"deTOCQUEVILLE REVISITED" ^^ff4s^Or^Oj>
by Pastor Richard 6. Frazier *fy^*£t/£t/£$
Quest Club ^4WQf%rry
November 22, 1985
President Bill, Fellow Questors, Guests -
Hardly a year has passed since 1976 and the American bicentennial without an
anniversary associated with some significant person or event. We are people who will
use any anniversary to prompt a party, celebration, or a Quest Club paper. In 1985, you
can choose among the 300th birthday anniversaries of Bach and Handel, the 90th
anniversary of the Allen County Public Library, or the library's birthday party for
Garfield the Cat.
However, one anniversary this year will probably pass by without great fanfare,
except, of course, at Quest Club. That is the 150th anniversary since the publication
of the .first edition of "Democracy in America". It was written by the French Roman
Catholic, minor nobleman and official in the French government, Alexis deTocqueville.
Thus today's theme: Tocqueville Revisited.
In case you have never visited Tocqueville or visited him so long ago you don't
remember anything about him, or simply wonder why he should be visited in the first
place, let me provide some background.
Tocqueville and a friend, Gustave Beaumont, came to the United States from France
and traveled here for nine months beginning May, 1831. The reason for the trip,
officially, was an assignment to report on the American prison system. That they did.
Each had other motives. Beaumont was interested in the Indians. Tocqueville hoped to
write a grand work, a book that would reveal the mysteries and wonders of the great
experiment in democracy in the New World.
After landing in Newport, Rhode Island, Tocqueville journeyed through New York
City, Philadelphia, and Boston; west across the Great Lakes to a frontier fort that
would become Green Bay, Wisconsin; then south down the Ohio and Mississippi valleys to
New Orleans; and north again through the Old South to Washington, D.C.
The book which he wrote became an overnight sensation. By 1835, according to
historian Dr. Kershner, over 1200 Frenchmen had written about America; not one of them
achieved an impact approaching that of "Democracy in America".
The writer of the preface of the first North American edition, John Spencer,
advised Americans to regard the work not only as a "classic, philosophical treatise of
highest order," but also as "indispensable in the education of every citizen who desires
to comprehend the institutions of his country."
The book was so popular in Europe that the publisher of the fourth edition included
a note apologizing for typographical errors in previous releases, conceding that the
book sold too fast for the author to find time for editorial changes.
Like many Americans, I first heard of the book in high school. Someone in Zanesville,
Ohio, tried valiantly to explain to us what America might have been like in the 1830's
when Andrew Jackson and his frontiersmen came out of the hills of Tennessee to give
democracy new meaning by tracking mud through the White House.
Tocqueville wrote of three Americas - one which he observed, one which was described to him, and one which he projected for the future. He sought to understand the
Members of the Quest Club authorize the Allen County Public Library to digitize and publish past, present and future Quest Club papers for dissemination on the Allen County Public Library website (Board of Directors of Quest Club, Inc., Resolution of May 2010).