Effects Of Alexis De Tocqueville's Democracy In America

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Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and various selections in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Antislavery Writings (specifically, his “Address on the Emancipation of the Negroes in the British West Indies,” “The Fugitive Slave Law,” “The President’s Proclamation,” his “Lecture on Slavery,” and lastly his “Address to the Citizens of Concord on the Fugitive Slave Law”) discuss the deleterious effects of conformity on the American mind, and on society as a whole. Both authors discuss the relationship between majority tyranny and slavery in the United States. Upon analyzing Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Antislavery Writings, it is clear that the authors agree on the effects of majority tyranny and slavery …show more content…
The left and right banks of the Ohio River clearly show these effects; on the left bank, slavery is still legal, while on the right bank, it is not. Tocqueville observes that “on the left bank of the Ohio work is blended with the idea of slavery; on the right bank, with that of well-being and progress; there it is degraded, here they honor it” (332). The presence of slavery prevents men from honoring work, and causes them to devalue it. Therefore, men who live where slavery is legal tend to detach from the values that are associated with work, such as self-reliance and appreciation of the worth of an object. These men “(live) in idle ease,” and they “(have) the tastes of idle men; money has lost a part of its worth in (their) eyes… slavery, therefore, not only prevents whites from making a fortune; it diverts them from wanting it” (333). The presence of slavery allows men to earn money without working. Therefore, it turns them from hardworking and honest into unambitious and careless. On the other hand, men who live without slavery are “tormented by the desire for wealth,” and “one sees (them) enter boldly onto all paths that fortune opens to (them)… there is something marvelous in the resources of (their) genius and a sort of heroism in (their) greed for gain” (333). Since these men are exposed to work on a first-hand, regular basis, they do not hesitate to take advantage of new opportunities. They are fueled with energy and ambition, and they strive for wealth through innovation and work. Tocqueville asserts that “slavery… dishonors work; it introduces idleness into society, and with it, ignorance and haughtiness, poverty and luxury. It enervates the forces of the intellect and puts human activity to sleep” (31). Slavery not only causes men to be idle in relation to their wealth; it introduces this

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