Tocqueville, Associations, and the Law of 1834

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Arthur Goldhammer

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Tocqueville's account of the role of voluntary associations in democracy is discussed in relation to the French government's repressive Law of 1834. The context was one of insurrection in Lyon and the regime of Louis Philippe, itself the product of an insurrection only a few years before, was particularly nervous about conspiratorial associations, which it attempted to ban with the law in question. Because Tocqueville opposed this law, he emphasized the virtues of political association in the text of Democracy in America and ignored certain problematic characteristics of the one association he used to exemplify his general argument, namely, the “free trade association” that convened in Philadelphia in 1831 to oppose the so-called Tariff of Abominations.

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