Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its "democracy." The book he wrote on his return to France, "Democracy in America," is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.
Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop's new translation of "Democracy in America" is only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840. It is a spectacular achievement, capturing the elegance, subtlety, and profundity of Tocqueville's original. Mansfield and Winthrop have restored the nuances of his language, with the expressed goal "to convey Tocqueville's thought as he held it rather than to restate it in comparable terms of today." The result is a translation with minimal interpretation, avoiding the problem that Tocqueville himself read in the first translation of "Democracy in America."
The strength of the translation is only one reason that Mansfield and Winthrop's "Democracy in America" will become the authoritative edition of the text. Also included is a superb and substantial introduction placing the work and its author in the broader context of the traditions of political philosophy and statesmanship. Together in one volume, the new translation, the introduction, and the translators' annotations of references no longer familiar to us combine to offer the most readable and faithful version of Tocqueville's masterpiece.
As we approach the 160th anniversary of the publication of "Democracy in "
"America," Mansfield and Winthrop have provided an additional reason to celebrate.
Lavishly prepared and produced, this long-awaited new translation will surely become the authoritative edition of Tocqueville's profound and prescient masterwork.show more