Christianity, Democracy, Socialism: Reconsidering Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1848 “Speech on the Right to Work.”
On September 12, 1848, Alexis de Tocqueville delivered a brief but remarkably penetrating speech before the French Constituent Assembly entitled the “Speech on the Right to Work.” As we sometimes forget, Tocqueville was an active statesman as well as a political thinker of the first rank. He was a soul torn by the conflicting demands of thought and action. He had not worked to bring about the revolution of February 1848—in his view France had seen far too many revolutionary upheavals in the sixty years since the original French Revolution of 1789. But he did everything within his power to work for the establishment of a moderate constitutional republic in France in the tumultuous months that followed the February Revolution.