On April 16, 1859, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville died.
After nine months of traveling the United States, he wrote “Democracy in America” in 1835, which has been described as “the most comprehensive … analysis of character and society in America ever written.”
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. … In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country. …”
De Tocqueville continued: “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. … They brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion.”
In book two of “Democracy in America,” de Tocqueville wrote: “Christianity has therefore retained a strong hold on the public mind in America. … In the United States … Christianity itself is a fact so irresistibly established, that no one undertakes either to attack or to defend it.”
In the 1840’s. Alexis de Tocqueville traveled twice to Algeria. He wrote to Arthur de Gobineau, Oct. 22, 1843 (“Tocqueville Reader,” p. 229): “I studied the Koran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Mohammed. So far as I can see, it is the principle cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.”
Alexis de Tocqueville stated in “Travail sur l’Algerie dans oeuvres complètes” (1841): “I came back from Africa with the pathetic notion that at present in our way of waging war. … If our sole aim is to equal the Turks, in fact we shall be in a far lower position than theirs: barbarians for barbarians, the Turks will always outdo us because they are Muslim barbarians.”
In “Democracy in America,” 1840, Vol. II, Book 1, Chapter V, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “Mohammed brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, on the other hand, deal only with the general relations between man and God and between man and man. Beyond that, they teach nothing and do not oblige people to believe anything. That alone, among a thousand reasons, is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in an age of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such age, as in all others.”
In “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “In the United States the sovereign authority is religious. … There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”
In 1895, Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert compiled “The Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers,” which included the statement from Alexis de Tocqueville: “Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts – the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.”
Alexis de Tocqueville predicted how Americans would lose their freedom (“Democracy in American,” Vol. 2, 1840, The Second Part, Bk 4, Ch. VI): “I had noted in my stay in the United States that a democratic state of society similar to the American model could lay itself open to the establishment of despotism with unusual ease. … It would debase men without tormenting them. … Men, all alike and equal, turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. … Above these men stands an immense and protective power. … It prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It restricts the activity of free will within a narrower range and gradually removes autonomy itself from each citizen. …
“Thus, the ruling power, having taken each citizen one by one into its powerful grasp … spreads its arms over the whole of society, covering the surface of social life with a network of petty, complicated, detailed, and uniform rules. … It does not break men’s wills but it does soften, bend, and control them. … It constantly opposes what actions they perform. … It inhibits, represses, drains, snuffs out, dulls so much effort that finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherd. … a single, protective, and all-powerful government. … Individual intervention … is … suppressed. … It is … in the details that we run the risk of enslaving men.
“For my part, I would be tempted to believe that freedom in the big things of life is less important than in the slightest. … Subjection in the minor things of life is obvious every day. … It constantly irks them until they give up the exercise of their will … and enfeebles their spirit. … It will be useless to call upon those very citizens who have become so dependent upon central government to choose from time to time the representative of this government. … Increasing despotism in the administrative sphere … they reckon citizens are incompetent. … It is … difficult to imagine how men who have completely given up the habit of self-government could successfully choose those who should do it for them. … The vices of those who govern and the ineptitude of those governed would soon bring it to ruin and … revert to its abasement to one single master.”
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