Toqueville on Democracy in America

The great advantage of the Americans is, that they have arrived at a state of democracy without having to endure a democratic revolution; and that they are born equal, instead of becoming so

– Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in AmericaHonestly, I’m very disturbed by the latter part of the quote , “that they (Americans) are born equal.” What Toqueville might have in mind was a selective number of people, not all Americans equally. Condoleezza Rice , in a recentspeech, notes that “Black Americans were a founding population,” she said. ” Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.” Furthermore, she notes that “What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn’t love and have faith in them — and that’s our legacy.”

Am I perhaps misreading Toqueville? What say you?


On Liberalism

In his influential work, THE LIBERAL TRADITION IN AMERICA :
An Interpretation of American Political Thought Since the Revolution
, Louis Hartz defines liberalism in the following words,

One can use the term ‘Liberal Reform’ to describe the Western movement which emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century to adapt classical liberalism to the purposes of small propertied interests and the laboring class and at the same time which rejected socialism. Nor is this movement without its ties to the earlier era….But the American movement, now as during that age itself, was in a unique position. For swallowing up both peasantry and proletariat into the ‘petit-bourgeois’ scheme, America created two unusual effects. It prevented socialism from challenging its Liberal Reform in any effective way, and at the same time it enslaved its Liberal Reform to the Alger dream of democratic capitalism.”

– (Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America , 228)

W.E. B. Dubois (1868 -1963)

Source: W.E.B.Dubois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on Church Street on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, at the south-western edge of Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, whose February 5, 1867, wedding had been announced in the Berkshire Courier. Alfred Du Bois had been born in Haiti. W. E. B. Du Bois detailed his French Haitian background in his autobiography:

Of grandfather’s life in Haiti from about 1821 to 1830, I know few details. From his 18th to his 27th year he formed acquaintanceships, earned a living, married and had a son, my father, Alfred, born in 1825. I do not know what work grandfather did, but probably he ran a plantation and engaged in the growing shipping trade to the United States. Who he married I do not know, nor her relatives. He may have married into the family of Elie Du Bois, the great Haitian educator. Also why he left Haiti in 1830 is not clear. It may have been because of the threat of war with France during the Revolution of 1830 and the fall of Charles X. (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois )

Dubois was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dubois was a sociologist, scholar, author and civil rights leader. He was one of the most influential black leaders of the first half of the 20th Century. Dubois shared in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, in 1909. He served as its director of research and editor of its magazine, “Crisis,” until 1934.( Dubois)

Quotes by W.E. Dubois

One ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.

There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.

Books by W. E. Dubois
The Souls of Black Folk
The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader
Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil
The Negro

Books about Dubois
A Gift of the Spirit: Reading the Souls of Black Folk by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein
W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919: Biography of a Race by David Levering Lewis
W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963
by David Levering Lewis