Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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December 12th
“The image of democracy itself”
“I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who traveled America in 1831–32 and published his impressions in his famous Democracy in America. His amused but admiring description of civic life in the young republic provides a wonderful yardstick:

The political activity which pervades the United States must be seen in order to be understood. No sooner do you set foot upon the American soil than you are stunned by a kind of tumult. . . . Everything is in motion around you; here, the people of one quarter of a town are met to decide upon the building of a church; there, the election of a representative is going on; a little further the delegates of a district are posting to the town to consult upon some local improvements; or in another place the laborers of a village quit their plows to deliberate upon the project of a road or a public school. Meetings are called for the sole purpose of declaring their disapprobation of the line of conduct pursued by the government; while in other assemblies the citizens salute the authorities of the day as the fathers of their country. . . .

The cares of political life engross a most prominent place in the occupation of a citizen in the United States. . . . An American cannot converse, but he can discuss; and when he attempts to talk he falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting; and if he should chance to warm in the course of the discussion, he will infallibly say, “Gentlemen,” to the person with whom he is conversing.
American History Parade
1787
Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1808
The first Bible society in the United States is organized in Philadelphia.

1831
Alexis de Tocqueville crosses the Tennessee River en route from Louisville to Memphis during his journey through America.

1870
Joseph Rainey of South Carolina is sworn in as the first black member of the U.S. House.

1925
The world’s first motel, the Motel Inn, opens in San Luis Obispo, California.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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