Explain what Thoreau thinks is wrong with majority rule in "Civil Disobedience." What does he say is the only obligation he has a right to assume?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ultimately, Thoreau believes that sheer weight of numbers does not sanctify the will of the majority. In other words, just because a majority of people believe something, that doesn't necessarily make it right. A pertinent example here would be the overwhelming support among white Southerners for the institution of slavery.

Thoreau is a radical individualist, and his whole way of thinking is concerned with protecting the rights of the individual from encroachment by the potentially tyrannical forces of government and society. The individual is unique; the individual is precious. Majority rule undermines that special status by establishing weight of numbers as the key determinant of what governments should and should not do. If governments are only concerned with satisfying the will of the majority, then inevitably, thinks Thoreau, the rights of the individual are in serious danger of being compromised.

However, there's one aspect of individuality that not even the most powerful,...

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