Resistance Of Civil Government By Henry David Thoreau Essay

Resistance Of Civil Government By Henry David Thoreau Essay

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In his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government,” Henry David Thoreau expresses his disdain and discontentment with the American government for its involvement with the Mexican War and for its legal upholding of slavery. Thoreau begins his essay with saying, “That government is best which governs least,” but goes on to add that he does not necessarily support an anarchic “no-government” state, but rather a “better” state, a state in which shows respect to its citizens and “recognizes the rights of man.” A state that does not meet these simple demands, according to Thoreau, is a state worth standing up against, rebelling against, and even worth breaking the law for. However, despite his resentful tone and call for change, Thoreau acknowledges the good that comes from law and order (and from the government), but quickly announces that he is not concerned with such things. His issue is not with authority but with “unjust” and “impure” authority, which Thoreau argues is greatly worth resisting.
Thoreau’s call against authority is not limited to an “unjust” government alone, but also to those who mindlessly serve it (and call themselves “good citizens”) and even to those who have minor positions within that government. These people, as Thoreau says, are “such a man as an American government can make” (844). Thoreau questions if these people are even human, and compares them to having the same worth as “horses and dogs.” These people are devout in their service to their country and to their government, but, as Thoreau acknowledges, a slight shift in purpose and distinction, and these people are likely to “serve the devil, without intending it, as God” (845). Even with a lower-ranked position, like a “tax-gatherer” or “any public officer,”...


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...e themselves: they are the ones who produce; they are the ones who vote; they are the ones who bring stability, and prosperity, to the country. Thinking that it is the government that does all this is largely misconceived and inaccurate, as Thoreau would argue. If more people were to understand this, if they were to understand the magnitude of their influence and their capability, this would ensure not only a “better” government but also a better, freer, and fairer state for all citizens.
In his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government,” Henry David Thoreau calls to act upon the corruption and unjust ways of the government and of authority. One should not have a devout allegiance to these entities, for one should instead acknowledge oneself as an entity in his or her own right. With this comes a certain amount of non-conformity, of distinctiveness, and of self-reliance.

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