In his travels and in Democracy in America, deTocqueville did not limit his observations and analyses to the American corrections system or political life. The second volume of Democracy in America devotes his focus to an exploration and explanation of who "the American" is and what he is like. While his conclusions may be seen as comprehensive, or very nearly, they are by no means original; they are in fact strikingly uninspired-- a reiteration of opinions expressed by his informants, other travelers, and many Americans on whom deTocqueville had no lasting effect. He may not have intended his work to do anything but that; he collected and distributed a set of circulating concepts about the emerging American character.

One of the more interesting aspects of his observations is his frank disapproval of what might be called "American-ness," but more specifically to his concerns that "excess democracy" could negate the advantages of the new political and social system. His allegiance, predictably, largely lies with the genteel Eastern and/or cosmopolitan Americans-- those that resemble deTocqueville more than those who are now thought of as "traditional" American icons. In all fairness, deTocqueville's view of Americans can not be considered solely negative, but many of his observations and conclusions are less than flattering.

Many of his judgments can be traced to a fluidity of status in a democracy. Social status is determined, in a democracy, primarily by wealth which varies both along traditional economic patterns and with respect to one's location (for example, would Davy Crockett have been elected to Congress in Massachusetts-- doubtfully). He believes that "dignity in manners consists in always taking one's proper place," yet in America no one has a stable position, and he notes that the oscillations of status keep Americans too preoccupied to worry about anything beyond "domestic interests." Connected with the dissolution of proper manner is an American emphasis on utility, specifically to each individual; according to deTocqueville even virtue becomes an issue of utility in the minds of Americans. The basis of the unspoken American philosophy lies a faith in "treating tradition as valuable for information only and accepting existing facts as no more than a useful sketch to show how things could be done differently and better. . . [and a reliance] on individual effort and judgment."

These desires also drive American restlessness, since Americans "never stop thinking of the good things they have not got"-- further spurring migration and industrial growth. This motivation too has its weaknesses, as deTocqueville notes a lack of grand desires in Americans; "every American is eaten up with longing to rise, but hardly any of them seem to entertain very great hopes or to aim very high." Do these notions accurately define an American character? Perhaps-- who needs to be a king if they can whip any man on the Mississippi. . . or does that make one a king?

DeTocqueville in his writings essentially divided Americans into two categories, although they were not inflexible, and devoted considerably more time in his description of the coarse masses (understandably since they were foreign to most Europeans). The genteel, who may be considered palatable to deTocqueville, consisted largely of the Eastern or Eastern-bred wealthy and were likely Whigs. The concerns he expresses in Democracy in America are directly linked with this group's waning influence in both politics and culture, and his discussions of them tend to come in describing the "successful" application of democracy in the United States. This group also probably suggested or, at the very least, reinforced deTocqueville's understanding of the other segment of the American population-- a group embodied by Andrew Jackson's presidency.

Now, iconic American figures, excepting maybe George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are linked with a coarseness that has decidedly (and anachronistically) lower class connotations-- figures like Huck Finn, Walt Whitman, or Davy Crockett. DeTocqueville, like many of his contemporaries, viewed "typical" Americans, the masses, with a distinct distaste-- as something akin to peasants who had forcibly and loudly made their presence known and who were, especially in the west, seizing control of American political and social life (and therein lay his fears). In discussing American writers, deTocqueville captures his sense of the lack of refinement in America, claiming that in speech Americans adopt "simplicity as often to be vulgar" but in writing are "pompous. . . [and] prodigal of metaphors" because they are so infrequently accustomed to contemplating anything outside themselves.

Although deTocqueville spent most of his second volume detailing a myriad of aspects of American attitudes and traits, some general may be isolated. DeTocqueville has, at times, been regarded for his predictive value; that is, he seems almost clairvoyant in isolating certain ideas and/or ideals that will persevere and become an integral part of what we now consider "American." In the case of his description of the new American character, deTocqueville did not so much predict the future (i.e. Americans' tendency to exhibit the traits he ascribes to them) as (partially) create it. As already noted, deTocqueville was not alone in his disapproval of certain attributes of the American character. Southwestern humor, seen as a reflection of popular views, while perhaps originating in an definitely participating in the satirization of the American character, grew to eventually glorify that character, especially in figures like Davy Crockett and later in Huck Finn.