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Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobediance)

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cambren wheeler

on 11 December 2013

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Transcript of Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobediance)

The Author

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
A philosopher, abolitionist,
and writer
Stressed the importance of self-reliance and individuality
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a major influence on Thoreau's idea of Transcendentalism
Practiced civil disobedience
Spent a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes in protest of the Mexican War, which contributed to his reasons for writing
Civil Disobedience
His essay was published in 1849 as
Resistance to Civil Government
Brief Summary
Resistance to Civil Disobedience supports the need to process the peoples' conscience over the order of government laws.Thoreau begins his essay by arguing that the government doesn't prove itself useful and that it acquires its power from the elite because they are the strongest group. He then argues that the peoples' obligation is to do what they believe is right and not to follow the law dictated by the majority. Thoreau believes if the government is unjust, then the people should refuse to abide by the laws and cease interaction with the government.
Religious and Philosophical Movement in the 1820s-1830s
Quality of the American Romanticism Era (18th-19th Century)
Under the leadership of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rejects the idea that knowledge can be derived from observation and experience of the physical world
Protested that organized institutions ultimately destroy the purity of the individual
Moral Responsibility
Justice and Law

Historical Background
During the 19th century, the United States was entangled with the issue over slavery and the Mexican War. The introduction of the Fugitive Slave Laws prompted many abolitionists, including Thoreau, to protest the governments actions through civil disobedience. The Mexican-American War was precipitated by boundary disputes over the Texas borderline. Thoreau argued that the war constituted an unnecessary act of violence and aggression.

By:Hallie Morton, Faith Oyesanmi,
Denise Enamorado, Bernice Herrera,
Kenneth Robinson

Resistance to Civil Government
(Civil Disobedience)
Henry David Thoreau

Ideological Criticism

Moral Responsibility
is described as the actions one takes to help others in the community because it
is the right thing to do.
Justice and Law
Law is the rules and regulations created by the government while justice is the proper administration of the laws.
Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical Question
How do they contradict?
"This American Government-what is it but a tradition though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit unimpaired to posterity but each instant losing some of its integrity?"
-Applies a question to emphasize that government cant be trusted due to corruption constantly being passed down
That government is best which governs least"
- By making a reference to Thomas Jefferson, credibility is created in which government should not interfere within the people's lives
"it does not keep the country free, it does not settle west, it does not educate"
-"It" refers to government which stresses his claim on governments role being limited
"The mass of men serve the state,thus, not as men mainly but as machines with their bodies"
- Soldiers obey unthinkingly without stating their opinion on given orders.
Personal Anecdote
i have paid no poll tax for six years, i was put into jail once on this account, for one night..."
His past experience builds the emotional appeal. His observations while in jail caused him to view government and towns people differently.
"If there was a wall of stone between me and my towns man, there was a still more difficult one, to climb or breakthrough before they could get to be as free as i was
-While Thoreau was in jail and townsmen were "free",what he was bringing to attention was that it would be difficult for the townsmen to stand up for their beliefs, due to the fear of government actions, like confiscating property
Justice is the proper administration of law and doing what is morally right, however the government goes against morals and does what is in their best interest.
"Thus under the name of Order and Civil government, we are all made at least to pay homage to and to support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes to its indifference;and from immoral it becomes, as it were unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made."
What does Thoreau mean when he states "After the first blush of sin comes its indifference"?
How does being indifferent toward sin affect morality?
The Government is losing touch with their moral and ethical values by allowing wrongdoings to become the norm, once they become the norm, they're not looked at as serious anymore
" A very few as heroes, patriots martyrs, reformers, in the great sense, and men-serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it...."
What does Thoreau imply when he says if you serve your state with your conscience and resist the state, you are treated like an enemy?
Individuals who speak up for themselves and withstand the government should be chastised, people fear this so they would rather be under a corrupt ruler for fear of their property being taken away
"The army is only an arm of the standing government"
An institution that is affiliated with the government would also be corrupt just like the standing army. What have they done that is so moral? Why do we pay them so much respect?
"Man, generally, under such a government as this think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than evil. It makes it worse. Why is not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform?"
Government is
to politically, economically and socially keep structure in which it governs,to limit chaos and disorder and help heal or improve damages. But the only interest government maintains is power, and if any thing or person was to go against that power, it would do all its power to condemn.
Why does government lack being the treatment to the diseases of society?
"the character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in the way."

"That government is best which governs least"

"i think we should be men, and subjects afterward"

"The mass of men serve the state, thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies."
What are the major claims being offered by the author?
Thoreau states that a society whose government stays out the way will be of greater benefit to the people. He also believes that before allowing the government to rule over you, you should first be familiar with your responsibilities as a citizen of your community. However, the government brainwashes men to believe they're honorable and respectable by serving their state but in reality, they are just being used as machines.
"Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them till we suceeded or should we transgress them at once?"

What elements of this message reinforce the ideas of the status quo?
Should we be satisfied with unjust laws, should we improve them or should we just violate them? Henry Thoreau is straightforward with this quote and I believe he wants us to try to reform these laws, this will not only make us better people but will also aide the possibilities of living more comfortably. We've lost all integrity as a nation, what more do we have to lose? Of course we can't be content with unjust laws because we are potentially getting taken advantage of, thankfully we as people have our certain unalienable rights. We also can't simply decide to break the laws because law is law and it is superior to us.
"farmers here, who are more interested in commerce and agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justice to the slave and to Mexico, cost what it may."
How does morality and justice play a role in making the United States government look hypocritical?
Laws are meant to do justice but how can slavery exist and how can one kill innocent people for land that will be used for the expansion of slavery. A country that allows this and influences this makes themselves look hypocritical. Only looking for financial benefit through the misery and death of others, Thoreau points this out to indicate the governments priorities are put over human rights and moral responsibility.
Thoreau, David Henry.
to Civil Disobedience" Boston, 1849

"Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)."
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation,
29 Oct. 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

Adam, Christian. "Civil Disobedience
Summary." Study Guides & Essay
Editing. N.p., 2 June 2003. Web. 22
Nov. 2013.
Works Cited
Full transcript