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1116 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 9a Why in the United States You Find So Many Ambitious Men and So Few Great Ambitions b The first thing that strikes you in the United States is the innumerable multitude of those who seek to leave their original condition; and the second is the small number of great ambitions which stand out among this universal movement of ambition.c There are no Americans who do not a. The democratic revolution must be clearly distinguished from democracy. As long as the revolution lasts, ambitions are very great, but they become small when the revolution has ended. Why: When democracy does not prevent ambitions from being born, it at least gives them a particular character. What this character is. That we must try in our time to purify and to regulate ambition, but we have to be afraid of hindering it too much and impoverishing it (YTC, CVf, pp. 47–48). b. “The chapter should rather be entitled of the greatness of desires” (Rubish, 2). c. In the rubish: Ambition in democracies./ [In the margin: A great part ideas of Louis.] When you examine this subject attentively, you arrive at thinking this: Democracy immensely augments the number of ambitious men and decreasesthe number of great ambitions. It makes all men aim a bit beyond where they are; it prevents almost anyone from aiming very far. The cause of that is in equality of conditions. Equality of conditions and the absence of classifications gives all men the ability to change their position; thesesame causes prevent any man from being naturally and reasonably led to aim for a very elevated situation. Kings think naturally of conquering kingdoms, the nobleman of governing the State or of acquiring glory. Placed very high, these great goals are close to them; and their situation as well as their taste pushes them naturally to seize them. The poor aim to acquire a mediocre fortune. Men who have a mediocre fortune aim to become ambitious men and great ambitions 1117 appear to be devoured by the desire to rise; but you see hardly any who seem to nourish very vast hopes or to aim very high. All want constantly to acquire property, reputation, power; few envisage all these things on a large scale. And at first view that is surprising, since you notice nothing, either in the mores or in the laws of America, that should limit desires and prevent them from taking off in all directions.d rich. These goals are not as great as the first if you consider them in an absolute way; from a relative point of view they are not smaller. The desires that lead men toward the first and toward the second are the same. ⫽Sometimes, however, within democracies immense ambitions are born, for what happens to the human body in savage life happens there. All the children who are born weak die there, those who survive become very strong men. The strength that made them conquer the first obstacles, pushes them very much farther.⫽ This, moreover, is applicable only to established and peaceful democracies. In democracies in revolution ambitions are numerous and great; equality of conditions allows each man to change place, and fortune puts temporarily within reach of each man the greatest places. This is what has made some think in a general way that democracies push men toward great ambitions. The exception has been taken for the rule. France has served as an example for everything in order to prove the first proposition . This idea is correct in a general way only when you apply it to an army. The democratic principle introduced into an army cannot fail to create there a multitude of great ambitions and to push men toward prodigious things. An army at war is nothing else than a society in revolution. So what I have said aboveoccasionallyabout society always applies to an army./ Review all of these ideas, reflect about them well before accepting them. Know if what I call a state of revolution is not after all the natural state of democracies. If what I am saying is true, the consequences to draw from it would be important and of several sorts. A sort of weakening would result in all sentiments, and even in ideas; the source of great thoughts, of heroic tastes would be not dried up, but diminished . The remedy to that (Rubish, 2). The rubish of this chapter contains the letter...


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