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University of Toronto St. George

Feb. 25 reading: Tocqueville: “What sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear” In antiquity… - When the power of the Roman emperors was at its height, the different people of the empire still preserved very various customs and mores  Most provinces had a separate administration, though the whole government of the empire was concentrated in the hands of the emperor alone and he could decide everything, yet the details of social l life and personal everyday existence normally escaped his control  The burden of his tyranny fell most heavily on some, but it never spread over a great number  It was violent, but its extent was limited However in a democratic society… - Despotism would be more widespread and milder - In such an age of education and equality as our own, rulers could more easily bring all public powers into their own hands alone, and they could impinge deeper and more habitually into the sphere of private interests than was ever possible in antiquity - When there is no citizen with great power or wealth, tyranny in some degree lacks both target and stage and thus limits the sovereign’s own spirit - Democratic governments might become violent and cruel at times of great excitement and danger, but such crises will be rare and brief - The type of oppression which threatens democracies is different from anything there has ever been in the world before  Men, alike and equal, are withdrawn into himself, unaware of the fate of the rest,
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