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It was my intention to depict, in a second part, the influence which the equality of conditions and the rule of democracy exercise on the civil society, the habits, the ideas, and the manners of the Americans; I begin, however, to feel less ardor for the accomplishment of this project, since the excellent work of my friend and travelling companion M. de Beaumont has been given to the world.[1] I do not know whether I have succeeded in making known what I saw in America, but I am certain that such has been my sincere desire, and that I have never, knowingly, moulded facts to ideas, instead of ideas to facts.

Whenever a point could be established by the aid of written documents, I have had recourse to the original text, and to the most authentic and approved works.[2] I have cited my authorities in the notes, and any one may refer to them. Whenever an opinion, a political custom, or a remark on the manners of the country was concerned, I endeavored to consult the most enlightened men I met with. If the point in question was important or doubtful, I was not satisfied with one testimony, but I formed my opinion on the evidence of several witnesses. Here the reader must necessarily believe me upon my word. I could frequently have quoted names which are either known to him, or which deserve to be so, in proof of what I advance; but I have carefully abstained from this practice. A stranger frequently hears important truths at the fireside of his host, which the latter would perhaps conceal even from the ear of friendship; he consoles himself with his guest, for the silence to which he is restricted, and the shortness of the traveller's stay takes away all fear of his indiscretion. I carefully noted every conversation of this nature as soon as it occurred, but these notes will never leave my writing-case; I had rather injure the success of my statements than add my name to the list of those strangers who repay the generous hospitality they have received by subsequent chagrin and annoyance.

I am aware that, notwithstanding my care, nothing will be easier than to criticise this book, if any one ever chooses to criticise it.

Those readers who may examine it closely will discover the fundamental idea which connects the several parts together. But the diversity of the subjects I have had to treat is exceedingly great, and it will not be difficult to oppose an isolated fact to the body of facts which I quote, or an isolated idea to the body of ideas I put forth. I hope to be read in the spirit which has guided my labors, and that my book may be judged by the general impression it leaves, as I have formed my own judgment not on any single reason, but upon the mass of evidence.

It must not be forgotten that the author who wishes to be understood is obliged to push all his ideas to their utmost theoretical consequences, and often to the verge of what is false or impracticable; for if it be necessary sometimes to quit the rules of logic in active life, such is not the case in discourse, and a man finds that almost as many difficulties spring from inconsistency of language, as usually arise from consistency of conduct.

I conclude by pointing out myself what many readers will consider the principal defect of the work. This book is written to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no design of serving or attacking any party: I have undertaken not to see differently, but to look farther than parties, and while they are busied for the morrow, I have turned my thoughts to the future.

Notes:

[1] This work is entitled, Marie, ou l'Esclavage aux Etats-Unis.

[2] Legislative and administrative documents have been furnished me with a degree of politeness which I shall always remember with gratitude. Among the American functionaries who thus favored my inquiries I am proud to name Mr. Edward Livingston, then Secretary of State and late American minister at Paris. During my stay at the session of Congress, Mr. Livingston was kind enough to furnish me with the greater part of the documents I possess relative to the federal government. Mr. Livingston is one of those rare individuals whom one loves, respects, and admires, from their writings, and to whom one is happy to incur the debt of gratitude on further acquaintance.

American Institutions and Their Influence Chapter I Exterior Form Of North America