Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

— Alexis de Tocqueville

The most profound Alexis de Tocqueville quotes that are free to learn and impress others

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.


Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality.

But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.


There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.


A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.


There is no country in the world in which everything can be provided for by the laws, or in which political institutions can prove a substitute for common sense and public morality.


Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.... The subjection of individuals will increase amongst democratic nations, not only in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same proportion as their ignorance.


Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.

How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?


I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.


The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.


Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.


In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.


I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.


About Alexis de Tocqueville

Quotes 299 sayings
Nationality French
Profession Historian
Birthday July 29, 1805

A man's admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.


All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.


I have seen Americans making great and sincere sacrifices for the key common good and a hundred times I have noticed that, when needs be, they almost always gave each other faithful support


Life is to be entered upon with courage.


Rulers who destroy men's freedom commonly begin by trying to retain its forms.

... They cherish the illusion that they can combine the prerogatives of absolute power with the moral authority that comes from popular assent.


Nothing is so dangerous as that of violence employed by well-meaning people for beneficial objects.


Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves.


The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.


The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave.


Every central government worships uniformity: uniformity relieves it from inquiry into an infinity of details.


In America, conscription is unknown; men are enlisted for payment. Compulsory recruitment is so alien to the ideas and so foreign to the customs of the people of the United States that I doubt whether they would ever dare to introduce it into their law.


The French under the old monarchy held it for a maxim that the king could do no wrong . The Americans entertain the same opinion with respect to the majority.... If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority.


When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.


In politics... shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.


When a large number of organs of the press come to advance along the same track, their influence becomes almost irresistible in the long term, and public opinion, struck always from the same side, ends by yielding under their blows.


The territorial aristocracy of former ages was either bound by law, or thought itself bound by usage, to come to the relief of its serving-men and to relieve their distresses. But the manufacturing aristocracy of our age first impoverishes and debases the men who serve it and then abandons them to be supported by the charity of the public.


I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it.


The most perilous moment for a bad government is when it seeks to mend its ways.

Only consummate statecraft can enable a king to save his throne when, after a long spell of oppression, he sets out to improve the lot of his subjects.


We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.


I avow that I do not hold that complete and instantaneous love for the freedom of the press that one accords to things whose nature is unqualifiedly good. I love it out of consideration for the evils it prevents much more than for the good it does.


The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.


When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right of the majority to command, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind.


If an American was condemned to confine his activity to his own affairs, he would be robbed of one half of his existence.


General ideas are no proof of the strength, but rather of the insufficiency of the human intellect.


The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.


In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.


As for me, I am deeply a democrat; this is why I am in no way a socialist. Democracy and socialism cannot go together. You can't have it both ways. Socialism is a new form of slavery.


History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.


Righteous women in their circle of influence, beginning in the home, can turn the world around.


I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.


No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.


There is hardly a pioneer's hut which does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare. I remember reading the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.


Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.


It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life.


Despotism can do without faith but freedom cannot.


Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions.

Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity.


Any measure that establishes legal charity on a permanent basis and gives it an administrative form thereby creates an idle and lazy class, living at the expense of the industrial and working class.