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And, on the other hand, the democratic liberty that they enjoy finally makes this indulgence pass into the national mores.

Primary sources: Published

Political institutions in the United States constantly put citizens of all Edition: current; Page: [ ] classes in contact and force them to follow great enterprises together. Men thus occupied hardly have the time to think about the details of etiquette, and moreover they have too much interest in living together harmoniously to stop over those details.

So they become easily accustomed to considering, in the men they meet, sentiments and ideas rather than manners, and they do not allow themselves to be excited over trifles. I noticed many times that, in the United States, it is not an easy thing to make a man understand that his presence is bothersome.

To reach that point, indirect paths are not always sufficient. I contradict an American at every point, in order to make him sense that his speeches fatigue me; and at every instant I see him make new efforts to persuade me; I keep a stubborn silence, and he imagines that I am reflecting profoundly on the truths that he is presenting; and when finally I suddenly escape from his pursuit, he assumes that a pressing matter calls me elsewhere. This man will not comprehend that he exasperates me unless I tell him so, and I will be able to save myself from him only by becoming his mortal enemy.

These two so different effects are produced by the same cause. Democratic institutions in general give men a vast idea of their country and of themselves.


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The American leaves his country with his heart puffed up with pride. He arrives in Europe and notices first that we are not as preoccupied as he imagined with the United States and with the great people that inhabits them. This begins to upset him. He has heard it said that conditions are not equal in our hemisphere. He notices, in fact, that among the nations of Europe, the trace of ranks Edition: current; Page: [ ] is not entirely erased; that wealth and birth retain uncertain privileges that are as difficult for him to ignore as to define.


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This spectacle surprises him and makes him uneasy, because it is entirely new to him; nothing that he has seen in his country helps him to understand it. So he is deeply unaware of what place it is suitable to occupy in this half-destroyed hierarchy, among those classes that are distinct enough to hate and despise each other, and close enough for him to be always ready to confuse them.

He is afraid of putting himself too high, and above all of being ranked too low; this double danger constantly troubles his mind and continually hinders his actions, like his conversation. Tradition taught him that in Europe things ceremonial varied infinitely depending on conditions; this memory of another time really disturbs him, and he fears all the more not gaining the considerations that are due to him since he does not know precisely what they consist of.

So he is always walking like a man surrounded by traps; society for him is not a relaxation, but a serious work. He weighs your slightest moves, questions your looks and carefully analyzes all your words, for fear that they contain some hidden allusions that injure him. I do not know if there has ever been a country gentleman more punctilious than he in the matter of good manners; he works hard to obey the least laws of etiquette himself, and he does not put up with anyone neglecting any of those laws in his regard; he is at the very same time full of scruples and demands; he would like to do enough, but is afraid of doing too much, and as he does not know very well the limits of either, he holds himself in an uneasy and haughty reserve.

This is still not all, and here is another twist of the human heart. An American speaks every day about the admirable equality that reigns in the United States; he boasts out loud about it concerning his country; but he is secretly distressed about it concerning himself, and he aspires to show that, as for him, he is an exception to the general order that he advocates. You hardly meet an American d who does not want to be connected a bit Edition: current; Page: [ ] by his birth to the first settlers of the colonies, and, as for branches of the great families of England, America seemed to me totally covered by them.

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When an opulent American comes to Europe, his first concern is to surround himself with all the riches of luxury; and he is so afraid that someone will take him for a simple citizen of a democracy that he twists and turns in a hundred ways in order to present before you every day a new image of his wealth.

He usually finds lodging in the most conspicuous area of the city; he has numerous servants who surround him constantly. I heard an American complain that, in the principal salons of Paris, you met only mixed society. The taste reigning there did not seem pure enough to him, and he adroitly let it be understood that in his opinion, manners there lacked distinction. He was not used to seeing wit hide in this way under common forms. Such contrasts should not be surprising. If the trace of old aristocratic distinctions were not so completely erased in the United States, the Americans would appear less simple and less tolerant in their country, less demanding and less ill-at-ease in ours.

When an American asks for the help of his fellows, it is very rare for the latter to refuse it to him, and I have often observed that they grant it to him spontaneously with great zeal. It frequently happens, among the most civilized nations of the globe, that someone unfortunate finds himself as isolated in the middle of the crowd as the savage in the woods; that is hardly ever seen in the United States. The Americans, who are always cold in their manners and often crude, hardly ever appear insensitive, and, if they do not hasten to offer their services, they do not refuse to render them.

All of this is not contrary to what I said before regarding individualism. I even see that these things, far from being in conflict, are in agreement. Equality of conditions, at the same time that it makes men feel their independence, shows them their weakness; they are free, but exposed to a thousand accidents, and experience does not take long to teach them that, although they do not habitually need the help of others, some moment almost always occurs when they cannot do without that help.

We see every day in Europe that men of the same profession readily help each other; they are all exposed to the same evils; that is enough for them to try mutually to protect themselves from those evils, however hard or egotistical they are elsewhere. So whenever one of them is in danger, and when, by a small temporary sacrifice or a sudden impulse, the others can shield him, they do not fail to attempt it. It is not that they are profoundly interested in his fate; for if, by chance, the efforts that they make to help him are useless, they immediately forget him and return to themselves; but a sort of tacit and almost involuntary agreement has been made between them, according to which each one owes to the others a momentary support that, in his turn, he will be able to ask for himself.

Extend to a people what I say about only a class, and you will understand my thought. There exists, in fact, among all the citizens of a democracy, a convention analogous to the one that I am talking about; everyone feels subject to the same weakness and to the same dangers, and their interest, as well as their sympathy, makes it a law for them to lend each other mutual assistance as needed.

The more similar conditions become, the more men exhibit this reciprocal disposition for mutual obligation. In democracies, where great services are scarcely accorded, good offices are rendered constantly. It is rare that a man appears devoted to service, but all are willing to help.


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  • An American, b who had traveled for a long time in Europe, said to me one day:. The English treat their servants with a haughtiness and with absolute manners that surprise us; but, on the other hand, the French sometimes use a familiarity with theirs, or reveal in their regard a courtesy that we cannot imagine.

    You would say that they are afraid of giving orders. The position of superior and inferior is badly kept. This remark is correct, and I have made it myself many times.

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    I have always considered England as the country in the world where, today, the bond of domestic service is the tightest and France the country on earth where it is most loose. Nowhere has the master appeared to me higher or lower than in these two countries.

    That is the superficial and apparent fact. We must go much further in order to discover its causes. We have not yet seen societies in which conditions were so equal that neither rich nor poor were found, and consequently, neither masters nor servants. Democracy does not prevent these two classes of men from existing; but it changes their spirit and modifies their relationships.

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    It is enough to hold one of them in place for all the others to stop by themselves. So from the moment when I find a caste of perpetual masters composed of the same families, I understand without difficulty that there exists a caste Edition: current; Page: [ ] of servants formed in the same way, and I foresee that this perpetuity is going to produce similar effects from both sides. Among aristocratic peoples, servants form a particular class that does not vary any more than that of the masters. A fixed order does not take long to arise; in the first as in the second, you soon see a hierarchy, numerous classifications, marked ranks, and the generations follow each other without the positions changing.

    Servants and masters are two societies superimposed on each other, always distinct, but governed by analogous principles. This aristocratic constitution influences the ideas and mores of the servants scarcely less than those of the masters, and although the effects may be different, it is easy to recognize the same cause. Both form small nations amid the large one; and in the end, in their midst, certain permanent notions about right and wrong are born.

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    The different actions of human life are seen in a particular light that does not change. In the society of servants as in that of the masters, men exercise a great influence on each other. They acknowledge fixed rules, and lacking a law, they encounter a public opinion that directs them; well-regulated habits and an order reign there. These men, whose destiny is to obey, undoubtedly do not understand glory, virtue, integrity, honor, in the same way as the masters.

    Because a class is low, you must not believe that all those who are part Edition: current; Page: [ ] of it have a base heart. That would be a great error. However inferior the class may be, the man who is first in it and who has no idea of leaving that class, finds himself in an aristocratic position that suggests to him elevated sentiments, a noble pride and a respect for himself, which makes him fit for great virtues and uncommon actions. Among aristocratic peoples, it was not rare to find, in the service of the great, noble and vigorous souls who bore servitude without feeling it, and who submitted to the will of their master without fearing his anger.

    But it was hardly ever like this in the lower ranks of the domestic class. The French had created a word expressly for this lowest of the servants of the aristocracy. They called him a lackey. The word lackey served as an extreme word, when any other was missing, to represent human baseness; under the old monarchy, when you wanted at some moment to portray a vile and degraded being, you said of him that he had the soul of a lackey.

    That alone sufficed. The meaning was complete and understood. Among aristocratic peoples, the poor man is trained, from birth, with the idea of being commanded. In whatever direction he turns his eyes, he immediately sees the image of hierarchy and the sight of obedience. So in countries where permanent inequality of conditions reigns, the master easily obtains from his servants a prompt, complete, respectful and easy obedience, because the latter revere in him, not only the master, but the class of masters.

    He presses on their will with all the weight of the aristocracy. He commands their actions; to a certain degree he even directs their thoughts. The master, in aristocracies, often exercises, even without his knowing it, a prodigious sway over the opinions, habits, and mores of those who obey him; and his influence extends very much further than even his authority.

    In aristocratic societies, j not only are there hereditary families of valets, as well as hereditary families of masters; but also the same families of valets remain, over several generations, at the side of the same families of masters they are like parallel lines that never meet or separate ; this prodigiously modifies the mutual relationships of these two orders of persons. Thus, although, under aristocracy, the master and the servant have between them no mutual resemblance; although fortune, education, opinions, rights place them, on the contrary, at an immense distance on the scale of beings, time nevertheless ends up binding them together.

    A long community of memories ties them together, and, however different they may be, they assimilate; while, in democracies, where they are naturally almost the same, they always remain strangers to each other.