Alexis de Tocqueville

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Alexis Charles Henri Clérel comte de Tocqueville was born on July 29th, 1806, in Paris. As his name suggests, he was born into an aristocratic family. More importantly, it was shortly after the French revolution. His parents only narrowly čavoided death in 1794.

After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, France once again became a monarchy. As a result, his father was a monarchy’s representative of a region (“Prefect”), a high officer. Meanwhile, Alexis de Tocqueville attended a high school in Metz. Between 1823 and 1827, he pursued law at a university in Paris. 

Tocqueville set off to become a magistrate (judge) in the royal palace of Versailles. Yet, the legal work did not suit him, and he quit it after four years. Besides, he realized that the monarchy was too conservative and that it would once again fail. And so it did in 1830.

Alexis de Tocqueville
* July 29, 1806, Paris, France
✟ April 16, 1859, Cannes, France

Alexis de Tocqueville in Politics

The new king Louis-Phillipe, also known as “citizen king,” sat on the throne in 1830. Unhappy with the situation, Tocqueville traveled through the United States between 1931 and 1832. 

Upon his return, he published one of his most famous books – Democracy in America (1835 and 1840). In the book, he promotes equality and the concept of democracy. He also questions how to protect democracy. Besides, he was impressed by the American way of life and system and used his experience as inspiration. 

Tocqueville swore allegiance to the king, and although he entered a lower level of parliament – Chamber of Deputies – in 1839, he never stood behind the monarchy. He was center-left and liberal-oriented. A period of revolution seized Europe in 1848, and France became a republic. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the new president, chose Tocqueville for his foreign minister. However, he stepped down a year later. He spent the next year writing about French history.

Alexis de Tocqueville died on April 16th, 1859, from tuberculosis in Cannes. He was a symbol of liberalism and an advocate for democracy. He also believed in the abolishment of slavery. His Democracy in America is relevant to this day.

“The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave.”

Alexis de Tocqueville