5. In his view what sort of questions can legitimately be decided by majority rule?
The majority is fit to decide only questions to which the “rule of expediency” can be applied.
Teacher’s Note: Here Thoreau is referring to logistical or instrumental issues — taxes, roads, etc. — issues in which the public must select a means to a specific goal in a particular set of circumstances, issues that raise no moral questions.
Whether the Democratic Review’s policies, even in its early years, were consistent with this view, I leave to others. But it’s pretty clear that Thoreau isn’t to be credited with the phrase, unless one focuses on the precise placement of “best” in the phrase; indeed, he himself was referring to the phrase as an existing motto and suggesting a revision to it that would go considerably further.
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If you’re interested in learning more about the Salem Witch Trials, you may want to read one of the many books published on the topic. Hundreds of books have been written about the Salem Witch Trials since they first took place in 1692. This is despite the fact that in October of 1692, Governor Phips ordered a publication ban on books discussing witchcraft and the Salem Witch Trials, fearing it would only fan the flames and incite more fear.
In May 1862, Thoreau died of the tuberculosis with which he had been periodically plagued since his college years. He left behind large unfinished projects, including a comprehensive record of natural phenomena around Concord, extensive notes on American Indians, and many volumes of his daily journal jottings. At his funeral, his friend Emerson said, “The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost. … His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.”