When will America properly adopt democracy?

Summary of About democracy in America

America and France in the 19th century

Thanks to the expedition of Robert de La Salle France owned a huge colonial area in North America from 1682 east and west of Mississippi and Missouri and up to Canada. It was named after the then reigning Sun King Louisiana. The colony of Louisiana - not to be equated with the US state of the same name - was as large as the whole of Europe and encompassed the area of ​​around a dozen of today's American states, practically the entire Midwest. The French never really colonized this area with settlers. Napoleon sold it to the USA in 1803 for $ 15 million in the Louisiana Purchase, the largest area sale in world history. Up until the 1830s there were virtually no white settlers in this area. Texas and all areas to the west of it still belonged to Mexico, as part of the inheritance of the Spanish colonial empire. The focus of the USA was still entirely on the American east coast, in the former English colonies including the later southern states. With the construction of the Erie Canal (opening in 1825) and the first railways from 1826, the systematic development of the west began.

In France, after Napoleon's abdication, Bourbons were again on the throne, one after the other two brothers of the one who was beheaded during the revolution Louis XVI So an attempt was made to reintroduce the old regime against the liberal and democratic tendencies - as in the rest of Europe. The ultra reactionary and hated one Charles X. was overthrown in the July Revolution of 1830. After that, the last Bourbon and last French king reigned Louis-Philippe as a constitutional monarch who swore an oath on the constitution. This “citizen king” was supported by the upper class. According to the famous saying of one of his ministers, the slogan was “Enrichissez-vous!” (“Enrich yourselves!”). France experienced an economic boom, not least thanks to the construction of the railways. The workers' needs were ignored. Louis-Philippe's initially liberal style of government became increasingly reactionary. The revolution of 1848 ended his rule. The Second Republic was then proclaimed in France. The Napoleon nephew Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President. In 1851 he suspended the constitution and proclaimed himself "Emperor of the French". After losing to Prussia, France proclaimed the Third Republic. This back and forth between reaction and revolution was typical of the unstable situation in many European countries in the 19th century.


On the occasion of a one-year study tour in 1831 on behalf of the French government, Tocqueville got a good overview of political life and constitutional reality in the United States. On this trip he made the acquaintance of the former French governor in Louisiana and received so many suggestions and sociologically and demographically valuable documents, especially about the conditions in New Orleans.

In addition to the scouts, the work had Montesquieus, the father of the idea of ​​separation of powers, greatly influenced Tocqueville. It is said that he knew his work by heart. It also influenced his style. Another major source for Tocqueville was reading the Federalist Papers, a collection of newspaper articles from the founding fathers of the United States, important for American constitutional history. There is already a reference to the danger of the tyranny of a majority in a democracy. Immediately after the first volume was published in 1835, Tocqueville began writing the second volume, which took five years to complete.

Impact history

Tocqueville's work founded comparative political science and is considered by many to be one of the best books ever written on democracy and America. Immediately after its publication, the importance of the work was recognized and appreciated both in America and Europe, and it established Tocqueville's world fame. The pioneering thinker of English liberalism and founder of political economy ensured its positive reception and spread in the English-speaking world, John Stuart Mill, a personal friend of Tocqueville. In Germany it was mainly the philosopher who pointed out Wilhelm Dilthey towards Tocqueville's work. The book influenced all thinkers of liberalism, especially in Germany Georg SImmel and Max Weber, in Switzerland Jacob Burckhardt and in France Raymond Aron and François Furet. Today it is considered essential reading for political and social science students and is familiar to anyone in America with an interest in politics.