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Impearls: AFitW: Alexis de Tocqueville's A Fortnight in the Wilds

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Earthdate 2006-07-26

Alexis de Tocqueville’s A Fortnight in the Wilds

Followers of Impearls, along with aficionados of insightful French observer of early America Alexis de Tocqueville, are likely aware that this year — commencing on earthdate 2005-07-29 and whose ending is coming up on the 29th of this month — is the bicentennial of Tocqueville’s birth.  Many people, however, may not know that 2006 is also the 175th anniversary of Tocqueville’s fateful visit to America, which occurred in 1831.  Indeed, at this moment one and three-quarter centuries ago, Tocqueville and his travel companion were slogging their way through swampy, mosquito-ridden backwoods forests in search of the farthest limits of European settlement — seeking insights that would inspire into the very psyche of America.

Moreover, though many people have read part or all of Tocqueville’s great masterpiece Democracy in America, which we’ve quoted numerous times here in Impearls, few I would say have taken note of Tocqueville’s travel diary of his trip to the infant United States, which has been separately published as Journey to America.  It’s true, in my judgment, that portions of Journey to America may be considered relatively uninteresting — though even there they provide valuable gems of insight into Tocqueville’s thought processes, in the development of his ideas about America, that one sees full blown in Democracy in America — but many other parts of the travel diary are utterly fascinating.

Included in Journey to America are two narratives Tocqueville has left us of excursions he and his friend took into the American wilderness — one known as “Journey to Lake Oneida,” the other “A Fortnight [i.e., 2 weeks] in the Wilds.”  As mentioned before, not only does the bicentennial of Tocqueville’s birth come to an end at his birthday on August 29th, but the latter adventure above occurred precisely a century and three-quarters ago this week.  In honor of these dual anniversaries and for the piquant edification of Impearls’ readership, we proceed now to republish Tocqueville’s penetrating account in its entirety.

As usual with lengthy articles at Impearls, the whole thing has been subdivided into sections organized into separate postings.  Any blame for the posting names should be directed totally at me.  Scroll down naturally to read the whole thing….

Forthwith, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “A Fortnight in the Wilds.” 1, 2
 

A Fortnight in the Wilds



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