That reminds me. Hang on.
This guy was really smart. And he said some amazing things about early America that blows every one's mind. In French.
But he did not say, "America is great because America is good." Or hardly anything like it. The type things Tocqueville said were a lot smarter than that. Let's look at some of the things that Tocqueville did say, be amazed, and see the difference in quality. I'll c/p from Wikipedia.
Born under another sky, placed in the middle of an always-moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which sweeps along everything that surrounds him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything; he grows accustomed to naught but change, and concludes by viewing it as the natural state of man; he feels a need for it; even more, he loves it: for instability, instead of occurring to him in the form of disasters, seems to give birth to nothing around him but wonders...
Good Lord he read my mind that long ago. That is precisely my experience. That I thought was somewhat unique. And just as I think that I'm permanently settled someone else snaps the rug and I go spinning. That is my life in that paragraph. The first one shown on this page. Man, that was like randomly accessing the Tao Te Ching after five tosses of a coin.
Here's one about English and French.
The French want no-one to be their superior. The English want inferiors. The Frenchman constantly raises his eyes above him with anxiety. The Englishman lowers his beneath him with satisfaction.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même, mais oui? Back to Americans.
As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?
Here's my favorite, about people.
Men in general are neither very good nor very bad, but mediocre... Man with his vices, his weaknesses, his virtues, this confused medley of good and ill, high and low, goodness and depravity, is yet, take him all in all, the object on earth most worthy of study, of interest, of pity, of attachment and of admiration. And since we haven't got angels, we can attach ourselves to nothing greater and more worthy of our devotion than our own kind.
As to the fake quote, it's believed that Tocqueville biographer conflated his own notes for a quote. Reagan used it. Others followed. It's well known to be made up but nobody cares at this point. It sounds good. To them. (but not to me. it's incomplete, a dangling participle) Here's the thing. The people using it want their broader audience to believe their familiarity with Democracy in America when in reality it's too daunting a book and too long a task to take up. Try it if you haven't already, it's density will blow your mind.