The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) recently hosted its sixth annual summer conference co-sponsored by Baylor University’s Department of Political Science June 23-24. Dr. James Ceaser, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics, University of Virginia, led a panel of professors and graduate students in a discussion of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
“Attendance at this year’s annual summer colloquium proved most satisfying,” commented AHI Charter Fellow Robert Paquette. “It was our largest crowd to date. Undergraduates, graduate students, senior and junior professors, and citizens from surrounding communities participated in two days of stimulating conversations. The AHI was particularly pleased to welcome teachers and students from Holy Cross Academy, a private Catholic school in the area. We would especially like to thank David and Mary Nichols, professor of political science at Baylor, and their department chairmen, David Clinton, for their continued support and friendship.”
Five sessions took place over two days and addressed such topics as the difference between aristocracy and democracy, the relation of liberty to equality, and Tocqueville’s understanding of the American political system and its founding documents. “Tocqueville’s concern with the difficult relationship between freedom and equality, as well as that between equality and (in both senses of the term) high culture, makes Democracy in America an ideal text for an AHI-sponsored conference,” said panel member and AHI Resident Fellow David Frisk. “We are about the ‘study of Western civilization,’ and Tocqueville analyzes these great elements of Western civilization in an especially compelling way.” Photos Copyright 2014 Tom Loughlin Jr, Utica, N.Y.
“Although very much a man of the nineteenth century,” “Tocqueville sounds strikingly modern, AHI Charter Fellow Douglas Ambrose pointed out. “He writes about how expansive governmental power ‘does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.’ Yet despite these dark fears, Tocqueville also reminds us that we have the power to avoid such a fate.”