural limits of despotism and the bounds of license.
Long revolutions have for ever destroyed the respect which surrounded
the rulers of the state; and since they have been relieved from the
burden of public esteem, princes may henceforward surrender themselves
without fear to the seductions of arbitrary power.

When kings find that the hearts of their subjects are turned toward
them, they are clement, because they are conscious of their strength;
and they are chary of the affection of their people, because the
affection of their people is the bulwark of the throne. A mutual
interchange of good will then takes place between the prince and the
people, which resembles the gracious intercourse of domestic society.
The subjects may murmur at the sovereign's decree, but they are grieved
to displease him; and the sovereign chastises his subjects with the
light hand of parental affection.

But when once the spell of royalty is broken in the tumult of
revolution; when successive monarchs have occupied the throne, and
alternately displayed to the people the weakness of right, and the
harshness of power, the sovereign is no longer regarded by any as the
father of the state, and he is feared by all as its master. If he be
weak, he is despised; if he be strong, he is detested. He is himself
full of animosity and alarm; he finds that he is a stranger in his own
country, and he treats his subjects like conquered enemies.

When the provinces and the towns formed so many different nations in the
midst of their common country, each of them had a will of its own, which
was opposed to the general spirit of subjection; but now that all the
parts of the same empire, after having lost their immunities, their
customs, their prejudices, their traditions, and their names, are
subjected and accustomed to the same laws, it is not more difficult to
oppress them collectively, than it was formerly to oppress them singly.

While the nobles enjoyed their power, and indeed long after that power
was lost, the honor of aristocracy conferred an extraordinary degree of
force upon their personal opposition. They afforded instances of men
who, notwithstanding their weakness, still entertained a high opinion of
their personal value, and dared to cope single-handed with the efforts
of the public authority. But at the present day, when all ranks are more
and more confounded, when the individual disappears in the throng, and
is easily lost in the midst of a common obscurity, when the honor of
monarchy has almost lost its empire without being succeeded by public
virtue, and when nothing can enable man to rise above himself, who shall
say at what point the exigencies of power and servility of weakness will

As long as family feeling was kept alive, the antagonist of oppression
was never alone; he looked about him, and found his clients, his
hereditary friends, and his kinsfolk. If this support was wanting, he
was sustained by his ancestors and animated by his posterity. But when
patrimonial estates are divided, and when a few years suffice to
confound the distinctions of a race, where can family feeling be found?
What force can there be in the customs of a country which has changed,
and is still perpetually changing its aspect; in which every act of
tyranny has a precedent, and every crime an example; in which there is
nothing so old that its antiquity can save it from destruction, and
nothing so unparalleled that its novelty can prevent it from being done?
What resistance can be offered by manners of so pliant a make, that they
have already often yielded? What strength can even public opinion have
retained, when no twenty persons are connected by a common tie; when not
a man, nor a family, nor chartered corporation, nor class, nor free
institution, has the power of representing that opinion; and when every
citizen--being equally weak, equally poor, and equally dependant--has
only his personal impotence to oppose to the organized force of the

The annals of France furnish nothing analogous to the condition in which
that country might then be thrown. But it may more aptly be assimilated
to the times of old, and to those hideous eras of Roman oppression, when
the manners of the people were corrupted, their traditions obliterated,
their habits destroyed, their opinions shaken, and freedom, expelled
from the laws, could find no refuge in the land; when nothing protected
the citizens, and the citizens no longer protected themselves; when
human nature was the sport of man, and princes wearied out the clemency
of Heaven before they exhausted the patience of their subjects. Those
who hope to revive the monarchy of Henry IV. or of Louis XIV., appear to
me to be afflicted with mental blindness; and when I consider the
present condition of several European nations--a condition to which all
the others tend--I am led to believe that they will soon be left with no
other alternative than democratic liberty, or the tyranny of the

And, indeed, it is deserving of consideration, whether men are to be
entirely emancipated, or entirely enslaved; whether their rights are to
be made equal, or wholly taken away from them. If the rulers of society
were reduced either gradually to raise the crowd to their own level, or
to sink the citizens below that of humanity, would not the doubts of
many be resolved, the consciences of many be healed, and the community
be prepared to make great sacrifices with little difficulty? In that
case, the gradual growth of democratic manners and institutions should
be regarded, not as the best, but as the only means of preserving
freedom; and without liking the government of democracy, it might be
adopted as the most applicable and the fairest remedy for the present
ills of society.

It is difficult to associate a people in the work of government; but it
is still more difficult to supply it with experience, and to inspire it
with the feelings which it requires in order to govern well. I grant
that the caprices of democracy are perpetual; its instruments are rude,
its laws imperfect. But if it were true that soon no just medium would
exist between the empire of democracy and the dominion of a single arm,
should we not rather incline toward the former, than submit voluntarily
to the latter? And if complete equality be our fate, is it not better to
be levelled by free institutions than by despotic power?

Those who, after having read this book, should imagine that my intention
in writing it has been to propose the laws and manners of the
Anglo-Americans for the imitation of all democratic peoples, would
commit a very great mistake; they must have paid more attention to the
form than to the substance of my ideas. My aim has been to show, by the
example of America, that laws, and especially manners, may exist, which
will allow a democratic people to remain free. But I am very far from
thinking that we ought to follow the example of the American democracy,
and copy the means which it has employed to attain its ends; for I am
well aware of the influence which the nature of a country and its
political precedents exercise upon a constitution; and I should regard
it as a great misfortune for mankind, if liberty were to exist, all over
the world, under the same forms.

But I am of opinion that if we do not succeed in gradually introducing
democratic institutions into France, and if we despair of imparting to
the citizens those ideas and sentiments which first prepare them for
freedom, and afterward allow them to enjoy it, there will be no
independence at all, either for the middling classes or the nobility,
for the poor or for the rich, but an equal tyranny over all; and I
foresee that if the peaceable empire of the majority be not founded
among us in time, we shall sooner or later arrive at the unlimited
authority of a single despot.

* * * * *


[199] The United States have no metropolis; but they already contain
several very large cities. Philadelphia reckoned 161,000 inhabitants,
and New York 202,000, in the year 1830. The lower orders which inhabit
these cities constitute a rabble even more formidable than the populace
of European towns. They consist of freed blacks in the first place, who
are condemned by the laws and by public opinion, to an hereditary state
of misery and degradation. They also contain a multitude of Europeans
who have been driven to the shores of the New World by their misfortunes
or their misconduct; and these men inoculate the United States with all
our vices, without bringing with them any of those interests which
counteract their baneful influence. As inhabitants of a country where
they have no civil rights, they are ready to turn all the passions which
agitate the community to their own advantage; thus, within the last few
months serious riots have broken out in Philadelphia and in New York.
Disturbances of this kind are unknown in the rest of the country, which
is nowise alarmed by them, because the population of the cities has
hitherto exercised neither power nor influence over the rural districts.

Nevertheless, I look upon the size of certain American cities, and
especially on the nature of their population, as a real danger which
threatens the future security of the democratic republics of the New
World: and I venture to predict that they will perish from this
circumstance, unless the government succeed in creating an armed force,
which, while it remains under the control of the majority of the nation,
will be independent of the town population, and able to repress its

[200] In New England the estates are exceedingly small, but they are
rarely subjected to farther division.

[201] The New York Spectator of August 23, 1831, relates the fact in the
following terms: "The court of common pleas of Chester county (New
York), a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in
the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not
before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the
existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all
testimony in a court of justice; and that he knew of no cause in a
Christian country, where a witness had been permitted to testify without
such belief."

[The instance given by the author, of a person offered as a witness
having been rejected on the ground that he did not believe in the
existence of a God, seems to be adduced to prove either his assertion
that the Americans hold religion to be indispensable to the maintenance
of republican institutions--or his assertion, that if a man attacks all
the sects together, every one abandons him and he remains alone. But it
is questionable how far the fact quoted proves either of these
positions. The rule which prescribes as a qualification for a witness
the belief in a Supreme Being who will punish falsehood, without which
he is deemed wholly incompetent to testify, is established for the
protection of personal rights, and not to compel the adoption of any
system of religious belief. It came with all our fundamental principles
from England as a part of the common law which the colonists brought
with them. It is supposed to prevail in every country in Christendom,
whatever may be the form of its government; and the only doubt that
arises respecting its existence in France, is created by our author's
apparent surprise at finding such a rule in America.--_American

[202] Unless this term be applied to the functions which many of them
fill in the schools. Almost all education is intrusted to the clergy.

[203] See the constitution of New York, art. 7, sec. 4:--"And whereas,
the ministers of the gospel are, by their profession, dedicated to the
service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from
the great duties of their functions; therefore no minister of the
gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time
hereafter, under any pretence or description whatever, be eligible to,
or capable of holding any civil or military office or place within this

See also the constitutions of North Carolina, art. 31. Virginia. South
Carolina, art. 1, sec. 23. Kentucky, art. 2, sec. 26. Tennessee, art S,
sec. 1. Louisiana, art. 2, sec. 22.

[204] I travelled along a portion of the frontier of the United States
in a sort of cart which was termed the mail. We passed, day and night,
with great rapidity along roads which were scarcely marked out, through
immense forests: when the gloom of the woods became impenetrable, the
coachman lighted branches of fir and we journied along by the light they
cast. From time to time we came to a hut in the midst of the forest,
which was a postoffice. The mail dropped an enormous bundle of letters
at the door of this isolated dwelling, and we pursued our way at full
gallop, leaving the inhabitants of the neighboring log-houses to send
for their share of the treasure.

[205] In 1832, each inhabitant of Michigan paid a sum equivalent to 1
franc, 22 centimes (French money) to the postoffice revenue; and each
inhabitant of the Floridas paid 1 fr. 5 cent (See National Calendar,
1833, p. 244.) In the same year each inhabitant of the department du
Nord, paid 1 fr. 4 cent, to the revenue of the French postoffice. (See
the Compte rendu de l'Administration des Finances, 1833, p. 623.) Now
the state of Michigan only contained at that time 7 inhabitants per
square league; and Florida only 5; the instruction and the commercial
activity of these districts are inferior to those of most of the states
in the Union; while the department du Nord, which contains 3,400
inhabitants per square league, is one of the most enlightened and
manufacturing parts of France.

[206] I remind the reader of the general signification which I give to
the word _manners_, namely, the moral and intellectual characteristics
of social man taken collectively.



The principal part of the task which I had imposed upon myself is now
performed: I have shown, as far as I was able, the laws and manners of
the American democracy. Here I might stop; but the reader would perhaps
feel that I had not satisfied his expectations.

The absolute supremacy of democracy is not all that we meet with in
America; the inhabitants of the New World may be considered from more
than one point of view. In the course of this work, my subject has often
led me to speak of the Indians and the negroes; but I have never been
able to stop in order to show what places these two races occupy, in the
midst of the democratic people whom I was engaged in describing. I have
mentioned in what spirit, and according to what laws, the Anglo-American
Union was formed; but I could only glance at the dangers which menace
that confederation, while it was equally impossible for me to give a
detailed account of its chances of duration, independently of its laws
and manners. When speaking of the United republican States, I hazarded
no conjectures upon the permanence of republican forms in the New World;
and when making frequent allusion to the commercial activity which
reigns in the Union, I was unable to inquire into the future condition
of the Americans as a commercial people.

These topics are collaterally connected with my subject, without forming
a part of it; they are American, without being democratic; and to
portray democracy has been my principal aim. It was therefore necessary
to postpone these questions, which I now take up as the proper
termination of my work.

The territory now occupied or claimed by the American Union, spreads
from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific ocean. On the
east and west its limits are those of the continent itself. On the south
it advances nearly to the tropic, and it extends upward to the icy
regions of the north.[207]

The human beings who are scattered over this space do not form, as in
Europe, so many branches of the same stock. Three races naturally
distinct, and I might almost say hostile to each other, are discoverable
among them at the first glance. Almost insurmountable barriers had been
raised between them by education and by law, as well as by their origin
and outward characteristics; but fortune has brought them together on
the same soil, where, although they are mixed, they do not amalgamate,
and each race fulfils its destiny apart.

Among these widely differing families of men, the first which attracts
attention, the superior in intelligence, in power, and in enjoyment, is
the white or European, the MAN pre-eminent; and in subordinate grades,
the negro and the Indian. These two unhappy races have nothing in
common; neither birth, nor features, nor language, nor habits. Their
only resemblance lies in their misfortunes. Both of them occupy an
inferior rank in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and
if their wrongs are not the same, they originate at any rate with the
same authors.

If we reasoned from what passes in the world, we should almost say that
the European is to the other races of mankind, what man is to the lower
animals;--he makes them subservient to his use; and when he cannot
subdue, he destroys them. Oppression has at one stroke deprived the
descendants of the Africans of almost all the privileges of humanity.
The negro of the United States has lost all remembrance of his country;
the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he
abjured their religion and forgot their customs when he ceased to belong
to Africa, without acquiring any claim to European privileges. But he
remains half-way between the two communities; sold by the one, repulsed
by the other; finding not a spot in the universe to call by the name of
country, except the faint image of a home which the shelter of his
master's roof affords.

The negro has no family; woman is merely the temporary companion of his
pleasures, and his children are upon an equality with himself from the
moment of their birth. Am I to call it a proof of God's mercy, or a
visitation of his wrath, that man in certain states appears to be
insensible to his extreme wretchedness, and almost affects with a
depraved taste the cause of his misfortunes? The negro, who is plunged
in this abyss of evils, scarcely feels his own calamitous situation.
Violence made him a slave, and the habit of servitude gives him the
thoughts and desires of a slave; he admires his tyrants more than he
hates them, and finds his joy and his pride in the servile imitation of
those who oppress him: his understanding is degraded to the level of his

The negro enters upon slavery as soon as he is born; nay, he may have
been purchased in the womb, and have begun his slavery before he began
his existence. Equally devoid of wants and of enjoyment, and useless to
himself, he learns, with his first notions of existence, that he is the
property of another who has an interest in preserving his life, and that
the care of it does not devolve upon himself; even the power of thought
appears to him a useless gift of Providence, and he quietly enjoys the
privileges of his debasement.

If he becomes free, independence is often felt by him to be a heavier
burden than slavery; for having learned, in the course of his life, to
submit to everything except reason, he is too much unacquainted with her
dictates to obey them. A thousand new desires beset him, and he is
destitute of the knowledge and energy necessary to resist them: these
are masters which it is necessary to contend with, and he has learned
only to submit and obey. In short, he sinks to such a depth of
wretchedness, that while servitude brutalizes, liberty destroys him.

Oppression has been no less fatal to the Indian than to the negro race,
but its effects are different. Before the arrival of the white men in
the New World, the inhabitants of North America lived quietly in their
woods, enduring the vicissitudes, and practising the virtues and vices
common to savage nations. The Europeans, having dispersed the Indian
tribes and driven them into the deserts, condemned them to a wandering
life full of inexpressible sufferings.

Savage nations are only controlled by opinion and by custom. When the
North American Indians had lost their sentiment of attachment to their
country; when their families were dispersed, their traditions obscured,
and the chain of their recollections broken; when all their habits were
changed, and their wants increased beyond measure, European tyranny
rendered them more disorderly and less civilized than they were before.
The moral and physical condition of these tribes continually grew worse,
and they became more barbarous as they became more wretched.
Nevertheless the Europeans have not been able to metamorphose the
character of the Indians; and though they have had power to destroy
them, they have never been able to make them submit to the rules of
civilized society.

The lot of the negro is placed on the extreme limit of servitude, while
that of the Indian lies on the utmost verge of liberty; and slavery does
not produce more fatal effects upon the first, than independence upon
the second. The negro has lost all property in his own person, and he
cannot dispose of his existence without committing a sort of fraud: but
the savage is his own master as soon as he is able to act; parental
authority is scarcely known to him; he has never bent his will to that
of any of his kind, or learned the difference between voluntary
obedience and a shameful subjection; and the very name of law is unknown
to him. To be free, with him, signifies to escape from all the shackles
of society. As he delights in this barbarous independence, and would
rather perish than sacrifice the least part of it, civilisation has
little power over him.

The negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself among
men who repulse him; he conforms to the taste of his oppressors, adopts
their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a part of their
community. Having been told from infancy that his race is naturally
inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition, and is
ashamed of his own nature. In each of his features he discovers a trace
of slavery, and, if it were in his power, he would willingly rid himself
of everything that makes him what he is.

The Indian, on the contrary, has his imagination inflated with the
pretended nobility of his origin, and lives and dies in the midst of
these dreams of pride. Far from desiring to conform his habits to ours,
he loves his savage life as the distinguishing mark of his race, and he
repels every advance to civilisation, less perhaps from the hatred which
he entertains for it, than from a dread of resembling the
Europeans.[208] While he has nothing to oppose to our perfection in the
arts but the resources of the desert, to our tactics nothing but
undisciplined courage; while our well-digested plans are met by the
spontaneous instincts of savage life, who can wonder if he fails in this
unequal contest?

The negro who earnestly desires to mingle his race with that of the
European, cannot effect it; while the Indian, who might succeed to a
certain extent, disdains to make the attempt. The servility of the one
dooms him to slavery, the pride of the other to death.

I remember that while I was travelling through the forests which still
cover the state of Alabama, I arrived one day at the log house of a
pioneer. I did not wish to penetrate into the dwelling of the American,
but retired to rest myself for a while on the margin of a spring, which
was not far off, in the woods. While I was in this place (which was in
the neighborhood of the Creek territory), an Indian woman appeared,
followed by a negress, and holding by the hand a little white girl of
five or six years old, whom I took to be the daughter of the pioneer. A
sort of barbarous luxury set off the costume of the Indian; rings of
metal were hanging from her nostrils and ears; her hair, which was
adorned with glass beads, fell loosely upon her shoulders; and I saw
that she was not married, for she still wore the necklace of shells
which the bride always deposits on the nuptial couch. The negress was
clad in squalid European garments.

They all three came and seated themselves upon the banks of the
fountain; and the young Indian, taking the child in her arms, lavished
upon her such fond caresses as mothers give; while the negress
endeavored by various little artifices to attract the attention of the
young Creole. The child displayed in her slightest gestures a
consciousness of superiority which formed a strange contrast with her
infantine weakness; as if she received the attentions of her companions
with a sort of condescension.

The negress was seated on the ground before her mistress, watching her
smallest desires, and apparently divided between strong affection for
the child and servile fear; while the savage displayed, in the midst of
her tenderness, an air of freedom and of pride which was almost
ferocious. I had approached the group, and I contemplated them in
silence; but my curiosity was probably displeasing to the Indian woman,
for she suddenly rose, pushed the child roughly from her, and giving me
an angry look, plunged into the thicket.

I had often chanced to see individuals met together in the same place,
who belonged to the three races of men which people North America. I had
perceived from many different results the preponderance of the whites.
But in the picture which I have just been describing there was something
peculiarly touching; a bond of affection here united the oppressors with
the oppressed, and the effort of Nature to bring them together rendered
still more striking the immense distance placed between them by
prejudice and by law.

* * * * *


Gradual disappearance of the native Tribes.--Manner in which it takes
place.--Miseries accompanying the forced Migrations of the Indians.--The
Savages of North America had only two ways of escaping Destruction; War
or Civilisation.--They are no longer able to make War.--Reasons why they
refused to become civilized when it was in their Power, and why they
cannot become so now that they desire it.--Instance of the Creek and
Cherokees.--Policy of the particular States toward these Indians.--
Policy of the federal Government.

None of the Indian tribes which formerly inhabited the territory of New
England--the Narragansets, the Mohicans, the Pequots--have any existence
but in the recollection of man. The Lenapes, who received William Penn a
hundred and fifty years ago upon the banks of the Delaware, have
disappeared; and I myself met with the last of the Iroquois, who were
begging alms. The nations I have mentioned formerly covered the country
to the seacoast; but a traveller at the present day must penetrate more
than a hundred leagues into the interior of the continent to find an
Indian. Not only have these wild tribes receded, but they are
destroyed;[209] and as they give way or perish, an immense and
increasing people fills their place. There is no instance on record of
so prodigious a growth, or so rapid a destruction; the manner in which
the latter change takes place is not difficult to describe.

When the Indians were the sole inhabitants of the wilds whence they have
been expelled, their wants were few. Their arms were of their own
manufacture, their only drink was the water of the brook, and their
clothes consisted of the skin of animals, whose flesh furnished them
with food.

The Europeans introduced among the savages of North America firearms,
ardent spirits, and iron: they taught them to exchange for manufactured
stuffs the rough garments which had previously satisfied their untutored
simplicity. Having acquired new tastes, without the arts by which they
could be gratified, the Indians were obliged to have recourse to the
workmanship of the whites; but in return for their productions, the
savage had nothing to offer except the rich furs which still abounded in
his woods. Hence the chase became necessary, not merely to provide for
his subsistence, but in order to procure the only objects of barter
which he could furnish to Europe.[210] While the wants of the natives
were thus increasing, their resources continued to diminish. From the
moment when a European settlement is formed in the neighborhood of the
territory occupied by the Indians, the beasts of chase take the
alarm.[211] Thousands of savages, wandering in the forest and destitute
of any fixed dwelling, did not disturb them; but as soon as the
continuous sounds of European labor are heard in the neighborhood, they
begin to flee away, and retire to the west, where their instinct teaches
them that they will find deserts of immeasurable extent. "The buffalo is
constantly receding", say Messrs. Clarke and Cass in their Report of the
year 1829; "a few years since they approached the base of the Allegany;
and a few years hence they may even be rare upon the immense plains
which extend to the base of the Rocky mountains." I have been assured
that this effect of the approach of the whites is often felt at two
hundred leagues' distance from the frontier. Their influence is thus
exerted over tribes whose name is unknown to them, and who suffer the
evils of usurpation long before they are acquainted with the authors of
their distress.[212]

Bold adventurers soon penetrate into the country the Indians have
deserted, and when they have advanced about fifteen or twenty leagues
from the extreme frontiers of the whites, they begin to build
habitations for civilized beings in the midst of the wilderness. This is
done without difficulty, as the territory of a hunting nation is ill
defined; it is the common property of the tribe, and belongs to no one
in particular, so that individual interests are not concerned in the
protection of any part of it.

A few European families, settled in different situations at a
considerable distance from each other, soon drive away the wild animals
which remain between their places of abode. The Indians, who had
previously lived in a sort of abundance, then find it difficult to
subsist, and still more difficult to procure the articles of barter
which they stand in need of.

To drive away their game is to deprive them of the means of existence,
as effectually as if the fields of our agriculturists were stricken with
barrenness; and they are reduced, like famished wolves, to prowl through
the forsaken woods in quest of prey. Their instinctive love of their
country attaches them to the soil which gave them birth,[213] even after
it has ceased to yield anything but misery and death. At length they are
compelled to acquiesce, and to depart: they follow the traces of the
elk, the buffalo, and the beaver, and are guided by those wild animals
in the choice of their future country. Properly speaking, therefore, it
is not the Europeans who drive away the native inhabitants of America;
it is famine which compels them to recede; a happy distinction, which
had escaped the casuists of former times, and for which we are indebted
to modern discovery.

It is impossible to conceive the extent of the sufferings which attend
these forced emigrations. They are undertaken by a people already
exhausted and reduced; and the countries to which the new-comers betake
themselves are inhabited by other tribes which receive them with jealous
hostility. Hunger is in the rear; war awaits them, and misery besets
them on all sides. In the hope of escaping from such a host of enemies,
they separate, and each individual endeavors to procure the means of
supporting his existence in solitude and secrecy, living in the
immensity of the desert like an outcast in civilized society. The social
tie, which distress had long since weakened, is then dissolved; they
have lost their country, and their people soon deserts them; their very
families are obliterated; the names they bore in common are forgotten,
their language perishes, and all the traces of their origin disappear.
Their nation has ceased to exist, except in the recollection of the
antiquaries of America and a few of the learned of Europe.

I should be sorry to have my reader suppose that I am coloring the
picture too highly: I saw with my own eyes several of the cases of
misery which I have been describing; and I was the witness of sufferings
which I have not the power to portray.

At the end of the year 1831, while I was on the left bank of the
Mississippi, at a place named by Europeans Memphis, there arrived a
numerous band of Choctaws (or Chactas, as they are called by the French
in Louisiana). These savages had left their country, and were
endeavoring to gain the right bank of the Mississippi, where they hoped
to find an asylum which had been promised them by the American
government. It was then in the middle of winter, and the cold was
unusually severe; the snow had frozen hard upon the ground, and the
river was drifting huge masses of ice. The Indians had their families
with them; and they brought in their train the wounded and the sick,
with children newly born, and old men upon the verge of death. They
possessed neither tents nor wagons, but only their arms and some
provisions. I saw them embark to pass the mighty river, and never will
that solemn spectacle fade from my remembrance. No cry, no sob was heard
among the assembled crowd: all were silent. Their calamities were of
ancient date, and they knew them to be irremediable. The Indians had all
stepped into the bark which was to carry them across, but their dogs
remained upon the bank. As soon as these animals perceived that their
masters were finally leaving the shore, they set up a dismal howl, and
plunging all together into the icy waters of the Mississippi, they swam
after the boat.

The ejectment of the Indians very often takes place at the present day,
in a regular, and, as it were, a legal manner. When the European
population begins to approach the limit of the desert inhabited by a
savage tribe, the government of the United States usually despatches
envoys to them, who assemble the Indians in a large plain, and having
first eaten and drunk with them, accost them in the following manner:
"What have you to do in the land of your fathers? Before long you must
dig up their bones in order to live. In what respect is the country you
inhabit better than another? Are there no woods, marshes, or prairies,
except where you dwell? And can you live nowhere but under your own sun?
Beyond those mountains which you see at the horizon, beyond the lake
which bounds your territory on the west, there lie vast countries where
beasts of chase are found in great abundance; sell your land to us, and
go to live happily in those solitudes." After holding this language,
they spread before the eyes of the Indians fire-arms, woollen garments,
kegs of brandy, glass necklaces, bracelets of tinsel, ear-rings, and
looking-glasses.[214] If, when they have beheld all these riches, they
still hesitate, it is insinuated that they have not the means of
refusing their required consent, and that the government itself will not
long have the power of protecting them in their rights. What are they to
do? Half convinced and half compelled, they go to inhabit new deserts,
where the importunate whites will not let them remain ten years in
tranquillity. In this manner do the Americans obtain at a very low price
whole provinces, which the richest sovereigns of Europe could not

These are great evils, and it must be added that they appear to me to be
irremediable. I believe that the Indian nations of North America are
doomed to perish: and that whenever the Europeans shall be established
on the shores of the Pacific ocean, that race of men will be no
more.[216] The Indians had only the two alternatives of war or
civilization; in other words, they must either have destroyed the
Europeans or become their equals.

At the first settlement of the colonies they might have found it
possible, by uniting their forces, to deliver themselves from the small
bodies of strangers who landed on their continent.[217] They several
times attempted to do it, and were on the point of succeeding; but the
disproportion of their resources, at the present day, when compared with
those of the whites, is too great to allow such an enterprise to be
thought of. Nevertheless, there do arise from time to time among the
Indians men of penetration, who foresee the final destiny which awaits
the native population, and who exert themselves to unite all the tribes
in common hostility to the Europeans; but their efforts are unavailing.
Those tribes which are in the neighborhood of the whites are too much
weakened to offer an effectual resistance; while the others, giving way
to that childish carelessness of the morrow which characterizes savage
life, wait for the near approach of danger before they prepare to meet
it: some are unable, the others are unwilling to exert themselves.

It is easy to foresee that the Indians will never conform to
civilisation; or that it will be too late, whenever they may be inclined
to make the experiment.

Civilisation is the result of long social process which takes place in
the same spot, and is handed down from one generation to another, each
one profiting by the experience of the last. Of all nations, those
submit to civilisation with the most difficulty, which habitually live
by the chase. Pastoral tribes, indeed, often change their place of
abode; but they follow in regular order in their migrations, and often
return again to their old stations, while the dwelling of the hunter
varies with that of the animals he pursues.

Several attempts have been made to diffuse knowledge among the Indians,
without controlling their wandering propensities; by the Jesuits in
Canada, and by the puritans in New England;[218] but none of these
endeavors were crowned by any lasting success. Civilisation began in the
cabin, but it soon retired to expire in the woods; the great error of
these legislators of the Indians was their not understanding, that in
order to succeed in civilizing a people, it is first necessary to fix
it; which cannot be done without inducing it to cultivate the soil: the
Indians ought in the first place to have been accustomed to agriculture.
But not only are they destitute of this indispensable preliminary to
civilisation, they would even have great difficulty in acquiring it. Men
who have once abandoned themselves to the restless and adventurous life
of the hunter, feel an insurmountable disgust for the constant and
regular labor which tillage requires. We see this proved in the bosom of
our own society; but it is far more visible among peoples whose
partiality for the chase is a part of their natural character.

Independently of this general difficulty, there is another, which
applies peculiarly to the Indians; they consider labor not merely as an
evil, but as a disgrace; so that their pride prevents them from becoming
civilized, as much as their indolence.[219]

There is no Indian so wretched as not to retain, under his hut of bark,
a lofty idea of his personal worth; he considers the cares of industry
and labor as degrading occupations, he compares the husbandman to the ox
which traces the furrow; and even in our most ingenious handicraft, he
can see nothing but the labor of slaves. Not that he is devoid of
admiration for the power and intellectual greatness of the whites; but
although the result of our efforts surprises him, he contemns the means
by which we obtain it; and while he acknowledges our ascendency, he
still believes in his superiority. War and hunting are the only pursuits
which appear to him worthy to be the occupations of a man.[220] The
Indian, in the dreary solitude of his woods, cherishes the same ideas,
the same opinions, as the noble of the middle ages in his castle, and he
only requires to become a conqueror to complete the resemblance; thus,
however strange it may seem, it is in the forests of the New World, and
not among the Europeans who people its coasts, that the ancient
prejudices of Europe are still in existence.

More than once, in the course of this work, I have endeavored to explain
the prodigious influence which the social condition appears to exercise
upon the laws and the manners of men; and I beg to add a few words on
the same subject. When I perceive the resemblance which exists between
the political institutions of our ancestors, the Germans, and of the
wandering tribes of North America: between the customs described by
Tacitus, and those of which I have sometimes been a witness, I cannot
help thinking that the same cause has brought about the same results in
both hemispheres; and that in the midst of the apparent diversity of
human affairs, a certain number of primary facts may be discovered, from
which all the others are derived. In what we usually call the German
institutions, then, I am inclined only to perceive barbarian habits; and
the opinions of savages, in what we style feudal principles.

However strongly the vices and prejudices of the North American Indians
may be opposed to their becoming agricultural and civilized, necessity
sometimes obliges them to it. Several of the southern nations, and among
them the Cherokees and the Creeks,[221] were surrounded by Europeans,
who had landed on the shores of the Atlantic, and who, either descending
the Ohio or proceeding up the Mississippi, arrived simultaneously upon
their borders. These tribes have not been driven from place to place,
like their northern brethren; but they have been gradually enclosed
within narrow limits, like the game within the thicket before the
huntsmen plunge into the interior. The Indians, who were thus placed
between civilisation and death, found themselves obliged to live by
ignominious labor like the whites. They took to agriculture, and without
entirely forsaking their old habits or manners, sacrificed only as much
as was necessary to their existence.

The Cherokees went further; they created a written language; established
a permanent form of government; and as everything proceeds rapidly in
the New World, before they had all of them clothes, they set up a

The growth of European habits has been remarkably accelerated among
these Indians by the mixed race which has sprung up[223]: Deriving
intelligence from the father's side, without entirely losing the savage
customs of the mother, the half-blood forms the natural link between
civilisation and barbarism. Wherever this race has multiplied, the
savage state has become modified, and a great change has taken place in
the manners of the people.[224]

The success of the Cherokees proves that the Indians are capable of
civilisation, but it does not prove that they will succeed in it. The
difficulty which the Indians find in submitting to civilisation proceeds
from the influence of a general cause, which it is almost impossible for
them to escape. An attentive survey of history demonstrates that, in
general, barbarous nations have raised themselves to civilisation by
degrees, and by their own efforts. Whenever they derived knowledge from
a foreign people, they stood toward it in the relation of conquerors,
not of a conquered nation. When the conquered nation is enlightened, and
the conquerors are half savage, as in the case of the invasion of Rome
by the northern nations, or that of China by the Moguls, the power which
victory bestows upon the barbarian is sufficient to keep up his
importance among civilized men, and permit him to rank as their equal,
until he becomes their rival: the one has might on his side, the other
has intelligence; the former admires the knowledge and the arts of the
conquered, the latter envies the power of the conquerors. The barbarians
at length admit civilized man into their palaces, and he in turn opens
his schools to the barbarians. But when the side on which the physical
force lies, also possesses an intellectual preponderance, the conquered
party seldom becomes civilized; it retreats, or is destroyed. It may
therefore be said, in a general way, that savages go forth in arms to
seek knowledge, but that they do not receive it when it comes to them.

If the Indian tribes which now inhabit the heart of the continent could
summon up energy enough to attempt to civilize themselves, they might
possibly succeed. Superior already to the barbarous nations which
surround them, they would gradually gain strength and experience; and
when the Europeans should appear upon their borders, they would be in a
state, if not to maintain their independence, at least to assert their
right to the soil, and to incorporate themselves with the conquerors.
But it is the misfortune of Indians to be brought into contact with a
civilized people, which is also (it may be owned) the most avaricious
nation on the globe, while they are still semi-barbarian: to find
despots in their instructors, and to receive knowledge from the hand of
oppression. Living in the freedom of the woods, the North American
Indian was destitute, but he had no feeling of inferiority toward any
one; as soon, however, as he desires to penetrate into the social scale
of the whites, he takes the lowest rank in society, for he enters
ignorant and poor within the pale of science and wealth. After having
led a life of agitation, beset with evils and dangers, but at the same
time filled with proud emotions,[225] he is obliged to submit to a
wearisome, obscure, and degraded state, and to gain the bread which
nourishes him by hard and ignoble labor; such are in his eyes the only
results of which civilisation can boast: and even this much he is not
sure to obtain.

When the Indians undertake to imitate their European neighbors, and to
till the earth like the settlers, they are immediately exposed to a very
formidable competition. The white man is skilled in the craft of
agriculture; the Indian is a rough beginner in an art with which he is
unacquainted. The former reaps abundant crops without difficulty, the
latter meets with a thousand obstacles in raising the fruits of the

The European is placed among a population whose wants he knows and
partakes. The savage is isolated in the midst of a hostile people, with
whose manners, language and laws, he is imperfectly acquainted, but
without whose assistance he cannot live. He can only procure the
materials of comfort by bartering his commodities against the goods of
the European, for the assistance of his countrymen is wholly
insufficient to supply his wants. When the Indian wishes to sell the
produce of his labor, he cannot always meet with a purchaser, while the
European readily finds a market; and the former can only produce at a
considerable cost, that which the latter vends at a very low rate. Thus
the Indian has no sooner escaped those evils to which barbarous nations
are exposed, than he is subjected to the still greater miseries of
civilized communities; and he finds it scarcely less difficult to live
in the midst of our abundance, than in the depth of his own wilderness.

He has not yet lost the habits of his erratic life; the traditions of
his fathers and his passion for the chase are still alive within him.
The wild enjoyments which formerly animated him in the woods painfully
excite his troubled imagination; and his former privations appear to be
less keen, his former perils less appalling. He contrasts the
independence which he possessed among his equals with the servile
position which he occupies in civilized society. On the other hand, the
solitudes which were so long his free home are still at hand; a few
hours' march will bring him back to them once more. The whites offer him
a sum, which seems to him to be considerable, for the ground which he
has begun to clear. This money of the Europeans may possibly furnish him
with the means of a happy and peaceful subsistence in remote regions;
and he quits the plough, resumes his native arms, and returns to the
wilderness for ever.[226] The condition of the Creeks and Cherokees, to
which I have already alluded, sufficiently corroborates the truth of
this deplorable picture.

The Indians, in the little which they have done, have unquestionably
displayed as much natural genius as the peoples of Europe in their most
important designs; but nations as well as men require time to learn,
whatever may be their intelligence and their zeal. While the savages
were engaged in the work of civilisation, the Europeans continued to
surround them on every side, and to confine them within narrower limits;
the two races gradually met, and they are now in immediate juxtaposition
to each other. The Indian is already superior to his barbarous parent,
but he is still very far below his white neighbor. With their resources
and acquired knowledge, the Europeans soon appropriated to themselves
most of the advantages which the natives might have derived from the
possession of the soil: they have settled in the country, they have
purchased land at a very low rate or have occupied it by force, and the
Indians have been ruined by a competition which they had not the means
of resisting. They were isolated in their own country, and their race
only constituted a colony of troublesome aliens in the midst of a
numerous and domineering people.[227]

Washington said in one of his messages to congress, "We are more
enlightened and powerful than the Indian nations, we are therefore bound
in honor to treat them with kindness and even with generosity." But this
virtuous and high-minded policy has not been followed. The rapacity of
the settlers is usually backed by the tyranny of the government.
Although the Cherokees and the Creeks are established upon the territory
which they inhabited before the settlement of the Europeans, and
although the Americans have frequently treated with them as with foreign
nations, the surrounding states have not consented to acknowledge them
as an independent people, and attempts have been made to subject these
children of the woods to Anglo-American magistrates, laws, and
customs.[228] Destitution had driven these unfortunate Indians to
civilisation, and oppression now drives them back to their former
condition; many of them abandon the soil which they had begun to clear,
and return to their savage course of life.

If we consider the tyrannical measures which have been adopted by the
legislatures of the southern states, the conduct of their governors, and
the decrees of their courts of justice, we shall be convinced that the
entire expulsion of the Indians is the final result to which the efforts
of their policy are directed. The Americans of that part of the Union
look with jealousy upon the aborigines,[229] they are aware that these
tribes have not yet lost the traditions of savage life, and before
civilisation has permanently fixed them to the soil, it is intended to
force them to recede by reducing them to despair. The Creeks and
Cherokees, oppressed by the several states, have appealed to the central
government, which is by no means insensible to their misfortunes, and is
sincerely desirous of saving the remnant of the natives, and of
maintaining them in the free possession of that territory which the
Union is pledged to respect.[230] But the several states oppose so
formidable a resistance to the execution of this design, that the
government is obliged to consent to the extirpation of a few barbarous
tribes in order not to endanger the safety of the American Union.

But the federal government, which is not able to protect the Indians,
would fain mitigate the hardships of their lot; and, with this
intention, proposals have been made to transport them into more remote
regions at the public cost.

Between the 33d and 37th degrees of north latitude, a vast tract of
country lies, which has taken the name of Arkansas, from the principal
river that waters its extent. It is bounded on the one side by the
confines of Mexico, on the other by the Mississippi. Numberless streams
cross it in every direction; the climate is mild, and the soil
productive, but it is only inhabited by a few wandering hordes of
savages. The government of the Union wishes to transport the broken
remnants of the indigenous population of the south, to the portion of
this country which is nearest to Mexico, and at a great distance from
the American settlements.

We were assured, toward the end of the year 1831, that 10,000 Indians
had already gone to the shores of the Arkansas; and fresh detachments
were constantly following them; but congress has been unable to excite a
unanimous determination in those whom it is disposed to protect. Some,
indeed, are willing to quit the seat of oppression, but the most
enlightened members of the community refuse to abandon their recent
dwellings and the springing crops; they are of opinion that the work of
civilisation, once interrupted, will never be resumed; they fear that
those domestic habits which have been so recently contracted, may be
irrecoverably lost in the midst of a country which is still barbarous,
and where nothing is prepared for the subsistence of an agricultural
people; they know that their entrance into those wilds will be opposed
by inimical hordes, and that they have lost the energy of barbarians,
without acquiring the resources of civilisation to resist their attacks.
Moreover the Indians readily discover that the settlement which is
proposed to them is merely a temporary expedient. Who can assure them
that they will at length be allowed to dwell in peace in their new
retreat? The United States pledge themselves to the observance of the
obligation; but the territory which they at present occupy was formerly
secured to them by the most solemn oaths of Anglo-American faith.[231]
The American government does not indeed rob them of their lands, but it
allows perpetual incursions to be made on them. In a few years the same
white population which now flocks around them, will track them to the
solitudes of the Arkansas, they will then be exposed to the same evils
without the same remedies; and as the limits of the earth will at last
fail them, their only refuge is the grave.

The Union treats the Indians with less cupidity and rigor than the
policy of the several states, but the two governments are alike
destitute of good faith. The states extend what they are pleased to term
the benefits of their laws to the Indians, with a belief that the tribes
will recede rather than submit; and the central government, which
promises a permanent refuge to these unhappy beings, is well aware of
its inability to secure it to them.[232]

Thus the tyranny of the states obliges the savages to retire, the Union,
by its promises and resources facilitates their retreat; and these
measures tend to precisely the same end.[233] "By the will of our Father
in heaven, the governor of the whole world," said the Cherokees in their
petition to congress,[234] "the red man of America has become small, and
the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of
these United States first came to the shores of America, they found the
red man strong: though he was ignorant and savage, yet he received them
kindly, and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in
peace, and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man
wanted and asked of the Indian, the latter willingly gave. At that time
the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the
scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As
his neighbors increased in numbers, his power became less and less, and
now, of the many and powerful tribes who once covered the United States,
only a few are to be seen--a few whom a sweeping pestilence had left.
The northern tribes, who were once so numerous and powerful, are now
nearly extinct. Thus it has happened to the red man of America. Shall
we, who are remnants, share the same fate?

"The land on which we stand we have received as an inheritance from our
fathers who possessed it from time immemorial, as a gift from our common
Father in heaven. They bequeathed it to us as their children, and we
have sacredly kept it, as containing their remains. This right of
inheritance we have never ceded, nor ever forfeited. Permit us to ask
what better right can the people have to a country than the right of
inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession? We know it is said of
late by the state of Georgia and by the executive of the United States,
that we have forfeited this right; but we think it is said gratuitously.
At what time have we made the forfeit? What great crime have we
committed, whereby we must for ever be divested of our country and
rights? Was it when we were hostile to the United States, and took part
with the king of Great Britain, during the struggle for independence? If
so, why was not this forfeiture declared in the first treaty which
followed that war? Why was not such an article as the following inserted
in the treaty: 'The United States give peace to the Cherokees, but for
the part they took in the last war, declare them to be but tenants at
will, to be removed when the convenience of the states, within whose
chartered limits they live, shall require it?' That was the proper time
to assume such a possession. But it was not thought of, nor would our
forefathers have agreed to any treaty, whose tendency was to deprive
them of their rights and their country."

Such is the language of the Indians: their assertions are true, their
forebodings inevitable. From whichever side we consider the destinies of
the aborigines of North America, their calamities appear to be
irremediable: if they continue barbarous, they are forced to retire: if
they attempt to civilize their manners, the contact of a more civilized
community subjects them to oppression and destitution. They perish if
they continue to wander from waste to waste, and if they attempt to
settle, they still must perish; the assistance of Europeans is necessary
to instruct them, but the approach of Europeans corrupts and repels them
into savage life; they refuse to change their habits as long as their
solitudes are their own, and it is too late to change them when they are
constrained to submit.

The Spaniards pursued the Indians with blood-hounds, like wild beasts;
and they sacked the New World with no more temper or compassion than a
city taken by storm: but destruction must cease, and phrensy be stayed;
the remnant of the Indian population, which had escaped the massacre,
mixed with its conquerors and adopted their religion and manners.[235]
The conduct of the Americans of the United States towards the aborigines
is characterized, on the other hand, by a singular attachment to the
formalities of law. Provided that the Indians retain their barbarous
condition, the Americans take no part in their affairs: they treat them
as independent nations, and do not possess themselves of their hunting
grounds without a treaty of purchase; and if an Indian nation happens to
be so encroached upon as to be unable to subsist upon its territory,
they afford it brotherly assistance in transporting it to a grave
sufficiently remote from the land of its fathers.

The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those
unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did
they even succeed in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the
Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose
with singular felicity; tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without
shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of
morality in the eyes of the world.[236] It is impossible to destroy men
with more respect for the laws of humanity.

* * * * *


Why it is more difficult to abolish Slavery, and to efface all Vestiges
of it among the Moderns, than it was among the Ancients.--In the United
States the prejudices of the Whites against the Blacks seem to increase
in Proportion as Slavery is abolished.--Situation of the Negroes in the
Northern and Southern States.--Why the Americans abolish Slavery.--
Servitude, which debases the Slave, impoverishes the Master.--Contrast
between the left and the right Bank of the Ohio.--To what
attributable.--The black Race, as well as Slavery, recedes toward the
South.--Explanation of this fact.--Difficulties attendant upon the
Abolition of Slavery in the South.--Dangers to come.--General
Anxiety.--Foundation of a black Colony in Africa.--Why the Americans of
the South increase the Hardships of Slavery, while they are distressed
at its Continuance.

The Indians will perish in the same isolated condition in which they
have lived; but the destiny of the negroes is in some measure interwoven
with that of the Europeans. These two races are attached to each other
without intermingling; and they are alike unable entirely to separate or
to combine. The most formidable of all the ills which threaten the
future existence of the United States, arises from the presence of a
black population upon its territory; and in contemplating the causes of
the present embarrassments or of the future dangers of the United
States, the observer is invariably led to consider this as a primary

The permanent evils to which mankind is subjected are usually produced
by the vehement or the increasing efforts of men; but there is one
calamity which penetrated furtively into the world, and which was at
first scarcely distinguishable amid the ordinary abuses of power: it
originated with an individual whose name history has not preserved; it
was wafted like some accursed germ upon a portion of the soil, but it
afterward nurtured itself, grew without effort, and spreads naturally
with the society to which it belongs. I need scarcely add that this
calamity is slavery. Christianity suppressed slavery, but the Christians
of the sixteenth century re-established it--as an exception, indeed, to
their social system, and restricted to one of the races of mankind; but
the wound thus inflicted upon humanity, though less extensive, was at
the same time rendered far more difficult of cure.


Back to Full Books