On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
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Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience is a groundbreaking work in the history of protest literature. Based on a series of lectures that he gave in Massachusetts, Civil Disobedience collects Thoreau’s thoughts into a powerful message about every citizen’s responsibility to stand up to injustice. Government, in Thoreau’s opinion, is an entity that exists to serve all people. No government that abuses power or fosters corruption should be allowed to prevail. Thoreau demonstrated these very principles in his own life by refusing to pay his taxes out of protest against the United States government’s lack of action to end slavery. Thoreau was sent to jail for his choice, but he was willing to pay that price in order to express his unhappiness with what he considered inexcusable corruption. An influential book for many of the world’s greatest leaders of civil rights movements—among them Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.—On the Duty of Civil Disobedience is an inspirational book for anyone seeking wisdom and guidance about peaceably protesting injustice wherever they see it.
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Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was a prolific author, noted naturalist, and key figure in the American Literary Renaissance of the nineteenth century. Although he held a more or less steady job at his family's pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau established himself as one of the nation's foremost free-thinkers and individualists through such essays and other works as Walden, Civil Disobedience, and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Throughout his writing, Thoreau's message remains one of the importance of casting off the contradictions and complications of modern society in favor of honest reflection, clean living, and connection with the natural world.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
[1849, original title: Resistance to Civil Government]
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 ...
Ratings for 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience' by Thoreau, Henry David