Between April 1831 and February 1832, two officials of the French government under Louis-Philippe toured Jacksonian America. These two officials—Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont—were on assignment to research prisons in the United States and later produced a report of their findings in 1833. But while traveling through America, Tocqueville and Beaumont were also carefully observing political and social life in the new republic. Both men published works on their observations. Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America (1835/1840) and Beaumont wrote a novel, entitled Marie or, Slavery in the United States(1835).
Most Americans are familiar with Tocqueville’s work, but Beaumont’s novel is less well known.
This NYT Magazine list of "32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow" is fascinating. I'm especially amazed by #1 (clothing that generates electricity and charges gadgets), #6 (cars smart enough to avoid causing traffic jams) and #23 (smart teeth!). Others (#20, #31) are sort of sci-fi disturbing but only mildly so.
One of the clichés of historians and civics textbooks is that the U.S. is an “experiment” in democracy. The inconclusive November 7 election and the subsequent wrangling over the certification of Florida’s votes have verified that it’s far from an empty cliché. This really is an experiment, and a very messy one.