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The Writings of Henry D. The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government”. Thoreau was in part responding. This misinterpretation is one reason the essay is sometimes considered to be an argument for pacifism or for exclusively nonviolent resistance. 1848, just months after leaving Walden Pond. Thoreau asserts that because governments are typically more harmful than helpful, they therefore cannot be justified.
The judgment of an individual’s conscience is not necessarily inferior to the decisions of a political body or majority, and so “t 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. Because of this, it is “not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize”. Political philosophers have counseled caution about revolution because the upheaval of revolution typically causes a lot of expense and suffering. Such a fundamental immorality justifies any difficulty or expense to bring to an end. 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.
People who proclaim that the war in Mexico is wrong and that it is wrong to enforce slavery contradict themselves if they fund both things by paying taxes. Thoreau points out that the same people who applaud soldiers for refusing to fight an unjust war are not themselves willing to refuse to fund the government that started the war. In a constitutional republic like the United States, people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed. But if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the lawmaking process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then Thoreau says the law deserves no respect and it should be broken. Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. State in which a free man can abide with honor.
Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
Because the government will retaliate, Thoreau says he prefers living simply because he therefore has less to lose. I can afford to refuse allegiance to Massachusetts. It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case. He considered it an interesting experience and came out of it with a new perspective on his relationship to the government and its citizens. He was released the next day when “someone interfered, and paid that tax”.
Laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, prompted them to revolt, it is estimated that one fifth of Americans read the pamphlet or heard it read aloud in public. I think an argument can be made that it is not very likely he would ever have made such a statement, thomas Jefferson said, the only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. I answer roundly that America would have flourished as much – you can try to be fair in your listening. Klaus Hofmann: Beyond the Principle of Population. From a limited monarchy to a democracy, and the broader moral and political plane. Paine begins his argument against reconciliation and does not want to insult or alienate his readers at the outset. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, while independence became the rallying cry of united Patriots.
Thoreau said he was willing to pay the highway tax, which went to pay for something of benefit to his neighbors, but that he was opposed to taxes that went to support the government itself—even if he could not tell if his particular contribution would eventually be spent on an unjust project or a beneficial one. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually. Thoreau hoped that its makers could be reasoned with. As governments go, he felt, the U. But he felt we could and should insist on better. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?
Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really 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. The best government is that which governs least. I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Thoreau was a great writer, philosopher, poet, and withal a most practical man, that is, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself. He was one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced. His essay has, therefore, been sanctified by suffering.