Guide Democracy in America - by Alexis de Tocqueville (V. 1 & 2 with linked TOC and footnotes)

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Contents:

It is perhaps less obvious to some that religion and morality play an essential role in maintaining and promoting good and effective government. The only real solutions to many of the serious problems facing our world today are spiritual, not political or economic.

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: Alexis de Tocqueville - FULL AudioBook: Volume 2, Part 1/2

Racism, violence, and hate crimes, for example, are spiritual problems, and their only real solution is spiritual. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:. Examples include the abolition of the slave trade in England and the Emancipation Proclamation in [the United States].

The same is true of the Civil Rights movement of the last half-century. Societies depend in large part upon religion and churches to establish moral order.


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Government can never build enough jails to house the criminals produced by a society lacking in morality, character, and faith. These attributes are better encouraged by religious observance than by legislative decree or police force. It is impossible for government to control the attitudes, desires, and hopes that spring from the human heart.

And yet these are the seeds that grow into the conduct government must regulate. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasted the law written on the books with the law written in the heart. While governments enforce the law written on the books, religion teaches and encourages adherence to the law written in the heart. Those who abide the latter will seldom if ever violate the former.

But where matters of the heart are ignored, the black letter law and the legal machinery of government will eventually bog down. Civility in society is achieved when the majority of people do what is moral because they believe they should, not because they are compelled by law or by police force. Government oversees the conduct of its citizens. It tries to get them to behave in a decent and moral way. Religion, on the other hand, tries to get them to desire to behave in a decent and moral way.

President Ezra Taft Benson — , a cabinet member under U. Eisenhower, taught this most important distinction:. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment.

The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. This introduced a foreign dynasty into a country that was deeply divided politically. In order to secure its own political survival, this dynasty placed itself completely in a position of dependency on the Whig-dominated parliament, which immediately increased the length of its legislature period from previously three years to a maximum of seven years. The first two Hanoverian kings George I [ ] and George II [ ] , who reigned between them from to , were confronted with a country whose political culture and language posed a considerable challenge to them.

During their reigns, the country was de facto not governed by the king and his Privy Council — as it had been before the Glorious Revolution — but by a committee formed by a majority of the parliament, the cabinet under the formal leadership of a prime minister, the decisions of which along with the parliamentary laws had to be ratified by the king. Theoretically, the king had the right to reject these, but in reality this has never happened from to the present day.

Rather, at the top of the British constitution was a king whose political freedom of action had become increasingly narrow and who up to the earlys could appoint a prime minister of his choice, but could not keep him for long in the face of continuing resistance from the parliament. Conversely, the parliament had attained a position of power which was practically unlimited. Neither the king nor the courts could legally oppose a valid parliamentary law. But the parliament could ignore objections and it could pass new laws at any time. It was this omnipotence of the British parliament — which subsequently came to be known, and is still referred to, by the term "parliamentary sovereignty" — which liberal Europe in the 18th and 19th century refused to acknowledge.

The 13 British colonies on the east coast of North America between Canada and Florida had been founded between and , not through the direct intervention of the state — as was the case with the Spanish colonies further south — but by private corporations with economic, religious or philanthropic goals. All of these colonies maintained separate relationships with the mother country, and these relationships were very heterogeneous.

The colonies were largely self-administered — in accordance with the British model — by a governor, a council which assisted him and was in most cases appointed by him, and an elected assembly, which in most cases set the salary of the governor on an annual basis. As a result of the constant immigration from the British Isles and from the German-speaking regions in Europe, as well as the influx of black slaves from Africa , the importance of these colonies to the British economy increased constantly.

Unsurprisingly then, periods in which the colonies were politically neglected alternated with efforts to bind them more closely to the mother country and to establish greater uniformity with regard to their political and legal status. Charters were occasionally suspended or revoked, but this never resulted in a tightly run colonial empire , even though the laws passed in the colonies could be revoked by the government in London.

In the end , there were eight so-called royal colonies, in which the king appointed the governor, three proprietary colonies Pennsylvania , Delaware and Maryland belonging to the Penn and Calvert Baltimore families which each appointed their own governor, and the aforementioned Rhode Island and Connecticut, which elected their own governors. British efforts to gain tight political control over the North American colonies failed for a variety of reasons. The Pilgrim Fathers, apostates from the English state church who had been living in exile in Holland, had crossed the Atlantic with a party of emigrants from London on the Mayflower.

Before they landed at Cape Cod in present-day Massachusetts, they agreed on 11 November that together they would found a "civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation". Their aim was. This Mayflower Compact is not the famous founding document of American democracy, but it is the earliest and most striking expression on the other side of the Atlantic of the desire to organize political affairs in accordance with rules and laws which they established themselves and which were equally binding for all. Up to , this endeavour was based on the constantly repeated conviction that they were freeborn Englishmen who had brought their English "birthrights" with them to the New World.

According to the colonies, this included the right to govern themselves and only to obey the laws and accept the taxes which had been imposed by themselves or by their freely elected representatives. In reality, however, the British constitution had changed dramatically over time. Immediately after the Glorious Revolution, which had caused considerable unrest in some of the North American colonies, 13 the British government had insisted that the outcome of the revolution, the so-called Revolution Settlement , did not apply to the colonies.

As a result, the political leaders in the colonies laid claim even more forcefully to the British Constitution and its fundamental principles, as they understood them, which should apply in full to the colonists also, regardless of political aberrations in London. From the 17th century, there had been repeated British attempts to regulate trade within the empire by means of laws.

Where these laws could not be circumvented through smuggling, they were grudgingly tolerated, sometimes under protest. However, when the parliament moved to introduce internal taxation in in the form of the Stamp Act , it crossed a red line from the perspective of the colonies.

The British government was forced through mass resistance to revoke the law after only a few months. It was this thundering insistence on the omnipotence of the British parliament that the leaders of the American resistance persistently refused to accept, countering it with their interpretations of the British constitution — supported with arguments from natural law — which in Britain only interested a liberal minority sympathetic to the settlers.

While the government persistently refused to transfer fundamental elements of its constitution to America, the settlers in America insisted that this transfer had already occurred with their own migration. Instead they condemned these developments as a degeneration that had corrupted the constitution. This explains why the American constitutional model that emerged from this crisis was so different to its British antecedent, even though the authors of the American model categorically never rejected the British constitution.

It contained ten fundamental principles. The leaders of the American resistance were convinced that these principles directed against the policies of London constituted — at least philosophically — the basis of the British constitution, as they understood it. It was their view that these principles simply needed to be expressed more clearly in order to prevent a political degeneration similar to that which had occurred in Britain. Since then, these ten principles have formed the basis of modern constitutionalism worldwide: the sovereignty of the people, universal principles, human rights, a representative government, checks and balances, restrictions on the power of the government, judicial independence, accountability, the constitution as the supreme law, and the participation of the people as a requirement for constitutional amendments.

These principles were increasingly included in the American constitutions, with the Constitution of Massachusetts of — the oldest written constitution still in force today anywhere in the world — and the Federal Constitution of serving as important milestones in this development. The Constitution of Pennsylvania of , by contrast, deviated from the American model and represented a radically democratic alternative, which was to serve as a model for the Jacobin constitution of during the French Revolution.

The two elements together made up the constitution and were subsequently quickly ratified as a single document. From , with the second constitution of Pennsylvania, the Declaration of Rights was in some cases moved to the end of the constitution contrary to the original intention. The essential character of the American model, which the structure of had displayed so visually, was nonetheless retained: The purpose of a constitution was to guarantee the rights and liberties of the citizens and to organize state power in such a way as to prevent it from encroaching on them.

In particular, the guiding principles of sovereignty of the people, the declaration of human rights, the strict separation of powers — with the judiciary for the first time as an independent third branch of the state —, the constitution as the highest law, but also the novel federal structure of the Union, appeared to be more consistently expressed than in the British constitutional model. From the American Revolution onward, some Europeans came to view the American model as an expression of liberal principles superior to its British antecedent. It was not the goal of the American constitutional model to introduce democracy into the United States, and the vast majority of the founding fathers would have indignantly rejected such a suggestion.

However, this would quickly change due to the influence which the French Revolution had on the United States. In , Thomas Jefferson — won the presidential election against John Adams with a slogan calling for a return to the "spirit of ". Democracy adopted a new tone — some spoke of "Jeffersonian democracy" —, and the general climate changed. In some states, voting rights were expanded and the previous property qualifications lapsed or were reduced.

After the war of , these restrictions almost completely disappeared in the new states of the West. However, there were also countervailing trends.

In , the women in New Jersey lost their voting rights again for more than a century, and free blacks were denied the right to vote in an increasing number of states. Thus, the old elite upheld the dominance of the coastal regions over the hinterland, even though the majority of the population had long since been living in the latter. In the case of Virginia , this resulted in the state splitting after secession, with the western counties rejecting the continuing dominance of the east coast elite.

West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a separate state in The country had fundamentally changed in the turmoil of the intervening period. In , Andrew Jackson — became the first president who did not come from the east coast elite of Virginia or Massachusetts. More than any other American president, Jackson is associated with the victory of democracy in the country. However, modern parties emerged, which attracted the support of voters of all classes and involved them in the procedure of nominating candidates for office.

Many states adopted new constitutions, which stood on a broader democratic basis — including in some cases judges elected by the people, a measure intended to ensure democratic legitimacy and to bring the judiciary closer to the people.