In a larger sense he was arguing that people's first obligation is to their own conscience, which he mentions very early in the essay: "I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward...The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right." It's a fundamental question in a government that claims to rule by democratic principles (i.e. by majority rule.) What do we do when our conscience will not allow us to abide by majority rule, which in this case, gave legal sanction to slavery? Tocqueville had described the risks of the "tyranny of the majority," and for Thoreau, this was embodied in the Mexican War, which, as he and many others saw it, was being waged to expand the power of slavery. Therefore, he would refuse to pay his taxes to the state of Massachusetts, and he advised that others do the same: "I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should...effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts..." By not giving financial support to the government, he could register a protest.