Milestones in Philanthropy - Alexis de Tocqueville


Milestones in Philanthropy - Alexis de Tocqueville


"I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns... as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny."

Alexis de Tocqueville was a 19thcentury French Aristocrat what democracy was a highly exotic and new political option.

He was born in 1805 when Napoleon was the populist dictator but Alexis believed that democracy was going to be the future all over the world and so he wanted to know what that would be like, and so he traveled to America in order to further explore, and then embarked on a nine month journey around the new nation once he got there.


In 1835, Tocqueville published “Democracy in America,” where he compiled of his thoughts into one of the greatest works of political philosophy. In this book, he touched on the problematic and darkest issues of society.

Five issues struck Tocqueville in particular. These main issues are provided as follows:


  1. Democracy Breeds Materialism – Americans believed that money seemed to be the only achievement that people believed to be considered admirable

democracy and capitalism – a very oppressive and flat way of life


  1. Democracy Breeds Envy and Shame – in a chapter of his book “Why the Americans are often so Restless Amidst their prosperity” high expectations and dissatisfaction, between political equality and envy < relationship between

when inequality is the general rule in society the greatest inequalities attract no attention but when everything is level, the slightest variation is noticed.

  1. The Tyranny of the Majority

Generally, we think of democracy as being the opposite of tyranny, but in a tyranny of the majority – society has an aggressive leveling instinct regarded as a civic of virtue to take down anyone that seems to be getting “above themselves” and cut anyone down to size.


  1. Democracy Turns Us Against Authority


 In the United States, people of no distinction tend ot believe that anyone could be “better than them” b/c they trained to be a doctor for 6 years, or wrote a lot of great books, etc.  In sum, Tocqueville believed that democracy in the Americas was fatally bias towards mediocracy.


  1. Democracy Undermines Freedom of Mind

Tocqueville believed that one could find few places with less freedom of mind and Americans gave up on independence of mind and freedom of discussion, giving up on critical thinking and giving their faith to newspapers instead and hesitant of stepping too far out of line with their neighbors, who could be potential customers, as it could undermine business.


Théodore Chassériau






Théodore Chassériau


Théodore Chassériau


Théodore Chassériau















Théodore Chassériau, Milestones in Philanthropy - Alexis de Tocqueville, Théodore Chassériau, 1950

Cite As

Théodore Chassériau, “Milestones in Philanthropy - Alexis de Tocqueville,” Virtual Museum of Public Service, accessed August 20, 2022,