Are we Americans different than citizens of the United States 185 years ago?

Posted on: November 5th, 2016 No Comments

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Are we Americans different than citizens of the United States 185 years ago? Do we still exhibit some of those founding generations' traits? Read some excerpts of Alexis de Tocqueville observations of America in his 1831 travels in the United States. Tell us what you think!

The nature of American politics
"It is astonishing what imprudent language a public man may sometimes use in free countries, and especially in democratic states, without being compromised..."(266)

The restless spirit of Americans
"In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years in it, and he sells it before the roof is on. . . he settles in a place, which he soon afterwards leaves, to carry his changeable longings elsewhere" (162)

The American personality
"An American attends to his private concerns as if he were alone in the world, and the next minute he gives himself up to the common weal as if he had forgotten them. At one time he seems animated by the most selfish cupidity, at another by the most lively patriotism" (169)

America's capitalistic spirit
Their origin, their social condition, their political institutions, and even the spot they inhabit, urges them irresistibly in this direction. Their present condition is then that of an almost exclusively manufacturing and commercial association, placed in the midst of a new and boundless country, which their principle object is to explore for purposes of profit. (280-281)

The dangers of political apathy to democracy
"It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. The discharge of political duties appears to them to be a troublesome annoyance, which diverts them from their occupations and business." (167)

Quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and diplomat who traveled to the United States in 1831 and wrote down and published his observations of American society in a two volume book, "Democracy In America, Volume 2"

By Sean Timothy Moore

Historian, MyHistoryMatters

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