Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Please summarize Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" (also known as "Resistance to Civil Government").

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Henry David Thoreau's belief in "non-conformity," is seen in, "Civil Disobedience"—standing up to the government if necessary.

Thoreau was arrested for not paying a tax—on principle. "…some one interfered, and paid the tax…" and he was released, and so wrote "Resistance to Civil Government" initially to "argue the moral necessity of resisting the institution of slavery."

Thoreau makes his stance clear from the very beginning of the essay:

I HEARTILY ACCEPT THE MOTTO, “That government is best which governs least”…[moreover] “That government is best which governs not at all...”

The government was needed to an extent, but should not be an entity that controlled the will of the people, but rather served the people. People created the government, but often did not have the opportunity to use it for their good:

...[it] is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.

Thoreau argues that often times the government becomes a tool of the few rather...

(The entire section contains 604 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial