Henry David Thoreau and the Power of Non-Violent Resistance

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Thoreau contends that men have lost the free will to make individual decisions regarding war, slavery, and domestic issues because government imposes on its citizens only in its own self interests. (Thoreau 1706). He states government loses its integrity when willing to consider profit over the interests of its citizens, and basic human rights such as slavery and war. (Thoreau 1707). He considers slavery as a “hateful and stupid enterprise? (Eulau 119). Thoreau feels such deep disgrace being associated with a government who condones slavery, that he refuses to vote, pay taxes, and makes his only contact with this government the tax collector. (Eulau 121). Thoreau personally does not want to be bothered with the issues of government or slavery, but because of his writings he is sought out by Abolitionists to give speeches for them. He feels idealism, individualism and democracy are not achievable in a society willing to maintain slaves. (Eulau 123). He is obsessed with right, truth and justice for all citizens and encourages nonviolent resistance as the means to effectively abolish slavery. (Eulau 124). This position is different than most Abolitionists of the time. During this time most of his attention is directed at the southern slaves states. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is the event that leads him to become detached from the State. The treatment of a runaway slave weighs heavily on his emotions. His anger leads him to encouragepeople to withdraw farther from the State ...
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