Writing near the end of Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville expressed an apprehension that this new form of government in the United States might eventually yield to a new kind of despotism under which a central authority would minister to the wishes of the people while depriving them of the independence required for active citizenship. Tocqueville foresaw a “soft” despotism that, as he wrote, “does not break men’s will but softens, bends, and guides it; it is not at all tyrannical, but it hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies so much that in the end each nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.” He feared that the democratic revolution in America might eventually produce a passive population that has traded its liberty and independence in exchange for comfort and security.

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