Though the language can seem a bit old and hard to get through and understand the message is important and rings out loud and clear. Many people are content to sit around and wait for the right thing to happen but in order for the right the to happen there must be action. If laws are unjust it is your duty to break those laws.
By Henry David Thoreau I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.
Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.
Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.
This American government- what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will.
It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have.
Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow.
Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.
For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it.
Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.
But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is 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.
But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" Summary and Analysis Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List The lecture was published under the title "Resistance to Civil Government" in Elizabeth Peabody's Aesthetic Papers, in May This incident prompted Thoreau to write his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience” (originally published in as “Resistance to Civil Government”).
Thoreau’s minor act of defiance caused him to conclude that it was not enough to be simply against slavery and the war.
Unlike some later advocates of civil disobedience like Martin Luther King, Thoreau did not rule out using violence against an unjust government. In , Thoreau defended John Brown’s bloody attack on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, during his failed attempt to spark a slave revolt.
42 quotes from Civil Disobedience and Other Essays: ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.
They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in In it, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.