Synthesis: Thoreau and His Influences
From the infamous high school sit-in from the class of ‘01 or Gandhi’s well known salt march, Henry David Thoreau paved the way of passive protest with his display against the government when he wouldn’t pay taxes. Thoreau wouldn’t pay his taxes because he knew that his and everyone else’s tax payments would go to support the Mexican-American War. Henry didn’t know he would inspire some of the greatest civil activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
In Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” he writes why he was against the war.
“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.” (Thoreau 385)
He believed that the war was being used to spread slavery into the Mexican territories that bordered the U.S. such as New Mexico and California. Refusing to pay the poll tax for six years, Thoreau was put in jail refusing to pay the poll tax (Thoreau 402). The jail in Concord, Massachusetts was to only release Thoreau after the fine was paid; Thoreau also refused to pay such a fine. His relatives settled the “debt”, without Thoreau’s knowledge or consent, displeased and unhappy, he was released after only one night.
Although his sentence was only for one night, Thoreau’s "Civil Disobedience" would inspire Dr. Martin Luther King. Using the Thoreau’s teaching of passive resistance to protest, King used it to spotlight the injustices against the African American race in the U.S. Through with being forced be segregated by going to different schools and using different bathrooms and publically being viewed as inferior, Dr. King used non-violent forms of protest such as sit-in and peaceful marches. Just like Thoreau’s refusal to pay the poll tax, these non-violent protests also eventually ended with King's arrest for his role of leadership in the passive march in...
Cited: "Henry David Thoreau." Wikipedia. 2008. 24 Oct 2008
"Letters from Birmingham Jail." Wikipedia. 2008. 24 Oct 2008
"Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi." Wikipedia. 2008. 24 Oct 2008
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Civil disobedience. New York, New York, USA: Penguin
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