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SA Auction #106 begins on 13 Apr 2023

US Auction #15 begins on 03 May 2023

Alexis de Tocqueville


Published: George Dearborn & Co. Adlard & Saunders, New York, 1838

Edition: 1st. American

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A wonderful copy of this classic socio-political study of early nineteenth century America. The first American edition of the first part of this work - the second volume was only published in 1840. A unique and major copy inscribed by the editor John C. Spencer,  who also wrote the preface and after notes in this edition, to his father Judge Spencer (Judge Ambrose Spencer). 1838. George Dearborn & Co. 8vo. xxx. plus 264pp. With a 9pp. preface and 24pp. of Notes by Spencer. Translated by Henry Reeve. The signed inscription by Spencer to his father at the top of the title page. 

Finely bound in full brown tree calf with red leather gilt titled label on the spine which has four raised bands and intricate gilt decoration. Additionally, all the edges have gilt tooling. Hand sewn headbands and marbled endpapers. All edges gilt. Internally this copy is fine and unmarked other than the inscription above and is totally lacking in foxing. Altogether a superb and most attractive book.

Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 - 16 April 1859) was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian. He was best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes in France in 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). 

Democracy in America was published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the other in 1840. It was immediately popular in both Europe and the United States, while also having a profound impact on the French population. By the twentieth century, it had become a classic work of political science, social science, and history. It is a commonly assigned reading for undergraduates of American universities majoring in the political or social sciences, and part of the introductory political theory syllabus at Cambridge. Harvard Professor Harvey C. Mansfield calls it "at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America."

The primary focus of Democracy in America is an analysis of why republican representative democracy has succeeded in the United States while failing in so many other places. Tocqueville seeks to apply the functional aspects of democracy in the United States to what he sees as the failings of democracy in his native France. Tocqueville speculates on the future of democracy in the United States, discussing possible threats to democracy and possible dangers of democracy. These include his belief that democracy has a tendency to degenerate into "soft despotism" as well as the risk of developing a tyranny of the majority. He observes that the strong role religion played in the United States was due to its separation from the government, a separation all parties found agreeable. He contrasts this to France where there was what he perceived to be an unhealthy antagonism between democrats and the religious, which he relates to the connection between church and state. Tocqueville also outlines the possible excesses of passion for equality among men, foreshadowing the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Tocqueville's work is often acclaimed for making a number of astute predictions. He anticipates the potential acrimony over the abolition of slavery that would tear apart the United States and lead to the American Civil War as well as the eventual superpower rivalry between the United States and Russia, which exploded after World War II and spawned the Cold War.

John Canfield Spencer was born on January 8, 1788 in Hudson, New York. He was the oldest child of Ambrose Spencer, Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, and his first wife, Laura Canfield. Amongst many other achievements, he was Secretary of War and later Secretary of the Treasury under President John Tyler. who twice nominated him (unsuccessfully) to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

  • Binding Condition: Fine
  • Overall Condition: Fine
  • Size: 8vo.
  • Sold By: Ronald Levine - Modern First Editions
  • Contact Person: Ronald Levine
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Telephone: 011643 8437
  • Preferred Payment Methods: EFT for S.African customers and Internation Bank Tranfer for customers abroad. I am unable to accept payment by credit card.
  • Trade Associations: SABDA

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