Almost diminutive in stature, acutely sensitive, and plagued by severe bouts of anxiety since childhood, he remained close to his parents throughout his life. Despite a frail voice in a fragile body, distaste for the daily demands of parliamentary existence, and long periods of illness and nervous exhaustion, Tocqueville chose politics as his vocation and adhered to this choice until he was driven from office. His decision in favour of a public career was made with some assurance of success. His father was a loyal royalist prefect and in was made a peer of France by Charles X.
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Almost diminutive in stature, acutely sensitive, and plagued by severe bouts of anxiety since childhood, he remained close to his parents throughout his life.
Despite a frail voice in a fragile body, distaste for the daily demands of parliamentary existence, and long periods of illness and nervous exhaustion, Tocqueville chose politics as his vocation and adhered to this choice until he was driven from office. His decision in favour of a public career was made with some assurance of success. His father was a loyal royalist prefect and in was made a peer of France by Charles X. At that time, young Tocqueville moved easily into government service as an apprentice magistrate.
There he prepared himself for political life while observing the impending constitutional confrontation between the Conservatives and the Liberals, with growing sympathy for the latter. After the manner of Liberals under the autocratic regime of the restored Bourbon kings, Tocqueville began to study English history as a model of political development. He entered public life in the company of a close friend who was to become his alter ego—Gustave de Beaumont.
Their life histories are virtual mirror images. Of similar backgrounds and positions, they were companions in their travels in America, England, and Algeria, coordinated their writings, and ultimately entered the legislature together. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. It deepened his conviction that France was moving rapidly toward complete social equality.
Breaking with the older liberal generation, he no longer compared France with the English constitutional monarchy but compared it with democratic America. Of more personal concern, despite his oath of loyalty to the new monarch, his position had become precarious because of his family ties with the ousted Bourbon king. He and Beaumont, seeking to escape from their uncomfortable political situation, asked for and received official permission to study the uncontroversial problem of prison reforms in America.
On the basis of observations, readings, and discussions with a host of eminent Americans, Tocqueville attempted to penetrate directly to the essentials of American society and to highlight that aspect—equality of conditions—that was most relevant to his own philosophy. Above all, the work was infused with his message that a society, properly organized, could hope to retain liberty in a democratic social order. The first part of Democracy in America won an immediate reputation for its author as a political scientist.
During this period, probably the happiest and most optimistic of his life, Tocqueville was named to the Legion of Honour , the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences , and the French Academy With the prizes and royalties from the book, he even found himself able to rebuild his ancestral chateau in Normandy.
Although it was sometimes viewed as having been derived from politically biased sources, it was soon accorded the status of a classic in the United States. In Tocqueville married Mary Mottely, an Englishwoman. Tocqueville spent the next four years working on the final portion of Democracy in America, which was published in Its composition took far longer, moved farther afield, and ended far more soberly than Tocqueville originally had intended.
American society slid into the background, and Tocqueville attempted to complete a picture of the influence of equality itself on all aspects of modern society.
France increasingly became his principal example, and what he saw there altered the tone of his work. He observed the curtailment of liberties by the Liberals, who had come to power in , as well as the growth of state intervention in economic development. Most depressing to him was the increased political apathy and acquiescence of his fellow citizens in this rising paternalism.
His chapters on democratic individualism and centralization in Democracy in America contained a new warning based on these observations. He argued that a mild, stagnant despotism was the greatest threat to democracy. First political career During this period Tocqueville fulfilled his lifelong ambition to enter politics. He lost his first bid for the Chamber of Deputies in but won election two years later. Eventually, Tocqueville built up an enormous personal influence in his constituency , winning subsequent elections by more than 70 percent of the vote and becoming president of his departmental council a local representative body.
In local politics his quest for preeminence was completely fulfilled, but his need for uncompromised dignity and independence deprived him of influence in the Chamber of Deputies for a much longer time. He was not able to follow the leadership of others, nor did his oratorical style win him quick recognition as a leader.
As a result, he had no major legislative accomplishment to his credit during the reign of Louis-Philippe. His speech prophesying revolution only a few weeks before it took place in France in February part of the wider Revolutions of that befell Europe that year fell on deaf ears.
The biting sketches of friend, foe, and even himself in his Recollections reflect his feeling of the general mediocrity of political leadership before and after Alexis de Tocqueville.
Demokracie podle de Tocquevillea
Both of his parents had been jailed during the Reign of Terror. After attending college in Metz, Tocqueville studied law in Paris and was appointed a magistrate in Versailles, where he met his future wife and befriended a fellow lawyer named Gustave de Beaumont. Did you know? During his travels in the United States, one of the first things that surprised Alexis de Tocqueville about American culture was how early everyone seemed to eat breakfast. Unable to advance, he and Beaumont secured permission to carry out a study of the American penal system, and in April they set sail for Rhode Island. In Pennsylvania , Tocqueville spent a week interviewing every prisoner in the Eastern State Penitentiary. In Washington , D.
Alexis de Tocqueville
There are some nations in Europe whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid.