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Tocqueville on slavery

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by jgoodguy, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Lets discuss.
    Split from How was the morality of slavery tolerable?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017

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  3. Mint Julep

    Mint Julep Corporal

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    "[R]ace prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known." --Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    http://slavenorth.com/exclusion.htm

     
  4. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I appreciate the quote to investigate. Lets take a look. The Frenchman is not speaking about a tour of the North at all, but a tour of the Southerner influenced border. Is this sufficient to draw a conclusion of say Maine or New Hampshire?

    Tocqueville on Slavery And Prejudice – Crossroads

    I appreciate the quote to investigate. Lets take a look. The Frenchman is not speaking about a tour of the North at all, but a tour of the Southerner influenced border. Is this sufficient to draw a conclusion of say Maine or New Hampshire?
    ref
    map of Tocqueville's path through the US
    detocqueville_s_journey.gif

     
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  5. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    The Trouble With Tocqueville - Newsweek
    Looks like depending on Tocqueville is problematical. He is too superficial. What he describes last about a decade. He is too influenced by a very few Americans and jumps to conclusion.
     
  6. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    'Alexis de Tocqueville': the first French critic of the US
    Tocqueville's work my be more a literary work than a work on democracy in the early US.
     
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  7. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty

    Democracy in America is really about the French.
    .

     
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  8. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year Honored Fallen Comrade

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    This is yet another excellent example of how SlaveNorth cherry picks. When you read the whole passage, you see the point that Tocqueville was really making:

    ... the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known.

    It is true that in the North of the Union marriages may be legally contracted between Negroes and whites; but public opinion would stigmatize as infamous a man who should connect himself with a Negress, and it would be difficult to cite a single instance of such a union. The electoral franchise has been conferred upon the Negroes in almost all the states in which slavery has been abolished, but if they come forward to vote, their lives are in danger. If oppressed, they may bring an action at law, but they will find none but whites among their judges; and although they may legally serve as jurors, prejudice repels them from that office. The same schools do not receive the children of the black and of the European. In the theaters gold cannot procure a seat for the servile race beside their former masters; in the hospitals they lie apart; and although they are allowed to invoke the same God as the whites, it must be at a different altar and in their own churches, with their own clergy. The gates of heaven are not closed against them, but their inferiority is continued to the very confines of the other world. When the Negro dies, his bones are cast aside, and the distinction of condition prevails even in the equality of death. Thus the Negro is free, but he can share neither the rights, nor the pleasures, nor the labor, nor the afflictions, nor the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared to be; and he cannot meet him upon fair terms in life or in death.

    In the South, where slavery still exists, the Negroes are less carefully kept apart; they sometimes share the labors and the recreations of the whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent, and although legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the people are more tolerant and compassionate. In the South the master is not afraid to raise his slave to his own standing, because he knows that he can in a moment reduce him to the dust at pleasure. In the North the white no longer distinctly perceives the barrier that separates him from the degraded race, and he shuns the Negro with the more pertinacity since he fears lest they should some day be confounded together.

    Among the Americans of the South, Nature sometimes reasserts her rights and restores a transient equality between the blacks and the whites; but in the North pride restrains the most imperious of human passions. The American of the Northern states would perhaps allow the Negress to share his licentious pleasures if the laws of his country did not declare that she may aspire to be the legitimate partner of his bed, but he recoils with horror from her who might become his wife.

    Thus it is in the United States that the prejudice which repels the Negroes seems to increase in proportion as they are emancipated, and inequality is sanctioned by the manners while it is effaced from the laws of the country.


    - Alexis de Tocqueville

    Source: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/DETOC/1_ch18.htm
    Clearly he's saying that as blacks obtain more legal rights in society, there is a backlash of racism among some elements of that society. At the time he wrote this, slavery was still in the process of being abolished in the northern states, and the backlash was very evident. This backlash wasn't necessary in the South at the time because slaveowners knew they could "reduce [the slave] to dust at pleasure". But imagine what Tocqueville would have written about the South if he had toured it in the 1870s and 1880s.

    It's also important to note that Tocqueville made his observations in the early 1830s, when the abolitionist movement was just taking off, and there was a strong anti-abolitionist backlash in the United States. In the South it resulted in the expulsion of abolitionists. In the North, it started off with mobbings of abolitionists and even the murder of Elijah Lovejoy, but eventually eased off until the point that you had abolitionists (even black ones) being elected to public office in the 1840s and 1850s, and blacks obtaining citizenship and voting rights to such an extent that South Carolina cited it as a reason for its secession in 1860.

    The abolition of slavery did result in an immediate backlash of racism in both the Northern and Southern states. But over the long-term, it was only through the abolition of slavery that Northern and Southern racism could ultimately be diminished, and hopefully someday eradicated altogether.
     
  9. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year Honored Fallen Comrade

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    I actually was quite impressed with de Tocqueville. Of course he was only one man and had his limitations, but I think he made some very keen observations, some of which continue to have relevance to this very day. He has to be read in his entirety though. To simply cherrypick a sentence out of the hundreds of pages of his very thoughtful and nuanced work is to do him and history a great injustice.

    After all, it was de Tocqueville who predicted this, in that same 1834 work:

    "When I contemplate the condition of the south, I can only discover two alternatives which may be adopted by the white inhabitants of those states, viz: either to emancipate the negroes, and to intermingle with them; or, remaining isolated form them, to keep them in a state of slavery as long as possible. All intermediate measures seem to me likely to terminate, and that shortly, in the most horrible of civil wars, and perhaps in the extirpation of one or other of the two races..

    Whatever may be the efforts of the Americans of the South to maintain slavery, they will not always succeed. Slavery, now confined to a single tract of the civilized earth, attacked by Christianity as unjust and by political economy as prejudicial, and now contrasted with democratic liberty and the intelligence of our age, cannot survive. By the act of the master, or by the will of the slave, it will cease; and in either case great calamities may be expected to ensue."

    - Alexis de Tocqueville, 1834

    Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=r-oJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA408&lpg=PA408
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  10. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Thanks for the insightful posts.
     
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  11. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Instead of looking to Tocqueville, I suggest reviewing narratives from African Americans who escaped bondage and came North. No one is better situated to evaluate the difference between freedom and slavery than them.

    - Alan
     
  12. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Good point. IMHO Tocqueville got good press, but his observations would be common place in America, unique in France. Just his book is the one on the top of the stack. He is not an expert, but recording his opinions and observations.
     
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  13. Mint Julep

    Mint Julep Corporal

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    All points of view are worth looking at.
     
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  14. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    I don't deny that all such views are useful. But I place more value on the comments of people who actually lived lives as free and enslaved people, as opposed to a European visitor who had no intimate experience with the institution. I think you'd agree with that.

    - Alan
     
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  15. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year Honored Fallen Comrade

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    This is true, although I'll add that de Tocqueville had an objectivity that Americans did not (and it shows in his writing). I find his perspective interesting and enlightening. But he also clearly got some things wrong, and in the overall scheme of things his observations were only one small part of the big picture.
     
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  16. Mint Julep

    Mint Julep Corporal

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    Agreed
     

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