Check new design of our homepage! This Penlighten post briefs you on the Civil Disobedience summary for you in an effort to explain Thoreau's ideas better. Penlighten Staff Last Updated: Feb 10, Inspirational Henry David Thoreau's thoughts in his essay inspired Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha or non-violent resistance against the British government.
Human law and government are subordinate. In cases where the two are at odds with one another, the individual must follow his conscience and, if necessary, disregard human law.
Thoreau prepared his lecture and essay on resistance to civil government in response to a specific event — the Mexican War, which was declared in May ofand which was expected to result in the expansion of slave territory. He was not particularly inclined to devote much thought to political theory and reform.
He writes in Civil Disobedience: It is not many moments that I live under a government, even in this world. If a man is thought-free [free in his thinking], fancy-free, imagination-free, that which is not never for a long time appearing to be to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him.
The search for understanding of universal laws forms the proper use of a man's time, energy, and intellect. Thoreau writes dismissively of conscious reform: 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.
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.
If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders.
I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. Thoreau's antislavery and reform pieces do not diminish the significance of Transcendental exploration and discovery.
They are specific reactions to what he sees as extreme events. They form an acknowledgment that inner exploration loses meaning if matters of conscience are overlooked in the process.
Government enforces civil law by physical means, which are ineffectual in relation to moral issues. When the man of conscience is at variance with the state, he is punished by physical confinement, a type of force, which accomplishes nothing. Thoreau comments, "They only can force me who obey a higher law than I do.
They force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to live this way or that by masses of men.
In fact, government oversteps its authority when it becomes involved in moral issues. Government and the Individual Thoreau writes of government as "an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone. Although it is liable to abuse, Thoreau nevertheless concedes that it is necessary: Despite popular misinterpretation, Thoreau does not advocate the dissolution of government in it.
He asks "not at once for no government, but at once a better government. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?
Moral issues must be decided by the individual and his conscience, not by the majority through government. The Mexican War, which Thoreau believes must be stopped, may be halted by individual action, but not through the political process.
Civil Disobedience is a call for limited government. Through nonpayment of taxes the withholding of support from a government that commits immoral actsthe individual protests the government's involvement in issues over which it has no proper jurisdiction.
This constitutes a "peaceable revolution," not a violent one.
Thoreau is still able to accept that government has its place: Voting is but an expression of majority sentiment, and lacks the power of timely action possessed by the individual.
The political process results in the election of those who hold office — available men, who accept the process but are not necessarily guided by principle. Thus, the system perpetuates itself and degenerates over time. Thoreau underscores the power of the individual to effect reform.Henry David Thoreau quotes The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.
Ideas and beliefs that the public and government previously greeted with bitter rejection. At the heart of Transcendentalism lied its most famous ambassadors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his apprentice, Henry David Thoreau.
Although Emerson and Thoreau were appreciated by many people -especially the transcendentalists such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Robert Frost, and famous political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King,Jr-, there were several criticisms on their doctrine of individualism and non-conformity.
Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were similar in many tenets of the philosophies to which they held but differed in that Thoreau's approach was inherently personal while Emerson's was removed and observational.
Emerson believed that the philosopher's duty was to observe without. Comparing Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail Words | 3 Pages JeffersonThoreau, a transcendentalist from the mid 19th century and Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights movement leader of a century later both believed the necessity of medicine for government.
Romanticism/ Emerson/ Thoreau's. STUDY. PLAY.
Allegory. A literary work in which characters, objects, or actions represent abstractions. aphorism. Resistance to civil government What does thoreau compare his knight in jail and how does he explain unusual comparison.