The Lives of the Characters

The following biographical entries are organized by the geographical order in which Tocqueville and Beaumont crossed the United States. They are organized alphabetically in each section, not in the order in which the travelers met each informant. It is important to note that, in some instances, they met a Character in more than one location. However, this organization places a person in the area in which he met the travelers or in the place with which he is most frequently associated.


Organized Regionally

New York | Great Lakes Region | Boston | Philadelphia | Baltimore | Cincinnati | Kentucky and Tennessee | New Orleans | Washington, D.C.

Organized Alphabetically | Organized by Issue
(See alphabetized list for images of the Characters)


New York

Gallatin, Albert (1761-1849)
Swiss-born, U.S. Senator, Secretary of Treasury to Jefferson, diplomat to France and London, president of New York branch of second Bank of the United States. Met with travelers in Manhattan and discussed law.

Kent, James (1763-1847)
Prominent New York Jurist; established precedence of handing written opinions as Chief Judge of N.Y. Supreme Court. Staunch conservative; spoke out against universal suffrage. Wrote Commentaries on American Law (1826-30) to which Tocqueville would refer often in composing his notes and his text.

Livingston, Edward (1764-1836)
Lawyer, served as U.S. attorney for New York and Mayor of New York City (1801 03), suffered private and public debt and struggles until he regained fame in 1825 for revising the Louisiana penal law to aim at prevention of crime rather than punishment. U.S. Congressman from Louisiana; hosted Tocqueville and Beaumont in Washington, D.C.

Lynds, Elam (1784-1855)
Prison administrator, originator of the Auburn system of prison-keeping in which prisoners worked in perpetual silence in open fields. Met with Tocqueville and Beaumont in Auburn, N.Y. to discuss principles of prison- keeping.

Maxwell, Hugh (1787-1873)
Lawyer, New York politician, District attorney of New York County (1817-18, 1821-29). Discussed penitentiary system with the travelers while they were in Manhattan, particulary the "House of Refuge" system designed for reform of juvenile delinquents.

Schermerhorn, Peter
Distinguished New York merchant who met the travelers as they began their excursion across the Atlantic on the Havre. His discussions with Tocqueville and Beaumont helped shape some of their early sensibilities about the nature of American government and the American people. Of particular note to Tocqueville were Schermerhorn's comments regarding the dissipation of the political party system, the American infatuation with wealth and the unscrupulousness with which it is pursued, and the question of an eventual division among the states which form the union.

Spencer, John Canfield (1788-1855)
Distinguished lawyer in upstate New York. U.S. Secretary of War (1841-43) and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1843-44) under President Tyler, resigned in opposition to the annexation of Texas. Discussed the nature of the legislature, jurisprudence, the press, religious tolerance, education, and suffrage with the travelers when they visited Canandaigua, N.Y.


Great Lakes Region

Bagley, Amasa
Landlord and owner of the inn in Pontiac at which the travelers stayed on their way to Saginaw. Discussed the nature of the pioneer and expansion, particularly the abundance of land and the dearth of labor to clear it. Also discussed settlement, economy, business, and religion in the wilderness, and offered an example of American hubris in man's ability to conquer the land. Advised them not to go to Saginaw, perhaps out of good will and perhaps out of fear they were infringing on his economic gain by getting involved with the fur trade.

One of two Indian guides who led Tocqueville and Beaumont through a fifteen league journey from Flint River to Saginaw, at that point the farthest point of western expansion. Despite their inability to communicate verbally, Tocqueville's notes indicate an attention to Sagan-Cuisco's abilities to negotiate the forest with ease yet be easily duped, in Western eyes, when it comes to trade. The guides serve as a different kind of colloquial voice, speaking of racial relations, from those who are foreigners on a new continent to those who are being forced to become foreigners on land they once occupied.

Williams, "Mr."

Michigan businessman who advised Tocqueville and Beaumont which way to travel through the wilderness, advocating a trust of the Indians more than the white man. A colloquial voice in "Quinze Jours au Desert."


Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848)
Sixth President of the United States, Secretary of State to James Monroe and ardent expansionist. Met with the travelers in Washington, D.C. and discussed expansionism and the West.

Channing, William Ellery (1780-1842)
Leader of the Unitarian movement (1819), drawing together principles of Protestantism and the Enlightenment. Advocated social reform and abolition of slavery. Met with travelers in Boston and discussed religion.

Everett, Edward (1794-1865)
Unitarian clergyman; editor of North American Review; Congressman from Massachusetts (Independent, 1825-35); President of Harvard College (1846-49); U.S. Secretary of State (1852-53); Senator from Massachusetts (1853-54). Ardent Unionist, distinguished orator, shared platform with Lincoln at Gettysburg. Called on the travelers as they visited Washington, D.C.

Lieber, Francis
German traveler who met Tocqueville during his visits to the United States, once in Boston. Exchanged ideas with Tocqueville and wrote works on topics corresponding with those in his text. The link from Lieber's name connects to a site comparing the two travelers; though it is based from the AS@UVa Tocqueville site, it will take you away from this site.

Quincy, Josiah (1772-1864)
U.S. and Massachusetts Congressman; Mayor of Boston (1823-27), instituted great plan for city reform. President of Harvard (1829-45), turned law school into a professional school, brought on Jared Sparks, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Benjamin Peirce as faculty members. Authored The History of Harvard University (1840). Discussed law and government with the travelers during their stay in Boston.

Sparks, Reverend Jared (1789-1866)
Historian, Unitarian minister, editor of North American Review (1823- 29), later served as President of Harvard University (1849-1853). Published twelvevolume The Writing of George Washington. Met with travelers in Boston and discussed religion.

Sullivan, William (1774-1839)
Lawyer; Massachusetts legislator; author of The Public Men of the Revolution. Met Tocqueville and Beaumont in Boston and responded, after their departure, to their written inquiry regarding the administration of justice.

Tuckerman, Reverend Joseph (1778-1840)
Unitary clergyman and philanthropist. Began a city mission for the poor of Boston in 1826 which later served as model for institutions in England and France. Provided Tocqueville and Beaumont with documents and letters he had written regarding temperance, charity, education, and pauperism. Discussed such topics with them during their stay in Boston.

Webster, Daniel (1782-1852)
Political leader, U.S. Congressman from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, active in sectional issues, considered one of the nation's leading constitutional lawyers and great defender of the Constitution. Served as Secretary of State under President Fillmore (1850-52). Met with Tocqueville and Beaumont in Boston but left little impression; they considered him only "power-hungry."



Duponceau, Peter (Pierre, 1760-1844)
French-born American lawyer, served in American revolution. Authored legal treatises and early works on history and philology, especially of Native Americans. After 1785 became America's leading expert on international law. Met with Tocqueville and Beaumont when in Washington, D.C.; little account given of his views in their journals.

Gilpin, Henry D. (1801-1860)
Philadelphia lawyer; U.S attorney, eastern district of Pennsylvania (1831-37); U.S. Attorney General (1840-41). Met with Tocqueville and Beaumont during their second visit in Philadelphia to discuss the justice system in America, particularly which parts of English practice had been retained and which ones abandoned. His commentary on the jury system shows up frequently in Democracy in America.

Ingersoll, Charles Jared (1782-1862)
Lawyer; author; U.S. District Attorney (1815-29); U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania. Held anti-French political views early in his career but broke away from those with the publication of View of the Rights and Wrongs, Power and Policy, of the United States of America, which was widely read in America and abroad. Authored histories of the War of 1812. Known for energy in championing causes unpopular in his own social environment. Met with the travelers in Philadelphia to discuss principles of government.

McIlvaine, Joseph
Recorder of the City for Philadelphia in 1830; discussed the possibility of foreign nations adopting America's jury system with the travelers. Provided Tocqueville with extensive compositions regarding the penal code and system of punishment in Pennsylvania, the judicial organization of the state, and specific recommendations about the adoption of the jury system in France.

Poinsett, Joel Roberts (1779-1851)
U.S. diplomat to Mexico; served in South Carolina legislature; U.S. Secretary of War (1837-41). Developed the poinsettia from a Mexican flower. A strong Unionist; discussed regional culture and expansion with Tocqueville and Beaumont during each of their two visits to Philadelphia.

Prisoner No. 28 of the Eastern State Penitentiary
Inmate of Philadelphia prison interviewed by Tocqueville in order to get the "insider's" insights about how the system affects the individual. Fittingly, he is nameless, as are the other prisoners interviewed. His belief is that the prospect of doing work while in prison is the only thing which keeps him alive, particularly due to the forced solitude at all other times. He considers the Eastern State Penitentiary superior to the Walnut Street prison. His story precedes a moving social commentary from another prisoner, about his perceived necessity to return to crime, forced by society which once put him in jail for being a vagrant.

Vaux, Roberts (1786- 1836)
Philanthropist and devout Quaker. Associated with many public and private activities for social welfare in Philadelphia, including creation of free public schools, hospital work, work of learned societies, and prison reform. Advocate of the Quaker theory of self-reform under solitary confinement for prisoners; hosted a dinner for the travelers during their first stay in Philadelphia, at which they exchanged ideas with others interested in prison- keeping.



Carroll, Charles (1737-1832)
Revolutionary leader and, at the time of meeting the travelers, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence. Member of Continental Congress and U.S. Senator from Maryland (1789-92). Landed proprietor; discussed primogeniture, issues of the aristocracy, and custom vs. law in American culture when the men were in Maryland.

Latrobe, John Hazlehurst Boneval (1803-1891)
Lawyer, inventor. Helped draft charter of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (1827), widely recognized as railroad and patent attorney. Active in many philanthropic societies. Met travelers in Baltimore and discussed, among other things, suffrage, customs vs. law in America, primogeniture, slavery, regionalism, public education, Catholicism, and Maryland society.



Chase, Salmon Portland (1808-1873)
Cincinnati lawyer associated with antislavery movement. Later served as Governor of Ohio, U.S. Senator, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1864-1873).

Walker, Timothy (1802-1856)
Lawyer, legal writer, jurist, and law teacher in Ohio. Authored Introduction to American Law (1837), an influential work of the elementary principles of American justice system. Discussed the justice system, government involvement in education, banking and revenue, voting practices, and the general "equality of condition" in the United States when Tocqueville and Beaumont visited Cincinnati.


Kentucky and Tennessee

Harris, "Mr."
A colloquial voice, represented in Pierson's work ("Down the Mississippi"). Owner of the cabin in which the travelers stayed when stranded in Tennessee and while Tocqueville took ill. Slave-owner and representative of the pioneer. Discussed the necessary link between Southern agrarianism and slavery and how that affects the character of the whites.

Houston, Sam (1793-1863)
Leader of Texas Independence (1836), first President of Texas republic. Left office of Governor of Texas once it seceded in 1861. Served as governor of Tennessee district (1829), resigned and lived 3 years with Cherokee tribe. Met travelers on the Mississippi River and discussed Indians and racial tensions.

McIlvain, B.R.
Louisville merchant and colloquial voice represented in Pierson's book ("Down the Mississippi"). Discussed socioeconomic disparity between Kentucky and Ohio, rooted in slavery, as well as the likelihood of abolition of slavery in Kentucky and popular feelings about such issues.


New Orleans

Guillemain, M.
French consul in New Orleans at the time the travelers visited the city. Discussed French customs in the territory, immigration, slavery, and growth and prosperity of the area with them.

Mazureau, Etienne (1777-1849)
French-born American lawyer, law partner of Edward Livingston in New Orleans. Louisiana legislator, also served as Louisiana Attorney General. Discussed New Orleans government and culture with the travelers, specifically growth of the territory, slavery, and French influences on society.


Washington, D.C.

Jackson, Andrew (1767-1845)
Seventh President of the United States (1828-1836); distinguished General in War of 1812. Associated with the "spoils system" in selecting cabinet and public office holders. Met with travelers in Washington, D.C. but left little impression on them. Frequently referred to by other informants as an example of a man of no "talent" being elected to office, a negative example of widespread suffrage.

Trist, Nicholas (1800-1874)
Lawyer, studied in law office of Thomas Jefferson. Diplomat to Cuba (1833-41) and Mexico (1845-48); considered a man of high integrity. Instrumental in helping the travelers collect printed materials on the operation and history of the federal government during their stay in Washington, D.C.


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