Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is one of the great classics of the American political tradition, alongside the best writings of Thomas Jefferson or the Federalist Papers. This is no small achievement for a Frenchman. Indeed, Tocqueville’s magnum opus is, I believe, the only foreign-language book to be included in the Library of America series.
One can see why Democracy in America was so popular in American civics classes. The book is a highly nuanced portrait of the early American Republic, with many insights which help to explain the differences that endure to this day between Europe and North America, such as why the United States is “a nation of lawyers” or how America has steadily risen to being a global superpower. The work, being about Americanism and democracy, is highly relevant both for understanding the world’s leading superpower and indeed the nature of today’s heavily Americanized and “democratic” Europe.
Beyond this however, Tocqueville’s Democracy is a profound and subtle meditation on the nature of the ideal society and government. And unlike many classic works, Tocqueville’s reflections are eminently easy to grasp. Of interest to the Right is the fact that Tocqueville believed in the unalterable fact of human inequality. The work is therefore an education for a would-be responsible ruling class: some kind of democracy is inevitable in the modern age, Tocqueville says, but he warns against that system’s dangers, ultimately providing an apology for having democracy be informed by an enlightened patriotic elite.
In this article, I would like to examine the place of nationhood (especially ethno-cultural homogeneity), patriotism, and (civil-)religious sentiment in Tocqueville’s thought. As we shall see, Tocqueville believed all three were absolutely essential to the successful development of the early American Republican. I would then like to make the case for Tocqueville as a proto-nationalist thinker. Interestingly, Tocqueville specifically paired nationalism and religion together as the only two forces which could unite a society: “there is in this world only patriotism, or religion, which can make all citizens walk for long towards a common goal” (159).
Tocqueville fits well within the wider Western tradition. His observations on nationhood can be taken as reflecting the simple common sense that was omnipresent in Western thought from the Ancient Greeks through the Enlightenment, until the triumph of pseudoscientific blank-slate theories in the 1960s cultural revolution. I will furthermore argue that Tocqueville’s conception of patriotism and religiosity, and their potentially positive role in fostering in-group cohesion, largely joins up with later scientific discoveries concerning ethnocentrism and religion (e.g. Philippe Rushton’s Genetic Similarity Theory, Nicholas Wade’s synthesis on religion).
The Iron Law of Inequality
Tocqueville makes a number of elementary observations which would, no doubt, save a great deal of time for teenage socialists and libertarians today. The basic problem he identifies is that of individuals’ living in society. They clearly depend upon collective conditions, but their intelligence and will are to a large degree individual. How can these individuals be reconciled? In particular, how can they be reconciled when intelligence and wisdom are so unevenly distributed in the population? How do we ensure that government is wise and does not abuse its power? He presents his utopia:
I conceive then a society in which all, considering the law to be their own work, would love it and submit to it painlessly; where the authority of the government would be respected as necessary and not as divine, the love one would have for the head of State would not be a passion, but a reasoned and tranquil sentiment. Each would have rights, and having assured himself of keeping his rights, would be established among all classes a virile confidence, and a sort of reciprocal condescension, as far from arrogance as from lowness. (45)
For Tocqueville, every individual is an atom of intelligence. This individual, Americans believe (as Tocqueville repeatedly notes), knows his own affairs best and is thus best equipped to manage them. At the very least, one must concede the individual is often best equipped, especially on economic matters, and this is one of the rationales for a mixed market economy.
Tocqueville however repeatedly notes that men are extremely unequally endowed with intelligence and wisdom (les lumières or “enlightenment”). The dreams of egalitarians are utterly vain and misguided, for “intellectual inequality comes directly from God and man cannot prevent that it always be there” (103). Cultural action can certainly improve a people but “it is impossible, whatever one does, to elevate the enlightenment of the people beyond a certain level” (299). The inevitability of inequality means democracy is an inherently enervating and unsatisfying regime: “Democratic institutions awaken and flatter the passion for equality without ever being able to completely satisfy it” (300).
The best equipped to rule are therefore the exceptional minority — “this natural aristocracy which stems from enlightenment and virtue” (101). Aristocracy, echoing the ancient Greeks, is best according to Tocqueville:
A mass of people can be seduced by its ignorance or its passions; one can surprise the mind of a king or make him waver in his project; and incidentally a king is not immortal. But an aristocratic body is too numerous to be captured, too few in number to cede easily to the inebriation of thoughtless passions. An aristocratic body is a firm and enlightened man who does not die. (345-46)
While the masses are beholden to prejudice, the most thoughtful and enlightened portion of society is by definition minuscule: “As for this other kind of belief, thoughtful and master of itself, which is born of science and elevates itself amidst agitations of doubt, it will only be within reach of the efforts of a very small number of men” (285).
Tocqueville strongly emphasizes the benefits of a common identity and common interests between the governed and those governing, as a way of preventing abuses (350). Obviously, he would not be a proponent of multiculturalism or of leadership by alien ethnic elites hostile to the majority population.
In practice, Tocqueville also sees many advantages in democracy and disadvantages in centralized rule. A strong central government is certainly better when the latter is more enlightened than the people, but the state being inefficient and hardly omniscient, there are limits to its action. Furthermore, Tocqueville laments that strong central governments tend to make the people passive and lose civic virtue. He frequently contrasts the sullen peasants of French villages with the vigorous settlers of American township democracy.
Through participation in public affairs, the people interest and invest themselves in the common good. Thus, when the people are relatively enlightened, they should rule: “Among the Americans, the strength which administers the State is far less regulated, less enlightened, less knowledgeable, but a hundred times greater than in Europe” (156).
Tocqueville saw society as, ideally, developing slowly and organically towards greater freedom, rather than through brutal, unpredictable, and often self-destructive revolutions:
What we understand by republic in the United States is the slow and tranquil action of society on itself. It is a regulated state genuinely based upon the enlightened will of the people. It is a conciliatory government, where resolutions take long to mature, are discussed slowly, and are executed with maturity. (574)
For Tocqueville there is something of an impasse: the best regime is one of aristocratic excellence not of the democratic average. However, in an age of mass communications and modernization, he does not see how discrete classes could maintain themselves or how democracy could be avoided. Tocqueville sees one way to, if not resolve, then at least attenuate the contradictions: the development of a patriotic civil-religious virtue in all individuals through daily participation in political life.
Nationhood: An Obvious Prerequisite and Goal
Tocqueville’s ideal takes nationhood — understood here as an objectively high degree of ethno-cultural homogeneity — as both an obvious good and an equally obvious goal. It almost goes without saying that such a social condition is a necessary prerequisite, not only to avoiding the problems that inevitably arise when members of a society do not identify with one another as part of the same people, but also to achieving the positive good which is patriotism.
Tocqueville emphasizes on numerous occasions the ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious homogeneity of the Thirteen Colonies and the later United States:
Almost all the men who inhabit the territory of the Union stem from the same blood. They speak the same language, pray to the same God in the same way, submit to the same material causes, obey the same laws. (454)
Tocqueville also takes “homogeneity of civilization,” meaning the level of economic prosperity or development, as a good that makes the sharing of a common government easier (258).
The United States formed then a “great Anglo-American family,” despite the real differences between North and South, and had a “national character” (73, 70). This character and its customs, Tocqueville suggests, are the critical difference with the neighboring Mexicans who, though they adopted a virtual carbon copy of the U.S. Constitution, were incapable of producing the same quality of government. He expresses confidence that even through wars and revolutions, the Anglo-Americans would maintain “the distinctive character of their race,” including “the taste for well-being and the spirit of enterprise” (595).
Tocqueville contrasts Americans’ homogeneity with others’ lack of it on several occasions. Concerning English and French Canadians: “Canada has only a million inhabitants, its population is divided into two hostile nations” (261). Indeed, Tocqueville considers Anglo-Canadians to be essentially indistinguishable from Americans. Similarly, he points out that Old World Europeans shared a broad White racial and Christian religious identity, but are divided concerning almost everything else (596). Furthermore, Tocqueville correctly predicted that immigration of Anglo-Americans to then-Mexican Texas would lead to an Americanization of that region (490).
The Thirteen Colonies were fortunate in already being very similar ethno-culturally and politically. However, Tocqueville goes further, asserting that the Founding Fathers had sought, from this sound basis, to fuse these into one people: “they had declared that the confederation formed but one and the same people within the circle traced by the constitution” (230). While state and regional identities were obviously real, particularly the worrying division between North and South, Tocqueville argued the American nation was indeed maturing: “At the same time as the Americans are mixing, they are assimilating each other; the differences which climate, origin, and institutions had made among them, are diminishing. They are all approaching more and more a common type” (560). Acknowledging the cultural dominance of New England, this American nation’s culture, Tocqueville asserted, would be of the northern, post-puritanical Yankee type. Despite the division into states, Tocqueville thought the Americans formed “one single people” to a greater degree than the peoples of certain European monarchies (544).
Tocqueville’s observations can be taken as a refreshing example of pre-1960s common sense before the invasion of Western academic thought with typically Marxist-inspired claims that nations are essentially imaginary or socialy constructed. Against this one can make the elementary observation: early America was fortunate in already objectively having a great amount of common identity, but that there was an obvious interest in further reinforcing this so as to achieve the highest degree of nationhood.
Tocqueville also incidentally strongly emphasizes the importance of political and economic independence to having any real sovereignty: “Strength is then often one of the first conditions for the happiness and even existence of nations. [. . .] I know of no more deplorable condition than that of a people which cannot defend or depend upon itself” (249).
Racial Diversity: “The Most Dangerous of Ills”
For Tocqueville, America’s division into three races — White, Red, and Black — was a terrible danger to the young nation. “The men spread in this space do not form, as in Europe, so many children of a same family,” but rather “almost enemy races” (467). Tocqueville expresses considerable sympathy for the Amerindians and Africans who suffered in a White man’s America. Both had been deprived of their “fatherland” and lost their identity (477).
Concerning the Amerindians, Tocqueville regrets the lack of miscegenation with White Americans, all the while admitting that in Canada mixing between French and natives had led to poor results (the métis tended to “go native” and remain wild, 485). He presents an interesting early example of what we might call “dependency theory” in explaining Amerindians’ chronic inability to compete economically with Whites (488). He concludes, however, that there was little doubt that the Reds will be run out and/or swamped.
The situation of Blacks was far more worrisome for Tocqueville: “The most dangerous of ills which is threatening the future of the United States is born of the presence of the Blacks on its soil” (499). He is rather evasive on the question of racial inequality, generally satisfying himself with paraphrasing American opinions, notably Thomas Jefferson’s.
Tocqueville did not believe in the possibility of a harmonious multiracial society: “I do not think that the white race and the black race could anywhere live together as equals” (520). He quotes from Jefferson’s memoirs: “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people [Blacks] are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” Jefferson justified his pessimistic position on grounds of White prejudice, Black grievances, and natural difference.
Tocqueville says racial mixing might be a solution, but argues that white racial pride made this all but impossible. Only a dictatorship, he believed, could force integration:
A despot who would put the Americans and their former slaves under the same yoke could perhaps succeed in mixing them: so long as American democracy remains in charge, none would dare attempt such an undertaking, and one can foresee that, as long as the Whites in the United States remain free, they will seek to isolate themselves. (520)
Tocqueville rejects the idea that emancipation would solve the problem and asserts that Blacks would “abuse” their freedom. He notes that “everywhere where the Negroes have been the stronger, they have destroyed the Whites” (502). Tocqueville feared that slaves’ high fertility meant the South could fall to Black revolution (as occurred in formerly French Haiti). He even asserts that, without the Union, “sympathies of race” would probably not lead the North to the South’s rescue in case of a Black revolution (523). Tocqueville intriguingly observes: “In America, as in the rest of the earth, servitude is then born in the South” (504).
White European identity was a simple fact for Tocqueville, evident for example in Europeans’ physical difficulty in adjusting to tropical climates. It may be that Tocqueville was vague on racial inequality because this might have been unpopular among a French public already famously prone to egalitarian sentiment. What is unambiguous however is that Tocqueville strongly believed in the benefits of racial homogeneity and saw no solutions to racial diversity except a restoration of homogeneity, either through total separation or through miscegenation. Tocqueville considered the latter impossible however: “The White man in the United States is proud of his race and proud of himself” (521).
The Centrality of Custom and Religion
Tocqueville strongly emphasizes the role of custom and religion in determining a society’s character. He notes that colonial America’s rather oppressive social laws (concerning issues such as adultery) did not reflect the will of a tyrant but of the people, with its particular social customs. Contrary to a great deal of “liberal democratic” and “developmental” hopes today, Tocqueville then asserts that social conditions and ills often primarily stem from the people rather than oppressive governments. Legislation and “the social condition” certainly tend to determine each other in a dynamic relationship, but Tocqueville asserts that society tends to be the more powerful factor (94).
Tocqueville takes an expansive definition of customs (mœurs, related to “mores”): “I understand by this term the entire moral and intellectual condition of a people” (426). Tocqueville strongly emphasizes the interrelation between religion and custom. The norms and behaviors a society consider sacred tend to become established as custom, often remaining in secularized form. Thus for Tocqueville: “one cannot establish the reign of liberty without that of customs, nor found customs without beliefs” (48).
The paradigmatic example of this were the original Pilgrim Fathers themselves: “they tore themselves from the sweetness of the fatherland to obey a purely intellectual need; by exposing themselves to the inevitable miseries of exile, they wanted to make triumph an idea” (76). Thus we have a powerful case of religion (or ideology) among humans: first an ideal is established in the mind, then the individual and society seek to materialize this mental representation in reality. Tocqueville notes that colonial-era Americans justified the education of children partly on grounds of Protestant religious zeal, citing Satan’s love for ignorance: “in America, it is religion which leads one to enlightenment, it is the observance of religious laws which leads men to liberty” (88).
Tocqueville again repeatedly emphasizes Americans’ religious homogeneity. Though they were certainly divided into innumerable Protestant sects, all tended in fact to broadly worship God in the same way and, more importantly, have a similar conception of religion’s role in society.
Tocqueville denies that religion can or should be eliminated from human affairs. As he explains, an impulse for transcendental metaphysics is natural if human beings, with their short and limited lifespans, are to live meaningfully:
Never will the short space of sixty years enclose the entire imagination of man; the incomplete joys of this world will never suffice for his heart. Alone among all beings, man shows a natural disgust for existence and an enormous desire to exist: he has contempt for life and fears nothingness. These different instincts constantly push his soul towards the contemplation of another world, and it is religion which leads him there. Religion is then but a particular form of hope, and it is as natural to the human heart as hope itself. It is by a kind of aberration of the mind, through the help of a kind of moral violence inflicted upon their own nature, that men distance themselves from religious beliefs; an invincible slope brings them back there. Incredulity is an accident; faith alone is the permanent state of humanity. (439)
Tocqueville furthermore notes that this religious sensibility can be used to affect social customs and, therefore, improve the “social and intellectual condition of the people” with good beliefs and habits. He saw religion as an extremely durable force in human affairs:
So long as a religion finds its strength in feelings, instincts, and passions which one sees reproduce themselves in the same way throughout all historical epochs, it overcomes the efforts of time, or at least it can be destroyed only by another religion. (440)
Customs were furthermore the real fundamental basis of a regime or a people’s character rather than the formal laws: “The laws always waver so long as they are not supported by customs; customs form the only durable and lasting power in a people” (406).
Patriotism: An Extension of Family Feeling, a Means to Altruism
This consideration of religion, as a means of spreading good customs, naturally brings us to patriotism. Tocqueville considered patriotism in the United States to be a virtual religious practice: “In the United States one rightly thinks that love of country is a kind of cult to which men join in through practices” (123). This assessment is in accord with a large body of later literature on the so-called “American civil religion.”
Indeed, American patriotism in general presents elements typical of religions: sacred texts such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, reverence and commemoration of saint-like figures such as the Founding Fathers and great presidents, and pious visits to sacred sites such as the memorial buildings in Washington DC and elsewhere. American presidents commonly use uplifting or quasi-religious rhetoric arguing that whatever they are doing is in line with the sacred national tradition. In some cases the religious aspects are overt and explicit, as with the painting on the rotunda of Capitol building: “The Apotheosis of George Washington.”
But whereas non-patriotic religion appears purely ideological — a drive to materialize ideas in reality for their own sake, reflecting the need to find meaning and continuity in man’s brief individual existence — patriotism depends upon a different mechanism. For Tocqueville, patriotism is a kind of altruism achieved by extending one’s selfish interest to one’s family and then further beyond to one’s entire nation. Tocqueville writes on family sentiment as an antidote to individualist solipsism:
What we call the family spirit is often based upon an illusion of individual selfishness. One seeks to perpetuate and immortalize oneself in a sense in one’s grand-nephews. Where the spirit of the family ends, individual selfishness enters in the reality of its tendencies. As the family only presents itself then as something vague, indeterminate, uncertain, each concentrates on the convenience of the present; one only thinks of the establishment of the next immediate generation, and nothing more. (99)
Family sentiment is a powerful source of group solidarity: “So long as lasted the spirit of the family, the man who struggled against tyranny was never alone” (462). This power of resistance disappears “when the races mix” (though here, Tocqueville seems to mean the disintegration of [aristocratic?] clans and lineages, rather than continental races, 463).
Tocqueville explicitly compares love of family and love of country:
In the United States, the fatherland is felt everywhere. [. . .] [The citizen] glorifies himself with the glory of his nation; in the success it obtains [. . .]. He has for his fatherland a feeling analogous to that which one feels for one’s family, and it is again by a kind of egoism that he takes an interest in the State. (159-160)
Tocqueville saw patriotism as largely a positive force, more or less synonymous with civic virtue and political altruism (within one’s nation). The “love of the fatherland” was meant to “fight against these destructive passions” which are the selfishness of ambitious individuals and corrupt parties (247).
Tocqueville distinguished between the “instinctive” traditional patriotism associated with monarchies and the “considered” modern patriotism associated with republics. He argues that the instinct for patriotic feeling should be carefully appealed to, polished, and cultivated in order to transcend selfish interest and serve the common good:
[L]aws must make men interest themselves in the destiny of their country. Laws must awaken and direct this vague feeling of the fatherland which never abandons the hearts of men, and, by binding it to the thoughts, passions, and habits of each day, to make it a considered and lasting feeling. (159)
Tocqueville further elaborates on this theme in an insightful passage, again comparing family love and patriotism:
There exists a love for the fatherland which has its source principally in this unthought, disinterested, and undefinable feeling, which binds man’s heart to the places where he was born. This instinctive love is synonymous with the taste for old customs, with respect for ancestors and memory of the past; those who feel it cherish their country like one loves the paternal household. [. . .] Often this love for the fatherland is exalted further by religious zeal, and then one sees it achieve wonders. It is itself a kind of religion; one does not reason, one believes, one feels, one acts. [. . .]
Like all thoughtless passions, this love of country pushes one to great short-lived efforts rather than continuity of efforts. After having saved the State in a time of crisis, it often lets it wither in the peace.
When peoples are still simple in their customs and firm in their beliefs; when society rests gently upon an ancient way of things, whose legitimacy is not contested, one sees this instinctive love of the fatherland reign.
There is another [patriotism] more rational than this; less generous, less ardent perhaps, but more fecund and more lasting; this one is born of enlightenment; it develops thanks to the laws, it grows with the exercise of rights and it ends, in a sense, by becoming synonymous with personal interest. A man understands the influence which the well-being of the country has on his own; he knows that the law allows him to contribute to producing this well-being, and he takes an interest in the prosperity of his country, first as something which is useful to him, and then as something which is own work. (353–54)
Whereas the government should cultivate the public’s patriotism, individual citizens in turn had a duty to participate in the body politic. Jury duty and township democracy, with the socialization and time they required, meant citizens would in effect buy into and come to identify with the political nation as a whole. This taught each citizen responsibility (407). In America according to Tocqueville, in a perhaps somewhat idealized fashion, patriotism then flowed upwards from the township through the state to the nation: “The public spirit of the Union is in a sense itself a summary of provincial patriotism” (250).
Tocqueville saw the decline of patriotism and the rise of individual selfishness as harbingers of national disaster:
I say that such nations [where patriotism and civic virtue have declined] are ready to be conquered. If they do not disappear from the world stage, it’s because they are surrounded by nations similar or inferior to themselves; it’s because there is still in them some sort of undefinable instinct for the fatherland, some thoughtless pride in the name they carry, some vague memory of past glory, which, without being attached to anything, is sufficient to imprint upon them if need be with an impulse to conserve. (158)
Conclusions: Tocqueville as a Nationalist, Civil-Religious, and Aristocratic Thinker
From the above, I believe we can say that Tocqueville has aged very well as a writer and that his classic book remains highly relevant today, including for nationalists. Tocqueville was very explicitly a “negative” nationalist in the sense that he clearly and repeatedly identified the reality of “national character,” the benefits of ethno-cultural homogeneity, and the inevitability of conflict in multiracial societies. For Tocqueville, homogeneity was an obvious prerequisite of nationhood and an equally obvious goal. These observations were largely common sense in the Western political tradition prior to the 1960s.
Tocqueville was however also a nationalist in the “positive” and constructive sense as well. Whereas diversity entailed a large number of ills, a strong sense of patriotism enabled positive outcomes, most notably altruism within the nation. Tocqueville clearly saw both the power and dangers of democracy, and proposed means of attenuating them. These means included: a respect for aristocratic elements (namely for the more “enlightened” parts of society) and the cultivation of a civil-religious patriotism to instill good habits and identification with the nation as a whole among the citizenry.
Many of these insights have been further investigated, expounded upon, and/or confirmed by later writers and scientists. Philippe Rushton sought to explain the universal pervasiveness of ethnocentrism in terms of Genetic Similarity Theory, as an instinct evolved to defend one’s perceived genetic kin. Nicholas Wade has described the equally universal religious impulse as evolved during man’s prehistory, enabling fantastic levels of “social programming”and group cohesion, both absolutely necessary to surviving in a context of constant inter-tribal warfare. In both cases, ethnocentrism and religiosity are described as extremely powerful emotional systems necessary to overcoming individual self-interest and achieving in-group altruism. These perspectives are entirely congruent with Tocqueville’s interpretation of civil-religious patriotism as an overcoming of individual selfishness by (emotionally and apparently irrationally) sharing one’s identity with the nation, as one would with one’s own family.
In my opinion, the ongoing tragedy and angst of Western countries today — visible for instance in the general unpopularity of governments and ruling elites — is in the radical separation and even violent opposition that has emerged between ethnocentrism and civil-religiosity. The reigning civil-religion of the West — egalitarianism, anti-racism, the Shoah . . . — effectively demonizes ethnocentric sentiment and ethno-nationalism for Whites (and only Whites, minority ethnic activists including Jewish Zionists enjoying special favor with our governments).
The result is a painful fragmentation, even within individuals’ minds, as they try to conciliate their natural ethnocentric impulses with a civil-religion that demonizes them (not dissimilar, perhaps, to the vilification of the sex drive in certain conservative religious traditions). Our societies themselves become sharply divided in an absolutely recurring distribution. White voters become polarized along a spectrum of ethnocentrism, with majorities typically voting for implicitly White, dog-whistling conservative parties. White liberal voters and White media-political elites however, for various reasons, tend to be lower down the ethnocentrism scale and higher up the “piety” scale, and are more eager to enforce globalist orthodoxy by systematically excluding and demonizing nationalist parties, thus neutralizing the people’s ethnocentric leanings.
Tocqueville’s insights are then highly relevant to the Alternative Right today. Tocqueville saw that a good society was achieved foremost by custom, that is to say by long-term cultural action, rather than laws. Men being unequal, society must be illuminated by its most intelligent and enlightened minority. That is our task. I dare say it is a therapeutic one: a radical change can occur if the reigning culture is turned on its head, so that our people’s moralistic impulse be used not in a vain and self-destructive war against ethnocentrism, but in service of the European family of nations, including European diaspora nations in the Americas, Australasia, and southern Africa. Destroying the reigning ideology of political correctness is of course painful for those Whites who have already emotionally invested themselves in it, but in the long run the realignment of beliefs with reality and self-interest will be psychologically and materially beneficial to all.
Tocqueville writes powerfully on the disaster that is the loss of traditional patriotism and the need to respond with a modern patriotism that, rather than being backward-looking, is responsive to historical trends:
But occasionally happens, in the lives of peoples, a time when the old customs are changed, the mores destroyed, the beliefs shaken, the prestige of memories dispelled, and where, however, enlightenment has remained incomplete and political rights poorly guaranteed or restrained. Men then only see their fatherland in a weak and dubious light; they place it no longer in the soil, which has become in their eyes an inanimate land, nor in the customs of their forefathers which they have been taught to consider a yoke; nor in religion, which they doubt; nor in the laws which they do not make, nor in the legislator which they fear and despise. They see it nowhere then, no more under its own traits than under any other, and they withdraw to a narrow and unenlightened egotism. These men escape prejudices without recognizing the empire of reason; they have neither the instinctive patriotism of the monarchy, not the considered patriotism of the republic; but they have stopped between the two, amidst confusion and misery.
What is to be done in such a state? To step backward. But peoples no more return to the feelings of their youth, than men return to the innocent tastes of their infancy; they can miss them, but never make them be born again. One must then continue to march forward and hasten to join together in the eyes of the people individual interest and national interest, for disinterested love of the fatherland is fleeing with no return. (354–55)
Tocqueville, in this passage, was almost certainly referring to the troubled post-revolutionary France of his day. He specifically suggested granting political rights to Frenchmen as a way of restoring patriotism.
Our times are different. Everywhere, ethnic Europeans are deprived of the right to rule in their own interests and are being disenfranchised, not by being formally deprived of the vote, but by being purely and simply reduced to fatal minorityhood in their own traditional homelands. We can easily imagine a world in which, Europeans’ right-to-life having been recognized and harmony having returned to the European soul by re-embracing our Tradition and our self-interest, our people would learn again to love themselves and joyously fight for their own survival.
In this article, I will quote be quoting from Alexis de Tocqueville, De la Démocratie en Amérique (Paris: Gallimard, 1986), volume 1. To those seeking to find the equivalent passages in English translations, I can only say that Tocqueville’s text begins after a lengthy preface on page 33 and concludes with footnotes at page 625. See for instance Herodotus, the very first Western historian, and his concept of nationality: Martin Aurelio, “The Four Elements of National Identity in Herodotus,” North American New Right, June 15, 2016. The American Founding Fathers similarly universally praised the homogeneity of the early United States: Jared Taylor, “What the Founding Fathers Really Thought About Race,” National Policy Institute, January 17, 2012. Even postwar German leaders, educated before the 1960s and despite the excesses of National Socialism, expressed the common-sense position that maintaining their nation’s ethnic homogeneity was an obvious good: Guillaume Durocher, “Merkel’s Betrayal: From the Ethno-National Principle to an Afro-Islamic Germany,” The Occidental Observer, September 16, 2015. Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and White It Endures (London: Penguin, 2009). Other examples:
- “The bond of language is perhaps the strongest and the most durable which can unite men. All the emigrants [to America] spoke the same language; they were all children of the same people [the English]” (71-72).
- Thirteen Colonies had “the same religion, the same language, the same customs, almost the same laws” (181-182).
Incidentally, one is struck at the similarities between Tocqueville’s vocabulary and nuanced conciliatory style on the one hand, and that of the Jewish-French liberal-conservative thinker Raymond Aron. Aron too would almost always speak of “Anglo-Americans,” concerning the British and Americans, rather the more typical French term “Anglo-Saxon.”
Another example: “All the English colonies had then between them, at the time of their birth, the look of a family” (73). Such language of course should not be taken as suggesting that Anglo-Americans’ traits were 100% genetically-determined, but Tocqueville evidently sees a hereditary element. He writes elsewhere that the early explorers and gold-hunters followed by “workers and farmers, a more moral and tranquil breed [race]” (74). Example of this include the Jewish historian Eric Hobsbawm, widely celebrated by mainstream media, and Benedict Anderson. Students of such thought have often come to absurd conclusions, arguing that there is no such thing as an ethnically homogenous society and that claims of historic nationhood are entirely fantasized. A particularly egregious example of this was provided by European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who argued in a speech: “those politicians trying to sell to their electorates a society that is exclusively composed of people from one culture, are trying to portray a future based on a past that never existed, therefore that future will never be.” This argument was obviously teleological and politically-motivated, as Timmermans expounded a dark and bizarre prophecy: “there is not going to be, even in the remotest places of this planet, a nation that will not see diversity in its future.” Guillaume Durocher, “Feckless European Leaders,” The Occidental Observer, April 15, 2016. One is astounded at at the number of people, brainwashed by Marxoid drivel, who are able to convince themselves that national identity is entirely imagined and reflects no underlying reality. Indeed, they are capable of the most incredible rationalizations in defense of this belief. There are however obviously objective markers of nationhood or lack thereof: compare monolingual France with bilingual Belgium, compare monoethnic Poland with multiethnic Yugoslavia. The reality of nationhood, and the conflict that results from the lack of it, are obvious from these cases.
Nationality is obviously to a certain degree conventional and represents a useful simplification of a reality too complex for words. One could say that humanity’s treatment of nationality is somewhat analogous to that of the colors of the spectrum: “orange” or “yellow” do not actually exist in any sense in nature as neatly-separated categories and in fact blur perfectly into one another, nonetheless, colors are obviously socially useful human conventions, as in the case of the traffic light.
I am struck here by the similar of Tocqueville’s thought with that of the great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who also believed that wisdom could be spread among the people through appeal to religious sensibility. See: Guillaume Durocher, “Schopenhauer & Hitler,” North American New Right, March 9, 2016. See the classic article: Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Dædalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Winter 1967, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 1-21. Conversely, one sees that the ostentatious patriotism of the Russian and Hungarian governments, for example, has led them to enjoy high approval ratings. Higher IQ Whites, on average, appear to be lower down the ethnocentrism scale. This is apparently because they are better able to avoid the negative consequences of multiculturalism, because their relative economic security also relaxes ethnocentric impulses, and because they are better able to rationalize the “subtleties” (in fact, contradictions) of the reigning ideology (which, in itself, has perversely become a marker of higher status). As the proverb goes: If you cast out nature with a fork, it will still return.