But to win the American Revolution this predatory elite neededhelp. Their own rhetoric about freedom and equality led to widespreaddemands for the right to vote: universal suffrage. In other words,the people began demanding democracy. Even the slaves (white andblack alike) demanded to be freed and allowed to vote.
De Tocqueville on Democracy in America [II],” 156. See also Mill’s laudatory remarks in a letter to the author after he had read the second part, XIII, 433-5 (referred to in the Textual Introduction, lxxvi-lxxvii below).
[ “De Tocqueville on Democracy in America [II]”, 175 ]
There seems to be something wavering and undecided in our author’s conception of what constitutes the test of good government. He continually enumerates among the requisites of government that it should be conformable to the of the governed. He insists, as often, upon another requisite, that the governors shall be the wisest and best persons in the community. But the wisest and best members of the community very often would not consent to govern in conformity with the opinions of the less wise portion: our author must elect, therefore, which of the two requisites he will in that case dispense with. Perhaps he will say that, by a government in conformity to the opinions of the people, he does not mean one which implicitly obeys public opinion, but one which pays that degree of regard to it as an existing fact, which the best and wisest government must pay, and which would be paid to any other fact of equal importance. If so, the test is unexceptionable; but then, he is on the other horn of the dilemma: is this that kind and degree of deference to their opinions which a democratic people, electing their rulers by universal suffrage, will be likely to be content with?
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So far is it, indeed, from being admissible, that equality of conditions is the mainspring of those moral and social phenomena which M. de Tocqueville has characterized, that when some unusual chance exhibits to us equality of conditions by itself, severed from that commercial state of society and that progress of industry of which it is the natural concomitant, it produces few or none of the moral effects ascribed to it. Consider, for instance, the French of Lower Canada. Equality of conditions is more universal there than in the United States; for the whole people, without exception, are in easy circumstances, and there are not even that considerable number of rich individuals who are to be found in all the great towns of the American Republic. Yet do we find in Canada that —that restless, impatient eagerness improvement in circumstances—that mobility, that shifting and fluctuating, now up now down, now here now there—that absence of classes and class-spirit—that jealousy of superior attainments—that want of deference for authority and leadership—that habit of bringing things to the rule and square of each man’s own understanding—which M. de Tocqueville imputes to the same cause in the United States? In all these respects the very contrary qualities prevail. We by no means deny that where the other circumstances which determine these effects exist, equality of conditions has a very perceptible effect in corroborating them. We think M. de Tocqueville has shown that it has. But that it is the exclusive, or even the principal cause, we think the example of Canada goes far to disprove.
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M. de Tocqueville, then, has, at least apparently, confounded the effects of Democracy with the effects of Civilization. He has bound up in one abstract idea the whole of the tendencies of modern commercial society, and given them one name—Democracy; thereby letting it be supposed that he ascribes to equality of conditions, several of the effects naturally arising from the mere progress of national prosperity, in the form in which that progress manifests itself in modern times.