Why Does Thoreau Refer To Civil Disobedience As A Duty
Why does Thoreau refer to civil disobedience not merely as a right but as a duty?
As a Transcendentalist, Henry Thoreau believed in the power of the individual, and that people hold their own “higher laws” in their hearts and minds and souls, independent of any man-made government. Individuals know automatically the differences between right and wrong. He rejected the practice of majority rule. He refers to this idea in the fourth paragraph of “Civil Disobedience:”
Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? … I think that 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.
In paragraphs 16-17-18, he returns to this topic. He thinks that individuals should have a right to protest unjust laws on their own, and that the government should have some procedure in place for doing so. No one should be automatically put in jail just because he/she disagrees with a particular tax or law. Somehow, the government...
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