When Thoreau accepted release from jail did he become just like the people he critcized?I refer to those who opposed the Mexican War and expansion of slavery but supported it indirectly with their...

When Thoreau accepted release from jail did he become just like the people he critcized?

I refer to those who opposed the Mexican War and expansion of slavery but supported it indirectly with their tax money?

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Asked on by jasmine133

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

To take the opposing view, Thoreau may have been released after someone paid the fine.  For, in his passage, Thoreau writes

 When I came out of prison--for someone interfered, and paid the tax. 

 In this case, Thoreau may have been forced by the officials to leave the jail.  If, then, such is the case, Thoreau did not act hypocritically as he had no choice but to depart.  This situation seems more in character with Henry David Thoreau who is renowned for his individuality of thought and of action as well as his integrity.  After all, he is man who said,

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.  The obedient must be slaves.

So, with respect to this potent and influential essay's author, it, indeed, seems out of character for Thoreau to act hypocritically.

 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

To me, Thoreau's action in allowing himself to be let out of prison is somewhat hypocritical.  I think that he does become just like the people he criticizes.

Thoreau argued that people who paid taxes were doing an immoral thing because they were giving the government money that would (either directly or indirectly) be used to support the Mexican-American War.  He didn't like that war because he felt it promoted slavery.  By allowing someone to pay his fine, he essentially did the same thing.

What Thoreau should have done was to stay in jail.  The money paid by his anonymous benefactor would still have helped the government, but Thoreau would not have been helped by it.  In fact, he would have cost the government money by remaining in jail, forcing the government to pay to feed him, etc.

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