Democracy In America, Volume 2
Alexis de Toqueville

Part 4 out of 8

thoughts are forever set upon the object of his daily toil; his
body has contracted certain fixed habits, which it can never
shake off: in a word, he no longer belongs to himself, but to the
calling which he has chosen. It is in vain that laws and manners
have been at the pains to level all barriers round such a man,
and to open to him on every side a thousand different paths to
fortune; a theory of manufactures more powerful than manners and
laws binds him to a craft, and frequently to a spot, which he
cannot leave: it assigns to him a certain place in society,
beyond which he cannot go: in the midst of universal movement it
has rendered him stationary.

In proportion as the principle of the division of labor is
more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more
narrow-minded, and more dependent. The art advances, the artisan
recedes. On the other hand, in proportion as it becomes more
manifest that the productions of manufactures are by so much the
cheaper and better as the manufacture is larger and the amount of
capital employed more considerable, wealthy and educated men come
forward to embark in manufactures which were heretofore abandoned
to poor or ignorant handicraftsmen. The magnitude of the efforts
required, and the importance of the results to be obtained,
attract them. Thus at the very time at which the science of
manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of

Whereas the workman concentrates his faculties more and more
upon the study of a single detail, the master surveys a more
extensive whole, and the mind of the latter is enlarged in
proportion as that of the former is narrowed. In a short time
the one will require nothing but physical strength without
intelligence; the other stands in need of science, and almost of
genius, to insure success. This man resembles more and more the
administrator of a vast empire - that man, a brute. The master
and the workman have then here no similarity, and their
differences increase every day. They are only connected as the
two rings at the extremities of a long chain. Each of them fills
the station which is made for him, and out of which he does not
get: the one is continually, closely, and necessarily dependent
upon the other, and seems as much born to obey as that other is
to command. What is this but aristocracy?

As the conditions of men constituting the nation become more
and more equal, the demand for manufactured commodities becomes
more general and more extensive; and the cheapness which places
these objects within the reach of slender fortunes becomes a
great element of success. Hence there are every day more men of
great opulence and education who devote their wealth and
knowledge to manufactures; and who seek, by opening large
establishments, and by a strict division of labor, to meet the
fresh demands which are made on all sides. Thus, in proportion
as the mass of the nation turns to democracy, that particular
class which is engaged in manufactures becomes more aristocratic.
Men grow more alike in the one - more different in the other; and
inequality increases in the less numerous class in the same ratio
in which it decreases in the community. Hence it would appear,
on searching to the bottom, that aristocracy should naturally
spring out of the bosom of democracy.

But this kind of aristocracy by no means resembles those
kinds which preceded it. It will be observed at once, that as it
applies exclusively to manufactures and to some manufacturing
callings, it is a monstrous exception in the general aspect of
society. The small aristocratic societies which are formed by
some manufacturers in the midst of the immense democracy of our
age, contain, like the great aristocratic societies of former
ages, some men who are very opulent, and a multitude who are
wretchedly poor. The poor have few means of escaping from their
condition and becoming rich; but the rich are constantly becoming
poor, or they give up business when they have realized a fortune.
Thus the elements of which the class of the poor is composed are
fixed; but the elements of which the class of the rich is
composed are not so. To say the truth, though there are rich men,
the class of rich men does not exist; for these rich individuals
have no feelings or purposes in common, no mutual traditions or
mutual hopes; there are therefore members, but no body.

Not only are the rich not compactly united amongst
themselves, but there is no real bond between them and the poor.
Their relative position is not a permanent one; they are
constantly drawn together or separated by their interests. The
workman is generally dependent on the master, but not on any
particular master; these two men meet in the factory, but know
not each other elsewhere; and whilst they come into contact on
one point, they stand very wide apart on all others. The
manufacturer asks nothing of the workman but his labor; the
workman expects nothing from him but his wages. The one
contracts no obligation to protect, nor the other to defend; and
they are not permanently connected either by habit or by duty.
The aristocracy created by business rarely settles in the midst
of the manufacturing population which it directs; the object is
not to govern that population, but to use it. An aristocracy
thus constituted can have no great hold upon those whom it
employs; and even if it succeed in retaining them at one moment,
they escape the next; it knows not how to will, and it cannot
act. The territorial aristocracy of former ages was either bound
by law, or thought itself bound by usage, to come to the relief
of its serving-men, and to succor their distresses. But the
manufacturing aristocracy of our age first impoverishes and
debases the men who serve it, and then abandons them to be
supported by the charity of the public. This is a natural
consequence of what has been said before. Between the workmen
and the master there are frequent relations, but no real

I am of opinion, upon the whole, that the manufacturing
aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes is one of the
harshest which ever existed in the world; but at the same time it
is one of the most confined and least dangerous. Nevertheless
the friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed
in this direction; for if ever a permanent inequality of
conditions and aristocracy again penetrate into the world, it may
be predicted that this is the channel by which they will enter.

Book Three - Chapters I-IV

Influence Of Democracy On Manners, Properly So Called

Chapter I: That Manners Are Softened As Social Conditions Become
More Equal

We perceive that for several ages social conditions have
tended to equality, and we discover that in the course of the
same period the manners of society have been softened. Are these
two things merely contemporaneous, or does any secret link exist
between them, so that the one cannot go on without making the
other advance? Several causes may concur to render the manners
of a people less rude; but, of all these causes, the most
powerful appears to me to be the equality of conditions.
Equality of conditions and growing civility in manners are, then,
in my eyes, not only contemporaneous occurrences, but correlative
facts. When the fabulists seek to interest us in the actions of
beasts, they invest them with human notions and passions; the
poets who sing of spirits and angels do the same; there is no
wretchedness so deep, nor any happiness so pure, as to fill the
human mind and touch the heart, unless we are ourselves held up
to our own eyes under other features.

This is strictly applicable to the subject upon which we are
at present engaged. When all men are irrevocably marshalled in
an aristocratic community, according to their professions, their
property, and their birth, the members of each class, considering
themselves as children of the same family, cherish a constant and
lively sympathy towards each other, which can never be felt in an
equal degree by the citizens of a democracy. But the same
feeling does not exist between the several classes towards each
other. Amongst an aristocratic people each caste has its own
opinions, feelings, rights, manners, and modes of living. Thus
the men of whom each caste is composed do not resemble the mass
of their fellow-citizens; they do not think or feel in the same
manner, and they scarcely believe that they belong to the same
human race. They cannot, therefore, thoroughly understand what
others feel, nor judge of others by themselves. Yet they are
sometimes eager to lend each other mutual aid; but this is not
contrary to my previous observation. These aristocratic
institutions, which made the beings of one and the same race so
different, nevertheless bound them to each other by close
political ties. Although the serf had no natural interest in the
fate of nobles, he did not the less think himself obliged to
devote his person to the service of that noble who happened to be
his lord; and although the noble held himself to be of a
different nature from that of his serfs, he nevertheless held
that his duty and his honor constrained him to defend, at the
risk of his own life, those who dwelt upon his domains.

It is evident that these mutual obligations did not
originate in the law of nature, but in the law of society; and
that the claim of social duty was more stringent than that of
mere humanity. These services were not supposed to be due from
man to man, but to the vassal or to the lord. Feudal
institutions awakened a lively sympathy for the sufferings of
certain men, but none at all for the miseries of mankind. They
infused generosity rather than mildness into the manners of the
time, and although they prompted men to great acts of
self-devotion, they engendered no real sympathies; for real
sympathies can only exist between those who are alike; and in
aristocratic ages men acknowledge none but the members of their
own caste to be like themselves.

When the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, who all belonged to
the aristocracy by birth or education, relate the tragical end of
a noble, their grief flows apace; whereas they tell you at a
breath, and without wincing, of massacres and tortures inflicted
on the common sort of people. Not that these writers felt
habitual hatred or systematic disdain for the people; war between
the several classes of the community was not yet declared. They
were impelled by an instinct rather than by a passion; as they
had formed no clear notion of a poor man's sufferings, they cared
but little for his fate. The same feelings animated the lower
orders whenever the feudal tie was broken. The same ages which
witnessed so many heroic acts of self-devotion on the part of
vassals for their lords, were stained with atrocious barbarities,
exercised from time to time by the lower classes on the higher.
It must not be supposed that this mutual insensibility arose
solely from the absence of public order and education; for traces
of it are to be found in the following centuries, which became
tranquil and enlightened whilst they remained aristocratic. In
1675 the lower classes in Brittany revolted at the imposition of
a new tax. These disturbances were put down with unexampled
atrocity. Observe the language in which Madame de Sevigne, a
witness of these horrors, relates them to her daughter: -

"Aux Rochers, 30 Octobre, 1675.

"Mon Dieu, ma fille, que votre lettre d'Aix est plaisante!
Au moins relisez vos lettres avant que de les envoyer;
laissez-vous surpendre a leur agrement, et consolez-vous par ce
plaisir de la peine que vous avez d'en tant ecrire. Vous avez
donc baise toute la Provence? il n'y aurait pas satisfaction a
baiser toute la Bretagne, a moins qu'on n'aimat a sentir le vin.
. . . Voulez-vous savoir des nouvelles de Rennes? On a fait une
taxe de cent mille ecus sur le bourgeois; et si on ne trouve
point cette somme dans vingt-quatre heures, elle sera doublee et
exigible par les soldats. On a chasse et banni toute une grand
rue, et defendu de les recueillir sous peine de la vie; de sorte
qu'on voyait tous ces miserables, veillards, femmes accouchees,
enfans, errer en pleurs au sortir de cette ville sans savoir ou
aller. On roua avant-hier un violon, qui avait commence la danse
et la pillerie du papier timbre; il a ete ecartele apres sa mort,
et ses quatre quartiers exposes aux quatre coins de la ville. On
a pris soixante bourgeois, et on commence demain les punitions.
Cette province est un bel exemple pour les autres, et surtout de
respecter les gouverneurs et les gouvernantes, et de ne point
jeter de pierres dans leur jardin. *a

[Footnote a: To feel the point of this joke the reader should
recollect that Madame de Grignan was Gouvernante de Provence.]
"Madame de Tarente etait hier dans ces bois par un temps
enchante: il n'est question ni de chambre ni de collation; elle
entre par la barriere et s'en retourne de meme. . . ."

In another letter she adds: -

"Vous me parlez bien plaisamment de nos miseres; nous ne
sommes plus si roues; un en huit jours, pour entretenir la
justice. Il est vrai que la penderie me parait maintenant un
refraichissement. J'ai une tout autre idee de la justice, depuis
que je suis en ce pays. Vos galeriens me paraissent une societe
d'honnetes gens qui se sont retires du monde pour mener une vie

It would be a mistake to suppose that Madame de Sevigne, who
wrote these lines, was a selfish or cruel person; she was
passionately attached to her children, and very ready to
sympathize in the sorrows of her friends; nay, her letters show
that she treated her vassals and servants with kindness and
indulgence. But Madame de Sevigne had no clear notion of
suffering in anyone who was not a person of quality.

In our time the harshest man writing to the most insensible
person of his acquaintance would not venture wantonly to indulge
in the cruel jocularity which I have quoted; and even if his own
manners allowed him to do so, the manners of society at large
would forbid it. Whence does this arise? Have we more
sensibility than our forefathers? I know not that we have; but I
am sure that our insensibility is extended to a far greater range
of objects. When all the ranks of a community are nearly equal,
as all men think and feel in nearly the same manner, each of them
may judge in a moment of the sensations of all the others; he
casts a rapid glance upon himself, and that is enough. There is
no wretchedness into which he cannot readily enter, and a secret
instinct reveals to him its extent. It signifies not that
strangers or foes be the sufferers; imagination puts him in their
place; something like a personal feeling is mingled with his
pity, and makes himself suffer whilst the body of his
fellow-creature is in torture. In democratic ages men rarely
sacrifice themselves for one another; but they display general
compassion for the members of the human race. They inflict no
useless ills; and they are happy to relieve the griefs of others,
when they can do so without much hurting themselves; they are not
disinterested, but they are humane.

Although the Americans have, in a manner, reduced egotism to
a social and philosophical theory, they are nevertheless
extremely open to compassion. In no country is criminal justice
administered with more mildness than in the United States.
Whilst the English seem disposed carefully to retain the bloody
traces of the dark ages in their penal legislation, the Americans
have almost expunged capital punishment from their codes. North
America is, I think, the only one country upon earth in which the
life of no one citizen has been taken for a political offence in
the course of the last fifty years. The circumstance which
conclusively shows that this singular mildness of the Americans
arises chiefly from their social condition, is the manner in
which they treat their slaves. Perhaps there is not, upon the
whole, a single European colony in the New World in which the
physical condition of the blacks is less severe than in the
United States; yet the slaves still endure horrid sufferings
there, and are constantly exposed to barbarous punishments. It is
easy to perceive that the lot of these unhappy beings inspires
their masters with but little compassion, and that they look upon
slavery, not only as an institution which is profitable to them,
but as an evil which does not affect them. Thus the same man who
is full of humanity towards his fellow-creatures when they are at
the same time his equals, becomes insensible to their afflictions
as soon as that equality ceases. His mildness should therefore
be attributed to the equality of conditions, rather than to
civilization and education.

What I have here remarked of individuals is, to a certain
extent, applicable to nations. When each nation has its distinct
opinions, belief, laws, and customs, it looks upon itself as the
whole of mankind, and is moved by no sorrows but its own. Should
war break out between two nations animated by this feeling, it is
sure to be waged with great cruelty. At the time of their
highest culture, the Romans slaughtered the generals of their
enemies, after having dragged them in triumph behind a car; and
they flung their prisoners to the beasts of the Circus for the
amusement of the people. Cicero, who declaimed so vehemently at
the notion of crucifying a Roman citizen, had not a word to say
against these horrible abuses of victory. It is evident that in
his eyes a barbarian did not belong to the same human race as a
Roman. On the contrary, in proportion as nations become more like
each other, they become reciprocally more compassionate, and the
law of nations is mitigated.

Chapter II: That Democracy Renders The Habitual Intercourse Of
The Americans Simple And Easy

Democracy does not attach men strongly to each other; but it
places their habitual intercourse upon an easier footing. If two
Englishmen chance to meet at the Antipodes, where they are
surrounded by strangers whose language and manners are almost
unknown to them, they will first stare at each other with much
curiosity and a kind of secret uneasiness; they will then turn
away, or, if one accosts the other, they will take care only to
converse with a constrained and absent air upon very unimportant
subjects. Yet there is no enmity between these men; they have
never seen each other before, and each believes the other to be a
respectable person. Why then should they stand so cautiously
apart? We must go back to England to learn the reason.

When it is birth alone, independent of wealth, which classes
men in society, everyone knows exactly what his own position is
upon the social scale; he does not seek to rise, he does not fear
to sink. In a community thus organized, men of different castes
communicate very little with each other; but if accident brings
them together, they are ready to converse without hoping or
fearing to lose their own position. Their intercourse is not
upon a footing of equality, but it is not constrained. When
moneyed aristocracy succeeds to aristocracy of birth, the case is
altered. The privileges of some are still extremely great, but
the possibility of acquiring those privileges is open to all:
whence it follows that those who possess them are constantly
haunted by the apprehension of losing them, or of other men's
sharing them; those who do not yet enjoy them long to possess
them at any cost, or, if they fail to appear at least to possess
them - which is not impossible. As the social importance of men
is no longer ostensibly and permanently fixed by blood, and is
infinitely varied by wealth, ranks still exist, but it is not
easy clearly to distinguish at a glance those who respectively
belong to them. Secret hostilities then arise in the community;
one set of men endeavor by innumerable artifices to penetrate, or
to appear to penetrate, amongst those who are above them; another
set are constantly in arms against these usurpers of their
rights; or rather the same individual does both at once, and
whilst he seeks to raise himself into a higher circle, he is
always on the defensive against the intrusion of those below him.

Such is the condition of England at the present time; and I
am of opinion that the peculiarity before adverted to is
principally to be attributed to this cause. As aristocratic
pride is still extremely great amongst the English, and as the
limits of aristocracy are ill-defined, everybody lives in
constant dread lest advantage should be taken of his familiarity.
Unable to judge at once of the social position of those he meets,
an Englishman prudently avoids all contact with them. Men are
afraid lest some slight service rendered should draw them into an
unsuitable acquaintance; they dread civilities, and they avoid
the obtrusive gratitude of a stranger quite as much as his
hatred. Many people attribute these singular anti-social
propensities, and the reserved and taciturn bearing of the
English, to purely physical causes. I may admit that there is
something of it in their race, but much more of it is
attributable to their social condition, as is proved by the
contrast of the Americans.

In America, where the privileges of birth never existed, and
where riches confer no peculiar rights on their possessors, men
unacquainted with each other are very ready to frequent the same
places, and find neither peril nor advantage in the free
interchange of their thoughts. If they meet by accident, they
neither seek nor avoid intercourse; their manner is therefore
natural, frank, and open: it is easy to see that they hardly
expect or apprehend anything from each other, and that they do
not care to display, any more than to conceal, their position in
the world. If their demeanor is often cold and serious, it is
never haughty or constrained; and if they do not converse, it is
because they are not in a humor to talk, not because they think
it their interest to be silent. In a foreign country two
Americans are at once friends, simply because they are Americans.
They are repulsed by no prejudice; they are attracted by their
common country. For two Englishmen the same blood is not enough;
they must be brought together by the same rank. The Americans
remark this unsociable mood of the English as much as the French
do, and they are not less astonished by it. Yet the Americans
are connected with England by their origin, their religion, their
language, and partially by their manners; they only differ in
their social condition. It may therefore be inferred that the
reserve of the English proceeds from the constitution of their
country much more than from that of its inhabitants.

Chapter III: Why The Americans Show So Little Sensitiveness In
Their Own Country, And Are So Sensitive In Europe

The temper of the Americans is vindictive, like that of all
serious and reflecting nations. They hardly ever forget an
offence, but it is not easy to offend them; and their resentment
is as slow to kindle as it is to abate. In aristocratic
communities where a small number of persons manage everything,
the outward intercourse of men is subject to settled conventional
rules. Everyone then thinks he knows exactly what marks of
respect or of condescension he ought to display, and none are
presumed to be ignorant of the science of etiquette. These
usages of the first class in society afterwards serve as a model
to all the others; besides which each of the latter lays down a
code of its own, to which all its members are bound to conform.
Thus the rules of politeness form a complex system of
legislation, which it is difficult to be perfectly master of, but
from which it is dangerous for anyone to deviate; so that men are
constantly exposed involuntarily to inflict or to receive bitter
affronts. But as the distinctions of rank are obliterated, as
men differing in education and in birth meet and mingle in the
same places of resort, it is almost impossible to agree upon the
rules of good breeding. As its laws are uncertain, to disobey
them is not a crime, even in the eyes of those who know what they
are; men attach more importance to intentions than to forms, and
they grow less civil, but at the same time less quarrelsome.
There are many little attentions which an American does not care
about; he thinks they are not due to him, or he presumes that
they are not known to be due: he therefore either does not
perceive a rudeness or he forgives it; his manners become less
courteous, and his character more plain and masculine.

The mutual indulgence which the Americans display, and the
manly confidence with which they treat each other, also result
from another deeper and more general cause, which I have already
adverted to in the preceding chapter. In the United States the
distinctions of rank in civil society are slight, in political
society they are null; an American, therefore, does not think
himself bound to pay particular attentions to any of his fellow-
citizens, nor does he require such attentions from them towards
himself. As he does not see that it is his interest eagerly to
seek the company of any of his countrymen, he is slow to fancy
that his own company is declined: despising no one on account of
his station, he does not imagine that anyone can despise him for
that cause; and until he has clearly perceived an insult, he does
not suppose that an affront was intended. The social condition
of the Americans naturally accustoms them not to take offence in
small matters; and, on the other hand, the democratic freedom
which they enjoy transfuses this same mildness of temper into the
character of the nation. The political institutions of the
United States constantly bring citizens of all ranks into
contact, and compel them to pursue great undertakings in concert.
People thus engaged have scarcely time to attend to the details
of etiquette, and they are besides too strongly interested in
living harmoniously for them to stick at such things. They
therefore soon acquire a habit of considering the feelings and
opinions of those whom they meet more than their manners, and
they do not allow themselves to be annoyed by trifles.

I have often remarked in the United States that it is not
easy to make a man understand that his presence may be dispensed
with; hints will not always suffice to shake him off. I
contradict an American at every word he says, to show him that
his conversation bores me; he instantly labors with fresh
pertinacity to convince me; I preserve a dogged silence, and he
thinks I am meditating deeply on the truths which he is uttering;
at last I rush from his company, and he supposes that some urgent
business hurries me elsewhere. This man will never understand
that he wearies me to extinction unless I tell him so: and the
only way to get rid of him is to make him my enemy for life.

It appears surprising at first sight that the same man
transported to Europe suddenly becomes so sensitive and captious,
that I often find it as difficult to avoid offending him here as
it was to put him out of countenance. These two opposite effects
proceed from the same cause. Democratic institutions generally
give men a lofty notion of their country and of themselves. An
American leaves his country with a heart swollen with pride; on
arriving in Europe he at once finds out that we are not so
engrossed by the United States and the great people which
inhabits them as he had supposed, and this begins to annoy him.
He has been informed that the conditions of society are not equal
in our part of the globe, and he observes that among the nations
of Europe the traces of rank are not wholly obliterated; that
wealth and birth still retain some indeterminate privileges,
which force themselves upon his notice whilst they elude
definition. He is therefore profoundly ignorant of the place
which he ought to occupy in this half-ruined scale of classes,
which are sufficiently distinct to hate and despise each other,
yet sufficiently alike for him to be always confounding them. He
is afraid of ranging himself too high - still more is he afraid
of being ranged too low; this twofold peril keeps his mind
constantly on the stretch, and embarrasses all he says and does.
He learns from tradition that in Europe ceremonial observances
were infinitely varied according to different ranks; this
recollection of former times completes his perplexity, and he is
the more afraid of not obtaining those marks of respect which are
due to him, as he does not exactly know in what they consist. He
is like a man surrounded by traps: society is not a recreation
for him, but a serious toil: he weighs your least actions,
interrogates your looks, and scrutinizes all you say, lest there
should be some hidden allusion to affront him. I doubt whether
there was ever a provincial man of quality so punctilious in
breeding as he is: he endeavors to attend to the slightest rules
of etiquette, and does not allow one of them to be waived towards
himself: he is full of scruples and at the same time of
pretensions; he wishes to do enough, but fears to do too much;
and as he does not very well know the limits of the one or of the
other, he keeps up a haughty and embarrassed air of reserve.

But this is not all: here is yet another double of the human
heart. An American is forever talking of the admirable equality
which prevails in the United States; aloud he makes it the boast
of his country, but in secret he deplores it for himself; and he
aspires to show that, for his part, he is an exception to the
general state of things which he vaunts. There is hardly an
American to be met with who does not claim some remote kindred
with the first founders of the colonies; and as for the scions of
the noble families of England, America seemed to me to be covered
with them. When an opulent American arrives in Europe, his first
care is to surround himself with all the luxuries of wealth: he
is so afraid of being taken for the plain citizen of a democracy,
that he adopts a hundred distorted ways of bringing some new
instance of his wealth before you every day. His house will be
in the most fashionable part of the town: he will always be
surrounded by a host of servants. I have heard an American
complain, that in the best houses of Paris the society was rather
mixed; the taste which prevails there was not pure enough for
him; and he ventured to hint that, in his opinion, there was a
want of elegance of manner; he could not accustom himself to see
wit concealed under such unpretending forms.

These contrasts ought not to surprise us. If the vestiges
of former aristocratic distinctions were not so completely
effaced in the United States, the Americans would be less simple
and less tolerant in their own country -they would require less,
and be less fond of borrowed manners in ours.

Chapter IV: Consequences Of The Three Preceding Chapters

When men feel a natural compassion for their mutual
sufferings - when they are brought together by easy and frequent
intercourse, and no sensitive feelings keep them asunder - it may
readily be supposed that they will lend assistance to one another
whenever it is needed. When an American asks for the
co-operation of his fellow-citizens it is seldom refused, and I
have often seen it afforded spontaneously and with great
goodwill. If an accident happens on the highway, everybody
hastens to help the sufferer; if some great and sudden calamity
befalls a family, the purses of a thousand strangers are at once
willingly opened, and small but numerous donations pour in to
relieve their distress. It often happens amongst the most
civilized nations of the globe, that a poor wretch is as
friendless in the midst of a crowd as the savage in his wilds:
this is hardly ever the case in the United States. The
Americans, who are always cold and often coarse in their manners,
seldom show insensibility; and if they do not proffer services
eagerly, yet they do not refuse to render them.

All this is not in contradiction to what I have said before
on the subject of individualism. The two things are so far from
combating each other, that I can see how they agree. Equality of
conditions, whilst it makes men feel their independence, shows
them their own weakness: they are free, but exposed to a thousand
accidents; and experience soon teaches them that, although they
do not habitually require the assistance of others, a time almost
always comes when they cannot do without it. We constantly see
in Europe that men of the same profession are ever ready to
assist each other; they are all exposed to the same ills, and
that is enough to teach them to seek mutual preservatives,
however hard- hearted and selfish they may otherwise be. When
one of them falls into danger, from which the others may save him
by a slight transient sacrifice or a sudden effort, they do not
fail to make the attempt. Not that they are deeply interested in
his fate; for if, by chance, their exertions are unavailing, they
immediately forget the object of them, and return to their own
business; but a sort of tacit and almost involuntary agreement
has been passed between them, by which each one owes to the
others a temporary support which he may claim for himself in
turn. Extend to a people the remark here applied to a class, and
you will understand my meaning. A similar covenant exists in
fact between all the citizens of a democracy: they all feel
themselves subject to the same weakness and the same dangers; and
their interest, as well as their sympathy, makes it a rule with
them to lend each other mutual assistance when required. The more
equal social conditions become, the more do men display this
reciprocal disposition to oblige each other. In democracies no
great benefits are conferred, but good offices are constantly
rendered: a man seldom displays self- devotion, but all men are
ready to be of service to one another.

Book Three - Chapters V-VII

Chapter V: How Democracy Affects nhe Relation Of Masters And

An American who had travelled for a long time in Europe once
said to me, "The English treat their servants with a stiffness
and imperiousness of manner which surprise us; but on the other
hand the French sometimes treat their attendants with a degree of
familiarity or of politeness which we cannot conceive. It looks
as if they were afraid to give orders: the posture of the
superior and the inferior is ill-maintained." The remark was a
just one, and I have often made it myself. I have always
considered England as the country in the world where, in our
time, the bond of domestic service is drawn most tightly, and
France as the country where it is most relaxed. Nowhere have I
seen masters stand so high or so low as in these two countries.
Between these two extremes the Americans are to be placed. Such
is the fact as it appears upon the surface of things: to discover
the causes of that fact, it is necessary to search the matter

No communities have ever yet existed in which social
conditions have been so equal that there were neither rich nor
poor, and consequently neither masters nor servants. Democracy
does not prevent the existence of these two classes, but it
changes their dispositions and modifies their mutual relations.
Amongst aristocratic nations servants form a distinct class, not
more variously composed than that of masters. A settled order is
soon established; in the former as well as in the latter class a
scale is formed, with numerous distinctions or marked gradations
of rank, and generations succeed each other thus without any
change of position. These two communities are superposed one
above the other, always distinct, but regulated by analogous
principles. This aristocratic constitution does not exert a less
powerful influence on the notions and manners of servants than on
those of masters; and, although the effects are different, the
same cause may easily be traced. Both classes constitute small
communities in the heart of the nation, and certain permanent
notions of right and wrong are ultimately engendered amongst
them. The different acts of human life are viewed by one
particular and unchanging light. In the society of servants, as
in that of masters, men exercise a great influence over each
other: they acknowledge settled rules, and in the absence of law
they are guided by a sort of public opinion: their habits are
settled, and their conduct is placed under a certain control.

These men, whose destiny is to obey, certainly do not
understand fame, virtue, honesty, and honor in the same manner as
their masters; but they have a pride, a virtue, and an honesty
pertaining to their condition; and they have a notion, if I may
use the expression, of a sort of servile honor. *a Because a
class is mean, it must not be supposed that all who belong to it
are mean- hearted; to think so would be a great mistake. However
lowly it may be, he who is foremost there, and who has no notion
of quitting it, occupies an aristocratic position which inspires
him with lofty feelings, pride, and self-respect, that fit him
for the higher virtues and actions above the common. Amongst
aristocratic nations it was by no means rare to find men of noble
and vigorous minds in the service of the great, who felt not the
servitude they bore, and who submitted to the will of their
masters without any fear of their displeasure. But this was
hardly ever the case amongst the inferior ranks of domestic
servants. It may be imagined that he who occupies the lowest
stage of the order of menials stands very low indeed. The French
created a word on purpose to designate the servants of the
aristocracy - they called them lackeys. This word "lackey"
served as the strongest expression, when all others were
exhausted, to designate human meanness. Under the old French
monarchy, to denote by a single expression a low-spirited
contemptible fellow, it was usual to say that he had the "soul of
a lackey"; the term was enough to convey all that was intended.
[Footnote a: If the principal opinions by which men are guided
are examined closely and in detail, the analogy appears still
more striking, and one is surprised to find amongst them, just as
much as amongst the haughtiest scions of a feudal race, pride of
birth, respect for their ancestry and their descendants, disdain
of their inferiors, a dread of contact, a taste for etiquette,
precedents, and antiquity.]

The permanent inequality of conditions not only gives
servants certain peculiar virtues and vices, but it places them
in a peculiar relation with respect to their masters. Amongst
aristocratic nations the poor man is familiarized from his
childhood with the notion of being commanded: to whichever side
he turns his eyes the graduated structure of society and the
aspect of obedience meet his view. Hence in those countries the
master readily obtains prompt, complete, respectful, and easy
obedience from his servants, because they revere in him not only
their master but the class of masters. He weighs down their will
by the whole weight of the aristocracy. He orders their actions -
to a certain extent he even directs their thoughts. In
aristocracies the master often exercises, even without being
aware of it, an amazing sway over the opinions, the habits, and
the manners of those who obey him, and his influence extends even
further than his authority.

In aristocratic communities there are not only hereditary
families of servants as well as of masters, but the same families
of servants adhere for several generations to the same families
of masters (like two parallel lines which neither meet nor
separate); and this considerably modifies the mutual relations of
these two classes of persons. Thus, although in aristocratic
society the master and servant have no natural resemblance -
although, on the contrary, they are placed at an immense distance
on the scale of human beings by their fortune, education, and
opinions - yet time ultimately binds them together. They are
connected by a long series of common reminiscences, and however
different they may be, they grow alike; whilst in democracies,
where they are naturally almost alike, they always remain
strangers to each other. Amongst an aristocratic people the
master gets to look upon his servants as an inferior and
secondary part of himself, and he often takes an interest in
their lot by a last stretch of egotism.

Servants, on their part, are not averse to regard themselves
in the same light; and they sometimes identify themselves with
the person of the master, so that they become an appendage to him
in their own eyes as well as in his. In aristocracies a servant
fills a subordinate position which he cannot get out of; above
him is another man, holding a superior rank which he cannot lose.
On one side are obscurity, poverty, obedience for life; on the
other, and also for life, fame, wealth, and command. The two
conditions are always distinct and always in propinquity; the tie
that connects them is as lasting as they are themselves. In this
predicament the servant ultimately detaches his notion of
interest from his own person; he deserts himself, as it were, or
rather he transports himself into the character of his master,
and thus assumes an imaginary personality. He complacently
invests himself with the wealth of those who command him; he
shares their fame, exalts himself by their rank, and feeds his
mind with borrowed greatness, to which he attaches more
importance than those who fully and really possess it. There is
something touching, and at the same time ridiculous, in this
strange confusion of two different states of being. These
passions of masters, when they pass into the souls of menials,
assume the natural dimensions of the place they occupy -they are
contracted and lowered. What was pride in the former becomes
puerile vanity and paltry ostentation in the latter. The
servants of a great man are commonly most punctilious as to the
marks of respect due to him, and they attach more importance to
his slightest privileges than he does himself. In France a few
of these old servants of the aristocracy are still to be met with
here and there; they have survived their race, which will soon
disappear with them altogether. In the United States I never saw
anyone at all like them. The Americans are not only unacquainted
with the kind of man, but it is hardly possible to make them
understand that such ever existed. It is scarcely less difficult
for them to conceive it, than for us to form a correct notion of
what a slave was amongst the Romans, or a serf in the Middle
Ages. All these men were in fact, though in different degrees,
results of the same cause: they are all retiring from our sight,
and disappearing in the obscurity of the past, together with the
social condition to which they owed their origin.

Equality of conditions turns servants and masters into new
beings, and places them in new relative positions. When social
conditions are nearly equal, men are constantly changing their
situations in life: there is still a class of menials and a class
of masters, but these classes are not always composed of the same
individuals, still less of the same families; and those who
command are not more secure of perpetuity than those who obey.
As servants do not form a separate people, they have no habits,
prejudices, or manners peculiar to themselves; they are not
remarkable for any particular turn of mind or moods of feeling.
They know no vices or virtues of their condition, but they
partake of the education, the opinions, the feelings, the
virtues, and the vices of their contemporaries; and they are
honest men or scoundrels in the same way as their masters are.
The conditions of servants are not less equal than those of
masters. As no marked ranks or fixed subordination are to be
found amongst them, they will not display either the meanness or
the greatness which characterizes the aristocracy of menials as
well as all other aristocracies. I never saw a man in the United
States who reminded me of that class of confidential servants of
which we still retain a reminiscence in Europe, neither did I
ever meet with such a thing as a lackey: all traces of the one
and of the other have disappeared.

In democracies servants are not only equal amongst
themselves, but it may be said that they are in some sort the
equals of their masters. This requires explanation in order to
be rightly understood. At any moment a servant may become a
master, and he aspires to rise to that condition: the servant is
therefore not a different man from the master. Why then has the
former a right to command, and what compels the latter to obey? -
the free and temporary consent of both their wills. Neither of
them is by nature inferior to the other; they only become so for
a time by covenant. Within the terms of this covenant, the one
is a servant, the other a master; beyond it they are two citizens
of the commonwealth - two men. I beg the reader particularly to
observe that this is not only the notion which servants
themselves entertain of their own condition; domestic service is
looked upon by masters in the same light; and the precise limits
of authority and obedience are as clearly settled in the mind of
the one as in that of the other.

When the greater part of the community have long attained a
condition nearly alike, and when equality is an old and
acknowledged fact, the public mind, which is never affected by
exceptions, assigns certain general limits to the value of man,
above or below which no man can long remain placed. It is in
vain that wealth and poverty, authority and obedience,
accidentally interpose great distances between two men; public
opinion, founded upon the usual order of things, draws them to a
common level, and creates a species of imaginary equality between
them, in spite of the real inequality of their conditions. This
all-powerful opinion penetrates at length even into the hearts of
those whose interest might arm them to resist it; it affects
their judgment whilst it subdues their will. In their inmost
convictions the master and the servant no longer perceive any
deep-seated difference between them, and they neither hope nor
fear to meet with any such at any time. They are therefore
neither subject to disdain nor to anger, and they discern in each
other neither humility nor pride. The master holds the contract
of service to be the only source of his power, and the servant
regards it as the only cause of his obedience. They do not
quarrel about their reciprocal situations, but each knows his own
and keeps it.

In the French army the common soldier is taken from nearly
the same classes as the officer, and may hold the same
commissions; out of the ranks he considers himself entirely equal
to his military superiors, and in point of fact he is so; but
when under arms he does not hesitate to obey, and his obedience
is not the less prompt, precise, and ready, for being voluntary
and defined. This example may give a notion of what takes place
between masters and servants in democratic communities.

It would be preposterous to suppose that those warm and
deep- seated affections, which are sometimes kindled in the
domestic service of aristocracy, will ever spring up between
these two men, or that they will exhibit strong instances of
self-sacrifice. In aristocracies masters and servants live
apart, and frequently their only intercourse is through a third
person; yet they commonly stand firmly by one another. In
democratic countries the master and the servant are close
together; they are in daily personal contact, but their minds do
not intermingle; they have common occupations, hardly ever common
interests. Amongst such a people the servant always considers
himself as a sojourner in the dwelling of his masters. He knew
nothing of their forefathers - he will see nothing of their
descendants -he has nothing lasting to expect from their hand.
Why then should he confound his life with theirs, and whence
should so strange a surrender of himself proceed? The reciprocal
position of the two men is changed - their mutual relations must
be so too.

I would fain illustrate all these reflections by the example
of the Americans; but for this purpose the distinctions of
persons and places must be accurately traced. In the South of
the Union, slavery exists; all that I have just said is
consequently inapplicable there. In the North, the majority of
servants are either freedmen or the children of freedmen; these
persons occupy a contested position in the public estimation; by
the laws they are brought up to the level of their masters - by
the manners of the country they are obstinately detruded from it.
They do not themselves clearly know their proper place, and they
are almost always either insolent or craven. But in the Northern
States, especially in New England, there are a certain number of
whites, who agree, for wages, to yield a temporary obedience to
the will of their fellow-citizens. I have heard that these
servants commonly perform the duties of their situation with
punctuality and intelligence; and that without thinking
themselves naturally inferior to the person who orders them, they
submit without reluctance to obey him. They appear to me to
carry into service some of those manly habits which independence
and equality engender. Having once selected a hard way of life,
they do not seek to escape from it by indirect means; and they
have sufficient respect for themselves, not to refuse to their
master that obedience which they have freely promised. On their
part, masters require nothing of their servants but the faithful
and rigorous performance of the covenant: they do not ask for
marks of respect, they do not claim their love or devoted
attachment; it is enough that, as servants, they are exact and
honest. It would not then be true to assert that, in democratic
society, the relation of servants and masters is disorganized: it
is organized on another footing; the rule is different, but there
is a rule.

It is not my purpose to inquire whether the new state of
things which I have just described is inferior to that which
preceded it, or simply different. Enough for me that it is fixed
and determined: for what is most important to meet with among men
is not any given ordering, but order. But what shall I say of
those sad and troubled times at which equality is established in
the midst of the tumult of revolution - when democracy, after
having been introduced into the state of society, still struggles
with difficulty against the prejudices and manners of the
country? The laws, and partially public opinion, already declare
that no natural or permanent inferiority exists between the
servant and the master. But this new belief has not yet reached
the innermost convictions of the latter, or rather his heart
rejects it; in the secret persuasion of his mind the master
thinks that he belongs to a peculiar and superior race; he dares
not say so, but he shudders whilst he allows himself to be
dragged to the same level. His authority over his servants
becomes timid and at the same time harsh: he has already ceased
to entertain for them the feelings of patronizing kindness which
long uncontested power always engenders, and he is surprised
that, being changed himself, his servant changes also. He wants
his attendants to form regular and permanent habits, in a
condition of domestic service which is only temporary: he
requires that they should appear contented with and proud of a
servile condition, which they will one day shake off - that they
should sacrifice themselves to a man who can neither protect nor
ruin them - and in short that they should contract an
indissoluble engagement to a being like themselves, and one who
will last no longer than they will.

Amongst aristocratic nations it often happens that the
condition of domestic service does not degrade the character of
those who enter upon it, because they neither know nor imagine
any other; and the amazing inequality which is manifest between
them and their master appears to be the necessary and unavoidable
consequence of some hidden law of Providence. In democracies the
condition of domestic service does not degrade the character of
those who enter upon it, because it is freely chosen, and adopted
for a time only; because it is not stigmatized by public opinion,
and creates no permanent inequality between the servant and the
master. But whilst the transition from one social condition to
another is going on, there is almost always a time when men's
minds fluctuate between the aristocratic notion of subjection and
the democratic notion of obedience. Obedience then loses its
moral importance in the eyes of him who obeys; he no longer
considers it as a species of divine obligation, and he does not
yet view it under its purely human aspect; it has to him no
character of sanctity or of justice, and he submits to it as to a
degrading but profitable condition. At that moment a confused
and imperfect phantom of equality haunts the minds of servants;
they do not at once perceive whether the equality to which they
are entitled is to be found within or without the pale of
domestic service; and they rebel in their hearts against a
subordination to which they have subjected themselves, and from
which they derive actual profit. They consent to serve, and they
blush to obey; they like the advantages of service, but not the
master; or rather, they are not sure that they ought not
themselves to be masters, and they are inclined to consider him
who orders them as an unjust usurper of their own rights. Then
it is that the dwelling of every citizen offers a spectacle
somewhat analogous to the gloomy aspect of political society. A
secret and intestine warfare is going on there between powers,
ever rivals and suspicious of one another: the master is
ill-natured and weak, the servant ill-natured and intractable;
the one constantly attempts to evade by unfair restrictions his
obligation to protect and to remunerate - the other his
obligation to obey. The reins of domestic government dangle
between them, to be snatched at by one or the other. The lines
which divide authority from oppression, liberty from license, and
right from might, are to their eyes so jumbled together and
confused, that no one knows exactly what he is, or what he may
be, or what he ought to be. Such a condition is not democracy,
but revolution.

Chapter VI: That Democratic Institutions And Manners Tend To
Raise Rents And Shorten The Terms Of Leases

What has been said of servants and masters is applicable, to
a certain extent, to landowners and farming tenants; but this
subject deserves to be considered by itself. In America there
are, properly speaking, no tenant farmers; every man owns the
ground he tills. It must be admitted that democratic laws tend
greatly to increase the number of landowners, and to diminish
that of farming tenants. Yet what takes place in the United
States is much less attributable to the institutions of the
country than to the country itself. In America land is cheap,
and anyone may easily become a landowner; its returns are small,
and its produce cannot well be divided between a landowner and a
farmer. America therefore stands alone in this as well as in
many other respects, and it would be a mistake to take it as an

I believe that in democratic as well as in aristocratic
countries there will be landowners and tenants, but the
connection existing between them will be of a different kind. In
aristocracies the hire of a farm is paid to the landlord, not
only in rent, but in respect, regard, and duty; in democracies
the whole is paid in cash. When estates are divided and passed
from hand to hand, and the permanent connection which existed
between families and the soil is dissolved, the landowner and the
tenant are only casually brought into contact. They meet for a
moment to settle the conditions of the agreement, and then lose
sight of each other; they are two strangers brought together by a
common interest, and who keenly talk over a matter of business,
the sole object of which is to make money.

In proportion as property is subdivided and wealth
distributed over the country, the community is filled with people
whose former opulence is declining, and with others whose
fortunes are of recent growth and whose wants increase more
rapidly than their resources. For all such persons the smallest
pecuniary profit is a matter of importance, and none of them feel
disposed to waive any of their claims, or to lose any portion of
their income. As ranks are intermingled, and as very large as
well as very scanty fortunes become more rare, every day brings
the social condition of the landowner nearer to that of the
farmer; the one has not naturally any uncontested superiority
over the other; between two men who are equal, and not at ease in
their circumstances, the contract of hire is exclusively an
affair of money. A man whose estate extends over a whole
district, and who owns a hundred farms, is well aware of the
importance of gaining at the same time the affections of some
thousands of men; this object appears to call for his exertions,
and to attain it he will readily make considerable sacrifices.
But he who owns a hundred acres is insensible to similar
considerations, and he cares but little to win the private regard
of his tenant.

An aristocracy does not expire like a man in a single day;
the aristocratic principle is slowly undermined in men's opinion,
before it is attacked in their laws. Long before open war is
declared against it, the tie which had hitherto united the higher
classes to the lower may be seen to be gradually relaxed.
Indifference and contempt are betrayed by one class, jealousy and
hatred by the others; the intercourse between rich and poor
becomes less frequent and less kind, and rents are raised. This
is not the consequence of a democratic revolution, but its
certain harbinger; for an aristocracy which has lost the
affections of the people, once and forever, is like a tree dead
at the root, which is the more easily torn up by the winds the
higher its branches have spread.

In the course of the last fifty years the rents of farms
have amazingly increased, not only in France but throughout the
greater part of Europe. The remarkable improvements which have
taken place in agriculture and manufactures within the same
period do not suffice in my opinion to explain this fact;
recourse must be had to another cause more powerful and more
concealed. I believe that cause is to be found in the democratic
institutions which several European nations have adopted, and in
the democratic passions which more or less agitate all the rest.
I have frequently heard great English landowners congratulate
themselves that, at the present day, they derive a much larger
income from their estates than their fathers did. They have
perhaps good reasons to be glad; but most assuredly they know not
what they are glad of. They think they are making a clear gain,
when it is in reality only an exchange; their influence is what
they are parting with for cash; and what they gain in money will
ere long be lost in power.

There is yet another sign by which it is easy to know that a
great democratic revolution is going on or approaching. In the
Middle Ages almost all lands were leased for lives, or for very
long terms; the domestic economy of that period shows that leases
for ninety-nine years were more frequent then than leases for
twelve years are now. Men then believed that families were
immortal; men's conditions seemed settled forever, and the whole
of society appeared to be so fixed, that it was not supposed that
anything would ever be stirred or shaken in its structure. In
ages of equality, the human mind takes a different bent; the
prevailing notion is that nothing abides, and man is haunted by
the thought of mutability. Under this impression the landowner
and the tenant himself are instinctively averse to protracted
terms of obligation; they are afraid of being tied up to-morrow
by the contract which benefits them today. They have vague
anticipations of some sudden and unforeseen change in their
conditions; they mistrust themselves; they fear lest their taste
should change, and lest they should lament that they cannot rid
themselves of what they coveted; nor are such fears unfounded,
for in democratic ages that which is most fluctuating amidst the
fluctuation of all around is the heart of man.

Chapter VII: Influence Of Democracy On Wages

Most of the remarks which I have already made in speaking of
servants and masters, may be applied to masters and workmen. As
the gradations of the social scale come to be less observed,
whilst the great sink the humble rise, and as poverty as well as
opulence ceases to be hereditary, the distance both in reality
and in opinion, which heretofore separated the workman from the
master, is lessened every day. The workman conceives a more
lofty opinion of his rights, of his future, of himself; he is
filled with new ambition and with new desires, he is harassed by
new wants. Every instant he views with longing eyes the profits
of his employer; and in order to share them, he strives to
dispose of his labor at a higher rate, and he generally succeeds
at length in the attempt. In democratic countries, as well as
elsewhere, most of the branches of productive industry are
carried on at a small cost, by men little removed by their wealth
or education above the level of those whom they employ. These
manufacturing speculators are extremely numerous; their interests
differ; they cannot therefore easily concert or combine their
exertions. On the other hand the workmen have almost always some
sure resources, which enable them to refuse to work when they
cannot get what they conceive to be the fair price of their
labor. In the constant struggle for wages which is going on
between these two classes, their strength is divided, and success
alternates from one to the other. It is even probable that in
the end the interest of the working class must prevail; for the
high wages which they have already obtained make them every day
less dependent on their masters; and as they grow more
independent, they have greater facilities for obtaining a further
increase of wages.

I shall take for example that branch of productive industry
which is still at the present day the most generally followed in
France, and in almost all the countries of the world - I mean the
cultivation of the soil. In France most of those who labor for
hire in agriculture, are themselves owners of certain plots of
ground, which just enable them to subsist without working for
anyone else. When these laborers come to offer their services to
a neighboring landowner or farmer, if he refuses them a certain
rate of wages, they retire to their own small property and await
another opportunity.

I think that, upon the whole, it may be asserted that a slow
and gradual rise of wages is one of the general laws of
democratic communities. In proportion as social conditions
become more equal, wages rise; and as wages are higher, social
conditions become more equal. But a great and gloomy exception
occurs in our own time. I have shown in a preceding chapter that
aristocracy, expelled from political society, has taken refuge in
certain departments of productive industry, and has established
its sway there under another form; this powerfully affects the
rate of wages. As a large capital is required to embark in the
great manufacturing speculations to which I allude, the number of
persons who enter upon them is exceedingly limited: as their
number is small, they can easily concert together, and fix the
rate of wages as they please. Their workmen on the contrary are
exceedingly numerous, and the number of them is always
increasing; for, from time to time, an extraordinary run of
business takes place, during which wages are inordinately high,
and they attract the surrounding population to the factories.
But, when once men have embraced that line of life, we have
already seen that they cannot quit it again, because they soon
contract habits of body and mind which unfit them for any other
sort of toil. These men have generally but little education and
industry, with but few resources; they stand therefore almost at
the mercy of the master. When competition, or other fortuitous
circumstances, lessen his profits, he can reduce the wages of his
workmen almost at pleasure, and make from them what he loses by
the chances of business. Should the workmen strike, the master,
who is a rich man, can very well wait without being ruined until
necessity brings them back to him; but they must work day by day
or they die, for their only property is in their hands. They
have long been impoverished by oppression, and the poorer they
become the more easily may they be oppressed: they can never
escape from this fatal circle of cause and consequence. It is
not then surprising that wages, after having sometimes suddenly
risen, are permanently lowered in this branch of industry;
whereas in other callings the price of labor, which generally
increases but little, is nevertheless constantly augmented.

This state of dependence and wretchedness, in which a part
of the manufacturing population of our time lives, forms an
exception to the general rule, contrary to the state of all the
rest of the community; but, for this very reason, no circumstance
is more important or more deserving of the especial consideration
of the legislator; for when the whole of society is in motion, it
is difficult to keep any one class stationary; and when the
greater number of men are opening new paths to fortune, it is no
less difficult to make the few support in peace their wants and
their desires.

Book Three - Chapters VIII-X

Chapter VIII: Influence Of Democracy On Kindred

I have just examined the changes which the equality of
conditions produces in the mutual relations of the several
members of the community amongst democratic nations, and amongst
the Americans in particular. I would now go deeper, and inquire
into the closer ties of kindred: my object here is not to seek
for new truths, but to show in what manner facts already known
are connected with my subject.

It has been universally remarked, that in our time the
several members of a family stand upon an entirely new footing
towards each other; that the distance which formerly separated a
father from his sons has been lessened; and that paternal
authority, if not destroyed, is at least impaired. Something
analogous to this, but even more striking, may be observed in the
United States. In America the family, in the Roman and
aristocratic signification of the word, does not exist. All that
remains of it are a few vestiges in the first years of childhood,
when the father exercises, without opposition, that absolute
domestic authority, which the feebleness of his children renders
necessary, and which their interest, as well as his own
incontestable superiority, warrants. But as soon as the young
American approaches manhood, the ties of filial obedience are
relaxed day by day: master of his thoughts, he is soon master of
his conduct. In America there is, strictly speaking, no
adolescence: at the close of boyhood the man appears, and begins
to trace out his own path. It would be an error to suppose that
this is preceded by a domestic struggle, in which the son has
obtained by a sort of moral violence the liberty that his father
refused him. The same habits, the same principles which impel the
one to assert his independence, predispose the other to consider
the use of that independence as an incontestable right. The
former does not exhibit any of those rancorous or irregular
passions which disturb men long after they have shaken off an
established authority; the latter feels none of that bitter and
angry regret which is apt to survive a bygone power. The father
foresees the limits of his authority long beforehand, and when
the time arrives he surrenders it without a struggle: the son
looks forward to the exact period at which he will be his own
master; and he enters upon his freedom without precipitation and
without effort, as a possession which is his own and which no one
seeks to wrest from him. *a

[Footnote a: The Americans, however, have not yet thought fit to
strip the parent, as has been done in France, of one of the chief
elements of parental authority, by depriving him of the power of
disposing of his property at his death. In the United States
there are no restrictions on the powers of a testator. In this
respect, as in almost all others, it is easy to perceive, that if
the political legislation of the Americans is much more
democratic than that of the French, the civil legislation of the
latter is infinitely more democratic than that of the former.
This may easily be accounted for. The civil legislation of France
was the work of a man who saw that it was his interest to satisfy
the democratic passions of his contemporaries in all that was not
directly and immediately hostile to his own power. He was
willing to allow some popular principles to regulate the
distribution of property and the government of families, provided
they were not to be introduced into the administration of public
affairs. Whilst the torrent of democracy overwhelmed the civil
laws of the country, he hoped to find an easy shelter behind its
political institutions. This policy was at once both adroit and
selfish; but a compromise of this kind could not last; for in the
end political institutions never fail to become the image and
expression of civil society; and in this sense it may be said
that nothing is more political in a nation than its civil

It may perhaps not be without utility to show how these
changes which take place in family relations, are closely
connected with the social and political revolution which is
approaching its consummation under our own observation. There
are certain great social principles, which a people either
introduces everywhere, or tolerates nowhere. In countries which
are aristocratically constituted with all the gradations of rank,
the government never makes a direct appeal to the mass of the
governed: as men are united together, it is enough to lead the
foremost, the rest will follow. This is equally applicable to
the family, as to all aristocracies which have a head. Amongst
aristocratic nations, social institutions recognize, in truth, no
one in the family but the father; children are received by
society at his hands; society governs him, he governs them. Thus
the parent has not only a natural right, but he acquires a
political right, to command them: he is the author and the
support of his family; but he is also its constituted ruler. In
democracies, where the government picks out every individual
singly from the mass, to make him subservient to the general laws
of the community, no such intermediate person is required: a
father is there, in the eye of the law, only a member of the
community, older and richer than his sons.

When most of the conditions of life are extremely unequal,
and the inequality of these conditions is permanent, the notion
of a superior grows upon the imaginations of men: if the law
invested him with no privileges, custom and public opinion would
concede them. When, on the contrary, men differ but little from
each other, and do not always remain in dissimilar conditions of
life, the general notion of a superior becomes weaker and less
distinct: it is vain for legislation to strive to place him who
obeys very much beneath him who commands; the manners of the time
bring the two men nearer to one another, and draw them daily
towards the same level. Although the legislation of an
aristocratic people should grant no peculiar privileges to the
heads of families; I shall not be the less convinced that their
power is more respected and more extensive than in a democracy;
for I know that, whatsoever the laws may be, superiors always
appear higher and inferiors lower in aristocracies than amongst
democratic nations.

When men live more for the remembrance of what has been than
for the care of what is, and when they are more given to attend
to what their ancestors thought than to think themselves, the
father is the natural and necessary tie between the past and the
present - the link by which the ends of these two chains are
connected. In aristocracies, then, the father is not only the
civil head of the family, but the oracle of its traditions, the
expounder of its customs, the arbiter of its manners. He is
listened to with deference, he is addressed with respect, and the
love which is felt for him is always tempered with fear. When
the condition of society becomes democratic, and men adopt as
their general principle that it is good and lawful to judge of
all things for one's self, using former points of belief not as a
rule of faith but simply as a means of information, the power
which the opinions of a father exercise over those of his sons
diminishes as well as his legal power.

Perhaps the subdivision of estates which democracy brings
with it contributes more than anything else to change the
relations existing between a father and his children. When the
property of the father of a family is scanty, his son and himself
constantly live in the same place, and share the same
occupations: habit and necessity bring them together, and force
them to hold constant communication: the inevitable consequence
is a sort of familiar intimacy, which renders authority less
absolute, and which can ill be reconciled with the external forms
of respect. Now in democratic countries the class of those who
are possessed of small fortunes is precisely that which gives
strength to the notions, and a particular direction to the
manners, of the community. That class makes its opinions
preponderate as universally as its will, and even those who are
most inclined to resist its commands are carried away in the end
by its example. I have known eager opponents of democracy who
allowed their children to address them with perfect colloquial

Thus, at the same time that the power of aristocracy is
declining, the austere, the conventional, and the legal part of
parental authority vanishes, and a species of equality prevails
around the domestic hearth. I know not, upon the whole, whether
society loses by the change, but I am inclined to believe that
man individually is a gainer by it. I think that, in proportion
as manners and laws become more democratic, the relation of
father and son becomes more intimate and more affectionate; rules
and authority are less talked of; confidence and tenderness are
oftentimes increased, and it would seem that the natural bond is
drawn closer in proportion as the social bond is loosened. In a
democratic family the father exercises no other power than that
with which men love to invest the affection and the experience of
age; his orders would perhaps be disobeyed, but his advice is for
the most part authoritative. Though he be not hedged in with
ceremonial respect, his sons at least accost him with confidence;
no settled form of speech is appropriated to the mode of
addressing him, but they speak to him constantly, and are ready
to consult him day by day; the master and the constituted ruler
have vanished -the father remains. Nothing more is needed, in
order to judge of the difference between the two states of
society in this respect, than to peruse the family correspondence
of aristocratic ages. The style is always correct, ceremonious,
stiff, and so cold that the natural warmth of the heart can
hardly be felt in the language. The language, on the contrary,
addressed by a son to his father in democratic countries is
always marked by mingled freedom, familiarity and affection,
which at once show that new relations have sprung up in the bosom
of the family.

A similar revolution takes place in the mutual relations of
children. In aristocratic families, as well as in aristocratic
society, every place is marked out beforehand. Not only does the
father occupy a separate rank, in which he enjoys extensive
privileges, but even the children are not equal amongst
themselves. The age and sex of each irrevocably determine his
rank, and secure to him certain privileges: most of these
distinctions are abolished or diminished by democracy. In
aristocratic families the eldest son, inheriting the greater part
of the property, and almost all the rights of the family, becomes
the chief, and, to a certain extent, the master, of his brothers.
Greatness and power are for him - for them, mediocrity and
dependence. Nevertheless it would be wrong to suppose that,
amongst aristocratic nations, the privileges of the eldest son
are advantageous to himself alone, or that they excite nothing
but envy and hatred in those around him. The eldest son commonly
endeavors to procure wealth and power for his brothers, because
the general splendor of the house is reflected back on him who
represents it; the younger sons seek to back the elder brother in
all his undertakings, because the greatness and power of the head
of the family better enable him to provide for all its branches.
The different members of an aristocratic family are therefore
very closely bound together; their interests are connected, their
minds agree, but their hearts are seldom in harmony.

Democracy also binds brothers to each other, but by very
different means. Under democratic laws all the children are
perfectly equal, and consequently independent; nothing brings
them forcibly together, but nothing keeps them apart; and as they
have the same origin, as they are trained under the same roof, as
they are treated with the same care, and as no peculiar privilege
distinguishes or divides them, the affectionate and youthful
intimacy of early years easily springs up between them. Scarcely
any opportunities occur to break the tie thus formed at the
outset of life; for their brotherhood brings them daily together,
without embarrassing them. It is not, then, by interest, but by
common associations and by the free sympathy of opinion and of
taste, that democracy unites brothers to each other. It divides
their inheritance, but it allows their hearts and minds to mingle
together. Such is the charm of these democratic manners, that
even the partisans of aristocracy are caught by it; and after
having experienced it for some time, they are by no means tempted
to revert to the respectful and frigid observance of aristocratic
families. They would be glad to retain the domestic habits of
democracy, if they might throw off its social conditions and its
laws; but these elements are indissolubly united, and it is
impossible to enjoy the former without enduring the latter.
The remarks I have made on filial love and fraternal
affection are applicable to all the passions which emanate
spontaneously from human nature itself. If a certain mode of
thought or feeling is the result of some peculiar condition of
life, when that condition is altered nothing whatever remains of
the thought or feeling. Thus a law may bind two members of the
community very closely to one another; but that law being
abolished, they stand asunder. Nothing was more strict than the
tie which united the vassal to the lord under the feudal system;
at the present day the two men know not each other; the fear, the
gratitude, and the affection which formerly connected them have
vanished, and not a vestige of the tie remains. Such, however,
is not the case with those feelings which are natural to mankind.
Whenever a law attempts to tutor these feelings in any particular
manner, it seldom fails to weaken them; by attempting to add to
their intensity, it robs them of some of their elements, for they
are never stronger than when left to themselves.

Democracy, which destroys or obscures almost all the old
conventional rules of society, and which prevents men from
readily assenting to new ones, entirely effaces most of the
feelings to which these conventional rules have given rise; but
it only modifies some others, and frequently imparts to them a
degree of energy and sweetness unknown before. Perhaps it is not
impossible to condense into a single proposition the whole
meaning of this chapter, and of several others that preceded it.
Democracy loosens social ties, but it draws the ties of nature
more tight; it brings kindred more closely together, whilst it
places the various members of the community more widely apart.

Chapter IX: Education Of Young Women In The United States

No free communities ever existed without morals; and, as I
observed in the former part of this work, morals are the work of
woman. Consequently, whatever affects the condition of women,
their habits and their opinions, has great political importance
in my eyes. Amongst almost all Protestant nations young women
are far more the mistresses of their own actions than they are in
Catholic countries. This independence is still greater in
Protestant countries, like England, which have retained or
acquired the right of self-government; the spirit of freedom is
then infused into the domestic circle by political habits and by
religious opinions. In the United States the doctrines of
Protestantism are combined with great political freedom and a
most democratic state of society; and nowhere are young women
surrendered so early or so completely to their own guidance.
Long before an American girl arrives at the age of marriage, her
emancipation from maternal control begins; she has scarcely
ceased to be a child when she already thinks for herself, speaks
with freedom, and acts on her own impulse. The great scene of
the world is constantly open to her view; far from seeking
concealment, it is every day disclosed to her more completely,
and she is taught to survey it with a firm and calm gaze. Thus
the vices and dangers of society are early revealed to her; as
she sees them clearly, she views them without illusions, and
braves them without fear; for she is full of reliance on her own
strength, and her reliance seems to be shared by all who are
about her. An American girl scarcely ever displays that virginal
bloom in the midst of young desires, or that innocent and
ingenuous grace which usually attends the European woman in the
transition from girlhood to youth. It is rarely that an American
woman at any age displays childish timidity or ignorance. Like
the young women of Europe, she seeks to please, but she knows
precisely the cost of pleasing. If she does not abandon herself
to evil, at least she knows that it exists; and she is remarkable
rather for purity of manners than for chastity of mind. I have
been frequently surprised, and almost frightened, at the singular
address and happy boldness with which young women in America
contrive to manage their thoughts and their language amidst all
the difficulties of stimulating conversation; a philosopher would
have stumbled at every step along the narrow path which they trod
without accidents and without effort. It is easy indeed to
perceive that, even amidst the independence of early youth, an
American woman is always mistress of herself; she indulges in all
permitted pleasures, without yielding herself up to any of them;
and her reason never allows the reins of self-guidance to drop,
though it often seems to hold them loosely.

In France, where remnants of every age are still so
strangely mingled in the opinions and tastes of the people, women
commonly receive a reserved, retired, and almost cloistral
education, as they did in aristocratic times; and then they are
suddenly abandoned, without a guide and without assistance, in
the midst of all the irregularities inseparable from democratic
society. The Americans are more consistent. They have found out
that in a democracy the independence of individuals cannot fail
to be very great, youth premature, tastes ill-restrained, customs
fleeting, public opinion often unsettled and powerless, paternal
authority weak, and marital authority contested. Under these
circumstances, believing that they had little chance of
repressing in woman the most vehement passions of the human
heart, they held that the surer way was to teach her the art of
combating those passions for herself. As they could not prevent
her virtue from being exposed to frequent danger, they determined
that she should know how best to defend it; and more reliance was
placed on the free vigor of her will than on safeguards which
have been shaken or overthrown. Instead, then, of inculcating
mistrust of herself, they constantly seek to enhance their
confidence in her own strength of character. As it is neither
possible nor desirable to keep a young woman in perpetual or
complete ignorance, they hasten to give her a precocious
knowledge on all subjects. Far from hiding the corruptions of
the world from her, they prefer that she should see them at once
and train herself to shun them; and they hold it of more
importance to protect her conduct than to be over-scrupulous of
her innocence.

Although the Americans are a very religious people, they do
not rely on religion alone to defend the virtue of woman; they
seek to arm her reason also. In this they have followed the same
method as in several other respects; they first make the most
vigorous efforts to bring individual independence to exercise a
proper control over itself, and they do not call in the aid of
religion until they have reached the utmost limits of human
strength. I am aware that an education of this kind is not
without danger; I am sensible that it tends to invigorate the
judgment at the expense of the imagination, and to make cold and
virtuous women instead of affectionate wives and agreeable
companions to man. Society may be more tranquil and better
regulated, but domestic life has often fewer charms. These,
however, are secondary evils, which may be braved for the sake of
higher interests. At the stage at which we are now arrived the
time for choosing is no longer within our control; a democratic
education is indispensable to protect women from the dangers with
which democratic institutions and manners surround them.

Chapter X: The Young Woman In The Character Of A Wife

In America the independence of woman is irrevocably lost in
the bonds of matrimony: if an unmarried woman is less constrained
there than elsewhere, a wife is subjected to stricter
obligations. The former makes her father's house an abode of
freedom and of pleasure; the latter lives in the home of her
husband as if it were a cloister. Yet these two different
conditions of life are perhaps not so contrary as may be
supposed, and it is natural that the American women should pass
through the one to arrive at the other.

Religious peoples and trading nations entertain peculiarly
serious notions of marriage: the former consider the regularity
of woman's life as the best pledge and most certain sign of the
purity of her morals; the latter regard it as the highest
security for the order and prosperity of the household. The
Americans are at the same time a puritanical people and a
commercial nation: their religious opinions, as well as their
trading habits, consequently lead them to require much abnegation
on the part of woman, and a constant sacrifice of her pleasures
to her duties which is seldom demanded of her in Europe. Thus in
the United States the inexorable opinion of the public carefully
circumscribes woman within the narrow circle of domestic interest
and duties, and forbids her to step beyond it.

Upon her entrance into the world a young American woman
finds these notions firmly established; she sees the rules which
are derived from them; she is not slow to perceive that she
cannot depart for an instant from the established usages of her
contemporaries, without putting in jeopardy her peace of mind,
her honor, nay even her social existence; and she finds the
energy required for such an act of submission in the firmness of
her understanding and in the virile habits which her education
has given her. It may be said that she has learned by the use of
her independence to surrender it without a struggle and without a
murmur when the time comes for making the sacrifice. But no
American woman falls into the toils of matrimony as into a snare
held out to her simplicity and ignorance. She has been taught
beforehand what is expected of her, and voluntarily and freely
does she enter upon this engagement. She supports her new
condition with courage, because she chose it. As in America
paternal discipline is very relaxed and the conjugal tie very
strict, a young woman does not contract the latter without
considerable circumspection and apprehension. Precocious
marriages are rare. Thus American women do not marry until their
understandings are exercised and ripened; whereas in other
countries most women generally only begin to exercise and to
ripen their understandings after marriage.

I by no means suppose, however, that the great change which
takes place in all the habits of women in the United States, as
soon as they are married, ought solely to be attributed to the
constraint of public opinion: it is frequently imposed upon
themselves by the sole effort of their own will. When the time
for choosing a husband is arrived, that cold and stern reasoning
power which has been educated and invigorated by the free
observation of the world, teaches an American woman that a spirit
of levity and independence in the bonds of marriage is a constant
subject of annoyance, not of pleasure; it tells her that the
amusements of the girl cannot become the recreations of the wife,
and that the sources of a married woman's happiness are in the
home of her husband. As she clearly discerns beforehand the only
road which can lead to domestic happiness, she enters upon it at
once, and follows it to the end without seeking to turn back.

The same strength of purpose which the young wives of
America display, in bending themselves at once and without
repining to the austere duties of their new condition, is no less
manifest in all the great trials of their lives. In no country
in the world are private fortunes more precarious than in the
United States. It is not uncommon for the same man, in the
course of his life, to rise and sink again through all the grades
which lead from opulence to poverty. American women support
these vicissitudes with calm and unquenchable energy: it would
seem that their desires contract, as easily as they expand, with
their fortunes. *a

[Footnote a: See Appendix S.]

The greater part of the adventurers who migrate every year
to people the western wilds, belong, as I observed in the former
part of this work, to the old Anglo-American race of the Northern
States. Many of these men, who rush so boldly onwards in pursuit
of wealth, were already in the enjoyment of a competency in their
own part of the country. They take their wives along with them,
and make them share the countless perils and privations which
always attend the commencement of these expeditions. I have
often met, even on the verge of the wilderness, with young women,
who after having been brought up amidst all the comforts of the
large towns of New England, had passed, almost without any
intermediate stage, from the wealthy abode of their parents to a
comfortless hovel in a forest. Fever, solitude, and a tedious
life had not broken the springs of their courage. Their features
were impaired and faded, but their looks were firm: they appeared
to be at once sad and resolute. I do not doubt that these young
American women had amassed, in the education of their early
years, that inward strength which they displayed under these
circumstances. The early culture of the girl may still therefore
be traced, in the United States, under the aspect of marriage:
her part is changed, her habits are different, but her character
is the same.

Book Three - Chapters XI-XIV

Chapter XI: That The Equality Of Conditions Contributes To The
Maintenance Of Good Morals In America

Some philosophers and historians have said, or have hinted,
that the strictness of female morality was increased or
diminished simply by the distance of a country from the equator.
This solution of the difficulty was an easy one; and nothing was
required but a globe and a pair of compasses to settle in an
instant one of the most difficult problems in the condition of
mankind. But I am not aware that this principle of the
materialists is supported by facts. The same nations have been
chaste or dissolute at different periods of their history; the
strictness or the laxity of their morals depended therefore on
some variable cause, not only on the natural qualities of their
country, which were invariable. I do not deny that in certain
climates the passions which are occasioned by the mutual
attraction of the sexes are peculiarly intense; but I am of
opinion that this natural intensity may always be excited or
restrained by the condition of society and by political

Although the travellers who have visited North America
differ on a great number of points, they all agree in remarking
that morals are far more strict there than elsewhere. It is
evident that on this point the Americans are very superior to
their progenitors the English. A superficial glance at the two
nations will establish the fact. In England, as in all other
countries of Europe, public malice is constantly attacking the
frailties of women. Philosophers and statesmen are heard to
deplore that morals are not sufficiently strict, and the literary
productions of the country constantly lead one to suppose so. In
America all books, novels not excepted, suppose women to be
chaste, and no one thinks of relating affairs of gallantry. No
doubt this great regularity of American morals originates partly
in the country, in the race of the people, and in their religion:
but all these causes, which operate elsewhere, do not suffice to
account for it; recourse must be had to some special reason.
This reason appears to me to be the principle of equality and the
institutions derived from it. Equality of conditions does not of
itself engender regularity of morals, but it unquestionably
facilitates and increases it. *a
[Footnote a: See Appendix T.]

Amongst aristocratic nations birth and fortune frequently
make two such different beings of man and woman, that they can
never be united to each other. Their passions draw them
together, but the condition of society, and the notions suggested
by it, prevent them from contracting a permanent and ostensible
tie. The necessary consequence is a great number of transient
and clandestine connections. Nature secretly avenges herself for
the constraint imposed upon her by the laws of man. This is not
so much the case when the equality of conditions has swept away
all the imaginary, or the real, barriers which separated man from
woman. No girl then believes that she cannot become the wife of
the man who loves her; and this renders all breaches of morality
before marriage very uncommon: for, whatever be the credulity of
the passions, a woman will hardly be able to persuade herself
that she is beloved, when her lover is perfectly free to marry
her and does not.

The same cause operates, though more indirectly, on married
life. Nothing better serves to justify an illicit passion, either
to the minds of those who have conceived it or to the world which
looks on, than compulsory or accidental marriages. *b In a
country in which a woman is always free to exercise her power of
choosing, and in which education has prepared her to choose
rightly, public opinion is inexorable to her faults. The rigor
of the Americans arises in part from this cause. They consider
marriages as a covenant which is often onerous, but every
condition of which the parties are strictly bound to fulfil,
because they knew all those conditions beforehand, and were
perfectly free not to have contracted them.

[Footnote b: The literature of Europe sufficiently corroborates
this remark. When a European author wishes to depict in a work of
imagination any of these great catastrophes in matrimony which so
frequently occur amongst us, he takes care to bespeak the
compassion of the reader by bringing before him ill-assorted or
compulsory marriages. Although habitual tolerance has long since
relaxed our morals, an author could hardly succeed in interesting
us in the misfortunes of his characters, if he did not first
palliate their faults. This artifice seldom fails: the daily
scenes we witness prepare us long beforehand to be indulgent.
But American writers could never render these palliations
probable to their readers; their customs and laws are opposed to
it; and as they despair of rendering levity of conduct pleasing,
they cease to depict it. This is one of the causes to which must
be attributed the small number of novels published in the United

The very circumstances which render matrimonial fidelity
more obligatory also render it more easy. In aristocratic
countries the object of marriage is rather to unite property than
persons; hence the husband is sometimes at school and the wife at
nurse when they are betrothed. It cannot be wondered at if the
conjugal tie which holds the fortunes of the pair united allows
their hearts to rove; this is the natural result of the nature of
the contract. When, on the contrary, a man always chooses a wife
for himself, without any external coercion or even guidance, it
is generally a conformity of tastes and opinions which brings a
man and a woman together, and this same conformity keeps and
fixes them in close habits of intimacy.

Our forefathers had conceived a very strange notion on the
subject of marriage: as they had remarked that the small number
of love-matches which occurred in their time almost always turned
out ill, they resolutely inferred that it was exceedingly
dangerous to listen to the dictates of the heart on the subject.
Accident appeared to them to be a better guide than choice. Yet
it was not very difficult to perceive that the examples which
they witnessed did in fact prove nothing at all. For in the
first place, if democratic nations leave a woman at liberty to
choose her husband, they take care to give her mind sufficient
knowledge, and her will sufficient strength, to make so important
a choice: whereas the young women who, amongst aristocratic
nations, furtively elope from the authority of their parents to
throw themselves of their own accord into the arms of men whom
they have had neither time to know, nor ability to judge of, are
totally without those securities. It is not surprising that they
make a bad use of their freedom of action the first time they
avail themselves of it; nor that they fall into such cruel
mistakes, when, not having received a democratic education, they
choose to marry in conformity to democratic customs. But this is
not all. When a man and woman are bent upon marriage in spite of
the differences of an aristocratic state of society, the
difficulties to be overcome are enormous. Having broken or
relaxed the bonds of filial obedience, they have then to
emancipate themselves by a final effort from the sway of custom
and the tyranny of opinion; and when at length they have
succeeded in this arduous task, they stand estranged from their
natural friends and kinsmen: the prejudice they have crossed
separates them from all, and places them in a situation which
soon breaks their courage and sours their hearts. If, then, a
couple married in this manner are first unhappy and afterwards
criminal, it ought not to be attributed to the freedom of their
choice, but rather to their living in a community in which this
freedom of choice is not admitted.

Moreover it should not be forgotten that the same effort
which makes a man violently shake off a prevailing error,
commonly impels him beyond the bounds of reason; that, to dare to
declare war, in however just a cause, against the opinion of
one's age and country, a violent and adventurous spirit is
required, and that men of this character seldom arrive at
happiness or virtue, whatever be the path they follow. And this,
it may be observed by the way, is the reason why in the most
necessary and righteous revolutions, it is so rare to meet with
virtuous or moderate revolutionary characters. There is then no
just ground for surprise if a man, who in an age of aristocracy
chooses to consult nothing but his own opinion and his own taste
in the choice of a wife, soon finds that infractions of morality
and domestic wretchedness invade his household: but when this
same line of action is in the natural and ordinary course of
things, when it is sanctioned by parental authority and backed by
public opinion, it cannot be doubted that the internal peace of
families will be increased by it, and conjugal fidelity more
rigidly observed.

Almost all men in democracies are engaged in public or
professional life; and on the other hand the limited extent of
common incomes obliges a wife to confine herself to the house, in
order to watch in person and very closely over the details of
domestic economy. All these distinct and compulsory occupations
are so many natural barriers, which, by keeping the two sexes
asunder, render the solicitations of the one less frequent and
less ardent -the resistance of the other more easy.

Not indeed that the equality of conditions can ever succeed
in making men chaste, but it may impart a less dangerous
character to their breaches of morality. As no one has then
either sufficient time or opportunity to assail a virtue armed in
self-defence, there will be at the same time a great number of
courtesans and a great number of virtuous women. This state of
things causes lamentable cases of individual hardship, but it
does not prevent the body of society from being strong and alert:
it does not destroy family ties, or enervate the morals of the
nation. Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a
few, but by laxity of morals amongst all. In the eyes of a
legislator, prostitution is less to be dreaded than intrigue.

The tumultuous and constantly harassed life which equality
makes men lead, not only distracts them from the passion of love,
by denying them time to indulge in it, but it diverts them from
it by another more secret but more certain road. All men who
live in democratic ages more or less contract the ways of
thinking of the manufacturing and trading classes; their minds
take a serious, deliberate, and positive turn; they are apt to
relinquish the ideal, in order to pursue some visible and
proximate object, which appears to be the natural and necessary
aim of their desires. Thus the principle of equality does not
destroy the imagination, but lowers its flight to the level of
the earth. No men are less addicted to reverie than the citizens
of a democracy; and few of them are ever known to give way to
those idle and solitary meditations which commonly precede and
produce the great emotions of the heart. It is true they attach
great importance to procuring for themselves that sort of deep,
regular, and quiet affection which constitutes the charm and
safeguard of life, but they are not apt to run after those
violent and capricious sources of excitement which disturb and
abridge it.

I am aware that all this is only applicable in its full
extent to America, and cannot at present be extended to Europe.
In the course of the last half-century, whilst laws and customs
have impelled several European nations with unexampled force
towards democracy, we have not had occasion to observe that the
relations of man and woman have become more orderly or more
chaste. In some places the very reverse may be detected: some
classes are more strict - the general morality of the people
appears to be more lax. I do not hesitate to make the remark,
for I am as little disposed to flatter my contemporaries as to
malign them. This fact must distress, but it ought not to
surprise us. The propitious influence which a democratic state
of society may exercise upon orderly habits, is one of those
tendencies which can only be discovered after a time. If the
equality of conditions is favorable to purity of morals, the
social commotion by which conditions are rendered equal is
adverse to it. In the last fifty years, during which France has
been undergoing this transformation, that country has rarely had
freedom, always disturbance. Amidst this universal confusion of
notions and this general stir of opinions - amidst this
incoherent mixture of the just and unjust, of truth and
falsehood, of right and might - public virtue has become
doubtful, and private morality wavering. But all
revolutions, whatever may have been their object or their agents,
have at first produced similar consequences; even those which
have in the end drawn the bonds of morality more tightly began by
loosening them. The violations of morality which the French
frequently witness do not appear to me to have a permanent
character; and this is already betokened by some curious signs of
the times.

Nothing is more wretchedly corrupt than an aristocracy which
retains its wealth when it has lost its power, and which still
enjoys a vast deal of leisure after it is reduced to mere vulgar
pastimes. The energetic passions and great conceptions which
animated it heretofore, leave it then; and nothing remains to it
but a host of petty consuming vices, which cling about it like
worms upon a carcass. No one denies that the French aristocracy
of the last century was extremely dissolute; whereas established
habits and ancient belief still preserved some respect for
morality amongst the other classes of society. Nor will it be
contested that at the present day the remnants of that same
aristocracy exhibit a certain severity of morals; whilst laxity
of morals appears to have spread amongst the middle and lower
ranks. So that the same families which were most profligate
fifty years ago are nowadays the most exemplary, and democracy
seems only to have strengthened the morality of the aristocratic
classes. The French Revolution, by dividing the fortunes of the
nobility, by forcing them to attend assiduously to their affairs
and to their families, by making them live under the same roof
with their children, and in short by giving a more rational and
serious turn to their minds, has imparted to them, almost without
their being aware of it, a reverence for religious belief, a love
of order, of tranquil pleasures, of domestic endearments, and of
comfort; whereas the rest of the nation, which had naturally
these same tastes, was carried away into excesses by the effort
which was required to overthrow the laws and political habits of
the country. The old French aristocracy has undergone the
consequences of the Revolution, but it neither felt the
revolutionary passions nor shared in the anarchical excitement
which produced that crisis; it may easily be conceived that this
aristocracy feels the salutary influence of the Revolution in its
manners, before those who achieve it. It may therefore be said,
though at first it seems paradoxical, that, at the present day,
the most anti-democratic classes of the nation principally
exhibit the kind of morality which may reasonably be anticipated
from democracy. I cannot but think that when we shall have
obtained all the effects of this democratic Revolution, after
having got rid of the tumult it has caused, the observations
which are now only applicable to the few will gradually become
true of the whole community.

Chapter XII: How The Americans Understand The Equality Of The

I Have shown how democracy destroys or modifies the
different inequalities which originate in society; but is this
all? or does it not ultimately affect that great inequality of
man and woman which has seemed, up to the present day, to be
eternally based in human nature? I believe that the social
changes which bring nearer to the same level the father and son,
the master and servant, and superiors and inferiors generally
speaking, will raise woman and make her more and more the equal
of man. But here, more than ever, I feel the necessity of making
myself clearly understood; for there is no subject on which the
coarse and lawless fancies of our age have taken a freer range.

There are people in Europe who, confounding together the
different characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and
woman beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both
the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to
both the same rights; they would mix them in all things - their
occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be
conceived, that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the
other, both are degraded; and from so preposterous a medley of
the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and
disorderly women. It is not thus that the Americans understand
that species of democratic equality which may be established
between the sexes. They admit, that as nature has appointed such
wide differences between the physical and moral constitution of
man and woman, her manifest design was to give a distinct
employment to their various faculties; and they hold that
improvement does not consist in making beings so dissimilar do
pretty nearly the same things, but in getting each of them to
fulfil their respective tasks in the best possible manner. The
Americans have applied to the sexes the great principle of
political economy which governs the manufactures of our age, by
carefully dividing the duties of man from those of woman, in
order that the great work of society may be the better carried

In no country has such constant care been taken as in
America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two
sexes, and to make them keep pace one with the other, but in two
pathways which are always different. American women never manage
the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or
take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other hand,
ever compelled to perform the rough labor of the fields, or to
make any of those laborious exertions which demand the exertion
of physical strength. No families are so poor as to form an
exception to this rule. If on the one hand an American woman
cannot escape from the quiet circle of domestic employments, on
the other hand she is never forced to go beyond it. Hence it is
that the women of America, who often exhibit a masculine strength
of understanding and a manly energy, generally preserve great
delicacy of personal appearance and always retain the manners of
women, although they sometimes show that they have the hearts and
minds of men.

Nor have the Americans ever supposed that one consequence of
democratic principles is the subversion of marital power, of the
confusion of the natural authorities in families. They hold that
every association must have a head in order to accomplish its
object, and that the natural head of the conjugal association is
man. They do not therefore deny him the right of directing his
partner; and they maintain, that in the smaller association of
husband and wife, as well as in the great social community, the
object of democracy is to regulate and legalize the powers which
are necessary, not to subvert all power. This opinion is not
peculiar to one sex, and contested by the other: I never observed
that the women of America consider conjugal authority as a
fortunate usurpation of their rights, nor that they thought
themselves degraded by submitting to it. It appeared to me, on
the contrary, that they attach a sort of pride to the voluntary
surrender of their own will, and make it their boast to bend
themselves to the yoke, not to shake it off. Such at least is
the feeling expressed by the most virtuous of their sex; the
others are silent; and in the United States it is not the
practice for a guilty wife to clamor for the rights of women,
whilst she is trampling on her holiest duties.

It has often been remarked that in Europe a certain degree
of contempt lurks even in the flattery which men lavish upon
women: although a European frequently affects to be the slave of
woman, it may be seen that he never sincerely thinks her his
equal. In the United States men seldom compliment women, but
they daily show how much they esteem them. They constantly
display an entire confidence in the understanding of a wife, and
a profound respect for her freedom; they have decided that her
mind is just as fitted as that of a man to discover the plain
truth, and her heart as firm to embrace it; and they have never
sought to place her virtue, any more than his, under the shelter
of prejudice, ignorance, and fear. It would seem that in Europe,
where man so easily submits to the despotic sway of women, they
are nevertheless curtailed of some of the greatest qualities of
the human species, and considered as seductive but imperfect
beings; and (what may well provoke astonishment) women ultimately
look upon themselves in the same light, and almost consider it as
a privilege that they are entitled to show themselves futile,
feeble, and timid. The women of America claim no such

Again, it may be said that in our morals we have reserved
strange immunities to man; so that there is, as it were, one
virtue for his use, and another for the guidance of his partner;
and that, according to the opinion of the public, the very same
act may be punished alternately as a crime or only as a fault.
The Americans know not this iniquitous division of duties and
rights; amongst them the seducer is as much dishonored as his
victim. It is true that the Americans rarely lavish upon women
those eager attentions which are commonly paid them in Europe;
but their conduct to women always implies that they suppose them
to be virtuous and refined; and such is the respect entertained
for the moral freedom of the sex, that in the presence of a woman
the most guarded language is used, lest her ear should be
offended by an expression. In America a young unmarried woman
may, alone and without fear, undertake a long journey.

The legislators of the United States, who have mitigated
almost all the penalties of criminal law, still make rape a
capital offence, and no crime is visited with more inexorable
severity by public opinion. This may be accounted for; as the


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