Thoreau civil disobediance essay

A year earlier Thoreau had made a declaration of independence by setting out for Walden, committing to “live deliberately” and confront the “vital facts” of life. Now the political dimensions of that declaration were becoming apparent. One of the “vital facts” Thoreau confronted at Walden was the injustice of slavery; to conscientiously resist such injustice was central to what Thoreau meant by living “deliberately.” And so a year after his first declaration he made another: “Action from principle,” he wrote, “the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary.”

I read it with the strong feeling that here was something that concerned me directly.... It was the concrete, the personal element, the "here and now" of this work that won me over. Thoreau did not put forth a general proposition as such; he described and established his attitude in a specific historical-biographic situation. He addressed his reader within the very sphere of this situation common to both of them in such a way that the reader not only discovered why Thoreau acted as he did at that time but also that the reader—assuming him of course to be honest and dispassionate– would have to act in just such a way whenever the proper occasion arose, provided he was seriously engaged in fulfilling his existence as a human person. The question here is not just about one of the numerous individual cases in the struggle between a truth powerless to act and a power that has become the enemy of truth. It is really a question of the absolutely concrete demonstration of the point at which this struggle at any moment becomes man's duty as man ....

Thoreau doubts the effectiveness of reform within the government, and he argues that voting and petitioning for change achieves little. He presents his own experiences as a model for how to relate to an unjust government: In protest of slavery, Thoreau refused to pay taxes and spent a night in jail. But, more generally, he ideologically dissociated himself from the government, "washing his hands" of it and refusing to participate in his institutions. According to Thoreau, this form of protest was preferable to advocating for reform from within government; he asserts that one cannot see government for what it is when one is working within it.

Thoreau civil disobediance essay

thoreau civil disobediance essay


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