On the duty of civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

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Resistance to Civil Government, called Civil Disobedience for short, is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849. In it, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau asserts that because governments are typically more harmful than helpful, they therefore cannot be justified. Democracy is no cure for this, as majorities simply by virtue of being majorities do not also gain the virtues of wisdom and justice.

The judgment of an individual’s conscience is not necessarily inferior to the decisions of a political body or majority, and so ” it’s is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right…. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay Civil Disobedience (originally published as Resistance to Civil Government), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.