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Alexis de Tocqueville. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116351).

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Tocqueville, Alexis de (29 July 1805–16 April 1859), French political theorist, historian, and statesman, was born Alexis-Charles-Henri-Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville in Paris, the son of Hervé-Louis-François-Jean Bonaventure Clérel and Louise-Madeleine Le Peletier Rosanbo, from an aristocratic and politically active Norman family. Tocqueville’s father became a prefect with the restored Bourbon government after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Charles X made him a peer of France in 1827. His family furnished the requisite background for Tocqueville’s own government service. Having studied law, Tocqueville became an assistant magistrate....