Unjust And Just Laws By Martin Luther King Jr. And Henry Thoreau Essay

Unjust And Just Laws By Martin Luther King Jr. And Henry Thoreau Essay

Length: 1346 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Unjust and Just Laws
What is an “unjust law”? Though described differently by many an “unjust law” could be said to be a law that is right legally and not morally. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry Thoreau both have dealings with the government due to their disagreement with laws that they saw as unjust. Both men were sent to jail for not complying with the laws put in place by the government. They do so however in ways that do not subtract from the overall point they are trying to prove. Though they handle their situations differently they ultimately strive for the same goal in making those who are of higher power and those who are everyday people see their wrong doings in following these laws. Thoreau said, “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” These men want people to realize that just because “majority rules” does not mean majority is right.
Both Dr.King and Henry Thoreau were protesting against similar things. Both men were working towards the equal treatment of all people. Thoreau refused to pay his taxes because he felt it supported the Mexican-American war and the expansion of slavery in Concord, and Dr.King protested against racial inequality in Alabama. These men felt as if peaceful protest would bring positive attention to their causes by allowing people to see that it is not them but the government who is harsh and irrational.
For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the struggle for justice was long and hard. Dr.King was living in a time period where racial equality was basically non-existent. African American’s during this time did not have the same rights as the white people. Their voices we...


... middle of paper ...


... Luther King Jr. both want people to realize that civil rebellion is sometimes needed to prove a valid point. Both men used some form of protest to show their disagreement with the laws in place. For Dr. King it was protest against the racial inequality the oppressed his people. For Thoreau it was protest against a tax that he did not agree with or support. They also want people to think for themselves and not comply to laws that they do not agree are just. We should ultimately challenge our government to make it work for us and not against us. Dr King said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” So if the majority is working against what you believe is morally right take a stance against the majority, because “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws

- Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws In his famous essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,’’ Martin Luther King, Jr. cites conscience as a guide to obeying just laws and defying unjust laws. In the same way, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience,” that people should do what their conscience tells them and not obey unjust laws. The positions of the two writers are very close; they use a common theme of conscience, and they use a similar rhetorical appeal of ethos....   [tags: Compare Contrast, philosophy]

Better Essays
1828 words (5.2 pages)

Henry David Thoreau And Martin Luther King Jr. Essays

- History has encountered many different individuals whom have each impacted the 21 in one way or another; two important men whom have revolted against the government in order to achieve justice are Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. Both men impacted numerous individuals with their powerful words, their words carried the ability to inspire both men and women to do right by their morality and not follow unjust laws. “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” by David Henry Thoreau along with King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, allow the audience to understand what it means to protest for what is moral....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Civil disobedience]

Better Essays
1177 words (3.4 pages)

Thoreau, King, & Goldman on Unjust Laws Essay

- A well founded government is one which has the consent of the people it governs. This system is used to protect its people and provide them with the necessities to prosper. But, many individuals have believed that majority of the time government should not interfere in economic and political affairs. This type of government is known as an active government which can be referred to as a “large government.” Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and political anarchist Emma Goldman argue the right to break unjust laws that the government up holds for the public....   [tags: Large Government, Transcendentalists]

Better Essays
937 words (2.7 pages)

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau Essay

- Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher lived in 19th century, when young and feeble American society was not powerful as nowadays. His illustrious work called as “Civil disobedience” demonstrated his polar point of view towards unjust government. Objection to pay taxes, protests, follow own conscience are only some of the methods of disobeying. His main point is that any man, who treats himself as a conscience man, should differentiate laws in order to determine which law is right or wrong, and consequently no to obey that unjust law....   [tags: Conscience, Unjust Laws, Chaos]

Better Essays
749 words (2.1 pages)

How Should One Respond to Unjust Laws? Essay

- The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines unjust as “characterized by injustice: Unfair.” At the same time it defines a law as “a binding custom or practice of a community.” With both definitions in mind an unjust law can be described as “a binding custom or practice of a community characterized by injustice and unfairness.” Today one can see unjust laws across the globe, many of which are overlooked by much of the world. At the same time, just laws are often enforced in an unjust manner. The fact that much of the world is corrupt is an obvious fact, however, the appropriate course of action to bring about change, is not always so easy to see....   [tags: Laws Injustice Equality Essays]

Free Essays
1445 words (4.1 pages)

Civil Disobedience, By Martin Luther King, And Henry Thoreau Essay

- Previous generations have opposed wars that promoted oppression, they fought for human rights. By engaging in these activities these individuals had to go against a higher power. They had to disagree with the system and how it operates. Therefore, they engaged in the act of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is an active, refusal way of obeying certain laws, demands, and commands of a government or higher power. There are many individuals who have previously engaged in the act of civil disobedience people such as; Mahatma Gandhi, Henry Thoreau, Martin Luther King, college students in the 1960s and many more....   [tags: Henry David Thoreau, Civil disobedience]

Better Essays
1224 words (3.5 pages)

Essay Henry Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King Jr.

- Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience took the original idea of transcendentalism and put it into action. His civil acts of defiance were revolutionary as he endorsed a form of protest that did not incorporate violence or fear. Thoreau’s initial actions involving the protest of many governmental issues, including slavery, landed him in jail as he refused to pay taxes or to run away. Ironically, more than one hundred years later, the same issue of equal rights was tearing the United States apart....   [tags: Henry Thoreau, Martin Luther King]

Free Essays
1215 words (3.5 pages)

The Riot By Henry David Thoreau Essay

- In 1992, citizens of South Central Los Angeles started a riot and caused chaos in their neighborhood (Smith 261). Many looted business stores and burned down many properties. The riot was caused by the injustice in the neighborhood. Henry David Thoreau would probably partially support the citizen’s action during the riot. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau mentioned “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable” (para....   [tags: Civil disobedience, Henry David Thoreau, Law]

Better Essays
1358 words (3.9 pages)

Henry David Thoreau 's Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay

- In Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he cites conscience as a guide to obeying just laws and disobeying unjust laws. In the same way, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience,” that people should do what their conscience tells them and refuse to follow unjust laws. The positions of the two writers are very close; they both use a common theme of conscience, and they use a similar rhetorical appeal to ethos. Henry David Thoreau in his essay “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau asserts that men should react from their conscience....   [tags: Civil disobedience, Henry David Thoreau]

Better Essays
865 words (2.5 pages)

Henry David Thoreau 's Argument On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience Essay

- When it comes to civil rights, there are two pieces of literature commonly discussed. One of these pieces is Henry David Thoreau’s persuasive lecture On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. In this work, Thoreau discusses how one must combat the government with disobedience of unjust laws and positive friction to create change. The second piece is the commonly known article Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. This letter covers the ways in which peaceful protest and standing up against injustice can lead to positive results....   [tags: Civil disobedience, Henry David Thoreau]

Better Essays
1261 words (3.6 pages)