Thoreau seems to be a very educated political thinker. He can be very stubborn but humble when it comes to his beliefs, “I have contemplated the imprisonment of the offender, rather than the seizure of his goods -- though both will serve the same purpose -- because they who assert the purest right, and consequently are most dangerous to a corrupt state… ”(Thoreau 24. 218). Thoreau has lived in the woods for over six years, without paying state taxes. When the police officer asked him to pay, the non-violently compiled and spent a day in jail. Thoreau did not want to fund the American Mexican war through taxes and believed that people shouldn't be forced to do what they don't think is right. He is also a very optimistic person and believes that the people themselves should be good people, live good lives and therefore we wouldn't need as many laws, “when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” (1. 210). Thoreau believes that the government is doing the best when doing the least, “I heartily accept the motto, -- “That government is best which governs least” …” (1. 210). Although Thoreau might have an unpopular opinion, he sticks with his beliefs throughout this essay. As he presents his opinion, he does it in the most classy yet confident arguments. He had the thought of the people in mind while writing, showing his good intentions of improving our government.
From the start of man fighting for freedom or his beliefs, the question has consistently been whether a person can wage a battle using words rather than actions. The notion of civil disobedience would seem to be an inept weapon against political inequity; history, however, has persistently proven it to be the most dynamic weapon of the individual. By refusing to pay his taxes and subsequently being imprisoned, Henry David Thoreau demonstrated this very defiance. Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government conveys the effectiveness of the individual conscience, renounces hypocrisy, and cultivates a sense of urgency where inaction creates a moral conflict. This path of responsibility paved by Thoreau gave our leaders of today the means they
Thoreau's Civil Disobedience talks about politics, government and the issues concerning these areas today. "Government is best which governs least." This motto means that the government should not have complete power over the people. The people's opinion is what matters the most. Individualism is stressed throughout his writing. To stand up for what you believe in and not bend backwards for the government is necessary. He speaks of Slavery and the war in Mexico and how is must be put to a stop. The people are responsible for this happening. Many people opposed these things yet did nothing to change it. Allowing yourself to be a part of injustice makes you a part of the negativity. Paying taxes to a corrupt government makes you
Thoreau questions society and essentially the core of its practicality, posing the question: Is the idea of a civil citizen possible without loosing ones’ principles? In his essay he articulates, “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content
Thoreau believes that, “ That government is best which governs not at all” stating that the government should not only represent the people but should be run by them as well (Thoreau 940). Thoreau’s beliefs explain his position on civil disobedience, stating that civil disobedience is needed when the government implements policies that are against the individual's conscience and beliefs. Thoreau gives an example of when civil disobedience is needed by expressing his objections towards the American government's involvement in the Mexican war, “file of soldiers ...marching in admirable order over the hill and dale to wars, against their wills”(Thoreau 941). While the soldier's duty is to serve their country, if their country is asking them to disregard their own judgement to become useful for their benefit, the individual must refuse allegiance and become useful as a person and not a machine the government can use at their own will. The people that the government uses, are used to invade other countries and are enforcing their policies, making them become a popular vote government as well, “we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness” ( Thoreau 945). Thoreau is implying that civil disobedience is required in order to follow one’s own voice, to follow through to their morals, even if it means not being included in the popular vote. Thoreau states that civil disobedience is a duty that is required to indicate the necessity for change in the government, “whole country is unjustly overrun...not too soon for honest men to rebel
He compares the government to a machine and says that if the machine “…requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” Standing against what he considers to be unjust acts of the government, slavery and war, he protests in a way that is according to his point of view. I see a correspondence between Thoreau’s call for independence of thought to the call that the colonies did for independence from a King that was unjust to them. Moreover, the title itself Civil Disobedience, is a straightforward appeal to behave this way. I am a true believer in democracy as the best system to grant a voice to most people, however, like Thoreau, I believe that one cannot support a government that acts against what is right, he says “ Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” Thoreau notes that democracy may not be the final stage in the process, and at the end of the essay he emphasises that there will never be a "really free and enlightened State" until the state recognizes the pre-eminence of the
Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience, which is about him trying to persuade citizens that their obligation is to contravene and correct the unfair laws of the government. Thoreau begins Civil Disobedience with the view point “That government is best which governs least”
In Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, he is writing to the American people. He is trying to spark a desire for change, for people to oppose their government without actions. He uses this work to criticize the American institution of slavery as well as the Mexican-American War. Thoreau is attempting to convey the importance of listening to one’s conscience over the laws, believing that it is more important to do what they feel is right rather than listen to the laws given by the majority. Thoreau feels that people should protest against their government, but not using violent actions. He is trying to persuade the people to voice their opinions and break the chain of majority rule. Thoreau is writing during the time of the war between the United States and Mexico, which took place between 1846 and 1848. He writes to oppose the government’s actions and policies during this time period. He refused to pay a tax that would support the war and was imprisoned for a day. Thoreau uses ethos, logos, and pathos to persuade his audience to agree with his view of the American government and to voice their oppositions.
According Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, he mentions that to require civil disobedience, the circumstances must be like America’s. Circumstances like practicing war, deriving power from the people, having unjust laws, and supporting slavery. Thoreau writes, “must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation?” (Thoreau ). He mentions how no man should be subdued to any government or institution, especially if it portrays unjust. Therefore he also implies that if a law exhibits unjust, the population should not follow the law with the knowledge of the consequence. Similarly, Thoreau establishes, “when . . . a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize,” (Thoreau ). He explains how it expresses the duty of Americans to rebel and use civil disobedience, it is not just a right, but it drives Americans to be aware of and completely use for the advantage of society. Thoreau further explains the unlawful government by stating, “I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which the slave's government also,” (Thoreau ). He describes the circumstance of America as a prejudiced institution, which rightfully allows citizens to use their duty of civil disobedience. A government should require unjust laws, slavery, aggressive law, and strength over intelligence to cause civil disobedience. However, civil disobedience a citizen’s duty and they must maintain it.
The Statue of Liberty is an American symbol of justice and freedom from oppression, yet in Henry Thoreau's opinion, the U.S. government is completely antithetical. In Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience, he introduces and accepts the motto, “That government is best which governs not at all.” In his eyes, the government does more harm than good for its people. Underneath his seemingly main idea, Thoreau implies an overall antithesis where he defines who, in his eyes, is allowed to be disobedient. In order to advance this main idea and reinforce this mottos throughout the essay, Thoreau uses metaphors and juxtaposition to strengthen this subtle antithesis found throughout the essay.
Law, rather than making men more just, makes them agents of injustice - for example, soldiers fighting even though they believe it wrong. This turns the men into machines that should command no respect; yet we esteem them as good citizens. This, he says, is not right.
Thoreau’s essay represents his beliefs about the government in 1849. He uses several logos with credible examples, and uses the emotions of the audience to support his argument. The first example of logos he uses is when he says, “The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government.” His claim is that it is unconstitutional to have an army standing or ready when everything is peaceful. The government should act under this same rule; if there is peace then the government should not be standing so to speak. Throughout the essay he continues to provide credible examples of why the government abuses its power and is useless; such as when he says “Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its
Henry David Thoreau was an American writer and protester, who wrote the influential essay “Civil Disobedience”. In his essay, he advocates for citizens to protest against government actions that they deem unjust and to stand up for one’s rights, putting morals before law,
Thoreau believed that the government should not be ruled by the minority just because “they are physically the strongest,” instead, we should be ruled by conscience. Furthermore, Thoreau stated that “…a corporation has no conscience,” because the corporation only cared about money, without caring about the multitude. This is still happening even nowadays. For instance, the cigarette companies are still selling cigarettes to the multitude even though they know that there are some carcinogenic materials in cigarettes that smoking cigarettes can cause cancers. They only care about money, without caring about the people who buy their products. As a result, most of the corporations had no conscience. Besides, people should also be conscientious. We should use our brains to think before we act. For example, the soldiers of the army had no conscience because they act like machines without thinking what they were doing. “The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines.” In brief, Thoreau believed that we should be ruled by conscience instead of the inexpedient government which had no conscience. Besides, we should do something to stop the “machine.”
In “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau both authors voiced their opinions on society and what is expected from citizens. Emerson’s essays focuses on the need for individuals to dodge conventionality and false uniformity, and instead follow their own guts and thoughts focusing on one self more. Thoreau’s essay is more focused on patriotism, those who not fully support the rejection of government, but resistance to those laws that he deemed to be unjust or immoral.