|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|Dangers from Omnipotence of the Majority|
|By Alexis de Tocqueville (18051859)|
From Democracy in America: Translation of Henry Reeve
|GOVERNMENTS usually perish from impotence or from tyranny. In the former case their power escapes from them; it is wrested from their grasp in the latter. Many observers who have witnessed the anarchy of democratic States have imagined that the government of those States was naturally weak and impotent: the truth is that when war is once begun between parties, the government loses its control over society. But I do not think that a democratic power is naturally without force or resources; say rather that it is almost always by the abuse of its force, and the misemployment of its resources, that it becomes a failure. Anarchy is almost always produced by its tyranny or its mistakes, but not by its want of strength.|| 1|
| It is important not to confound stability with force, or the greatness of a thing with its duration. In democratic republics, the power which directs society is not stable, for it often changes hands and assumes a new direction; but whichever way it turns, its force is almost irresistible. The governments of the American republics appear to me to be as much centralized as those of the absolute monarchies of Europe, and more energetic than they are. I do not therefore imagine that they will perish from weakness.|| 2|
| If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority; which may at some future time urge the minorities to desperation, and oblige them to have recourse to physical force. Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism.|| 3|