Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is one of the classic texts of political philosophy. When the first volume appeared in 1835 it met critical acclaims, and this was matched by the second when it was published in 1840. There is a certain irony about this, The clearest exposition of democracy in America was the work of a man born into the French aristocracy in 1805. By then Napoleon was in power, having crushed the first disastrous experiment with democracy which followed the French revolution.
With his friend, Tocqueville traveled 7,000 miles in seven months. He visited 17 of the 24 states and some of the territories. He filled scores of notebooks One question directed his research. Why had the French revolution led to the Terror and counter-revolution, while the American revolution had brought forth liberal democracy?
By Alexis de Tocqueville