Thoreau And King, Jr.

This essay has a total of 687 words and 3 pages.

Thoreau and King, Jr.


There are times throughout the history of the United States when its citizens have felt the need to revolt against the government. There were such cases during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau, when there was unfair discrimination against the Afro-American community and Americans refusing to pay poll taxes to support the Mexican War. They used civil disobedience to eventually get legislation to stop the injustice brought against them and their nation. Civil disobedience is defined as refusal to obey civil laws or decrees, which usually takes the form of passive resistance. People practicing civil disobedience break a law because they consider the law unjust, and want to call attention to its injustice, hoping to bring about its withdrawal.

Thoreau wrote "Civil Disobedience" in 1849 after spending a night in the Walden town jail for refusing to pay a poll tax that supported the Mexican War. He recommended passive resistance as a form of tension that could lead to reform of unjust laws practiced by the government. He voiced civil disobedience as "An expression of the individual's liberty to create change" (Thoreau 530). Thoreau felt that the government had established order that resisted reform and change. "Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary" (Thoreau 531).

Thoreau refused to pay the poll tax because the money was being used to finance the Mexican War. Not only was Thoreau against the war itself but the war was over Texas which was to be used as a slave state. His friend Staples offered to pay the tax for him, but to Thoreau it wasn't the tax he was objected to, it was how the money would be used. He believed strongly against paying money to a war he did not support, and would rather end up in jail than go against his will. A certain passage shows how strong he felt when he said "Your money is your life, why should I haste to give it my money?" (Thoreau 538).

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