Democracy in America:
Tocqueville's America is another project of the American Studies Programs at The University of Virginia. In this project we take up the task of re-contextualizing Alexis de Tocqueville's famous political and cultural analysis of American democracy. Our objective is, over time, to return that book -- arguably still one of the most influential works in political thought -- to its origins, to the America of 1831-32 . For it was on that very specific ground and at that very specific historical moment that Tocqueville stood.
What he saw there, who he talked with, what he read and overheard, became the stuff of his analysis of our nation's essential nature and probable destiny. And almost everything he saw and heard has, of course, simply vanished. Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams have been translated into icons of Jacksonian Democracy and The New England Conscience; Justice Story and Senator Poinsett are remembered only by a handful of professional historians; Cincinnati is no longer a frontier boom town and the trackless wilderness of Tennessee has been comfortably suburbanized and malled along with the rest of the courntry. If Tocqueville's America persists in our institutions and our common habits of mind and feeling, in many more objvious ways Tocqueville's America has simply vanished.
And so we're attempting to construct a virtual American ca. 1831-32. The site now contains a virtual tour of America based on Tocqueville's itinerary, on his and his friend Beaumont's letters and journals, on contemporaneous accounts of other foreign visitors, and on a variety of examples of material culture of the period , mostly paintings and engravings. It also holds explorations of Womens' Place at the time, of attitudes toward race and color, towards religion, and towards everyday life. In addition, we've included a section on Tocqueville's America: 1997 that focuses on the recent debate over the status and future of American Associationalism, a distinguishing and necessary feature of American Democracy for Tocqueville -- and something we seem to be in danger of losing