Democracy in Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts, Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener

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The Oppression of Democracy Exposed in Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts, Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener

America has long been recognized as a democratic nation, a nation operating under the will of the people. The forefathers of America fought incessantly against British tyranny to start anew in a land of freedom and opportunity. Because America revived the ancient Greek ideology of democracy, the nation was set apart from the rest of the world and was revered for the freedom and justice it provided its people. However, not everyone thinks that American democracy means freedom and liberty. On the contrary, writers such as Henry David Thoreau in "Civil Disobedience" and "Slavery in Massachusetts," along with
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He feels that those who belong to a democracy are essentially machines controlled by the majority, lacking in ability to make choices for themselves. He then goes farther to compare the majority to slaves, saying, "When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished . . . . They will then be the only slaves" (Thoreau 70). Thoreau repeatedly condemns the democratic system for its lack of morality and tendency to disempower the individual.

In "Slavery in Massachusetts," Thoreau offers an analogy that seems convincing, but proves to be inadequate. He argues that in a democracy, "if the majority vote the devil to be God, the minority will live and behave accordingly, and obey the successful candidate, trusting that sometime or other . . . they may reinstate God" (Thoreau 103). Thoreau clearly neglects the converse scenario. What if the minority votes the devil to be God and the majority live accordingly? Which is more just? These questions seem to be better addressed by a less outspoken writer, Herman Melville.

In "Benito Cereno," Melville presents several symbolic images of democracy. Amasa Delano, the