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The present is rife with examples of oppressive governments. The question that presents itself to any opposition is what is to be done? Neither, of course, did Henry David Thoreau, author of the 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience,” a document that every student of Political Philosophy 101 knows as an ur-text of modern democratic protest movements.
In July 1846, he walked into Concord, Massachusetts to get his shoes repaired and was arrested and thrown into the town’s jail.
Thoreau saw nothing undignified about spending some time behind bars.
This is an essay we have become all-too familiar with by reputation rather than by reading.
Thoreau’s political philosophy is not passive, as in the phrase “passive resistance.” It is not middle-of-the-road centrism disguised as radicalism.
They were those who followed their own consciences and in particular, the principles of reason.
Thoreau Essay On Civil Disobedience Homework Stamps For Teachers
Thoreau wished to redistribute prestige away from blinkered obedience towards independent thought.
Within a year of his inauguration, he had declared full-scale war on Mexico because of squabbles over the Texan border, and was soon rattling his saber at Britain over the ownership of Oregon.
To complete the picture, Polk was a vigorous defender of slavery, who dismissed the arguments of abolitionists as naive and sentimental.
The prevailing view was that because Polk had won a majority, those who were against him should now fall silent.
It should – it was often said – be the duty of a good citizen to fold away their objections and respect the will of the majority.