Democracy and Empire

Democracy and empire are described as two different entities, two very different styles of rule, but history has shown that both come hand in hand. 

It’s first seen in the ways in which the Athenian Empire and democracy were dependent of each other, one could not go without the other. For instance, in Pericle’s Funeral Oration, Thucydides praises Athens and the city’s democracy. “We are more an example to others, than they to us. In name, it is called a democracy, because it is managed not for a few people, but for the majority.” The oration continues in this manner, praising Athens as a beacon of justice and fairness for all. Then, in the very next portion of writing, it mentions in gory detail the Plague that Athens endured. While it is not a direct negative comment on Athen’s and its values, Thucydides does so indirectly by the order of which he writes his thoughts down. Starting with how amazing Athens is, then following it with the deadly Plague that was responsible for the death of thousands of people, just as Athenian empirical rule was responsible for death and destruction of other cultures/cities all in the name of expansion.

As the famous quote goes, “History tends to repeat itself,” and just as Athens used democracy as a justification for its empirical type of rule, the history of democracy in the United States began in similar type of rule. For instance, during the age of Western Expansion. The very justification to continue westward, was the belief in Manifest Destiny. This was the belief that it was the U.S’s destiny to expand to the West, just as it was Athens’ destiny/obligation to be an example to others of what a government should look like. This ideal spread and in turn increased nationalistic ideals, only strengthening the want to expand by any means possible. Due to this, the Native Americans perished in its wake. An exact parallel of how the neighboring states to Athens perished as Athens expanded its rule through brute force and spreading “democracy.”

Then, another prime instance in which the U.S used democracy as a means of justifying oppression, is during the age of Imperialism (this included Manifest Destiny). The justification to spread US ideals were Social Darwinism, Spread Christianity, and moral obligation to do so. The moral obligation was to make sure that other areas of the world were “cultured” and knew “right from wrong.” Without these ideals, the US as a nation would not have been as willing to do exactly what they had gotten away from, Imperial rule.

In the end, democracy is not just a simple notion, and if not careful, can easily be used as a means to justify wrongful ruling over other nations. This in itself, proves that democracy and empirical rule are not so different at all.

Click to access APUSH%20American%20Imperialism.pdf

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