“THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN ABOUT AMERICA”: RARE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF TOCQUEVILLE’S MASTERPIECE DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
Democracy in America.
Tocqueville, Alexis de.
Item Number: 65020
New York: Adlard & Saunders, 1838 & 1840.
First American edition of Tocqueville’s magnum opus. Octavo, 2 volumes. Volume I is the Adlard & Saunders issue (priority over the more common Dearborn issue is undetermined), and Volume II is published by J. & H.G. Langley. Preface by John Canfield Spencer, who later served as Secretary of War. Translated by Henry Reeve. Light rubbing and minor wear, volume one rebacked, light dampstaining. First editions are rare and desirable.
“One of the most important texts in political literature” (PMM). “This is by far the best book ever written about America, and the most penetrating book ever written about democracy. It won instant acclaim, not only in the writer’s native France, where Royer-Collard declared: “Nothing equal to it had appeared since Montesquieu,’ but in England, where John Stuart Mill hailed it as ‘among the most remarkable productions of our time.’ Its central theme is that democracy has become inevitable; that it is, with certain qualifications, desirable; but that it has great potentialities for evil as well as good, depending upon how well it is understood and guided. In the view of de Tocqueville, the greatest danger that threatens democracy is its tendency toward the centralization and concentration of power… There is revived interest in Tocqueville today because of what seems like the uncanny clairvoyance of his prophecies. For example (this by a Frenchman in 1835): ‘There are at the present time two great nations in the world, which started from different points, but seem to tend towards the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans… The principal instrument of [America] is liberty; of [Russia] servitude. Their starting point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe” (Hazlitt, 163).