restricted access Appendix 4
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1365 s4s4s4s4s4 a p p e n d i x 4 Political Activity in America a The first evening of my arrival in the United States,b I saw a large crowd assembled in one of the rooms of the inn. I learned that it was a political banquet. After the meal, I drew one of the guests aside and I said to him: “Excuse, I beg you, the curiosity of a foreigner who still only imperfectly understands your language and does not know about your customs.” “Is there something that surprises you?” he said to me wiping hismouth. “There is a great deal. I am afraid,” I answered, “that some unfortunate events have happened since I left Europe.” “What do you mean?” he replied to me, all frightened. “Yes,” I began again, “while disembarking this morning at the port I saw on all sides large posters that invited people to assemble in certain places that were indicated, and during the time that it took me to come here I heard two speeches which were concerned with public affairs, and I witnessed an election. Again, just a moment ago, while I was in a corner of the room where you held the banquet, it seemed to me that most of the guests were speaking about the dangers to the State and were seeking the means to avert them [v: I listened to the speeches of several of your orators a. This short fragment, which is found in notebook CVa, pages 37 to 41, bears no title. We reuse that which James T. Schleifer gave it in English in “Alexis de Tocqueville Describes the American Character: Two Previously Unpublished Portraits,” South Atlantic Quarterly 74, no. 2 (1975): 244–58. This conversation recalls ideas from chapter XVII of the third part of this volume (pp. 1089–92). b. Tocqueville and Beaumont passed the first night on the Havre, which brought them from France; and the second on the steamboat President on the way from Newport to New York. George W. Pierson, Tocqueville and Beaumont in America, pp. 53–57. 1366 political activity in america proposing a great number of projects, a few of which were to save the State and all of which could not fail to prevent some great misfortunes].” “Is that all?” the American said to me. “In truth you frightened me with your unfortunate events. What surprises you repeats itself here every day.” As he moved away while saying (illegible word), I grabbed him by his jacket and begged him to stop a moment. “Wait a bit,” I said again, “I still do not see clearly (illegible word).” “What is more clear?” he said to me. “Don’t you know that we are a free people and that we take care of our affairs ourselves?”c “But I imagined,” I began again, “that liberty was such a great good that those who possessed it were happier and consequently more tranquil than other men. I see on the contrary that you must be prey to great difficulties to torment yourselves so much to find remedies for them.” “There is no people more enlightened, more free, more virtuous than ours,” Interrupting him at this point, “I see,” I cried. “With the aid of its enlightenment the people of the United States sees its difficulties more clearly than another, and with its liberty and its virtue it works hard to remedy them.” “”TheAmericanbeganagain:“If youhadnotjumped right into the middle of my comments, I was going to add that we were the happiest people in the world.” “This time I don’t follow,” I said. “ If you have in fact what is sufficient for the strength of the soul and the well-being of the body, what more do you ask?” “We work constantly to improve and to increase those things,” he said to me. “” I answered. “As for me, I would prefer to suffer tranquilly a few disparities in my lot [v: happiness] than to tire myself constantly in this way to make it better, and I still cannot comprehend thatmenarehappywhentheymake so many efforts to become happier.” “You make it very clear,” the American said to me, “that you are still not very worthy to be free.” At this moment one of his friends approached us saying: “This is the time when the assembly is gathered for the Poles (illegible word) let’s leave. Do you want to accompany us?” the American said to me. “Willingly,” I replied; “but what is this...


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