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Transcript of Civil Disobedience
by Henry David Thoreau (1849)
Paragraphs: 13 ("It is not a man's duty...") - 7 ("I do not hesitate to say...")
Henry David Thoreau
- victim of unjust laws
- unjust laws of government
- the rights of people to respond to injustice in government
- individual's obligation to act upon their own beliefs
- conscience over laws
- people who have experienced injustice from the government
- Mexican-American War
("individuals using the standing government as their tool"(Thoreau 1))
- current state of slavery
- slave rebellions
- rise of civil rights (slavery)
- does not fit into a category, like Libertarianists or Jeffersonians
Since there are unjust laws, people have three options: to obey them, to transgress them, or to try to change them.
"If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perhance it will wear smooth - certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself ... the remedy will not be worse than the evil" (Thoreau 5).
"If a man who has no property refuses ... soon permitted to go at large again" (Thoreau 4).
"Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?" (Thoreau 3).
Overall Argument: The government is best which governs least
- explain how unjust laws from the government oppress the individual and separates them from the divine
-Thoreau refers back to times in history where unjust laws have caused tragedies and/or misfortune, which creates an anguish towards unjust laws.
-Thoreau wants people, more specifically on an individual level, to respond to unjust laws
-Thoreau poses this question in order to convey that the results of unjust laws are immoral and individuals need to respond to them
Logos / Analogy
"How can a man be satisfied to entertain ... and see that you are never cheated again" (Thoreau 2).
- logical layout of his argument
- analogy forces the audience to view their situation in a logical way
"Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform ... before it is hurt" (Thoreau 3).