The Public Interest

A Confederacy of Individuals

Andrew Stark

Fall 1981

ONE of Tocquevilles most incontestably famous aphorisms is: “The great advantage of the Americans is, that they have arrived at a state of democracy without having to endure a democratic revolution; and that they are born equal, instead of becoming so.” What is not so well known is that Louis Hartz, at the opening of the first printing of his The Liberal Tradition in America, accidentally misquoted Tocqueville, attributing to him the belief that the great advantage of Americans is that they are born free, instead of having to become so. This confusion may be understandable when we consider that Hartz was writing about liberalism in America and Tocqueville about democracy in America, and that Americans have always conceived equality as well as liberty to be a constituent of liberalism, with liberty as well as equality being a component of democracy. The ideas of liberty and equality are, each of them, supportive of and integral to the American system of government-liberal democracy.

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