Who, or what, does Thoreau say should decide right and wrong in line 26-28 of Civeil Disobedience?"Resistance to Civil Government"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Having written "Resistance to Civil Government" in response to questions about why he had gone to jail rather than pay a Massachusetts poll tax, Henry David Thoreau proposes the argument that laws are not infallible since they are human-made; in addition, he argues that when these man-made laws violate the higher law of God, a person must obey the divine law.  Thus, Thoreau contends,

...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....

That is, as Thoreau's contends, a person must first follow one's own conscience.  He asks the rhetorical question, "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?"  And,Thoreau concludes by envisioning a government which can be "just to all men," treating with respect the individual.


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