Thoreau and Civil Disobedience



Thoreau and Civil Disobedience

In March 1845, the United States acquired a new president – James K. Polk – a forceful, aggressive political outsider intent on strengthening his country and asserting its pre-eminence in front of other world powers, especially Mexico and Great Britain. Within a year of his inauguration, he had declared full-scale war on Mexico because of squabbles over the Texan border, and was soon rattling his saber at Britain over the ownership of Oregon. To complete the picture, Polk was a vigorous defender of slavery, who dismissed the arguments of abolitionists as na├»ve and sentimental....

‘All machines have their friction,’ Thoreau admitted, but when injustice is too great, you should ‘let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.’

Thoreau didn’t advocate the non-payment of taxes as a rule, and in fact, a well-meaning aunt soon paid his bill. The non-payment was just one example of the many non-violent ways that a democratically elected government could and must be resisted when its actions veer into aggression and unreason. An election settles who the president might be, it doesn’t determine that everything that president does is right or that one should simply do nothing until the next election.  MORE

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