Self-Reliance and Good Citizenship in Henry David Thoreau's Essay, Civil Disobedience

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Self-Reliance and Good Citizenship Civil Disobedience is an essay by Henry David Thoreau on the place of civil disobedience in society. It analyzes men in society, the folly of majority and most importantly of all, it analyzes good citizenship. It looks at what it means to be a good citizenship and the most recurring theme is self-reliance. He discusses obedience to principle, independence from the government, and intolerance of injustice, which are all just kinds of self-reliance. Self-Reliance produces good citizenship. Obedience to principle produces good citizenship. Throughout Civil Disobedience, this idea is a recurring theme and one of the first that Thoreau addresses. When discussing the idea of surrendering the conscience to…show more content…
He says that if you support the government in any way, you are also held accountable for its injustices. Nothing less than total separation is acceptable. Thoreau then addresses those who are concerned that the people need the government's protection and who are worried about the consequences of civil disobedience to their property and family, and says, “ This [reliance on protection by the state] makes it impossible for a man to live honestly”(Thoreau 401). If a man were to defy the state or government, they would proceed to confiscate their property and harass their family until he conceded. This fear of the consequences of civil disobedience makes it impossible for men to live by principle. The only way to be free from this fear is to be self-sufficient and own a small crop of land to farm. Thoreau says that it costs men less “ in every sense” to suffer the consequences of disobeying the state, than it would if they sacrificed their integrity, which would make them less of a man. This independence from the government is pivotal to the execution of good citizenship because the government cannot force men, who are not dependent upon it, to do things they do not agree with. Intolerance of injustice begets good citizenship. When addressing how men should react to the government's injustices, he asserts that voting is not a
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