What, in contradistinction to a representation of classes, every rational person does wish to see exemplified in Parliament, is not the interests, but the peculiar position, and opportunities of knowledge, of all the classes whom the theory enumerates, and many more; not in order that partial interests may, but in order that they may not, be consulted. The first desideratum is, to place every member of the legislature under the most complete responsibility to the community at large, which the state of civilization of the community renders consistent with other necessary ends. The second is, to compose the legislature, in as large a proportion as possible, of persons so highly cultivated, intellectually and morally, as to be free from narrow or partial views, and from any peculiar bias. But as such persons are rarely to be found in sufficient numbers, it is doubtless desirable that the remainder of the body should be of as miscellaneous a composition as possible (consistently with accountability to the people), in order that the twist of one person may be neutralized by the contrary twist of another; and if the individuals must be biassed, the evil be at least avoided of having them all biassed one way. An indistinct perception of this truth, is what gives all its plausibility to the doctrine of class-representation. But the principle thus stated, needs no especial provision to be made for it in a scheme of representation. The diversity of local circumstances, and the varying spirit of local constituencies, provide for it sufficiently.
Are these the places which are to send forth minds capable of maintaining a victorious struggle with the debilitating influences of the age, and strengthening the side of Civilization by the support of a higher Cultivation? This, however, is what we require from these institutions; or, in their default, from others which take their place. And the very first step towards their reform be to unsectarianize them wholly—not by the paltry measure of allowing Dissenters to come and be taught orthodox sectarianism, but by putting an end to sectarian teaching altogether. The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be rooted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle.
Here certainly is no advocate of a centralized state socialism.
If the source of great virtues thus dries up, great vices are placed, no doubt, under considerable restraint. The of public opinion is adverse to at least the indecorous vices; and as that restraining power gains strength, and certain classes or individuals cease to possess a virtual exemption from it, the change is highly favourable to the outward decencies of life. Nor can it be denied that the diffusion of even such knowledge as civilization naturally brings, has no slight tendency to rectify, though it be but partially, the standard of public opinion; to undermine many of those prejudices and superstitions which mankind hate each other for things not really odious; to make them take a juster measure of the tendencies of actions, and weigh more correctly the evidence on which they condemn or applaud their fellow-creatures; to make, in short, their approbation direct itself more correctly to good actions, and their disapprobation to bad. What are the limits to this natural improvement in public opinion, when there is no other sort of cultivation going on than that which is the accompaniment of civilization, we need not at present inquire. It is enough that within those limits there is an extensive range; that as much improvement in the general understanding, softening of the feelings, and decay of pernicious errors, as naturally attends the progress of wealth and the spread of reading, suffices to render the judgment of the public upon actions and persons, so far as evidence is before them, much more discriminating and correct.
See Textual Introduction, VII, liv-lv.
We ought carefully to distinguish between the end which the laws have in view, and the manner in which they pursue it; between their absolute goodness, and their goodness considered only as means to an end.
See letters to his father from Paris, 54-67.
The laws of a democracy tend in general to the good of the greatest number; for they emanate from the majority of the entire people, which may be mistaken, but which cannot have an interest contrary to its own interest.
Letter to Gustave d’Eichthal, XII, 37 (8/10/29).
Having concluded his description of the institutions of the United States, M. de Tocqueville, in the second volume, proceeds to an examination of the practical working of those institutions; the character actually exhibited by democratic government in the American republic, and the inferences to be thence drawn as to the tendencies of democracy in general. The following is his statement of the question between democracy and aristocracy:
Alexander Bain, (London: Longmans, 1882), 48.
The laws of an aristocracy tend, on the contrary, to monopolize wealth and power in the hands of the small number; because an aristocracy is, in its very nature, a minority.