Civil Disobedience

Chau Nguyen
Prof. McDade
ENGL 2327

Henry David Thoreau, who is one of America’s most famous writers, has a sphere of influence on nonviolent activists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He is well known for his work of philosophy of life and naturalist writings. Thoreau is also famous for his refusal paying poll tax, which is the main thing he put into his popular essay “Civil Disobedience” after being sent to prison for a night. His aim is not expect the solution of government; he wants to awake individual’s conscience from the unjust law and helps people discriminate between right from wrong. The works of by Wendy McElroy and Carl L. Bankston III, which analyze Civil Disobedience, help understand Thoreau’s though on the edge of conscience perceptively.
According to the article “Henry David Thoreau and Civil Disobedience”, Wendy McElroy describes Thoreau as a simple man. Basic truths were the ideals that Thoreau practiced in his life. He followed the dictate of his conscience. This led to nonpayment of his poll tax which against his belief and conscience. Thoreau chose to be a tax rebel due to the hatred against slavery and Mexican-American war. He thought slavery and war were strongly supported by contribution of tax revenues. Wendy also states in her essay “Civil Disobedience is not an essay of abstract theory. It is Thoreau’s extremely personal response to being imprisoned for breaking the law.” (2)
Furthermore, In “Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau believed that a government of law was at best but that did not mean laws of government were perfect. People must not practice the laws blindly due to the existence of unjust laws:
“I think we should be men first, and subject afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.” (13)
Hence, Thoreau did not understand why some...