Narratives on the Evolution of Democracy

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Democracy in the United States has been in a constant state of change. To this day, Democracy is still evolving to fit the times. New laws passed, old laws challenged or abolished, and ideas constantly being shared. Currently we get most of our current information about these changes from news media, but in the 19th century there were many writers who used their skills to talk about changes that were happening and to bring light to changes that needed to be made. “The Martyr”, by Herman Melville and “The Declaration of Sentiments”, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton are two examples.

“The Martyr” was a poem written by Herman Mellville and published in 1865, a year after the assasination of President Abraham Lincoln. In his people he talks about how he saw Lincoln, the person that assassinated him, and his view of the nation’s reaction to the event. He idolizes Lincoln by referring to him as, “The Forgiver”. This is also a reference to Christ and God and is used to show Lincoln as almost Holy. Melville also makes another holy reference using the word “redeem” when he says, “When with yearning he was filled; To redeem the evil-willed,...” This is also telling the audience about Lincoln’s yearning to abolish slavery, give equal rights to slaves, and to bring the Southern States back into the fold of the United States. During his term as President, Abraham Lincoln worked tirelessly to hold the United States together and to change democracy by abolishing slavery and working to give former Male slaves the same rights that the free white men had. Mellville used poetry to remind his audience what Lincoln had done to change the face of Democracy and to warn the assasin’s that the American people would find them and demand justice for the murder of Lincoln.

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“The Declaration of Sentiments” was based on the Declaration of Independence. This is fitting because the original Declaration of Independence stated that, “All men are created equal” and left out women. Having already been involved in the call for the abolishment of slavery and the demands for former male slaves to have the right to vote, women felt it was at long last their turn for the same equality in law, employment, rights, and to vote. This was the first document to formally announce the demands of women to have the right to vote. The rapid changes in laws during this time are what brought about the women’s suffrage movement. It began with this document and the statement in it that begins with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal;...” Elizabeth Cady Stanton went on to say, “He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners.” This declaration was used to promote further changes to democracy and to women’s way of life at the time and into the future.

Both Mellville and Stanton wrote about changes in democracy. One wrote about changes that had been made and one about changes that needed to be made. Writing has played a part in Democracy since it’s beginning in the United States. It began with propaganda urging American to rise up against British rule, Continuing with the Declaration of Independence, and continuing on with demands for change, written laws, and current speeches calling for changes to gun laws.

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Narratives on the Evolution of Democracy. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Narratives on the Evolution of Democracy.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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