In what has become a classic reference for studying political science, Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is about why republican representative democracy works in the United States and fails in so many other places, and how to apply this knowledge to the failing democracy in France. He had a unique perspective as a French diplomat and historian who spent years visiting and talking with people from every state in the United States and studying its governance. He argues that the social and economic conditions have become more equal during the last seven hundred years, resulting in widespread trade, commerce, and the move toward eliminating indentureship (though the 13th amendment freeing African-Americans was not ratified until 1865).
Tocqueville never took democracy for granted as inevitable. He discussed its possible threats and the risk of developing "a tyranny of the majority." Some contemporary pundits and government reform advocates would argue that threat remains quite real today. Democracy in America remains a vital piece of American history and literature. It continues to be studied in high school grades 9-10. It was published as two volumes, five years apart (1835 and 1840). We offer the first here. The edition we chose was translated by Henry Reeve. Third-party introductions and analyses have been eliminated so readers can draw their own conclusions from Tocqueville's words.