"[T]he main evil of the present democratic institutions of the united states does not raise, as is often asserted in Europe, from their weakness, but from their irresistible strength. I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny."
by:
Alexis De Tocqueville
[Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clerel, le Comte de Tocqueville] (1805-1859) French historian
Source:
Democracy in America, 1835
http://books.google.ca/books?id=e8IOEkLM6KsC&pg=PA256
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Mike, Norwalk      
I would like to know specifically what de Tocqueville was referring to. I agree, I am just not sure if what I think is what de Tocqueville meant. Is there a reference for this quote?
 -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Here is the rest of the quote:
    "When an individual or a party is wronged in the United States, to whom can he apply for redress? If to public opinion, public opinion constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it represents the majority and implicitly obeys it; if to the executive power, it is appointed by the majority and serves as a passive tool in its hands. The public force consists of the majority under arms; the jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases; and in certain states even the judges are elected by the majority. However iniquitous or absurd the measure of which you complain, you must submit to it as well as you can.

    If, on the other hand, a legislative power could be so constituted as to represent the majority without necessarily being the slave of its passions, an executive so as to retain a proper share of authority, and a judiciary so as to remain independent of the other two powers, a government would be formed which would still be democratic while incurring scarcely any risk of tyranny."

    De Tocqueville attached an interesting footnote to this paragraph citing a couple examples of his concern. See page 257 of Democracy In America.
     -- Editor, Liberty Quotes     
  •  
    Very interesting footnote. Liberty and freedom I have found are enjoyed for a short time, till the mob moves in. Seems to be the case at all times. So to maintain a greater degree of freedom from intrusion we moved farther from the mob. If far enough they lose desire to be where you are, or have what you have claimed for yourself.
     -- watchman13, USA     
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