In theintroduction to the essay Fromm explains that for centuries humanshave thought of obedience as a virtue and disobedience as a vice. Hethen goes on to give his thesis.
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In July 1846, the sheriff arrested and jailed Thoreau for his tax delinquency. Someone, probably a relative, anonymously paid Thoreau’s taxes after he had spent one night in jail. This incident prompted Thoreau to write his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience” (originally published in 1849 as “Resistance to Civil Government”).
Thoreau expressed civil disobedience through his essay “resistance to civil government.”The main idea of Thoreau was self reliance because in his own view people are morally upright therefore there is no need for fighting with the government when it is unjust because it is easy to walk away and not offer the needed support. For example he refused to pay tribute as way of expressing his objection against Mexican-American war and slavery. His action was not taken softly by the government because he was arrested therefore he was ready to make his discontentment known at whatever cost. Other ways that can be used to show discontentment of the people to the government is rioting though it may not be as peaceful as civil disobedience. Therefore there are many occurrences or incidents that can make the people to refuse to adhere to the set laws (Thoreau par 6).
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Thoreau revised the lecture into an essay entitled Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience). In May 1849 it was published by Elizabeth Peabody in the Aesthetic Papers.
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The two important occurrences that made Thoreau to write the essay was the disgustful Mexican-American war and slavery. Many times the government may enact laws that only benefit them at the expense of the well being of its people who are supposed to be given priority in all undertakings because it is this people who allow them to rule. Therefore when the government passes exploitive, unfair rules people are justified to rebel in order to end the unhealthy practices. On the contrary if the people decide to be silent and painfully adhere to the law they are the ones who will suffer and for these reason some circumstances calls for civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is justified when the government is working injustice (Thoreau par 4).
Thoreau’s believes that incidences like slavery and human injustices paves way for civil disobedience because humans are equal and therefore have a right to equal treatment. In the essay civil disobedience, Thoreau strongly argues that governments are never helpful and even if they were they never prove so. Governments usually obtain their powers from the dominating group and not because they view things correctly but simply because they are the strong winning team. Therefore citizens ought to do that which their conscience perceive to be right and not what the law dictates. People are therefore allowed to disobey the law if whatever it dictates is not right or it is unreasonable. This is simply because many of the things that are passed to be law are what the majority prefer and rarely are all this things sensible or valuable to the common people. People are guided by their own believes and this beliefs help them to follow a certain way which may be against what the law requires. Therefore civil disobedience may not happen when what the law says is favorable and acceptable by the people subject to it (Thoreau par 4).
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Through his literary devices and pathos appeal, Thoreau is able to prove his point on how the government is corrupt. Throughout the excerpt and also the entire essay, he is able to play on one emotion after the other making one feel anger and astonishment towards the government, but also sympathy and respect for those who oppose the government. “Civil Disobedience” respectively shows the American people that the government is weak and abusive of their powers, and how it should be left in the hands of the people instead.