Sunday, March 23, 2014

"In aristocracies the observance of forms was superstitious; among us they ought to be kept up with a deliberate and enlightened deference."

"Dans les aristocraties, on avait la superstition des formes; il faut que nous ayons un culte éclairé et réfléchi pour elles."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America II (1840).iv.7 ("Continuation of the preceding chapters"), trans. Henry Reeve, with revisions by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley ((New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), vol. 2, p. 326); Œuvres, ed. André Jardin (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), II (De la démocratie en Amérique), ed. Jean-Claude Lamberti and James T. Schleifer (Paris:  Éditions Gallimard, 1992), 845.  "If the statesmen of aristocratic ages could sometimes despise forms with impunity and frequently rise above them, the statesmen to whom the government of nations is now confided ought to treat the very least among them with respect and not neglect them without imperious necessity" (326).  This because though they are crucial to the preservation of liberty in a democracy, "Men living in democratic ages do not readily comprehend the utility of forms:  they feel an instinctive contempt for them" (325).

No comments: