De Tocqueville\'s "Democracy In America"

Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
delves deep into how the American States and the federal government would grow
politically and socially under the umbrella of democracy. He sees the United
States as a unique entity because of how and why it started as well as its
geographical location.
De Tocqueville explains that the foundations of the
democratic process in America are completely different from anywhere else on
the globe. The land was virginal and the colonies had almost complete sovereignty
from England from the very beginning because they were separated by an ocean
and financial troubles. The people who came to America were the oppressed
and unhappy in England and all were trying to find a place where they could
start anew and create a political structure that would facilitate an individual
freedom unlike anything that they had previously experienced in Europe. De
Tocqueville believed that the nature of democracy in the New World rested within
the fact that all of the emigrants were basically from the same social strata,
resulting in the first new country where there was no preliminary basis for
an aristocracy. "Land is the basis of an aristocracy…and… [in America] when
the ground was prepared, its produce was found to be insufficient to enrich
a proprietor and a farmer at the same t
ime(41)." He saw that even the soil
of America was opposed to the structure of an aristocracy.

There
were also outside influences lending unvoiced support for the creation of this
new democracy. Being an ocean apart from its mother country, who at this time
did not have the financial reserves to oversee its colonies, let the Americans
govern themselves. If they had not had this sovereignty at the beginning America
might have become something completely different than it is today, but that
was not the case, so these emigrants now had a fertile place to plant their
ideas of a country founded upon the many ideas of the Enlightenment. Another
large influence was the lack of neighbors. America had no worries of guarding
and protecting its borders because there was not anyone there who could pose
a threat. They could put all of their energies toward the creation of their
democracy.
This democratic nation was to have no aristocracy and only one
major division between its people: the North and the South. De Tocqueville
saw two very different attitudes in these regions. The North and the South
had conflicting views as to how they were going to advance themselves in the
economic and political arenas. But the introduction of slavery into labor
was the major conflict between the two. "Slavery…dishonors labor; it introduces
idleness into a society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and
distress…The influence of slavery, united to the English character, explains
the manners and the social condition of the Southern States(42)." With the
advent of slavery, the South was creating a class system amongst themselves
that would not exist in the other regions of the States. The few Southern


founders were granted huge amounts of land with which to work, and instead
of diving into the land themselves like the northerners did with their smaller
pieces of land. They instead bought slaves and would eventually divide the
country in a nasty dispute over their handling of affairs.
He realized that
the majority of the influences over public policy were the men in the North.
They created the first public school system that was to be readily accessible
to the majority of the people. The enlightened idea that every man should
have access to knowledge was given exercise in this new nation, creating a
highly learned society, but one that is not very intellectual. Schools teach
specialized skills so that American can enter the work force as soon as possible,
but gloss over any areas that have no value in work. Whereas in England, the
few who do go on towards a higher education are actually being challenged and
forced to expand their minds, higher education in America is available to many,
but it is more specialized and very basic. This unlimited quantity, limited
quality relationship is seem by de Tocqueville as an inherent part of a democratic
society. This is because, "…there is no class…in which the taste for intellectual
pleasures is transmitted with hereditary fortune and leisure
and [wherein]
…intellect [is] held in honor(53)."
Democracy is a facilitator of a blended
society. The masses will be very similar in their thinking as well as their
actions. America is a social democracy because the citizens are united by
their beliefs and movements as