Civil Disobedience by Henry David

Topics: Henry David Thoreau, Civil disobedience, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 2 (615 words) Published: November 20, 2012
In his essay, Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau introduced his audience to his personal thoughts regarding the injustice of the American government. Moreover, he sought to encourage individual action to boycott any law or institution instilled by the government that was in any way conflicting with a person’s beliefs. A true revolutionary at heart, Thoreau put his words into action by refusing to pay his poll tax for 6 years and was forced to spend the night in jail because of it. Rather than seeking reform by cooperating with the corrupt institutions of his time, he refused to become a part of them and condemned their existence.

“That government is best which governs least” is the quote Thoreau incorporated to his opening sentence. In a nutshell, he was attempting to convey that considering the fact the government exists to serve the people, it should not do much to interfere with the quotidian life of those under its spectrum of power. He sees the American government as an evil that only watches out for the interests of the majority and blatantly ignores those who are not part of that general consensus. He believes that a government in “which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice” (Civil Disobedience, Page 24) and that is essentially what a democracy represents in his eyes. Contrary to popular belief, he states that all of the achievements that had been accredited to the government were only made possible out of the character of the American people because they embraced the change and put it into action. Slavery was another social injustice that he thought was only in place because of the oppressive nature of the American government.

Another one of his purposes throughout the course of his essay is to inspire others to stand up for their values and morals regardless of general opinions. He compared the American government to a machine that when gone astray can only be stopped by the “counter-friction” provided by a person’s...
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