“Life is to be entered upon with courage.” - March 4, 2013

The title of this blog is a quote from Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (1805–1859), who at the ripe old age of 26 came to America on a mission from the July Monarchy to examine prisons and penitentiaries in America. He visited some prisons, but ended up traveling widely in America, taking extensive notes, returning to France in less than two years, to write his masterpiece, Democracy in America, which was published in 1835, when he was 30. Tocqueville likely has no true rival in understanding the American personality and America’s place in the world. Here are a few quotes; you will see that his work is as lively and accurate today as it was nearly 180 years ago.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

It is the dissimilarities and inequalities among men which give rise to the notion of honor; as such differences become less, it grows feeble; and when they disappear, it will vanish too.

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

When I was studying political theory way back in the 1960s and 1970s, the greatest theorists in the world were Americans of German extraction, all escapees from Nazi Germany. Now, the greatest theorists are Frenchmen, who don’t need to escape their country, though their work is not exactly a celebration of the road that Paris has chosen to follow, which is in direct contradiction to the thought of their famous nineteenth-century son. After all, “life is to be entered upon with courage.”

Among the great French thinkers today are Philippe Bénéton, Rémi Brague, René Girard (who lives in America . . . on Frenchman’s Road, no less), Pierre Manent, Jean-Luc Marion, and Roger Pouivet, all authors of books published or to be published by St. Augustine’s Press. Vive la difference!