Please help me to understand what this quote from Tocqueville means.   "The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be regarded as correlative, just as the censorship...

Please help me to understand what this quote from Tocqueville means.  

"The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be regarded as correlative, just as the censorship of the press and the universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people."

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us start by taking this bit by bit and explaining each bit.

“The sovereignty of the people” means the power of the people to rule.  A sovereign is the person that is the highest authority in a country.  If the people are sovereign, they are the highest authority.

The phrase “and the liberty of the press may therefore be regarded as correlative” refers back to the sovereignty of the people.  Things that correlate are found together.  It means that the sovereignty of the people and a free press must necessarily go together. 

The passage continues with “just as the censorship of the press and the universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed.”  Suffrage is the right to vote.  Universal suffrage means that everyone has the right to vote, although in Tocqueville’s time, this meant that all white men had the right to vote.  So, he is saying that censorship and allowing all white men to vote are necessarily opposed to one another.  This is why he goes on to say, “and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.”  He is saying that you cannot have both censorship and universal suffrage together for long in the same country.

So, what Tocqueville is saying here is that free press and political democracy go hand in hand.  In order to have a true democracy in which the people rule, you have to have a free press.  You cannot have censorship of the press along with a true democracy in which all people (or all white men) are allowed to vote and in which the people are truly sovereign.