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Objectives: make judgments; evaluate author’s ideas; paraphrase text
Essential Question #30: Which is harder to follow laws or conscience? Why?
1 related to ordinary citizens
1 failure or refusal to follow the
2 not military or religious
3 courteous, polite
B) 3 Types:
a. Integritybased (morals; ex: religious intolerance) b. Justicebased (laws; ex: civil rights)
c. Policybased (practice; ex: military bases overseas)
a. individual vs. majority
b. morals vs. laws
c. “right” vs. “legal”
D) Paraphrase lines:
E) p. 389, #4, 7
4) Make Judgments: Consider the historical context of Thoreau’s essays. Would it be easier or more difficult to practice his brand of nonconformity today? Explain the possible legal and/or social consequences of the following: a) refusal to pay a tax (CD, lines 144166)
b) going to live alone in the woods (W, lines 137) c) celebrating or “cultivating” poverty (W, lines 198230)
7) Evaluate Ideas: Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Thoreau, “No truer American ever lived.” Review the political ideas expressed in “Civil Disobedience.” Do you consider Thoreau’s arguments to be those of a traitor or those of a patriot? Explain his patriotism or traitorousness, using his views on: a) the necessity of government
b) majority rule
c) how unjust laws may be changed
I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. 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. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.
But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves nogovernment men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? — in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It ...
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