Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Democracy in America: Chapter 2

I'm skipping chapter 1, because it's an overview of the physical geography of the United States. Things don't really get interesting until chapter 5 or so, but we'll go one at a time anyway.

In Chapter 2 Toqueville deals with the original colonists in the United States. He barely touches on the South, I suspect because even by Toqueville's time the political power of the North had become controlling in the Union. It could also, though, be because the political philosophy of the Puritans most conformed to Toqueville's ideals. At any rate he deals with the South principally by saying that the men who came there were gold seekers and adventurers without resource or character and that the institution of slavery defines the early South.

The North, however, was populated by Puritans and Pilgrims. These Puritans (I'll ignore the difference, since he does) were upright citizens, generally of independent means, who were leaving their mother country not to pursue a quick buck but to escape the religious turmoil of the seventeenth century. Additionally the Puritan ethic extended not just to conventionally religious matters but also, importantly, to the view that men owned themselves and the product of their labor. Views that are essential to the establishment of modern democracy and republicanism.

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