The statement has been typically cited (in totality or in part) across the year by politicians, newspapers, books, and websites.

You are watching: America is great because america is good quote

Published5 December 2019

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However, these words carry out not show up in the pages that “Democracy in America,” nor carry out they show up in any other writing or tape-recorded utterance contemporaneously traceable to de Tocqueville. Many sources have actually been debunking the de Tocqueville attribution for over 25 years, as seen in the complying with excerpt from a 1995 short article by man J. Pitney, Jr., combine professor of federal government at Claremont McKenna College:

These lines are uplifting and poetic. Lock are also spurious. Nowhere carry out they appear in Democracy in America, or all over else in Tocqueville.

The authenticity the the passage came right into question as soon as first-year government students in ~ Claremont McKenna College got an assignment: find a contemporary speech quoting Tocqueville, and determine just how accurately the speaker supplied the quotation. A student soon uncovered a current Senate floor speech the cited the “America is great” line. He scoured Democracy in America, yet could not uncover the passage. The professor looked, also — and it was not there.

Further research resulted in reference publications that cautiously described the quotation together “unverified” and also “attributed come de Tocqueville but not found in his works.” these references, in turn, pointed come the obvious source: a 1941 book on religion and the American dream. The publication quoted the last 2 lines the the passage together coming native Democracy in America yet supplied no documentation. (The writer may have actually mistaken his own notes for a verbatim quotation, a common problem in the days prior to photocopiers.) The full version of the quotation appeared 11 year later, in one Eisenhower campaign speech. Ike, however, attributed that not directly to Tocqueville yet to “a wise philosopher came to this nation …”

One might conjecture the Eisenhower’s speechwriter embellished the lines native the 1941 book and also avoided a direct reference come Tocqueville as a means of extending himself. Speechwriters execute such things from time to time.

Similarly, Ralph Keyes wrote in his 2006 “Quote Verifier” publication that no critical documentation has actually turned up that traces the beginnings of these words come de Tocqueville himself:

Like presidents Eisenhower and Reagan before him, invoice Clinton was fond that attributing these words to Alexis de Tocqueville. Many an additional political figure, news commentator, and also patriotic orator has actually cited this observation, stated to have been make by American’s most famed tourist. Library of conference researchers call the attribution “unverified.” they did uncover the finish quotation, attributed come de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, in a 1941 publication called The Kingdom the God and the American Dream by evangelist Sherwood Eddy (1871-1963) … that actually wrote these words remains a mystery. Sherwood Eddy offered no resource for his de Tocqueville attribution. According to biographer rick L. Nutt, Eddy had tendency to work-related from memory. Probably he’d check out the 1908 copy the The Methodist Review in which de Tocqueville was quoted together saying the searched in vain because that the resources of America’s distinction until he gone into a church: “It to be there, together I listened come the soul-equalizing and also soul-elevating ethics of the Gospel the Christ together they fell from Sabbath come Sabbath ~ above the masses the the people, that i learned why America is good and free, and why France is a slave.” this uncharacteristic words room not de Tocqueville’s either.

Attributions of this passage to de Tocqueville have so much been recorded as far ago as 1887, and researcher Barry Popik uncovered an unattributed variant released in 1886:

I go at your bidding, and also passed follow me their thoroughfares the trade. Ns ascended their mountains and went under their valleys. I visited their manufactories, your commercial markets, and emporiums of trade. I gotten in their justice courts and legislative halls. However I sought almost everywhere in vain for the secret of your success, until I entered the church. It to be there, together I listened come the soul-equalizing and soul-elevating values of the Gospel that Christ, as they fell from Sabbath to Sabbath ~ above the masses of the people, that i learned why America was an excellent and free, and also why France was a slave.

A book published in 1835 through Andrew Reed and James Matheson, 2 British ministers who checked out sister churches in the United says in 1834 to promote peace and also friendship and also then wrote about their travels, contains what might be the seed from which this quotation germinated: “America will certainly be great if America is good. If not, she greatness will vanish away favor a morning cloud.”

Whatever the can be fried source, it shows up this statement around how “America is good because she is good” advanced over a long period of time separately of something de Tocqueville actually wrote, and as part of that evolutionary procedure it retroactively (and falsely) ended up being attributed come him.


Published5 December 2019
Sources

Reed, Andrew and James Matheson. A narrative of the Visit come the American Churches: by the Deputation indigenous the Congregation Union the England and Wales (Vol. II). Harper & Brothers, 1835.


Keyes, Ralph. The Quote Verifier. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006 (p. 4). ISBN 0-312-34004-4.

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Popik, Barry. “America Is great Because She Is Good.” barrypopik.com. 24 may 2009.