Alexis de TocquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville, [Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clerel, le Comte de Tocqueville] (1805-1859) French historian

Alexis de Tocqueville Quote

“By the side of these religious men I discern others whose looks are turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the partisans of liberty, not only as the source of the noblest virtues, but more especially as the root of all solid advantages; and they sincerely desire to extend its sway, and to impart its blessings to mankind. It is natural that they should hasten to invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of their adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it.”

Alexis de TocquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville
~ Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy in America (vol. 1, introductory chapter)

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

That I could rate this a multitude of times. Extremely accurate observation.

Walter Clark, Fullerton CA

This is a hard one and it deserves from you more than just praise. How about an explanation of that last sentence.
I can sure identify with the point about liberty not working without a moral foundation. I believe Tocqueville is saying that such moral foundation could be acknowledged by a non-believer and that that non-believer should be an appreciator of religion even if he doesn't do the activities of that religion.
But then there's that last sentence. The only ambiguous word in that sentence is "adversaries". If he means supporters of tyrants (statists) then it is established religion he opposes and that alas, such opposition is counter productive because it looks like he's against religion?
What do you think of that interpretation?

jim k, Austin, Tx

As to this part, "Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith". Morality doesn't need faith if he means faith in a supreme being or something else. Faith is belief in something without evidence to support that belief.

Mike, Norwalk

Walter, Tocqueville was enamored by the religious fervor that was so basic in the founding of the U.S.'s body politic. He also found amazing, not just tolerance, but harmonized embracing of the religious to the non-religious, organized religions to each other, etc. In Europe, an atheistic Fabian Socialism was in academic vogue. The U.S. founders not only rejected democracy but also the spreading socialism (doctrines with severe religious overtones) Big money (Euro-bankers) were financing academics to enter the U.S. to begin teaching the new religion (socialism) at the colleges. The new concept was, there could be freedom with out the morals of religion or religion itself. The status of the esteemed professors was at times shrouded by the religion in the ranks of otherwise religion's adversaries. Most of the new academics were of a caste where no further inquiry was needed into Christianity. Some of them attacked religion openly, and the remaining professors, student's and otherwise were afraid to defend religion and all else that which made America great. As a result of the socialist's influence (anti-religion and otherwise) police departments were established in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. Prior to that, police departments were considered a localized standing army to enforce a foreign despots will (the new police departments were to enforce the new socialist religion's canons at a new legal positivist system). The religious are now afraid to defend the simplest forms of expression (for example, silent prayer in school) while the adversaries of religion attack the practices openly.

Mike, Norwalk

jim, if I could help tweak your definition of faith. In Christianity, at KJV Hebrews 11:1 it says: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. I won't go into the earliest jurisprudence of the day but, suffice it to say, Christian faith, and the above quotes reference on faith is a "substance" of things hoped for (by tangibles and other things experienced, there is hope), AND - the old boxed example: I can't see the wind but I know it exists by evidence. The blind faith you reference is not a Christian faith nor Tocqueville's evidence of freedom based on morality and religion.

E Archer, NYC

Well said, Mike. I think the word 'religion' is too archaic and cannot be used as a 'catch-all' for every cult and denomination -- there are VAST differences between 'religions' even among those that call themselves Christian, not to mention those that call themselves Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. Every 'religion' assumes its own correctness, otherwise they would simply be considered philosophies or ideologies (which I would consider more accurate).

It is not enough to call oneself a Christian these days because it does not nearly come close to expressing one's purpose and practices. I ask, "What do you stand for?" "For what purpose do you gather in fellowship?" Like the Boy Scouts, a 'church' has a creed, and to gather together in mutual support of that creed is only as noble as the creed itself and the degree to which those professing it follow it. Faith in regards to morality is in essence 'trust' -- trusting that goodness is its own reward, that there are consequences for one's thoughts, speech, and acts, and that an honorable life is worth living for its own sake. That sort of fellowship is what empowers folks. And I think that is what de Tocqueville saw in America, whereas in Europe, state religion was imposed upon the people whether they believed in it or not.

'Hope' is very much part of the religionists creed, but 'Faith' is a trust in the natural process of life itself. My biggest complaint with most religions is the debilitation of the individual to subservience to the dogma and promises of a better life after death. It is a creed of servitude and obedience, and a tool of perpetual war between holy books each promising Heaven to those that destroy the heathen on the other side. De Tocqueville must have been impressed to see so many religious (albeit mostly Christian) denominations at peace with one another -- where else at that time was there such religious equanimity?

lily, chicago

to everyone having an in depth discussion here, thank you for saving my grades without even knowing it


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