Anaylsis Of The Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

Thoreau is the father of the modern concept of Civil Disobedience, later used successfully by Mahatma Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Henry David Thoreau was a champion of justice. Thoreau makes his views of Justice known in "Civil Disobedience" and other essays. Thoreau was not afraid to fight for his freedom. He fought for freedom using non-violent protest, and his pen.

A wise man once said, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it. I feel so strongly about this statement that I would gladly have it written on my tombstone, if such was my fate. Freedom of speech is the god given right of all individuals. When man has lost everything in life he still has his word! The major difference between the United States and other governments is the right of freedom of speech. No where in the world is this right held so dearly. The argument over freedom of speech has been going on since the inception of the United States. Thoreau fought for the rights of the individual. He is the father of the modern concept of Civil Disobedience, later used successfully by Mahatma Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Thoreau says in the final paragraph of "Civil Disobedience": "There will never be a free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly" (Thoreau, Henry David, Walden and Other Writings. "Civil Disboedience," Bantam: New York, 1984. P. 104)

A perfect example of Throeau's sense of Justice is when he tells the story of when he protested against the Poll Tax. In "Civil Disobedience" Thoreau tells how he refused to pay a Poll Tax, because he did not wish to support the Mexican-American War. Thoreau says, "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." He is arrested and thrown in Jail. He could easily afford to pay the tax, but he felt it takes at least one person to stand up for what they believed. The poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to visit him while he is in jail. And asks Thoreau what he is doing in jail. Why not just pay the tax? Emerson asks. Thoreau replies, are you against the war? Emerson replies, yes. Thoreau says, then the question is what are you doing out there? Thoreau's views of justice can be seen in the following statements about injustice. If government, "is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let you life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn" (P. 92).



Thoreau cherished the rights of the minority to voice their opinion. He questions of our government, "Why does it not cherish its wise minority? . . . Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels" (P. 92). Thoreau believed that freedom of speech was the most cherished of all rights, and that we should never relinquish that right, for any reason.

© High Speed Ventures 2011