Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville, translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop
University of Chicago Press, 2000
Cloth: 978-0-226-80532-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-80536-8 | Electronic: 978-0-226-92456-4
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226924564.001.0001


Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.
When it was published in 2000, Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop's new translation of Democracy in America—only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840—was lauded in all quarters as the finest and most definitive edition of Tocqueville's classic thus far. Mansfield and Winthrop have restored the nuances of Tocqueville's language, with the expressed goal "to convey Tocqueville's thought as he held it rather than to restate it in comparable terms of today." The result is a translation with minimal interpretation, but with impeccable annotations of unfamiliar references and a masterful introduction placing the work and its author in the broader contexts of political philosophy and statesmanship.


Harvey C. Mansfield is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. Political philosopher and author, he is acknowledged as a leading translator of Machiavelli.

Delba Winthrop is a Lecturer in Extension and administrator of the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications.


"The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century."
— Gordon S. Wood, New York Review of Books

"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
— Choice

"The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville."
— Roger Kimball, The New Criterion

"If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought."
— Thomas Pavel, Wall Street Journal

"Democracy in America will continue to be read with profit as long as the United States survives as a republic and, indeed, as long as democracy endures. It deserves faithful translators, careful expositors and insightful commentators. In Mansfield and Winthrop it has found them."
— Robert P. George, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible."
— Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek

"This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find."
— Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker


Editors' Introduction

Suggested Readings

A Note on the Translation

Volume One


Part One

1. External Configuration of North America

2. On the Point of Departure and Its Importance for the Future of the Anglo-Americans

Reasons for Some Singularities That the Laws and Customs of the Anglo-Americans Present

3. Social State of the Anglo-Americans

The Salient Point of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans Is Its Being Essentially Democratic

Political Consequences of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans

4. On the Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America

5. Necessity of Studying What Takes Place in the Particular States before Speaking of the Government of the Union

On the Township System in America

Powers of the Township in New England

On Township Existence

On the Spirit of the Township in New England

On the Country in New England

On Administration in New England

General Ideas about Administration in the United States

On the State

Legislative Power of the State

On the Executive Power of the State

On the Political Effects of Administrative Decentralization in the United States

6. On Judicial Power in the United States and Its Action on Political Society

Other Powers Granted to American Judges

7. On Political Judgment in the United States

History of the Federal Constitution

Summary Picture of the Federal Constitution

Prerogatives of the Federal Government

Legislative Powers

On the Executive Power

How the Position of the President of the United States Differs from That of a Constitutional King in France

Accidental Causes That Can Increase the Influence of the Executive Power

Why the President of the United States Does Not Need to Have a Majority in the Houses in Order to Direct Affairs

On the Election of the President

Mode of Election

Crisis of Election

On the Reelection of the President

On the Federal Courts

Manner of Settling the Competence of the Federal Courts

Different Cases of Jurisdiction

Manner of Proceeding of Federal Courts

Elecated Rank Held by the Supreme Court amoung the Great Powers of the State

How the Federal Constitution Is Superior to the Constitutions of the States

What Distinguishes the Federal Constitution of the United States of America from All Other Federal Constitutions

On the Advantages of the Federal System Generally, and Its Special Utility for America

What Keeps the Federal System from Being within Reach of All Peoples, and What Has Permited the Anglo-Americans to Adopt It

Part Two

1. How One Can Say Strictly That in the United States the People Govern

2. On Parties in the United States

On the Remains of the Aristocratic Party in the United States

3. On Freedom of the Press in the United States

4. On Political Association in the United States

On the Choices of the People and the Instincts of American Democracy in Its Choices

On the Causes That Can in Part Correct These Instincts of Democracy

Influence That American Democracy Exerts on Electoral Laws

On Public Officials under the Empire of American Democracy

On the Arbitrariness of Magistrates under the Empire of American Democracy

Administrative Instability in the United States

On Public Costs under the Empire of American Democracy

On the Instincts of American Democracy in Fixing the Salaries of Officials

Difficulty of Discerning the Causes That Incline the American Government to Economy

Can the Public Expenditures of the United States Be Compared to Those of France?

On the Corruption and Vices of Those Who Govern in Democracy; On the Effects on Public Morality that Result

Of What Efforts Democracy Is Capable

On the Power That American Democracy Generally Exercises over Itself

The Manner in Which American Democracy Conducts External Affairs of State

6. What Are the Real Advantages That American Society Derives from the Government of Democracy

On the General Tendency of the Laws under the Empire of American Democracy, and on the Instinct of Those Who Apply Them

On Public Spirit in the United States

On the Idea of Rights in the United States

On Respect for the Law in the United States

Activity Reigning in All Parts of the Body Politic of the United States; Influence That It Exerts on Society

7. On the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects

How the Omnipotence of the Majority in America Increases the Legislative and Administrative Instability That Is Natural to Democracies

Tyranny of the Majority

Effects of the Omnipotence of the Majority on the Arbitrariness of American Officials

On the Power That the Majority in America Exercises over Thought

Effects of the Tyranny of the Majority on the National Character of the Americans; On the Spirit of a Court in the United States

That the Greatest Danger of the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence of the Majority

Absence of Administrative Centralizaion

On the Spirit of the Lawyer in the United States and How It Serves as a Counterweight to Democracy

On the Juruy in the United States Considered as a Political Institution

9. On the Principal Causes Tending to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States

On the Accidental or Providential Causes Contributing to the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic in the United States

On the Influence of Mores on the Maintenance of a Democratic Republc in United States

On Religion Considered as a Political Institution; How It Serves Powerfully the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic among the Americans

Indirect Influence That Religious Beliefs Exert on Political Society in the United States

On the Principal Causes That Make Religion Powerful in America

How the Enlightenment, the Habits, and the Practical Experience of the Americans Contribute to the Success of Democratic Institutions

That the laws Serve to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States More than Physical Causes, and Mores More than Laws

Would Laws and Mores Suffice to Maintain Democratic Institutions Elsewhere than in America?

Importance of What Precedes in Relation to Europe

10. Some Considerations on the Present State and the Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States

Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory Possessed by the Union

Position That the Black Race Occupies in the United States; Dangers Incuurred by Whites from Its Presence

What are the Chances That the American Unionis Will Last? What Dangers Threaten It?

On Republican Institutions in the United States; What Are Their Chances of Longevity?

Some Considerations on the Causes of the Commercial Greatness of the United States


Volume Two


Part One: Influence of Democracy on Intellectual Movement in the United States

1. On the Philosophic Method of the Americans

2. On the Principal Source of Beliefs amoung Democratic Peoples

3. Why the Americans Show More Aptitude and Taste for General Ideas than Their English Fathers

4. Why the Americans Have Never Been as Passionate as the French for General Ideas in Political Matters

5. How, in the United States, Religion Knows How to Make Use of Democratic Instincts

6. On the Progreess of Catholicism in the United States

7. What Makes the Mind of Democratic Peoples Lean toward Pantheism

8. How Equality Suggests to the Americans the Idea of the Indefinite Perfectibility of Man

9. How the Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude and Taste for the Sciences, Literature, and the Arts

10. Why the Americans Apply Themselves to the Practice of the Sciences Rather than to the Theory

11. In What Spirit the Americans Cultivate the Arts

12. Why the Americans at the Same Time Raise Such Little and Such Great Monuments

13. The Literary Face of Democratic Centuries

15. Why the Study of Greek and Latin Literature Is Particularly Useful in Democratic Societies

16. How American Democracy has Modified the English Language

17. On Some Sources of Poetry in Democratic Nations

18. Why American Writers and Orators Are Often Bombastic

19. Some Observations on the Theater of Democratic Peoples

20. On Some Tendencies Particular to Historians in Democratic Centuries

21. On Parliamentary Eloquence in the United States

Part Two: Influence of Democracy on the Sentiments of the Americans

1. Why Democratic Peoples Show a More Ardent and More Lasting Love for Equality than for Freedom

2. On Individualism in Democratic Countries

3. How Individualism is Greater at the End of a Democratic Reolution than in Any Other Period

4. How the Americans Combat Individualism with Free Institutions

5. On the Use That the Americans Make of Association in Civil Life

6. On the Relation between Associations and Newspapers

7. Relations between Civil Associations and Political Associations

8. How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Doctrine of Self-Interest Well Understood

9. How the Americans Apply the Doctrine of Self-Interest Well Understood in the Matter of Religion

10. On the Taste for Material Well-Being in America

11. On the Particular Effects That the Love of Material Enjoyments Produces in Democratic Centuries

12. Why Certain Americans Display Such an Exalted Spiritualism

13. Why the Americans Show Themselves So Restive in the Midst of Their Well-Being

14. How the Taste for Material Enjoyments among Americans is United with Love of Freedom and with Care for Public Affairs

15. How Religious Beliefs at Times Turn the Souls of the Americans toward Immaterial Enjoyments

16. How the Excessive Love of Well-Being Can Be Harmful to Well-Being

17. How in Times of Equality and Doubt It Is Important to Move Back the Object of Human Actions

18. Why among the Americans All Honest Professions Are Reputed Honorable

19. What Makes almost All Americans Incline toward Industrial Professions

20. How Aristocracy Could Issue from Industry

Part Three: Influence of Democracy on Mores Properly So-Called

1. How Mores Become Milder as Conditions are Equalized

2. How Democracy Renders the Habitual Relations of the Americans Simpler and Easier

3. Why the Americans Have So Little Oversensitivity in Their Country and Show Themselves to Be So Oversensitive in Ours

4. Consequences of the Preceding Three Chapters

5. How Democracy Modifies the Relations of Servant and Master

6. How Democratic Institutions and Mores Tend to Raise the Price and Shorten the Duration of Leases

7. Influence of Democracy on Wages

8. Influence of Democracy on the Family

9. Education of Girls in the United States

10. How the Girl is Found beneath the Features of the Wife

11. How Equality of Conditions Contributes to Maintaining Good Mores in America

12. How the Americans Understand the Equality of Man and Woman

13. How Equality Naturally Divides the Americans into a Multitude of Particular Little Societies

14. Some Reflections on American Manners

15. On the Gravity of the Americans and Why It Does Not Prevent Their Often Doing Ill-Considered Things

16. Why the National Vanity of the Americans Is More Restive and More Quarrelsome than That of the English

17. How the Aspect of Society in the United States Is at Once Agitated and Monotonous

18. On Honor in the United States and in Democratic Societies

19. Why One Finds So Many Ambitious Men in the United States and So Few Grea Ambitions

20. On the Industry in Place-Hunting in Certain Democratic Nations

21. Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare

22. Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally [Desire] War

23. Which Is the Most Warlike and the Most Revolutionary Class in Democratic Armies

24. What Mates Democratic Armies Weaker than Other Armies When Entering into a Campaign and More Formidable When War Is Prolonged

25. On Discipline in Democratic Armies

26. Some Considerations on War in Democratic Societies

Part Four: On the Influence that Democratic Ideas and Sentiments Exert on Political Society

1. Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions

2. That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples in the Matter of Government Are Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Powers

3. That the Sentiments of Democratic Peoples Are in Accord with Their Ideas to Bring Them to Concentrate Power

4. On Some Particular and Accidental Causes That Serve to Bring a Democratic People to Centralize Power or Turn It Away from That

5. That among European Nations of Our Day Sovereign Power Increases Although Sovereigns are less Stable

6. What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear

7. Continuation of the Preceding Chapters

8. General View of the Subject


Sources Cited by Tocqueville