Aristocracy in America, from the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman

Aristocracy in America, from the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman

Aristocracy in America, from the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman

Aristocracy in America, from the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman

Excerpt

An important part of the foundations of the American commonwealth was established in the Age of Jackson. Unfortunately, this period of American history--1828 to 1840--has been comparatively neglected by historians or recounted by historians with an anti-Jackson bias. Yet it was in the Age of Jackson that the equalitarian character of American democracy received its fullest expression. There was probably never a time in American history when the conditions of life came closer to equality or when the average American felt so confident in his capacity to deal with any problem under the sun.

It was the general condition of equality in America that impressed Alexis de Tocqueville during his visit to the United States in 1831-32, and this formed the theme of his famous two volumes on Democracy in America.

Francis Joseph Grund was born near Vienna in 1798. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Vienna before emigrating to the United States about 1827. Grund and Tocqueville shared a deep interest in America. While Tocqueville's famous work was written after a ten-month visit to the United States, Grund lived for more than ten years in the United States before he wrote two treatises about America. Grund in 1837 published The Americans in Their Moral, Social and Political Relations. This appeared two years after Tocqueville's first volume on Democracy in America.

Aristocracy in America was originally printed in London in 1839. It is now made available for the first time in the United States. The title was undoubtedly selected by Grund with Tocqueville in mind and in it Grund refers to Tocqueville's writings.

Tocqueville thought of American democracy as a portent of the fate which lay ahead for Europe. Grund likes American democracy for its power to destroy self-selected aristocrats and sees it expanding through all of North and South America. Tocqueville admired much in what he saw in America (he even invested money in Western railroad bonds); but he was greatly concerned about the dangers to liberty which seemed to him to lurk behind the drift toward equality. Grund reports the kind of conversations with Americans that Tocqueville . . .

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