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Independence and Freedom of an Individual


An individual’s freedom and independence is a vital aspect in anyone’s life. This has resulted in appreciation by most of the writers and other stakeholders to agree on the need to uphold these two important values. However, there are different views that people who discuss this issue approach it whether because of their background, reasoning and other personal factors. In other words, there are different ways in which people look at it but the bottom line or the result is the same. A good example of such two crusaders is writers Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin. Both of them appreciate the need to allow people their freedom and independence but the manner in which they approach the issue with is very different. Though their final message is similar, the path at which they follow to pass their message is very different from each other. This essay will seek to understand the different ways in which the two men viewed independence and freedom that an individual is entitled to. Though they both had the same message in the long run, it was notable that their methods of approach and view of issues was different. Whereas Thoreau followed a reasoning approach where he used observation and personal reasoning to give his views as an American, Franklin’s approach is that of an autobiography. He states the things that he personally faced and some of these contrasted with the conclusions that Thoreau drew. They however had a meeting point in their arguments that individual independence and freedom was paramount for the perfect development of a nation.

Contrasting approaches between Thoreau and Franklin

Thoreau bases his arguments on personal observations and experiences. He bases these arguments on his home country, the United States. He makes observations on the people he sees everyday and compares their wants to what the government accomplishes for them. He then looks into the difference between what these people would want from the government and contrasts it with what the government actually gives back to these people in comparison with their needs. Franklin on the other hand gives his personal experiences in form of an autobiography. He explains his life from childhood where his father introduced him to printing and writing. He gives the need of freedom from personal experiences as opposed to Thoreau’s observations and critical thinking.

Thoreau sees the wars that the US has gone into as unfair. He feels that when the US is fighting, the fellow citizens may not be pleased with that. If these compatriots were to decide, maybe most of the wars would not have been there as there are many today.  The government however decides without consultation and ‘forces’ the Americans into war. He feels that the government should not be going to the extent that they currently do but just do nothing and let the people use their freedom and give their independent views over issues. He has, in this regard developed a slogan that “That government is best which governs least”. He feels that the people should make most of the decisions rather than the government. On the other hand, Franklin uses another approach to show that there are better and more efficient ways to solve the issues that surround the people. Himself, he changed from intimidating people and making sure that they followed his decisions and ensured that they were as well involved in the conclusions of some of the decisions that they made. He took the initiative to change the trend by starting by himself to offer to other people their freedom and independence. Thoreau just wrote and did not try to change the trends himself.

Furthermore, Thoreau argues that leaders especially the legislators bend the law the way they want and disregard any views from the public for their interest. He feels that the people who whose the government disregard their opinions are actually the people who should matter the most. He places himself in the position of a typical American fellow citizen and feels that stakeholders should consider people’s views during the formation of a government. Franklin on his side was among the people who would never listen to other people s opinions and was an anti-crusader for independence among the lowly people. He however changed his views later and took the direction that approved people’s involvement in government and country decisions.

The tendency of the US going into war with other countries is unpopular to Thoreau who feels that the soldiers involved go into war against their will. Death of one of these soldiers is not treated as a very big issue but a normal occurrence to the rest of the army personnel. The soldiers are given no option and they are never allowed to choose whether to go or not to. If any of them is not willing to go, yet the authorities force them to, they face a horrid time trying to adjust and come to terms with the actual occurrences. This is of course out of the result of other stronger people in the government who make them not behave like humans anymore but more like machines controlled as per the needs of their operator. The bodies of the soldiers are not treated like human bodies but as machines and if any of them failed and the soldier died, no hero songs are sang for them as they claim that there are busy in other missions and there is little respectable moments for the fallen ones. Thoreau argues that if a soldier died in a mission they were unwilling to get into, it could be equated to murder committed by the by the person who authorizing the soldier. Franklin on the other hand argues that he became what he did because of the inner motivation that he possessed to become a writer. Since his childhood, his father had exposed him to printing. Though his brother was already in the field, his father encouraged him to venture into printing as well. Franklin felt that there was supposed to be some further considerations that would give them time to decide what he wanted to do rather than his father dragged him into printing. Though he was happy there, not everyone would be happy with what their parents chose for them. People should therefore be given time to chose for themselves though it is vital that hey be guided trough the choices available.

Massachusetts is a good example that Thoreau feels is adequate to demonstrate the poor representation of common people who are the majority. The farmers there are more interested in their farms and profits they obtain, more than they are interested in the humanity of the people who work with them. This, especially, applies to the workers from Mexico. The rich farmers control the state and will do the best they could to retain their profits at a highest without regard to the hundreds of thousands who suffer because of their actions. Those who work on these farms are worst hit and Thoreau termed this as slavery. Franklin, on the contrary uses his personal life to explain how oppressed lesser people in the society are and how important their decisions could be in building the nation.

Thoreau feels that most people in the United States wonder what they are supposed to do to salvage their country, since they feel that the government does not use the best approaches to address issues. The people however feel inadequate to change anything. This is not their fault though since the government would do very little to empower or implement things the way these people would want them to be. Eventually, no one hears or follows the voice or the will of the bigger population during the making of the major national decisions. On the other hand, Franklin feels that decisions should be centralized and implemented in a manner that appreciates all the people whom these decisions affect.

Thoreau is critical and currently feels that the government is not doing the right thing by making all the important decisions on round tables by high-ranking officials with a complete disregard of the common people. Franklin was at some point bossy, applied his wisdom to intimidate people, and saw them tow along his lines. He however changed this approach since he was conscious that there was need to let people think for themselves rather than depend on one person only. He knew that one would perform better if he were working on a decision that he initiated or was involved in reaching it.


Independence and freedom among the citizens in the US is a vital component to uphold the socio-economic and political environment. This way, the decisions that govern the country would come from the citizens and it would highly improve their perception towards their country. Thoreau and Franklin have in different ways and approaches developed arguments that assert that there is dire need for people to have their freedom and independence in making decisions regarding their country. This way, there would be people-based decisions that would narrow down to increased democracy and efficiency in the working of the people in the country. The two writers have followed different approaches but have a common meeting point that the government should allow people their freedom and independence both in making their personal decisions and those that include the nation as well.

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