Two Great Nations: 1815-50

During the first half of the nineteenth century, as Tocqueville perceptively remarked, Russia and the United States had grown to nationhood almost unnoticed. ‘The world learned of their existence and their greatness at almost the same time’. By Paul Dukes.

Alexis De Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, first published in 1835, wrote: ‘There are, at the present time, two great nations in the world which seem to tend toward the same end, although they started from different points: I allude to the Russians and the Americans.

Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and while the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly assumed a most prominent place among the nations; and the world learned their existence and their greatness at almost the same time.

‘All other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits, and only to be charged with the maintenance of their power; but these are still in the act of growth; all the others are stopped, or continue to advance with extreme difficulty; these are proceeding with ease and with celerity along a path to which the human eye can assign no term.

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