Democracy in America | Study Guide

Alexis de Tocqueville

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Democracy in America | Key Figure Analysis


Alexis de Tocqueville

Tocqueville came from an aristocratic family with roots in the northern province of Normandy. At the time of his departure for America, the youthful author (then only 25) was serving as a magistrate in the French court system. In contrast to France, America then exhibited considerable political and social stability. Tocqueville's principal goal was to identify and analyze the hopes and fears that could likely be expected from a democratic system of government.

Gustave de Beaumont

In the same year that Tocqueville published the first volume of Democracy in America (1835), Beaumont published a novel and social critique with slavery in America as its main theme: Marie, or Slavery in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson

Tocqueville describes Thomas Jefferson as the most democratic of Democrats. Indeed, Jefferson's opposition to a strong centrist government and his idealization of an agrarian society constitute the chief themes of America's political and social scene in the early history of the Republic. Tocqueville was clearly familiar with Jefferson's social and political survey in Notes on the State of Virginia (1785).

James Madison

James Madison was one of the three authors (along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay—under the pen name Publius) of The Federalist, a series of closely argued essays supporting the ratification of the new Constitution. The Federalist papers appeared in New York in 1788. From their first publication, they have been widely acknowledged as classics of political and social science. Tocqueville cites The Federalist often, declaring it to be one of his most important sources.

Andrew Jackson

Jackson was serving in the White House when Tocqueville made his tour of America. His populist views included opposition to protective tariffs or import taxes and to the powerful Bank of the United States, which he strongly denounced as unconstitutional. Jackson enacted the forcible removal of Native American nations in the southeast to the Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma).

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