Essay, Research Paper: Civil Disobedence


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Throughout the history of the United States, there have been many times when
citizens have felt the need to revolt against their government. Such cases of
revolt took place during the times Henry David Thoreau. The reason for his
revolution included discrimination against the community and Americans refusing
to pay poll taxes to support the Mexican War. Thoreau used civil disobedience to
change people's ideas and beliefs to stop the injustice brought against them and
their nation. Civil Disobedience is defined as refusal to obey civil laws or
decrees, which usually takes the form of direct action (Grolier's Encyclopedia
Online). People practicing civil disobedience break a law because they consider
the law unjust. They want to call attention to its injustice, hoping to bring
about its withdrawal. Thoreau wrote "Civil Disobedience" in 1849,
right after spending a night in the Walden town jail for refusing to pay a poll
tax for the Mexican War. He recommended using direct action to create social
tension, thus leading to the reform of unjust laws practiced by the government.
He voiced civil disobedience as, "An expression of the individual's liberty
to create change" (Thoreau). Thoreau felt that the government had
established order that resisted reform and change. "Action from principle,
the perception and performance of right, changes things and relations; it is
essentially revolutionary" (Thoreau). Thoreau refused to pay the poll tax
because the money was being used to finance the Mexican War. Not only was
Thoreau against the war itself, but the war was over Texas, which was to be used
as a slave state. His friend, Staples, offered to pay the tax for him, but to
Thoreau, it wasn't paying the tax that he was objecting to, it was how the money
would be used. Thoreau felt strongly about paying money toward a war he did not
support. He would rather end up in jail than go against his will. "Your
money is your life, why should I haste to give it my money" (Thoreau). This
illustrates how strongly he felt. It was very important to Thoreau to inform the
public about the war. He wanted people to realize why it was wrong to support
it. Thoreau never rallied hundreds and thousands of people together, violently
or nonviolently, to get reactions. Instead, he went to jail to protest and wrote
his essay, "Civil Disobedience." Thoreau's philosophy was to get
people to think and take their own approach to a situation. Thoreau definitely
had many of the ideas of how to deal with unjust laws performed by government.
Thoreau inspired reform and also overturned many unjust laws and customs in our
country. We, as a society, should look at this man as heroic figures and learn
from his teachings. This will help us better our knowledge of how to use
non-violent direct action for future national and international problems we may
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