On Conservatism

Trump-and Tocqueville?

By Jean M. Yarbrough ● City Journal ● 10/08/2017


Visiting the United States in 1831, when Andrew Jackson was president, Alexis de Tocqueville was appalled by the “vulgarity and mediocrity” of American politics. After meeting Jackson, Tocqueville concluded that the low tone of American society started at the top. In Tocqueville’s estimation, Jackson was “a man of violent character and middling capacity.” Worse, he seemed to have no talent for politics: he rode “roughshod over his personal enemies” in a way no president had done and treated members of Congress with disdain. “Nothing in all the course of his career had ever proved that he had the requisite qualities to govern a free people,” Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, “so the majority of the enlightened classes of the Union had always been opposed to him.”

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