Who was Alexis, and Why is he in the Library?


Alexis visited Flint, Michigan.

That’s correct; he stood right here on the grounds of our campus!

Wait.  What?

Who was this Alexis person?

Well, he was a globe-trekker —  a world explorer, especially into rough country and new civilizations.

He was also a law student.    A husband.  A civil servant.  A judge.  An elected member of the legislature.  A politician and a patriot.  And an author of some importance and world renown.

051 copy
M. Alexis de Tocqueville, author of DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.

He was French gentry; a man who’s father was mayor of the town where he was born.  He attended the royal college in Metz where he studied rhetoric and philosophy before moving to Paris to study law.  After law school, he traveled to Italy with his brother Edouard and visited Rome, Naples and Scicily.  He wrote his first book after that trip, “Voyage en Sicile.”

Upon his return to France, Alexis was appointed juge auditeur in Versailles, which later lead to a position as deputy public prosecutor at the court of Versailles.

Alexis was born and raised among the privileged members of the last of the titled (and entitled) nobility of France in the early 1800s.

However, in 1830 during the July Revolution, the last Bourbon King of France (Charles X) is overthrown.  The new government is established as a constitutional monarchy, with Louis-Philippe as the new ruler.

[Click on any image to enlarge.]

Combats de la rue de Rohan, je 29 juillet 1830. (Fighting in the Street de Rohan on July 29, 1830) Oil on canvas by Hippolyte Lecomte, 1857. Musee Carnavalet, Paris

Alexis reluctantly takes the required oath of loyalty to the new government and the new king, and in exchange receives a reduced position as juge suppleant (substitute judge).



By August, he is thinking of getting out of the country for a while.

In October, another Frenchman (Beaumont) wrote a report to the Minister of the Interior on the reform of the penal system in France.  In February the following year, Tocqueville and Beaumont were given an 18-month leave to study the penal system in the United States.  On April 2, Beaumont and d’Tocqueville together embark for America from Le Havre, France.  His life as an explorer in the wilds has begun.

And what, you ask has this got to do with the Thompson Library and the University of Michigan-Flint? 

[Click on any image to enlarge.]

photo 4
Observations by de Tocqueville on Flint, Michigan.

Among his many stops during his 1800s tour of the United States, Alexis De Tocqueville visited Michigan.  In fact, at one point he stood on the banks of the Flint River, pretty much where our campus is currently situated.

052 copy
Map noting route and major stops of Alexis de Tocqueville during his tour of the young United States in 1831-32.

Meanwhile, back in July 22 of 1832, Monsieur de Tocqueville arrived in Detroit (which he remarked upon for being very like France on one side of the river, while on the other, savages and naked children were to be found running around).

photo 7
Rough sketch by de Toucqueville of native American seen during his tour of the USA.


He stayed with some locals in Pontiac, where he observed a woman “dressed like a lady,” commenting that “Americans and their log house have the air of rich folk who have temporarily gone to spend a season in a hunting lodge.”




[Click on any image to enlarge.]

photo 9
Observations by de Tocqueville in Michigan.


From Pontiac, De Tocqueville traveled with an Indian guide who took them to Flint and Saginaw via the Flint River, documenting everything he saw along the way.

photo 15
Comments by de Tocqueville in Michigan.

Writing extensively on his travels, he diligently described in his book the area of Flint, the sights he saw and the people he observed during the early 1800s, recording for posterity the life and times of the early settlers in the United States during the early 1800s.

photo 11
Comments by de Tocqueville in Michigan.


Recording his observations throughout his journey, he interviewed presidents, lawyers, bankers and many settlers along the way.  Eventually he assembled his thoughts and ruminations on the formation of the new country and how its people lived into a ground-breaking two volume book entitled, Democracy in America.



The first volume of Democracy in America was published in 1835.  The second volume, in 1840.


031 copy
Books related to M. Alexis de Tocqueville in Thompson Library collection.


Not only has this book been quoted or referenced by untold scads of other books and mentioned in many major speeches (including President Clinton’s STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS in ’95, Speaker Gingrich’s Opening Session speech of the 104th Congress in ’95, Ross Perot’s speech on saving Medicare and Medicaid in ’95, US Supreme Court cases any many others), it has also  never been out of print from the day it was first published to the present.

Fast forward almost 200 years.

068 copy
Video available in Thompson Library Check Out this Video and Watch History Happen.

The television network, C-SPAN, celebrates the incredible journey and writings of Alexis de Tocquville with a year-long program, filming a major documentary while driving to the many locations mentioned in de Tocqueville’s writings.

The C-SPAN people worked with schools to assist in teaching the history of de Tocqueville and the young United States, and with local communities to celebrate de Tocquville’s travels throughout the country.  As a way of honoring the book and its author, C-SPAN conferred commemorative plaques to memorialize the locations of note from his tour of the country.071 copy

As a “location of note” described in great detail in his writings, C-SPAN visited Flint, Michigan and presented us with a plaque noting the event and time period.

And now we arrive at the intertwined history of Monsieur Alexis de Tocqueville, French patriot and author, with the University of Michigan-Flint and the Thompson Library.

In a ceremony sponsored by the UM-F student History Club along with the Department of History and hosted by the Thompson Library, the C-SPAN plaque was officially and formally dedicated on November 20, 2014.

Plaque in Flint
Commemorative plaque presented by C-SPAN to Flint, Michigan noting the visit to this area by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831-1832. Plaque may be seen in garden round near Thompson Library and Flint River on the campus of University of Michigan-Flint.


Speakers at the event included Dr. Roy Hanashiro, Chair of the History Department; Prof Thomas Henthorne, History Dept; Robert Houbeck, Director of Thompson Library; and Justin Wetenhall, President of the History Club.   (Mr. Wetenhall and Mr. Houbeck kindly shared the text of their speech with us, which appears in full at the bottom of this article.)

Members of the History Club, notably Jeanette Routhier and Shelby photo 18Blair, assembled a remarkable display of works by and about Alexis de Tocqueville, some of which are still on display in the Library.

029 copy





037 copy
Books related to M. Alexis de Tocqueville in Thompson Library collection.


6 copy





Please see Shelby’s poster on the 3rd floor of Thompson Library near069 copy the Reference Desk.  On the 2nd display case of the Genesee Archives, Jeanette has created a smaller display highlighting some of the writings of de Tocqueville held in the Archives collection.

These, and many other works by Alexis de Tocqueville can be found in the Thompson Library.  We invite you to visit the Library and the Archives to read and view some of these works and films about his works.

They are YOUR  history.

129 copyThe plaque has been officially installed in the memorial garden round near Thompson Library and the Flint River, no doubt close to (if not actually on THE  spot) where Monsieur Alexis de Tocqueville — explorer and author of Democracy in America — stood overlooking the Flint River so many years ago.


[Click on any image to enlarge.]

After Charlet and Jaime 1830 LG Folio Lithographs. French Revolution Antique Folio Lithographs Published 1830, Paris by Gihaut, for a series of prints of scenes from the 1830 Revolution in France. Pair lithographed on india paper after Nicolas Toussaint Charlet

 Images of French Revolution of 1830 which propelled de Tocqueville to America.






photo 17
M. Alexis de Tocqueville; explorer, politician, patriot and author.



066 cropped
Thompson Library Director, Robert Houbeck and Political Science Prof Albert Price muse over the impact of de Tocqueville in America.






photo 13
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.


photo 12
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.





photo 11
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.


photo 10
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.






065 copy
Thompson Library hosts the Dedication Ceremony for the deTocqueville Plaque
064 copy
From left, Dir. Houbeck, Prof Price, Librarian Vince Prygoski, History Chair Hanashiro, History Prof Henthornand Jeanette Routhier







photo 9
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.
photo 8
Rough sketch by de Tocqueville of observations in Michigan.





photo 4
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.
photo 3
Display Case — Genesee Historical Archives on comments by Alexis de Tocqueville upon visiting Michigan in 1831-32.
















Dedication Ceremony Speech — History Club President, Justin Wetenhall

Alexis de Tocqueville Plaque Dedication Speech

UM-Flint, Thompson Library

Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you in attendance for supporting this event, as well as the UM-Flint Thompson Library staff in aiding us on this occasion.   Dr. Houbeck and Dr. Rubenstein, I personally thank you for taking a part of this dedication.

As some of you may know I am the President of the UM-Flint Historical Society and have had the privilege to be so for the past 2 years.   One of the History Club’s missions over this time has been campus and community involvement, not just meeting once a week to talk about history- but to take part in it.

Last year we had the opportunity to tour such Flint landmarks as the Mott Foundation Building and the Capitol Theater.   More recently we have been attempting to give back more to the community that has done so much for us.

Recently, in October, we partnered with another student organization, Feminists for Global Equality to host a “Haunted Masquerade Ball,” at the Historic Kearsley Park Pavilion.   This event was designed specifically with the intent of inviting the community in providing a positive image for Flint, while embracing the idea that history is an inclusive subject.

So, when club member Jeanette Routhier, who we lovingly refer to as our “Sparkle Princess” told me about an historic plaque that directly ties to Flint history and suggested that we as a student organization oversee its placement, we were only too quick to align ourselves with such a cause.   This provided us with an interesting opportunity to take part in what is usually done by administration, mainly having input in the placement of the plaque while learning the general feel of the universities internal structure and how academia works beyond the classroom.

This also gave us a chance to experience extra-curricular research. Just last night and into the wee hours of the morning I sat with our Vice President, Shelby Blair as she put together the finishing touches of  her research into an exhibit for Alexis de Tocqueville.

Both Shelby and Jeanette have done an amazing job in helping to put this event together. It gives us a great sense of pride as a student organization to have partnered with the UM-Flint Thompson Library in this philanthropic venture. T

his is only 1 of 2 academic plaques on this campus I am told, and so am proud to say that we as a student organization played a major role in its unveiling. This is proof that the University of Michigan-Flint provides more than lectures but guides students into community involvement through academia.

We as an organization pride ourselves in giving back to the campus and the History Department that has nurtured us with our many endeavors.

I’m sure I speak for the History Club when I say I hope to continue working with the university not only in history but in student involvement. Thank you for all of the support. And if I may add, please, say good things about Flint.

Some of the New Databases Available from Thompson Library


New from Thompson Library, the following  resources!

Databases providing access and information in many formats, all available online in such fields as:

  • Audio Books
  • Current Affairs in Video
  • Career Assistance
  • English as Second Language Assistance
  • Physical Therapy

…   and MORE!!!


See NEW DATABASES on Thompson Library website under “Research Guides,” —  NEW & TRIAL RESOURCES.


  • AudioBook Collection  –  (EBSCOhost product)   Collection of downloadable e-audio books.  [ACCESS PROBLEMS REPORTED   —  CLICK ⓘ INFORMATION BUTTON on link FOR DETAILS.]








  • Analytical Abstracts   –   Also known as Analytical WebBase, Analytical Abstracts is the premier current awareness and information retrieval service in analytical chemistry. Covers 1980-present.


  • Apartheid South Africa, 1948-1980  –    British government files from the Foreign, Colonial, Dominion and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices spanning the period 1948 to 1980.


  • Artemis Literary Sources  –  Allows cross-searching of Literature Resource Center, Literature Criticism Online, and Gale Virtual Reference Library literature titles.


  • Associations Unlimited  –  Provides information on nonprofit membership associations and professional societies worldwide.


  • Business Economics and Theory  —  With a strong emphasis on titles covered in the EconLit database, this collection provides academic journals and magazines focusing on topics in economics. Perfect for business classes, users will find more than 150 full-text journals to support their research.


  • Business Insights: Essentials  – 
    Reference content from Gale’s core business collection. Includes easy-to-use company fundamentals and investment research reports, industry rankings, profiles, market share data, company histories, and more. Compare companies and generate lists by industry or location.


  • CareerBeam   –   Extensive company information and recruiting contacts for nearly 1 million potential employers and more than 200 countries. Requires login with UMICH password.


  • Catalysts & Catalysed Reactions  
    Monthly bulletin containing around 200 new graphical abstracts each month, indexed by reaction under study and by catalytic method.


  • Chemical Hazards in Industry  
    Monthly bulletin containing worldwide information on safety and health hazards surrounding chemicals encountered in the chemical and related industries.


  • ChemSpider  –
    Free chemical structure database providing fast text and structure search access to over 32 million structures from hundreds of data sources.


  • Communication, Film, and Mass Media 
    This ebook collection includes titles relevant to communications, cinema and media studies, advertising, public opinion, journalism, and mass media.


  • Culinary Arts Collection  
    Includes 150 of the major cooking and nutrition magazines. Coverage includes thousands of searchable recipes, restaurant reviews, and industry information






  • eBook K-8 Collection 
    Full text books designed specifically to support a quality learning experience for K-8 students across all academic subjects from History, to Language and Literature, to Science & Technology.





  •  Gait: An Online Tutorial  –  Includes the components “General Information,” “Joints,” and “Self-Assessment Quiz.”


  • Gale NewsVault 
    Provides cross-searching of 17 different historical newspaper and periodical archive collections.


  • Gartner 
    This database contains a comprehensive body of technology knowledge and is a resource used by thousands of organizations to help decision makers capitalize on information technologies and markets. Requires UMICH login.


  • General Reference Center Gold  
    Provides indexing for 1,100 general interest magazines, newspapers, business and industry journals, and reference books, with full text for articles from 700 of them. Covers 1980-present.




  •  Health Reference Center Academic  – Journal and magazine articles, newsletters, e-books, and other sources related to nursing and allied health, and consumer health. 1995-present.


  • Human Rights Studies Online  –

    A collection of text and video on human rights crimes in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Junior Edition 
    Designed for students in junior high and middle school with access to a variety of indexed and full-text magazines, newspapers, and reference books, for information on current events, the arts, science, popular culture, health, people, government, history, sports, and more.


  • Laboratory Hazards Bulletin  
    Monthly bulletin containing key information on hazards encountered by laboratory workers in all fields including R&D, analytical and hospital laboratories, scanned from the primary scientific and trade literature worldwide.




  •  Loeb Classical Library  –  250 ancient Greek and Latin authors in original language and in English translation.


  • MarinLit  –   MarinLit is a database dedicated to marine natural products research.


  • Mergent Archives  –   Digital collection of historical Moody’s, Hoover’s, Dun & Bradstreet, and Mergent publications.



  • Met Opera on Demand  
    Streaming access to more than 500 full-length Metropolitan Opera performances.


  • Methods in Organic Synthesis  
    Online alerting service covering the most important current developments in organic synthesis. It is designed with the synthetic organic chemist in mind, providing informative reaction schemes and covering new reactions and new methods.


  • Natural Product Updates  
    Provides graphical abstracts of new developments in natural product chemistry, selected from dozens of key primary journals.


  • Nursing Resource Center  
    Aimed at students completing class assignments and preparing for clinicals as they learn how to care for and treat patients.


  • PapersFirst 
    Citations to over 6.5 million papers presented at worldwide meetings, conferences, etc., since 1993.


  • Popular Magazines
    Over 1,000 of the most searched magazines across Gale/InfoTrac products. All the titles were selected based on actual publication searches performed by library patrons. This database is 100% full text and includes over 600 titles recommended by Bowker’s “Magazines for Libraries”.


  • ProceedingsFirst  –
    Contains tables of contents from over 190,000 worldwide conferences, meetings, etc. since 1993.


  • Professional Collection  
    Custom selection of full-text journals for educators interested in professional development.



  •  Science of Synthesis  –  Provides a critical review of the synthetic methodology for the entire field of organic and organometallic chemistry.




Thompson Library Now Display Site for World Renowned Private Art Collection

Thompson Library is proud to host works from the privately owned Mott-Warsh Art Collection.  The art collection, owned by The Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh Collection, contains samples of some of the very best late 20th century works by African American artists.

While the collection consists of works in several mediums (including 3-diemensional works, sculpture, photographs, videos and mixed-media), Thompson Library will display examples of paintings from this esteemed collection.

The mission of the Mott-Warsh Collection is to present contemporary fine art to public audiences in non-traditional venues as well as educational and cultural institutions.   University of Michigan-Flint (with its strong historical ties to the Mott family of Flint, Michigan) and the Thompson Library in particular fit perfectly with the mission and vision statements established by Maryanne Mott and her late husband, Herman Warsh.

The Collection currently consists of works by over 125 artists, featuring 20th century masters such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett to new and innovative artists of the early 21st century, and includes a broad array of work from the abstract to the representative.  Common to all pieces within the collection is the focus on unique cultural and social experiences of Africans and Americans of African descent living and working in western (American) society.

Maryanne and Herman begun collecting their art with the intent to assemble and preserve rare works of art endemic to the African community and make them available to the wider audience through its lending program with the intent to educate viewers in art appreciation, art making processes, art history, 20th century American history and the history of the African diaspora.

The Collection contains over four hundred works and is supported by the Mott-Warsh research library which has assembled monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs and journals with subject concentrations in African American art as well as information on fine arts collection management.

Selected works from the Mott-Warsh Collection are currently on display at several locations around Flint, including the Flint Institute of Music, the Flint Public Library, the Ruth Mott Foundation, Mott Community College, Applewood, Kettering University Innovation Center and other locations.

Nationally, pieces are on loan at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University), Walker Art Center, Denver Art Museum, Rudenstine Gallery (W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University), the Seattle Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston) and many other museums and art galleries around the nation.

Thompson Library is proud to be numbered among such fine institutions in being selected as a location to display pieces from the Mott-Warsh Collection.

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Michael Doyle — Mickey — who numbers among our reference librarians and serves as our Head of Access Services — for being instrumental in arranging our library’s participation as a display site for works from this esteemed collection.

Our first pieces were installed during the evening of Tuesday, March 17th and can be now viewed in Thompson Library, hung directly across the room on the far wall from the main entrance (3rd floor).

There are five pieces in total in our current display, all works by the late artist Jacob Lawrence.   This group of paintings, collectively entitled The Toussaint L’Ouverture Series, depicts the Haitian Revolution from the turn of the 19th century.  The impact of the Revolution on the then existent Napoleonic Empire forced France to sell the Louisiana territory to the young United States, changing the world forevermore.

Due to his circumstance, the artist was forced to use inexpensive paint materials available to him during the late 30s and early 40s.  Over time, his paintings in gouache (an opaque, water-based paint, sometimes referred to as “poster paint”) deteriorated.  Lawrence attempted preservation of some of these older works by silkscreening selected prints from his earlier series of works.  The five pieces currently on display are the result of his efforts, and remain vibrant images.


Pieces (titles and descriptions) are as follows:

* * * * * * * * * *

General Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1986

General Toussaint L’Ouverture, Statesman and military genius, esteemed by the Spaniards, feared by the English, dreaded by the French, hated by the planters, and reverenced by the Blacks.


The Opener, 1997

General Toussaint L’Ouverture attacked the English at Artibonite and there captured two towns.


The March, 1995

General L’Ouverture collected forces at Marmelade, and on October the 9th, 1794, left with 500 men to capture San Miguel.


Marc, 1994

On March 24, he captured Mirebalois.


Contemplation, 1993

Returning to private life as the commander and chief of the army, he saw to it that the country was well taken care of, and Haiti returned to prosperity. During this important period, slavery was abolished, and attention focused upon agricultural pursuits.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Please stop by soon to view this limited collection, and others that will be on display in our library in the future.