De la Democratie en Amerique (Presentation copy)
Paris: Pagnerre, 1850. Thirteenth Edition. Revised, corrected and augmented with a comparative examination of democracy in the United States and Switzerland, and an appendix. Text in French. Inscribed by the author: "à M. Courbis offert par l'auteur AT." Bound in a contemporary French binding of green quarter morocco over paper boards, marbled end-papers. Two volumes bound together in one, collating: viii, 512; viii, 476. Binding with slight chipping at the head of the spine, otherwise in excellent condition. Besides the present example, only one other inscribed copy of this 1850 revised edition can be found in the auction record, selling for 11,875 euro in 2013.
De Tocqueville's seminal work on American government, first printed the same year in Paris. De Tocqueville, a French aristocrat, visited America between 1831 and 1832, ostensibly to study the penal system, although his interest was considerably broader. It seems logical that France would look to America as a beacon of hope for a successful democracy. After France embraced the goals of equality and democracy in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution, it found itself first in a dictatorship under Napoleon and then in one constitutional monarchy after another during the years following. De Tocqueville's astute observation of several aspects of American society and culture provides an invaluable lens of foreign perspective on our young nation's political growth.
Democracy in America was an immediate and sustained success. Almost from the beginning it enjoyed the reputation of being the most acute and perceptive discussion of the political and social life of the United States ever published. Whether perceived as a textbook of American political institutions, an investigation of society and culture, a probing of the psyche of the United States, or a study of the actions of modern democratic society, the book has maintained its place high within the pantheon of political writing.
"No better study of a nation’s institutions and culture than Tocqueville’s Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer; none perhaps as good" (The New York Times).
Library of Congress: A Passion for Liberty, Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy & Revolution (Washington, 1989). (Item #2130)