Slavery andunjust laws David Thoreau in theessay “Civil Disobedience” “addressesyou and me: ephemeral human beings who must make their best of their short timeto ask the right questions.”1 Thiswork is significant because talks about the issues of the individuals inrelation to the power of government.
“David has two representative writings : the “Civil Disobedience” first published in1849 (under a somewhat less impressive title:”Resistance to Civil Government”) and Walden.2One of the major idea inthis essay is the fact that the government does not respect the will of thecitizens. “Civil disobedience” it isa “manifesto against the mental inertia of his fellow-citizens”.3 Transcendentalismis the period when David Thoreau wrote this essay. Introspection and intuitionare the virtues of the state not the reason.Thoreau wants to showus that honest justice can win if people show resistance to injustice. Whatannoyed the writer was the immoral actions of The United States, more exactlyit was about the Mexican War.
The war was not going to bring peace and understandingwas just intended to allow slavery, illegal actions, immorality when it comesto politics. “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall weendeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded.”4The author went to jailat some point in his life and that affected a little bit his perception aboutlaws. “He thereafter preached the doctrine of civil disobedience, i.e. thecitizen’s moral duty of correcting a narrow-minded government.
“5 “CivilDisobedience” shows that the new days are worst thanthe days when the revolution took placein the citizen’s life. Thoreau wants to show us that obeying the laws by theindividuals means that the citizens become a partner to those who do bad things to the city. While the government tries to repair theillegal problems people lives are lost.
Thoreau explains what was theconsequence when you disobey the rules “I have paid no poll-tax for six years.I was put into a jail once on this account, fore one night.”6After that night, Thoreau was not the same because now he sees the world, hisown town with different eyes . He feels like it is a barrier between him andthe people in town.
While he stayed in jail he had time to reflect upon mindand body. The payment was used by the author as a metaphor in order to show usthe fact that not only in his previous writings, but also in those which cameafter he kept his instinct ofdisobedience. “His demonstrative refusal to pay the poll tax had to be somehowacknowledged by an actual sentence to prison. This act was performed by Thoreauwith the commitment of an actor on a stage.”7People become in his opinion slaves of the law and injustice. Thoreau says that nothing can buy our freedom.”When I came out of prison,-for some interfered, and paid that tax,-I did notperceive that great changes had taken place on the common, such as he observedwho went in a youth, and emerged a tottering and gray-headed man; and yet achange had to my eyes come over the scene,-the town, and State andcountry,-greater than any that mere time could effect.
I saw yet moredistinctly the state in which I lived.”8What Thoreau wants when it comes to laws and government isindividual’s freedom of mind, of choice and of actions. He develops the idea ofindividual’s conscience and the belief that any cries could be solved by peaceful means. “what sortof emolument can pay us for selling our freedom-which is basically our freedomof mind? How much money should employers count on to buy a thinker’sconscience? This will only take us back to the old dilemma of Dr. Faustus…”9David Thoreau wasconsidered by many people an anarchist “his writings and his actual life-storyis one of the most vivid particularities of Thoreau’s works.”10The author no longerrespects the laws created by the government. He does not believe anymore in theConstitution not even in the State.”In most cases there is no free exercisewhatever of the judgment or of the moral sense.
“11Government in Thoreau’sopinion is something imaginary an idea that people choose to live by. Heencourages civil disobedience because you develop a sense of moral andrightness conscience.Thoreau started hisessay with the idea that the most ideal form of government is one which givesfreedom of mind and abolished slavery. The State is like a machine that instand of doing good to society it destroys it, especially when we talk aboutslave’s treatment. The State become ahuman being more exactly it turns into a woman.
So that is why the Statebecomes an object of pity.In Thoreau’s opinionthe government laws started to be pathetic. The State image used to beassociated with a male image. The only thing that Thoreau thought it affectscitizens liberty was the tyranny of the ones that governs. TheState image used to be associated with a male image due to its power, but afterthe night he spent in prison, Thoreau comes to the idea that the body can belocked behind the walls, but not the mind, the conscience. The way in which thecitizens can change the unjust laws isto disobey them.
In”Civil Disobedience” we can findEmerson’s influence. Emerson believes inintuition. Our intuition to what is right and what is wrong. The best choicefor citizens is to do what they think is right. According to Emerson’sphilosophy, Thoreau believes that a political demand should not be applied ifone considers it wrong. People should be careful about its subjectivity. Inthe second paragraph of the essay we can see a change in tone. Thoreau feelsdisappointed about the American government.
The tone that he uses is ironic andmocking.”This American government,-what is itbut a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpairedto posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity?”12Thoreau uses a metaphor to emphasis that people actually don’t have the power,they are powerless, only the government has it. People are not victims theychoose this on their own, they want to be deceived. Oneof the major ideas that Thoreau wants to show us is that the law can be unjust.For example, he says that if you consider slavery something bad for people andfor society any government that would allow it must be rejected. We shouldbelieve more in what we recognize as right that what the law says. It is a callfrom Thoreau about the subjective notion of justice and individual conscienceagainst a conformist reality.Thoreau in his essayused some techniques in order to keep our attention to what he has to say.
Oneof them is the use of the first person singular so that the essay seems toaddress to all of us. We may tend to consider that Thoreau’s issues are ourissues too.Another way to involve usin the text is asking questions.
Our attention is to the American system ofgovernment and how is set up to work.In Thoreau’s opinionthe best govern is the one that does not govern, that respects the freedom ofcitizens. Starting his essay withthis idea “That government is best which is govern least”13,Thoreau shows the abuse of the laws and the fact that people can not expresstheir will, their opinion about their rights in the society. Governmentmanipulated the laws against what people needed.
The author says that people’sconscience should guide their actions. He continue to say that heroes arebelieved to be those who use their minds to rule the city like politician, notthe real heroes like the soldiers .Those who resist to obey what the State says are the real heroes of thesociety.In conclusion, Thoreauin his essay pleads for freedom, for just men, for truth and for the fact thatpeople should be aware of what is right and what is wrong. 1 Peiu, Anca, Romantic Readings of Selfhood in ClassicAmerican Literature, Bucuresti, Editura C.
H.Beck, 2017, pp.88.2Ibid.pp.
88.3 Ibid, pp.88.4 Thoreau, H. David, On TheDuty Of Civil Disobedience, editura Elegant Ebooks, 1849, PDF ebook createdby Jose Menendez., (https://www.
ibiblio.org/ebooks/Thoreau/Civil%20Disobedience.pdf), pp.12.5 Peiu, Anca, Romantic Readings of Selfhood in ClassicAmerican Literature, Bucuresti, Editura C.H.Beck, 2017, pp.89.
6 Thoreau, H. David, On TheDuty Of Civil Disobedience, ElegantE-books, 1849, PDF e-book created by Jose Menendez., (https://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Thoreau/Civil%20Disobedience.pdf), pp.
18.7 Peiu ,Anca, Romantic Readings of Selfhood in ClassicAmerican Literature, Bucuresti, C.H.Beck, 2017, pp.92.8 Thoreau, H.
David, On TheDuty Of Civil Disobedience, ElegantE-books, 1849, PDF e-book created by Jose Menendez., (https://www.ibiblio.
org/ebooks/Thoreau/Civil%20Disobedience.pdf), pp.21.9 Peiu, Anca, Romantic Readings of Selfhood inClassic American Literature, Bucuresti, C.
H.Beck, 2017, pp.93.10 Ibid, pp.89.11 Thoreau, H. David, On TheDuty Of Civil Disobedience, editura Elegant Ebooks, 1849, PDF ebookcreated by Jose Menendez.
, (https://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Thoreau/Civil%20Disobedience.pdf), p.5-6.12 Thoreau, H. David, On TheDuty Of Civil Disobedience, editura Elegant Ebooks, 1849, PDF ebookcreated by Jose Menendez., (https://www.
13 Thoreau, H. David, On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience, Elegant Ebooks, 1849, PDF ebook created by JoseMenendez., (https://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Thoreau/Civil%20Disobedience.pdf), p.1.