Civil Disobedience and the Abusive Power of Government

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Civil Disobedience and the Abusive Power of Government

In response to the annexation of Texas in 1845 by the United States, Henry David Thoreau's wrote the essay, Civil Disobedience. Thoreau felt that this purely economic move by the United States expedited the Civil War, which he, and many Americans, disapproved of. In his essay, Thoreau argues that government should not be in control of the people and that the people should be able to rule themselves freely however they please. In addition, he clearly states and points out that in many instances it is best when individual rights take priority over state authority.

Very often, the best authors, whether it be of a novel or an essay, clearly state their opinions and facts using various literary techniques and devices. From reading other Thoreau works, such as excerpts from Walden and Excursions, I was able to infer that he has his own unique, unmatched writing style. Most ordinary and banal writers start their essays with long, tedious descriptions of the point they are trying to convey. But like all great writers and thinkers, Thoreau begins his essay with a strong, captivating sentence: "That government is best which governs least" (222). Thoreau's opening line grabs and lets the reader know what topic(s) the essay will be discussing. As it turns out, this opening sentence is the basis for the rest of his essay as he encourages individuals to take responsibility for keeping the government in constant check. He believes that the best way for a country and its people to survive is if individuals are willing to exert control over the government and not be ruled like sheep.

Part of Thoreau's writing style includes using examples to justify his op...

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...are fighting for. When he talks about the evils of slavery, Thoreau states that "When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote" (226). As a dedicated abolitionist, he believes that only individuals hold the power to end slavery. He thinks that you cannot depend on the government to stop slavery because it thinks as a whole, and not as individuals.

As he concludes his essay, Thoreau's main point is that individual power should be greater than that of the government. Thoreau's observation, "That government is best which governs least" continues to be as true today as the day it was written.

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