Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws

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Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws

In his famous essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,’’ Martin Luther King, Jr. cites conscience as a guide to obeying just laws and defying unjust laws. In the same way, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience,” that people should do what their conscience tells them and not obey unjust laws. The positions of the two writers are very close; they use a common theme of conscience, and they use a similar rhetorical appeal of ethos. In “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau claims that men should act from their conscience. Thoreau believed it was the duty of a person to disobey the law if his conscience says that the law is unjust. He
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He disagreed with other American people who believed the majority should change the law first because it is a worse thing to disobey the law than to do what an unjust law says to do. Thoreau wrote that breaking the unjust laws is better: “Break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine” (Thoreau, P. 18). However, Thoreau did not think people should be criminals. He thinks a criminal is a person who disobeys the law but will not be responsible for that. If a person disobeys an unjust law, Thoreau thinks that the person must do that, so all people can see he is disobeying the law because it is unjust. Then the person must accept what happens to him for disobeying the law.
Thoreau wrote that people must be willing to go to jail if they want to change a law by disobeying the law. Thoreau went to jail instead of paying for his taxes because he believed the government used the money for unjust things. This is how Henry Thoreau thinks people can change unjust laws. He thought that if people willingly would to go to jail and quit their jobs, then the revolution will take a place and reform will come. Thoreau was willing to go to jail to change unjust laws because of his conscience.
King’s position on unjust laws was very close to Thoreau’s position on unjust laws. In his famous letter written when he was in jail, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King wrote to the ministers who did not like his protests to desegregate the city of
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