Equality in America during the 1830’s to 1860’s

Alexis de Tocqueville’s description of America as a land of equality was an inaccurate one, as his opinion came out of dealings exclusively with upper society and he concurred with the majority of the population that the treatment of blacks, women, andundesirables? as second-class citizens was not a contradiction to the principles of democracy. The time period in which Tocqueville lived was one of rapid change not only within the United States, but also worldwide. The monarchies of Europe were leaning towards becoming republics, and Tocqueville set out to dispute the European notion that a republic would end up as little more than mob-rule by using the United States as the example of the success of the republic. Unfortunately, while the United States achieved much in the way of progress, Tocqueville’s descriptions were full of exaggeration and ignorance. Slavery still existed in the land that was based on the belief that,all men are created equal.? Women were being viewed as the epitome of gentleness and morals but were still denied the right to vote, own property if they were married, or even to sign their own wills. Undesirables such as the insane were locked up in institutions where the conditions were not fit for livestock let alone human beings. These factors represented the failures of democracy, but were ignored or written off by Tocqueville. It may be that he was truly blind to these inequalities because he was raised in a world that assumed that women and black people were not created equal to white men and were therefore not entitled to share in democracy.
When one thinks of the 19th century within America, the wordprogress? comes to mind. Indeed, the industrialization of the United States did represent progress in the world, as goods could now be made cheaper and faster. Unfortunately, the mechanization of manufacturing also meant an increase in the demand for raw materials. A majority of the population at this time there…


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