HISTORY OF ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
Only 26 years old when he came to the United States and Canada in 1831, Alexis Charles-Henri de Tocqueville traveled extensively, recording his observations of life in the young nations. Though he only spent nine months in North America, he gleaned an insightful view of American society. His observations, readings and discussions with eminent Americans formed the basis of Democracy in America, a detailed study of American society and politics published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840.
Tocqueville recognized, applauded, and immortalized North American voluntary action on behalf of the common good. He wrote: “I must say that I have seen Americans make a great deal of real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend a faithful support to one another,” eloquently capturing the essence of personal philanthropy that persists, almost three centuries later. The observation on philanthropy made by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 is true today; North Americans understand that advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all. The name Tocqueville Society was chosen because of Alexis de Tocqueville’s admiration for the spirit of voluntary association and effort toward its advancement.
Founders of the Tocqueville Society
The United Way Tocqueville Society was founded in 1984 to deepen the understanding, commitment, and support of United Way’s most generous and community-minded investors. In his original letter to ten pilot cities dated March 15, 1984 Tocqueville Society founder, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., wrote that the purpose of the Nashville “chapter,” the first Tocqueville Society in the nation, was to “recognize and honor those concerned individuals who accepted a leadership role in making major financial contributions to United Way.” Of those ten invited, 4 accepted the invitation and joined Nashville as the founding cities: Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, and Des Moines.
United Way Worldwide provides guidance to United Ways in developing local Tocqueville Societies based on involving and cultivating new influential leadership; encouraging major gifts among high-wealth individuals; and cultivating additional resources with which to strengthen their communities.