Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

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How do Thoreau in Civil Disobedience, Gandhi in On The Eve of Historic Dandi March, and Mandela in Long Walk To Freedom reflect the spirit of optimism?

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Thoreau's work is optimistic in that he assumes all people possess the ability to evaluate laws for themselves in order to determine the justice of each law as well as the will and courage to disobey unjust laws and accept the legal consequences.  He says, in part, that "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."  Thoreau, for instance, goes to jail for a night because he refuses to pay his poll tax in 1846.  He does not pay because he does not want his money to go to support slavery or the Spanish American War, and so he goes to jail.  He feels it is unjust for the government to support the institution of slavery and this war, so the correct place for him -- a just man -- is jail.  His optimism is that each of us can and, under the right circumstances, will make this same judgment: essentially, that we are all really just in our heart of hearts.  However, many people supported slavery, or the war, and many people would judge...

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