Saturday, May 9, 2009

de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in America on this date in 1831. He was 25 and, as the "de" before his last name indicates, an aristocrat. His purpose was to observe the American penal system, but he saw other things as well, town government in action, street mobs, political machines and what Europeans called vox populi. We called it something else. He was sharp-eyed and sharp-penciled. Simply by travelling around the country for eight months he was able to collect enough insights to lard the after-dinner speeches of American politicians for the next 175 years.

De Tocqueville appears twice in A Book of Ages.

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