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Mon, 07.29.1805

Alexis de Tocqueville, French Investigative Writer born

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville was born on this date in 1805. He was a white-French journalist and abolitionist writer.

He was born in Paris to Herve-Bonaventure Clerel de Tocqueville and Louise Le Peletier de Rosanbo. His older brothers were named Hippolyte and Edouard. Tocqueville came from an aristocratic background.  He had a private tutor, the abbe Lesueur, until high school and then attended high school and college in Metz. He studied law in Paris and worked as a substitute judge in Versailles before coming to America in 1831 when he was 25.

He later wrote "Democracy in America," a two-volume study of the American people and their political institutions. This book gave a throat-clearing viewpoint of the Antebellum South and the American institution of slavery.  His views were written at the height of America’s slave-trade movement and its influence in all aspects of American life.  He is still frequently quoted by journalists, politicians, and historians.

He married Mary Motley, an English woman, in 1835. They had no children. In 1839, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a representative of Valognes and later to the Constituent and Legislative Assembly. He briefly served as minister of foreign affairs.

He also wrote "The U.S. Penitentiary System and its Application in France," with Gustave de Beaumont (1833), "The Old Regime and the Revolution" (1856), "Recollections" (1893, published posthumously).

"Democracy in America" was the most popular of his writings. The book focused on issues such as religion, the press, money, class structure, racism and slavery, the role of government, and the judicial system--issues that are just as relevant today as they were then. "Democracy in America" has undergone several periods of popularity throughout the 20th century, but it's never been as popular as it is in the 21st century.

Many philosophers in the Black community feel it presents an objective and insightful view of the in-humanness of African slavery in America. Many colleges use the text in political science and history courses, and historians consider it one of the most comprehensive and insightful books ever written about the U.S.

Alexis de Tocqueville died on April 16, 1859, in Cannes. A religious ceremony was held, and his body is moved to Paris and placed in the crypt of the Eglise de la Madeleine and then transported to the village of Tocqueville near Normandy, where he was buried.

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