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Mrs. Holand thapter
Aug 2, 1932
ENTERED according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by
District of New York.
No. 38 Gold Street.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION.
The following work of M. De Tocqueville has attracted great attention throughout Europe, where it is universally regarded as a sound, philosophical, impartial, and remarkably clear and distinct view of our political institutions, and of our manners, opinions and habits, as influencing or influenced by those institutions. Writers, reviewers and statesmen of all parties have united in the highest commendations of its ability and integrity. The people described by a work of such a character, should not be the only one in Christendom unacquainted with its contents. At least so thought many of our most distinguished men, who have urged the publishers of this edition to reprint the work and present it to the American public. They have done so in the hope of promoting among their countrymen a more thorough knowledge of their frames of government, and a more just appreciation of the great principles on which they are founded.
But it seemed to them that a reprint in America of the views of an author so well entitled to regard and confidence, without any correction of the few errors or mistakes that might be found, would be in effect to give authenticity to the whole work, and that foreign readers especially, would consider silence under such circumstances as strong evidence of the accuracy of its statements. The preface to the English edition, too, was not adapted to this country, having been written, as it would seem, in reference to the political questions which agitate Great Britain. The publishers therefore applied to the writer of this, to furnish them with a short preface,
and such notes upon the text as might appear necessary to correct any erroneous impressions. Having had the honor of a personal acquaintance with M. De Tocqueville while he was in this country, having discussed with him many of the topics treated of in this book, having entered deeply into the feelings and sentiments which guided and impelled him in his task, and having formed a high admiration of his character and of this production, the writer felt under some obligation to aid in procuring for one whom he ventures to call his friend, a hearing from those who were the subjects of his observations. These circumstances furnish to his own mind an apology for undertaking what no one seemed willing to attempt, notwithstanding his want of practice in literary composition, and notwithstanding the impediments of professional avocations constantly recurring and interrupting that strict and continued examination of the work, which became necessary, as well to detect any errors of the author, as any misunderstanding or misrepresentation of his meaning by his translator. If the same circumstances will atone in the least for the imperfections of what the editor has contributed to this edition, and will serve to mitigate the severity of judgment upon those contributions, it is all he can hope or ask.
The notes, which will be found at the end of the volume, are confined, with very few exceptions, to the correction of what appeared to be misapprehensions of the author in regard to some matters of fact or some principles of law, and to explaining his meaning where the translator had misconceived it. For the latter purpose, the original was consulted ; and it affords great pleasure to bear witness to the general fidelity with which Mr. Reeve has transferred the author's ideas from French into English. He has not been a literal translator, and this has been the cause of the very few errors which have been discovered: but he has been more and better : he has caught the spirit of Mr. De Tocqueville, has understood the sentiment he meant to express, and has clothed it in the language which Mr. De T. would have himself used, had he possessed equal facility in writing the English language.
There should have been references in the body of the work to the notes : but circumstances beyond control prevented. They are so few, however, that no great inconvenience will result from reading them detached from the subjects to which they relate.