chapter  10
6 Pages

Tocqueville and the Americans

If political philosophers were quoted on ’change instead of in the classroom, the last few years would have seen a steady rise in the price of Tocqueville. It is no disrespect to Mr J.P.Mayer to suggest that it was an intelligent investment (in this case of his talents as an expositor) in the fortunes of Tocqueville’s reputation at a comparatively early stage in the boom, that led to his selection for the all-important task of giving to the world a new complete edition of Tocqueville’s works and correspondence, the first since the 1860’s. This undertaking has had the backing of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France and of the Rockefeller Foundation through the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London and represents a co-operative endeavour of international scholarship of which all concerned may well be proud. The National Commission set up by the French Ministries concerned to supervise the project contains the names of R.H.Tawney and Christopher Dawson as well as that of the late Harold Laski who wrote a characteristic introduction to the Democracy in America, the first part of the edition to reach publication.1 Nor is so impressively international an effort unjustified; for as Mr Mayer shows in an interesting appendix-one of his few personal contributions to a commendably unobtrusive piece of editing-the influence of this great book has been of profound importance in almost every country in which the democratic idea has been discussed-but above all of course in France itself, in the United States, and in Great Britain.