The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee

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Please summarize the night that Thoreau spent in jail.

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The nonviolent resistance of Henry David Thoreau in "Resistance to Civil Government" set the cornerstone for such passive resistance leaders as Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King.  Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay what he felt was an unjust tax.

An individualist who repudiated lazy, conformist behavior, Thoreau later addressed publicly the issues of resistance to government.  He stated, "That government governs best that governs least."  Thoreau felt that each person's responsibility is to follow the higest leadings of personal conscience.  If these leadings are counter to civil law, then the individual must answer the higher moral law.  Thoreau advocated withdrawing all support from a government that conflicts with personal conscience.

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