Free «Alexis de Tocqueville Essay» Essay
Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America provides an intriguing and thought-provoking look into American society during the nineteenth century. It mainly focuses on representatives of three prominent groups that were Native Americans, Americans of European descent, and both free and enslaved African Americans.
According to Tocqueville, naturally distinct races have a rather hostile attitude towards each other. The reason for such attitude lies within the scope of differences that contribute towards a considerable gap between these groups. These distinctions vary from outward characteristics to the social status. In Tocqueville’s opinion, although the representatives of these groups coexist within the American society, their roles and positions substantially differ. Thus, he points out that Americans of European descent dominate over the representatives of two other groups to a considerable degree. They are significantly high in the social ladder due to their superior power and intelligence. Meanwhile, Native Americans and African Americans are in a less prestigious position. Each race has its unique origin, language, cultural peculiarities, customs and other aspects which they do not share at all. However, the inferior groups have in common their suffering from the tyranny of the same origin.
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Although the population of the country consists of natives and immigrants, they do not share the same position within the society, Tocqueville explains. Moreover, the descendants of Europeans form a dominating group in terms of social relationships. Tocqueville compares the dominating position of Europeans with the same position of a human over animals. The latter tend to become a useful tool for a man which he destroys in case of insubmission. Similarly, the representatives of the inferior groups have to play a role of servants without any right to claim the privileges possessed by the dominant race. In relation to African Americans, the situation gradually became strained. The descendants of Africans lost their cultural identity while not being able to acquire an equal status comparing to that of Europeans. Moreover, they were deprived of their native lands, culture, religion, and language. However, Tocqueville emphasizes that Afro-Americans even tend to enjoy their position while not paying attention to their calamitous situation. Over the years, they became accustomed to the servitude which brings more pleasure and pride rather than hate and contempt. Furthermore, this kind of slavery rarely faces oppression as it begins at the stage of a child birth. Since childhood, such person accepts his position of being the property of another man who, in turn, has the interest in preserving and taking care of the slave’s life. Thus, the growing human being has no choice but to follow the same pattern his or her ancestors did.
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However, in case this person becomes free, he or she faces a substantially more complicated dilemma. The newly acquired freedom causes a crucial problem since former slaves have no idea what to do with their lives. In this term, servitude seems a stable activity which does not require any aspirations to be involved. With the only skill of submitting and obeying, such people cannot take the lead in their own lives.
Native Americans also experience the effects of the abovementioned tyranny, although their situation differs from the African-Americans’ one. Once they were the masters of their lives and lands while being isolated from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, their separate existence did not last long. Europeans conquered them and seized their territories when they have discovered the New World. In order to bend the will of the indigenous inhabitants, the conquerors strove to uproot the cultural identity of Indians by eliminating their customs, beliefs, and religion and adjusting them to their own tradition. Native Americans were not perceived as equals in terms of the conquerors; furthermore, they were subjects to the transformation into new slaves. Nonetheless, the indigenous population of America demonstrated a vast opposition towards the intentions of the newcomers. Being unable to bend the will of Native Americans, change their worldview and adjust them to the right, in terms of Europeans, position within the society of those times, the conquerors chose to eliminate those who vastly opposed them. This led to violent massacres, but Native Americans fought for their freedom to the death.
Tocqueville gradually emphasizes the differences between both inferior groups in terms of their servitude. While African-Americans are fulfilling their commitments on the basis of voluntary obedience, Native Americans follow the other behavioral pattern as they perceive the servitude as shameful subjections. In this context, the latter tend to seek any opportunity of escaping such destiny, even if it means to perish. Once he or she has obtained the desired freedom, they, unlike African Americans, do not face the dilemma of identifying their purpose of life and know exactly how to survive in any given condition.
Moreover, African Americans tend to experience shame because of their origin as they are told of its lack of dignity. Consequently, such person tries to find his or her spot within the society and while adjusting, he or she tries to adopt visions and opinions of oppressors in order to affiliate with the community. Indians, on the contrary, highly cherish their discordance. They essentially reject any attempts of instilling of conqueror’s views and perceptions while cultivating their own. This indisputable pride distinguishes the representatives of both inferior groups to a considerable degree. Thus, a certain difference can be traced in their aspirations, as well. Afro-Americans attempt to mingle with Europeans in order to acquire a social status appropriate to some extent. Meanwhile, Native Americans reject the sole idea of blending and seek for a complete separation. Therefore, the former is doomed to slavery, and the destiny of the latter is also predetermined, although it consists of poor options: either one chooses to obey or will inevitably face his or her end.
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However, the future of the three distinctive groups is closely interwoven since they share and gradually develop within the sole territory of the United States of America. The relationships between the representatives of these ethnicities can hardly be characterized as harmonious. Europeans perceive themselves as the superior race and think of the two others as their servants. Even though most Afro-Americans have obeyed this order due to specific conditions and lack of identity, Native Americans demonstrated exceptional insubordination in terms of servitude and liberty. Nonetheless, it is essential to seek effective solutions as the future development of the region inevitably involves the representatives of each race.
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Tocqueville emphasizes that while extending the borders of their domain, Europeans came in the immediate contact with indigenous inhabitants or their remnants, to be precise. These people became isolated in their own land gradually supplanted by numerous and dominant Europeans. The initiative of the government of the Union implies further pushing away of Native Americans. Thereby, they wish to transport the abovementioned remnants further from the American settlements in order to maintain a considerable distance between both groups. Some part of the indigenous population have met the initiative with remarkable willingness and joy for they perceive this movement as the possibility to escape from the place where they have experienced substantial oppression. However, the most enlightened Native Americans have rejected the idea of abandoning their lands to which they are related historically. They emphasize the significance of cherishing their roots and origin, whereas leaving the places of their accustomed inhabitation will inevitably result in the imminent loss of their descendants’ legacy. Furthermore, Native Americans doubt the permanent character of the proposed settlement because Europeans can proceed with their territorial extension. Thus, the indigenous population will have to face the same problem. Moreover, the tribes living there may have a negative approach towards migration of people invading their lands. Overall, the measures taken by the government along with its promises contribute vastly towards further seclusion of Native Americans.
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In case of African Americans, there are two essential chances of future development. Taking into consideration their predominant openness and obedience on the voluntary basis, it is apparent that one of these options is an entire mingling. The alternative implies the emergence of crucial partition. Tocqueville essentially supports the former option. Moreover, he expresses his doubts concerning possible coexistence of both races in terms of equality. Taking into account the opposition of two races in the Northern and Southern states, Tocqueville does not support the abolition of slavery. The main reasoning for this lies in the scope of the absence of equal privileges for both races. Therefore, he argues that although African Americans can remain the subject of servitude without any complaint for a considerably long time, once they face freedom, their deprivation of essential rights will soon become obvious. Consequently, such state of affairs will lead to massive revolts and hostile relationships.
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To conclude, the intermixture of Europeans and Native Americans along with Europeans and African Americans creates a mingled race which, consequently, serves as a significant bond of union between these distinct groups. Thus, these races tend to combine or rather absorb each other’s differences, while creating a new one which, eventually, will not be identical to any of them.
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