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The Truth About Alexis de Tocqueville and Democracy in America

Discussion in 'Historical Debates' started by Sunstone, Jan 24, 2021.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    For those of you who may have forgotten the vital details now, in 1831 the French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville, made a six months long dash through the United States on a mission that everyone else at the time recognized was tragically foredoomed from the start: The search to discover even a single American chef capable of whipping up an acceptable batch of any one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine.

    Tocqueville's tearful and heart-wrenching departure from the port of New York on his way back to France is today just as thoroughly forgotten as it was back then. In fact, I seem to the sole historian on earth these days for whom his departure is just as fresh in my memory as if I had myself only minutes ago thunk it up out of nothing.

    'Alternative facts' my butt Kellyanne Conway! You weren't even in your first diaper on the day I received my doctorate in alternative facts from Pumpitout University. Pfft!

    Moving on, while on his galloping quest though the young American nation in search of getting properly sauced, Tocqueville made a number of trenchant observations, albeit significantly fewer than most of them were not merely trenchant, but also trenchantly accurate. In the opinion of this hardworking and honest historian, the single most under-appreciate observation that Tocqueville made about America, which is also accurate and true is...

    [this part of the OP is actually true] when he noted that Americans were in the habit of either bouncing off each other to gin up their belief America was an ideal nation, the most blessed nation on earth, or Americans were bouncing off each other in a race to morosely depress themselves with the opposite idea. Furthermore, there seemed to Tocqueville to be no in-between. Americans either portrayed themselves and their nation as the best people and nation on the planet -- or -- the very worst. He even speculated that the trait was not so much an American trait, as it was a byproduct of democracy that was likely to be found in any democracy, but not necessarily in all of them. [/reentering alternative universe]​

    Upon his arrival back in France, Tocqueville spent the next several months creating the design for the T-shirts he hoped to sell that would not only commemorate his travels, but mark his rejection of the day's fashions, for the notion that he himself might even once be caught wearing the dresses that the French noblewomen wore at the time was a prospect that thoroughly nauseated Tocqueville, and that which he almost violent dismissed as beneath his dignity. History records that he kept true to his vows, and never even once wore a dress, although history also records that Tocqueville often enough tried to get into a dress, so long as it was being occupied at the time by a Frenchwoman.

    In yet another one of the many unforeseeable tragedies of Tocqueville's life, his plan to sell T-shirts was brutally frustrated by the astounding bad luck to have invented the T-shirt design significantly before the invention of the T-shirt. A remarkable, yet in no way out of the ordinary, case of getting the cart in front of the horse.

    He then turned to writing Democracy in America, the book his grave is most sued for to this day.


    Uncle Sunstone
    "Telling the Truth Like the Truth's Never Been Told Before Since 1960."


     
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  2. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Tomato, developed by Auguste Escoffier some half a century after Alexis de Tocqueville epic trip to America.

    So it seems Alexis de Tocqueville was far more of a visionary than history credits him with.
     
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  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    My gods! I did not expect I'd live to see it! At last, a plausible solution to the mystery that has profoundly perplexed historians of my caliber the world over! Why was Tocqueville unable to find an American chef in 1831 who knew how to whip up a batch of one of the five mother sauces! Thank you, Christine! Thank you so much! It's so clear now: He was looking for the Chinese five mother sauces, rather the French five mother sauces because the French ones had not yet been invented! At last, I can sleep at nights, again!
     
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  4. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Hope i didn't spoil your day. As recompense i can suggest either a cream, tarragon and mushroom sauce, lovelly with fish or a cream, cracked black pepper and mustard sauce, great with a juicy rare steak
     
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  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Thank you for your kind offer, Christine, but the truth is, I suck as a cook, and I inevitably end up somehow weaponizing any dish more complicated to prepare than raw apples.
     
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  6. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    I assure you both those sauces are as easy ad pouring cream into a pan... ah right, i see your problem ;-)
     
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  7. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    I seem to recall de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is worth reading.
     
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  8. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    What problem? Just tell me how hot to bake the pan before I take it out of the oven and I'll do it! When I said I was a bad cook, Christine, I didn't mean I was so bad I couldn't pour cream into a pan. Jeebers! You make it sound like I'm totally incompetent!
     
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  9. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    You said it, raw apples, please don't put the blame for your non existent cookery skills on to me...
     
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  10. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I agree, but I think a lot depends on how faithful of a translation you can get hold of these days. I've been told at least one translator has been ideologically motivated in their choices of words and phrases, and especially in their abridgements. This was some years ago, and I no longer recall which translation that was.

    My favorite Tocqueville game is to try to figure out how he could be such a keen observer that with just a six month tour beneath his belt that he could go on to write as many accurate predictions as he did. Fewer than he's sometimes credited with having made, but most certainly more than his fair share of them.

    For example, he (1) predicted the American-Russian conflict before it flared to life, (2) described it as aligning the whole world into two adversarial camps, and (3) characterized it as a contest between democracy and authoritarianism. Not spot on, but reasonably close for a prediction made in the 1830s, especially since in order to make it, he seems to have first concluded the United States would expand all the way to the Pacific.

    EDIT: The Lewis and Clark Expedition returned in 1806, so Tocqueville might have been basing his notion of American expansion on their journey. Yet, the Texas Revolution would only start the same year he published the first half of Democracy in America in France. So it's hard to say how much information and fact he had to go on in order to conclude that America would expand to the Pacific.

    After years of puzzling over how he could do such things without even access to what we know today about probability, I finally satisfied myself that I had more or less explained it. The explanation is too much for a post though, so I won't go into it here.
     
    #10 Sunstone, Jan 24, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
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  11. Left Coast

    Left Coast He/Him
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    One of the silver linings of the Trump presidency, IMHO, is that I think it was a reminder that in the family of nations, we're not that special.

    As Americans, many of us are accustomed, I think, to looking out at the world, at buffoonish and authoritarian leaders, at insurrections, and so on, and thinking, "Oh the poor dears. Thank goodness those things don't happen here in blessed America."

    Trump/ism has been a wake up call. The problems we see elsewhere are just as capable of happening here. We need to be mindful of that if we want to avoid those problems, or worse ones, in the future.
     
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  12. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Indeed, they also unfold her in the same patterns as they unfold elsewhere. There's no real difference between us and other nations even in the nuts and bolts, let alone the potential, for dictatorship.
     
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  13. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

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    Owning a time machine is key in being a visionary.
     
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  14. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    And reading the bible... apparently
     
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