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Paper Topic:

Analysis of Henry David Thoreau`s Essay `Resistance to Civil Government` (`Civil Disobedience`)

Analysis of Henry David Thoreau 's Essay Resistance to Civil Government ( Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau may be generally considered as the most distinguished American proponent of civil disobedience . His 1849 essay Civil Disobedience , now known as Resistance to Civil Government is partly a response to the author 's arrest for failure to pay his poll tax in 1846 . Thoreau had stopped paying his tax in 1842 to protest against slavery , but his protest was ignored for several years . He used this essay as a vehicle to publicize his ideas and his

protest . Civil Disobedience ' was first presented as a lecture in two parts before the Concord Lyceum with the title of The Relation of the Individual to the State ' in January and February of 1848 . It was first printed with the title Resistance to Civil Government ' in May the following year After Thoreau 's death in 1862 , the essay was included in his collected works under the title of "Civil Disobedience

While the ideas in Civil Disobedience ' are not new and can be traced back to classical Greece , Thoreau states them in a compelling and persuasive way . This essay is perhaps the most widely known of Thoreau 's works , having a widespread international readership . Here , Thoreau stresses the specific circumstances of his own situation , relating it to contemporary political events , and using the narrative to explore the conflict between the individual conscience and the power of the state Thoreau asks how the individual whose personal moral and ethical beliefs conflict with those of the state can have an impact on state policy . He attempted to answer this by outlining the elements of a theory of civil disobedience that was capable of crippling the machinery of government Thoreau 's approach is nonviolent and passive

In the essay , Thoreau also presented much of his general theory of government . This very conservative position basically argues that government functions should be severely limited and that the government often interferes with individual liberty and potential achievement Thoreau thus proposes a theory of minimal government . Thoreau 's political philosophy rested on one key principle , as famously declared in the essay

The authority of government , even as such as I am willing to submit to . is still an impure one : to be strictly just it must have the sanction and consent of the governed . It can have no pure right over my person or property but what I concede to it . There will never be a really free and enlightened State , until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power , from which all its own power and authority are derived , and treats him accordingly (89

Thoreau 's essay also probes questions of the individual 's relationship to other individuals , the individual 's relationship to humanity in general , and the individual 's relationship to institutions with the power to intimidate and control . Moreover , he also raises the issue of the individual 's relationship to war . Thoreau asks : Do citizens have the obligation...

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