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Being confined to the objects before mentioned, the reader will not find any comments on the theoretical views of our author. He has discussed many subjects on which very different opinions are entertained in the United States, but with an ability, a candor, and an evident devotion to the cause of truth, which will commend his views to those who most radically dissent from them. Indeed, readers of the most discordant opinions will find that he frequently agrees with both sides, and as frequently differs from them. As an instance, his remarks on slavery will not be found to coincide throughout, with the opinions either of abolitionists or of slaveholders : but they will be found to present a masterly view of a most perplexing and interesting subject, which seems to cover the whole ground, and to lead to the melancholy conclusion of the utter impotency of human effort to eradicate this acknowledged evil. But on this, and on the various topics of the deepest interest which are discussed in this work, it was thought that the American readers would be fully competent to form their own opinions, and to detect any errors of the author, if such there are, without any attempt by the present editor to enlighten them. At all events, it is to be hoped that the citizens of the United States will patiently read and candidly consider the views of this accomplished foreigner, however hostile they may be to their own pre-conceived opinions or prejudices. He says,—"there are certain truths which Americans can only learn from strangers, or from experience." Let us, then, at least listen to one who admires us and our institutions, and whose complaints, when he makes any, are, that we have not perfected our own glorious plans, and that there are some things yet to be amended. We shall thus furnish a practical proof, that public opinion in this country is not so intolerant as the author may be understood to represent it. However mistaken he may be, his manly appeal to our understandings and to our consciences should at least be heard. "If ever (he says,) these lines are read in America, I am well assured of two things : in the first place, that all
who peruse them will raise their voice to condemn me; and in . the second place, that very many of them will acquit me at the bot
tom of their conscience." He is writing on that very sore subject, the tyranny of public opinion in the United States.
Fully to comprehend the scope of the present work, the author's motive and object in preparing it should be distinctly kept in view.
He has written, not for America, but for France. "It was not, then, merely to satisfy a legitimate curiosity, (he says,) that I have examined America: my wish has been to find instruction by which we might ourselves profit." "I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to hope or fear from its progress."
He thinks that the principle of democracy has sprung into new life throughout Europe, and particularly in France, and that it is advancing with a firm and steady march to the control of all civilized governments. In his own country, he had seen a recent attempt to repress its energies within due bounds, and to prevent the consequences of its excesses. And it seems to be a main object with him, to ascertain whether these bounds can be relied upon; whether the dykes and embankments of human contrivance can keep within any appointed channel this mighty and majestic stream. Giving the fullest confidence to his declaration, that his book " is written to favor no particular views, and with no design of serving or attacking any party," it is yet evident that his mind has been very open to receive impressions unfavorable to the admission into France of the unbounded and unlimited democracy which reigns in these United States. A knowledge of this inclination of his mind will necessarily induce some caution in his readers, while perusing those parts of the work which treat of the effects of our democracy upon the stability of our government and its administration. While the views of the author respecting the application of the democratic principle, in the extent that it exists with us, to the institutions of France, or to any of the European nations, are of the utmost importance to the people and statesmen of those countries, they are scarcely less entitled to the attention of Americans. He has exhibited, with admirable skill, the causes and circumstances which prepared our forefathers, gradually, for the enjoyment of free institutions, and which enabled them to sustain, without abusing, the utmost liberty that was ever enjoyed by any people. In tracing these causes, in examining how far they continue to influence our conduct, manners, and opinions, and in searching for the means of preventing their decay or destruction, the intelligent American reader will find ho better guide than M. De Tocqueville.
Fresh from the scenes of the "three days" revolution in France,
the author came among us to observe carefully and critically the operation of the new principle on which the happiness of his country, and, as he seems to believe, the destinies of the civilized world depend. Filled with the love of liberty, but remembering the atrocities which in its name had been committed under former dynasties at home, he sought to discover the means by which it was regulated in America and reconciled with social order. By his laborious investigations, and minute observations of the history of the settlement of the country, and of its progress through the colonial state to independence, he found the object of his inquiry in the nianners, habits and opinions of a people who had been gradually prepared, by a long course of peculiar circumstances and by their local position, for self-government: and he has explained, with a pencil of light, the mystery that has baffled Europeans and perplexed Americans. He exhibits us, in our present condition, a new and, to Europeans, a strange people. His views of our political institutions are more general, comprehensive, and philosophic, than have been presented by any writer, domestic or foreign. He has traced them from their source, democracy--the power of the people—and has steadily pursued this foundation-principle in all its forms and modifications,—in the frame of our governments, in their administration by the different executives, in our legislation, in the arrangement of our judiciary, in our manners, in religion, in the freedom and licentiousness of the press, in the influence of public opinion, and in various subtle recesses, where its existence was scarcely suspected. In all these, he analyzes and dissects the tendencies of democracy, heartily applauds where he can, and faithfully and independently gives warning of dangers that he foresees. No one can read the results of his observations, without better and clearer perceptions of the structure of our governments, of the great pillars on which they rest, and of the dangers to which they are exposed: nor without a more profound and more intelligent admiration of the harmony and beauty of their formation, and of the safeguards provided for preserving and transmitting them to a distant posterity. The more that general and indefinite notions of our own liberty, greatness, happiness, &c. are made to give place to precise and accurate knowledge of the true merits of our institutions, the peculiar objects they are calculated to attain or promote, and the means provided for that purpose,
the better will every citizen be enabled to discharge his great political duty of guarding those means against the approach of corruption, and of sustaining them against the violence of party commotions. No foreigner has ever exhibited such a deep, clear, and correct insight of the machinery of our complicated systems of Federal and State governments. The most intelligent Europeans are confounded with our imperium in imperio; and their constant wonder is, that these systems are not continually jostling each other. M. De TOCQUEVILLE has clearly perceived, and traced correctly and distinctly, the orbits in which they move, and has described, or rather defined, our Federal government, with an accurate precision, unsurpassed even by any American pen. There is no citizen of this country who will not derive instruction from our author's account of our national government, or, at least, who will not find his own ideas systematized, and rendered more fixed and precise by the perusal of that account.
Among other subjects discussed by the author, that of the political influence of the institution of trial by jury is one of the most curious and interesting. He has certainly presented it in a light entirely new, and as important as it is new. It may be that he has exaggerated its influence as "a gratuitous public school": but if he has, the error will be readily forgiven.
His views of religion as connected with patriotism, in other words, with the democratic principle, which he steadily keeps in view, are conceived in the noblest spirit of philanthropy, and cannot fail to confirm the principles already so thoroughly and universally entertained by the American people. And no one can read his observations on the union of " Church and State" without a feeling of deep gratitude to the founders of our government, for saving us from such a prolific source of evil.
These allusions to topics that have interested the writer, are not intended as an enumeration of the various subjects which will arrest the attention of the American reader. They have been mentioned rather with a view of exciting an appetite for the whole feast, than as exhibiting the choice dainties which cover the board.
It remains only to observe, that in this edition the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of New York, which had been published at large in the original and in the English edition, have been omitted, as they are documents to which every Ameri
can reader has access. The
which the author annexed to his work has also been omitted, as being of little or no use in this country, where those which are much more full and more accurate are in the hands of every one.
In this edition the notes of the American Editor are inserted in the body of the work, in immediate connection with those parts of the text to which they refer, and are placed between bracketts, to distinguish them from those of the author. A few verbal alterations have been made by another hand, where they seemed necessary to correct errors of the printer or translator.
In submitting this third edition to the public, great gratification is felt at the evidence it affords of one mistake in our author's anticipations of the reception of his work by the American people. They have shown that if they have tender and sensitive spots, they can patiently bear their being probed by a friendly hand.