DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA by Alexis DeTocqueville

by JF

What happened was, a French nobleman went on a tour of the United States in 1831 with the stated purpose of studying its prison system. Instead, Alexis DeTocqueville ended up writing a voluminous treatise describing virtually all aspects of life in the young nation.

It is of course a vaunted document now, historically speaking, and justifiably so. It is literally a time capsule, a stirling portraiture of specific details on the society of the U.S. in its infancy. And needless to say, DeTocqueville himself, as a nobleman, was exquisitely educated. However, there were evidently a few select gaping holes in DeTocqueville’s education.

Specifically, he showed himself to be startlingly ignorant about anything related to the Vatican and the nature of Roman Catholicism. In several paragraphs he seems genuinely ignorant of the fact that it was the proliferation of the many Protestant sects in America that gave rise to “democracy,” and that “democracy” is actually irrevocably anathema to the Roman hierarchical model of society. Then, in another part of the book, DeTocqueville actually expresses earnest mystification over the relative timidity of Roman Catholic priests and laymen in the U.S. as compared to their European counterparts. He fails to connect the dots, so to speak, and see that the only reason that the Romanists were timid in the U.S. at that time was because they were in the numerical minority–and then DeTocqueville also notes in another section how that huge numbers of Romanist immigrants were being funneled into the U.S. at that time (and as still continues today). But, historically and experientially speaking, once the priests and Rome have achieved a majority in the U.S., as with everywhere else they have achieved a majority, they would and were no longer be timid in and about the U.S. and its affairs because, as with all the other other nations wherein Rome predominates, Rome soon literally controls the temporal affairs of that nation. It’s a historical fact that the dumbed-down American masses don’t know about today–and that’s because Rome, once in charge, has rewritten the history books–but for DeTocqueville, an extraordinarily well educated man, a nobleman, this ignorance is truly shocking to behold.

Also, it is clear that DeTocqueville naively idolized “democracy” in the same way that many early 20th-century muckrakers would go on to naively idolize socialism, likewise believing it to be a veritable panacea for the 5000 or so years of recorded history of mankind being unable to justly govern itself. We all know better than that now–uh, right?

So, as a purely historical document of anecdotal antiquity, this is a singular work worthy of the highest accolades. But whenever DeTocqueville waxes philosophical about systems of government, which is at least as dominant a feature of this book as the keen, hands-on, historical-societal observations, then DeTocqueville’s idolatry of “democracy” is quaint but little more than that; and whenever DeTocqueville broaches any topic pertaining to Rome, there is in fact an embarrassing dearth of knowledge here.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ
4/2013

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