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 What does Thoreau predict about slavery in America in "Civil Disobedience"?      

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dragonarmy92 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 21, 2013 at 8:41 PM via web

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 What does Thoreau predict about slavery in America in "Civil Disobedience"?

 

 

 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 21, 2013 at 11:02 PM (Answer #1)

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Thoreau seems to believe that slavery will never be eradicated through the democratic process, at least not in the foreseeable future:

There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. 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 by their vote.

This is part of his larger argument in "Civil Disobedience," namely that when the government and law stand behind an unjust policy or an institution, as he viewed the Mexican War and slavery to be, that the only just thing to do was to defy government by refusing to support it. In his case, Thoreau chose to refuse to pay his taxes. But the idea was that a popular majority did not necessarily constitute the right, and the continued existence of, and support for, slavery was a particularly conspicuous example of this. 

 

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