"Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville | Free Essay Example

“Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville

Words: 901
Topic: Politics & Government

In this first volume, the author, Alexis de Tocqueville, focuses on the origins and roots of the constitution of the United States which gives rise to the democracy enjoyed in the country. He delves extensively into the principles that our nation’s founding fathers adopted and applied in the penning of the constitution. The author notes the influence played by the European origins of the occupants of the extensive North American country. At the time, the term United States of America was not in official use yet as the various states had not yet debated and ratified the constitution.

The Anglo-Americans brought with them some national and governance principles that were applied in the constitution like the sovereignty of the people (Tocqueville, Kramnick and Bevan 122). The influence of the European was so huge that four of the signers of the original document were of Irish origin. The socio-economic conditions of the time also influenced the writing of the constitution. Slavery was still legal, women were not perceived to be equal to the men, the Native Americans did not have equal rights as the immigrants, the aristocrats of the time were rich landowners, the population was still very low in the vast country and there was no metropolis (Krane 38).

The author also focuses on the institutions of the United States of America, the legal vessels through which the powers of the constitution are exercised. The author examines the laws that formed them and the laws that may destroy them. The author also acknowledges that the chief characteristic of these institutions is that they are there to serve the people. The people are the supreme authority of the land and they may choose to form or destroy these institutions’. Thus the constitution exists as the collective will of the people and it is there to serve them all. When the constitution ceases to be of use to the people, it may be amended or a new one written altogether. This is what the author seeks to communicate in the first volume.


Alexis de Tocqueville talks about the concept of democracy which is the central part of the book his book, Democracy in America. The power of the people is central to the governance of the United States of America. He says

It dominates the whole society in America–Application made of this principle by the Americans even before their Revolution–Development given to it by that Revolution–Gradual and irresistible extension of the elective qualification’ about the principle of the sovereignty of the people of America. (Tocqueville, Kramnick and Bevan 120)

He notes that the will of the people is what regulates the government and that it is acknowledged by all the laws and all the people. The people exercise their will through their representatives: senators, governors and even the president. An interesting fact about the constitution from the book U.S. Constitution: And Fascinating Facts, Jordan informs us that the word democracy is not mentioned anywhere in the original document. But this does not mean that the country at the time was not the democratic election of the president and other leaders was provided for in the constitution although Native Americans, women and Negros were not allowed to do so (Jordan 54). This concept of the people governing their country and their destiny is central in the first volume of Tocqueville’s book and is an important factor in the governance of the United States of America.

Public affairs Implication

Relation and interactions of the government with the people is very important in any country it may be argued that governance is all about perception. If the people have no faith in their government then it will not be very effective in its service to its citizens. It should then be the aim of every government to maintain a good relationship with its citizens. In his book, Tocqueville acknowledges this fact and goes ahead to give several ways in which the government of the United States of America has tried and succeeded to maintain good relations with the public. First of all, the USA has a very strong and well-grounded justice system. The courts have proved time and again that they can be trusted to give fair and constitutional judgments. This is one of the instruments of governance that was provided for in the constitution and is one of the arms of the government. In my view, the success of the judicial system has enabled the public to have faith in the government and the government has continued to respect the courts to maintain good public relations with the people.

The Bill of Rights has helped the government to maintain a good relationship with the public. A free and unbiased press will report on just about everything going on in the country and it will give the people the freedom to make their own choices. State-controlled media will not give the people much confidence in their government and thus there will be difficult relations between the two parties. A free media society shows the public that the government is working within the confines set by the people and thus the people will have little or no reason not to trust their government.

The freedom of political association which is provided for in the constitution and respected by the government is also another way in which the government has maintained a good relationship with the public.

Works Cited

Jordan, Terry. The U.S. Constitution: And Fascinating Facts. Canada: Oak Hill Publishing Company, 1999. Print.

Krane, Caleb. Fascinating Facts about the Constitution, 2009. Web.

Tocqueville, Alexis, Isaac Kramnick, and Gerald Bevan. Democracy in America. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003. Print.