Compare Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Resistance to Civil Government” (now known as “Civil Disobedience”) with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance.” While Emerson speaks in more general terms about the unique value of the words and deeds of the individual, Thoreau applies the concept to the individual’s rights and responsibilities where government is concerned. He especially focuses on the approaches to take when one disagrees with a law designed and assumed to be followed by the majority of the population.
In “Self-Reliance,” we find,
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.
No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.
Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.
His concluding statement:
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
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