Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

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The King of Disobedience
In 1849, Henry David Thoreau established the idea of “civil disobedience.” In his paper “Civil Disobedience,” Thoreau encourages the reader to recognize when the government is doing something unjust and wrongful to the people. He then declares that the people should non-violently protest these actions of the government by not following the laws that intrude on the people’s freedom. He introduced this idea during the Mexican War, which was fought for the territory to join the United States as a slave state. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Thoreau’s idea in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in regard to the segregation of African-Americans during the mid-twentieth century. Although Thoreau was first to introduce the idea of “civil disobedience,” King was better at illustrating this idea through his rhetorical strategies of ethos, pathos, and logos appeals.

Henry David Thoreau was first to convince readers that disobeying the law was in right in some circumstances through his use of ethos, pathos, and logos appeals. Thoreau’s ideas were not small suggestions and could drastically change the reader’s life. If a writer tells someone to do something as drastic as breaking the law, the reader is more likely to comply if they know that the writer is someone they can trust and rely on to be giving the right information. To gain the reader’s belief and trust, Thoreau uses the ethos appeal to give him more authority and influence over the reader. He wrote about how he refused to pay the taxes for “the support of a clergyman,” (Paragraph 27) as well as poll-taxes. Thoreau was arrested for not paying poll-taxes and stayed in jail for one night. When he was locked up, he sees jail differently than most people. “I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar…The night in prison was novel and interesting enough.” (Paragraph 28) Thoreau makes jail seem appealing to the reader and like a place you can...
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