As Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through the young United States, he wrote in his introduction to the first volume of Democracy in America
, "the more clearly I saw equality of conditions as the creative element from which each particular fact derived, and all my observations constantly returned to this nodal point." And there is an abundance of observations to be found here, with chapters that consider everything from "judicial power in the United States and its effect on political society" to "why the Americans erect some pretty monuments and others that are very grand."
Why does Tocqueville remain one of the most insightful analysts of American society? Certainly there is the comprehensive nature of his project, but one must also take into account the brilliance of his prose, with just the right balance of elegance and clarity. Democracy in America is as accessible to the modern reader as the work of any contemporary journalist, political scientist, or sociologist--and in many cases more so. It is an essential volume for anybody concerned with American history.