Friday, December 09, 2005

Pelosi Does Tocqueville

On December 8, Nancy Pelosi closed her floor speech on the tax bill this way: "When Alexis de Tocqueville talked about community in America, he wrote back to the French: ‘America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good,’ he concluded, ‘America will cease to be great.’ This is the moment that no one in this body wants to hasten. We all want America to be great, and America to be good. Together we can do better, by returning to our fundamental values, to maintain America’s goodness by rejecting this immoral tax bill."

First Pat Boone, now Nancy Pelosi. Will this plague of fake Tocqueville never end?


Jared said...

It looks like fellow blogger Professor Bainbridge (of UCLAW) recently used the false Tocqueville quote as well. See

The epidemic continues...

Patrick Armstrong said...


More like genetic mutation. This one may never have a vaccine.

Heckfire, I've used that quote dozens of times over the years, and everyone I was talking to either knew exactly what I was talking about or took it as eloquent truth and have used it ever since.

It makes me angry to find out that it is a false quote. Especially one I learned in a Political Science class. It makes me really angry because it was one of my favorite quotes, and one of the few things I actually paid attention to in class at college.

Of all the things to stick, an icorrect quote.

I guess this is really an example of the zen of political science, kind of a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear kind of thing. But this is a great quote that everyone heard, and just attributed it to the wrong guy.

It has taken on kind of a mythical status as a quotation now, don't you think? When does it go from epidemic to canon?

'Cause its a great quote, but who do we attribute it to if we don't know who wrote it? I don't ever want to sound like a bozo ever again.

I mean, not to sound ungrateful for the correction or anything, but are you running weekly google searches for the phrase? (That's kinda wierd and cool at the same time...but it may be your only chance of reversing the trend.) You just didn't strike me as the 'average reader' of my blog when I saw the comment.

I was floored by the actual content.

Unalienable Rights said...

This lack of quote integrity is pandemic across ideologies. Poor Tocqueville is greatly abused. I wrote about this issue urging Christians to be more careful in their quoting.

Among Christians, Tocqueville is "quoted" heavily for the infamous quote he never said about his search for "the greatness of America."

A casual search for that "quote" came up with over 800 christian sites using it!

As hard as I try to always use original sources, sometimes I cannot find them and have used quoted texts because I found them very useful. But in the back of my head I keep wondering when one of them is going to come back and bite me in the butt!

Anonymous said...

E non vero, se trovato. As they say in Italy, and at Tocqueville conventions apparently.

See also "too good to check."

John J. Vecchione

Remay1 said...

Since Alexis is French, we are left to the translator to convey what he said to English. He may not have said those exact words, but it cannot be doubted that the spirit of his work certainly conveyed those ideas.

One thing he did do was to say that tyrannical religions such as radical Islam can never succeed:


Chapter V


Mohammed professed to derive from Heaven, and has inserted in the Koran, not only religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and theories of science. The Gospel, on the contrary, speaks only of the general relations of men to God and to each other, beyond which it inculcates and imposes no point of faith. This alone, besides a thousand other reasons, would suffice to prove that the former of these religions will never long predominate in a cultivated and democratic age, while the latter is destined to retain its sway at these as at all other periods.