Tag Archives: quotations

Dubious Source Material: Tocqueville

It would be a rare thing if one could have survived long in fundamentalist circles without hearing the following quote from Alexis de Tocqueville read or alluded to in a sermon:

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerc – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it vas not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Of course there’s an ever so slight problem with this, namely that Alexis de Tocqueville never actually wrote it. I’ll give you a minute to let the fact sink in that a quote that most of us have heard approximately 9,876 times from the pulpit is simply a fabrication.

I’d go so far as to say that as a good rule of thumb, the more frequently quoted a thing is in fundamentalist circles the more apocryphal it is likely to be. Snopes is a fundy preacher’s nightmare.