Americas future was not shaped by a few men who later were the signers of the Declaration of independence rather it was the work of divine power that gave life to America that now is the greatest nation on earth. The countrys democracy has had a rough path, but there has been a great achievement in this sector. Different books and journals try to explain the growth of freedom and democracy in the Americas. In this writing, we will focus majorly on articles in Foner’s Voices of Freedom and how it helps to define democracy in earlier days of the nation. Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America is also under review.
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The two books have an opinion that is a bit different from one another, but in the end, they give a near similar opinion about democracy.
Democracy is the last of the historical events that were unleashed by revolution after the 1812 war. The increase in population of the voters and the removal of the requirement that women should own property so that they are allowed to vote (suffrage) meant that the democracy would be a success. The book Voices of Freedom looks at the case of a non-holding citizens right to vote. The low down came from the fact that women and blacks were refused the right to vote. Market revolution was put into motion by the war of 1912; it is then that the national leaders knew that the central government had the task of ensuring the growth of the economy in the country. Development of a political program named The American System used for economic growth, which explains the role of banks, economic recessions, and transportation is also explained in this chapter. A discussion of the Missouri compromise that occurred in 1820 that highlighted divisions in the country is also explained in the book. John Quincys nationalist agenda and the Monroe doctrine show the rise in American power in the western part of the world. The book also talks about the beliefs of Martin Van Buren on the composition of political parties, as they are important components of democracy in America.
President Andrew Jackson is then profiled when guiding the country in the bank war, which resulted in the removal of Indians. This development dampened the belief that Jackson was abeliever of national rights and heightened the wrongs that come with democracy i.e. the rights of the minority are overlooked by the might of the majority. It was once again seen that the power of the southern in Congress and sectionalism was at a high with the nullification crisis. Jackson and some other people such as Daniel Webster believed and supported liberty and union while the cronies of nullification crisis complained of governments excess infringement on the peoples rights and liberty.
Another letter in the voices of freedom written by Foner gives a real insight of how the life of a slaved worker was in the 18th century. She underlines the physical and emotional pain she felt in the Americas during those days after landing thinking it was the land of milk and honey. Her experiences are those of a maltreated servant given no rights at all. The freedom and democracy she was promised was never to be seen. Her complaints highlight the lack of democracy in America and the way their masters treated them showed that there was no respect for human life because of the conditions of their lives.
Contrasting the experience from the above letter is a letter written by another immigrant from Swiss-German who moved to Pennsylvania. The letter explains how the immigrant was content with the life that he got. He says unlike his previous stay the country he now lives in is a free country and he was pleased with the choice he made. The author of the letter thinks that a free country is where one is allowed to own property, and he says that he can lease or buy land and settle wherever he wants. In his letter, he focuses on this freedom and does not even consider anything else. The fact that he talks about buying land and the origin of his family indicates that he is from a wealthy family. The contrast to the above example where the author of the letter was a servant shows that democracy in America can be looked at from two different perspectives i.e. the perspective of the privileged and the underprivileged. The privileged, it appears, have more rights than those that had less. The case of the removal of Indians in the east also proves so. Various articles in the voices of freedom try to explain the path that democracy has passed through and it brings happiness that the largest growth in democracy was due to the efforts of such peoples explanations. The countrys democracy has grown to be the largest in the world and other countries are taking a lesson from it.
Alexis de Tocquevilles Democracy in America Volume One and Two
Alexis de Tocqueville wanted to study a working democracy having seen the failure of democracy in his own country, France. After the studies, he concluded that the journey towards the realization of democracy and equality was a well-known occurrence and an everlasting historical trend that is forever progressing. The inevitability of this trend gave him a passion for studying and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses with a hope that with his research governments can be forced to exploit its strengths while neutralizing its dangers. Therefore, whilst his book Democracy in America may look like a collection of opinions and observations, a thorough look at his past works. The first volume of these two books looks majorly at the structure of government and its institutions that aid the maintenance of freedom in the American society. The second edition has put its major focus on the society. It analyzes individuals and the effect of the mentality of democracy on morals and thoughts that are prevalent in the society.
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In his work, he found the main problems of democracy as individualism and materialism, abuse of freedom, the high portion of power given to the legislative branch of government. Tocqueville believed that these weaknesses of democracy can be combated with, local self government, devolution of administrative duties, development of religion, education of women, championing for freedom of the press and that of association. An influential and independent judiciary plus a strong executive branch of government can also help in lessening the dangers of democracy.
In examining the dangers that Tocqueville perceived would affect American democracy it is found that most of them rest on society attitudes and tendencies although there are some organizational intricacies, as well. The great power given to the legislature can bring a crisis if it is not well regulated because democracies tend to give it more powers than any arm of government. The problem reveals itself when one of the main features of democracy i.e. the ability of re-election of the president, is put to the fore. In the hope of re-election, the president will make judgments that will make the electorate contented instead of making independent decisions that will benefit the country. It is a clear fact that in a democracy, there are the majority voters who represent a particular grouping and those others, the sitting president will try to make the majority happy and therefore ending up infringing on the rights of the minority. This issue in turn weakens the democracy and therefore, the need for it to be checked. The other setback in American democracy is the direct election of representatives who only assume office for a short time. These rules result in the choice of an average group of leaders who act and do their work while constantly stressing about public opinion instead of using their best judgments. The upside to this is the senate with its members having their election done indirectly and their service is of a longer period. The senate is a body consisting of highly learned individuals. It is, therefore, important to move to this set-up because the mediocrity and contradictions of the laws will make the populace get tired of democracy because of its ineptitudes.
The greatest danger facing democracy is not institutional but rather it is the extreme love for equality. Structural problems are just the symptoms of the main ailments in democracy in America. The principle of independence of the people and the power put in public opinion is a consequence of equality. The fact behind total equality is that if all the citizens are equal, then no one has the right to lead another. This means that the society in his case America is run by the opinions and wishes of the majority. This idea will directly lead to tyranny s the majority will tend to overlook the needs of the minority. The other factors, which lead to tyranny, are materialism and individualism.
Luckily, democracy in America has some positive features that can help counteract the mentioned dangers of democracy. In the constitution of America, the independent judiciary is one of its main pillars. This, coupled with the powers of judicial review is crucial as it can declare tyrannical laws unconstitutional-the Supreme Court as the checker of despotic tendencies of the majority. The mere fact that judges are appointed and serve a lifetime means that their decisions are independent and serve the interest of the people. The jury also helps in the fair administration of justice. The best cure for the problems that come with democracy Tocqueville recognizes is religion. The teachings religion encourages discourages selfishness, they also discourage materialism and promote unity among the people in the country. In America a greater percentage of the population are believers, it therefore helps in checking the laws of the theory in the country.
Overall, the two books might define Democracy in two different ways, they end up giving the same opinion about how a working democracy should be; Voices of Freedom explains a democracy from the views of different people but Alexis de Tocqueville went and studied the various cons and pros of this system of government. A democratic government can have many faults that when regulated gives the best type of institutions. This government is elected into office by the will of the people. Both books give the definition of this administration that serves all people in an equitable way no matter what the circumstance. This is the best kind of governance.
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