Essay on civil disobedience analysis

civil disobedience thoreau

He goes on to describe details about his stay in the jail and the treatment meted out to a person by the state as if he is only a physical entity and not an intellectual individual. Thoreau calls on his fellow citizens to withdraw their support from the government of Massachusetts and risk being thrown in prison for their resistance.

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. In fact, the practice of slavery in the United States is the single most hypocritical aspect of the government as far as Thoreau is concerned.

Abolitionistsin Thoreau's opinion, should completely withdraw their support of the government and stop paying taxeseven if this means courting imprisonment, or even violence.

Along these lines, Thoreau does not advocate a wholesale rejection of government, but resistance to those specific features deemed to be unjust or immoral. He believed that if the government fails to improve, people should not support it.

Civil disobedience theme

He believes that the government is in transition from absolute monarchy to democracy. Resistance is the highest form of patriotism because it demonstrates a desire not to subvert government but to build a better one in the long term. With his own example, he establishes that non-payment of taxes is a means to withdraw support from the government. As a result, he refused to pay his poll taxes in He wants to conform to the laws of the land, but current laws are not honorable from a higher point of view. However, he was released from jail the next morning when a friend paid his taxes. Paying taxes is one way in which otherwise well-meaning people collaborate in injustice. A man can be compelled only by one who possesses greater morality. Still, complete payment of his taxes would be tantamount to expressing complete allegiance to the State. One act of civil disobedience may be not paying taxes. This includes not being a member of an unjust institution like the government. Humans are a reactionary peoples, and if provoked, can react in extremely territorial, and even predatory manners. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.

In the progression from absolute monarchy to limited monarchy to democracy, Thoreau observes an evolution in government toward greater expression of the consent of the governed.

Another act, and one he deems more important still, is to avoid colluding with the government by refusing to play an active role in it.

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Summary and Analysis