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On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

In a concise essay, Thoreau proffers a challenge to all men, "not to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right." Over and over, almost redundantly, Thoreau stresses simplicity and individualism, as most transcendentalists (the new philosophical and literary movement of Thoreau’s time) did. Thoreau clearly states, in his On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, that the government is unjust and doesn’t represent the will of the people, that one man can’t change the government, and that people succumb unconsciously to the will of the government. The first of these is a ridiculous notion; the second contradicted and supported alternately throughout the essay so that one cannot be sure of what they agree or disagree with while reading it because it always contradicts itself in the following paragraph; and the last, a well-thought-out and legitimate concept.Thoreau believed that "That government is best that governs least," (222) but his harsh feelings stemmed from his dislike of the government and its motivations at that time. He thought that everything the administration did was wrong: their head-turn at the treatment of slaves, their land-grabbing war with Mexico, and the taxes that Thoreau himself was imprisoned for refusing to pay. Even the basic system of government was unfair and biased to him. He thought that the majority system was unjust, "… when the power is in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted … to rule, not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest," (231) but what else can there be in a non-monarchical government? He shoots down the entire American government, stabbing at what they stand for and not even looking for the reasons behind it. He ignores the fact that our administration has made our country grow and prosper since its independence. Although it may be true that...

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