Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thoreau-Civil Disobedience

                Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience is Thoreau’s opinion on how corrupt and unjust the government is. In his work, Thoreau criticizes the government and voices his displeasure for slavery and the Mexican-American war. Thoreau feels that the rights and opinions of men, or people for that matter, are overshadowed and undermined by the government. He feels those in power are corrupt and that they forget their conscience altogether when making decisions.  Also in his work, Thoreau compares the government to a machine, stating that it will run until it is opposed and stopped. In this case, the only thing that can stop the machine from running is the people. Thoreau tells us to fight for what we feel is right according to us and to actually do something about it instead of waiting for someone else to. He recollects how he avoided paying taxes he felt were unfair and was thrown in jail for it (although the prison he was in didn’t sound at all like any prison I’ve ever heard of).
I found it interesting that Thoreau challenged people to actually step up and do something about the issues America faced. For instance, Thoreau felt that some laws were unjust such as paying taxes to support the war and slavery even when people didn’t necessarily agree with them. According to the Constitution, laws could be amended, but very slowly. In Part 2 paragraph 8, Thoreau says that “if one HONEST man…were to withdraw from this [taxing slavery]…it would be the abolition of slavery in America.” Basically Thoreau is saying to step up and oppose the government!
                While I was reading Civil Disobedience, I was instantly reminded of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. This work had the same politically-challenging tone to it. Clearly Thoreau was in opposition to the Mexican-American War and slavery. The political views made this a bit dry for me to read, but I see how important Thoreau’s work was because he attempted to get Americans to actually do something about current issues instead of just educating them on them.  Also, In Part 1 paragraph 10, Thoreau states, “There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them…” This sounded a lot like Harriet Jacobs to me because she called out the abolitionists in the north who opposed slavery but did nothing about it.


  1. I had not thought about the connection of this work to Jacobs but it's true many people like to voice their opinion but very few try to improve the world. But then again he says "I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad" (2nd page 6th paragraph) so does this mean that he does not want to better the world himself?

  2. I don't think he means he doesn't want to better the world himself. I think he's saying that he never planned on changing the world, he just planned on living. That doesn't necessarily mean he can't do some good in the world while he's here, though.