Image: Henry David Thoreau, Creative Commons
Weekly Thought Snack: In the wake of several acts of civil disobedience taking place in the world today (Hong Kong, Missouri, Colorado), let’s consider the words of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who was an advocate for acts of civil disobedience. His seminal essay on the subject, popularly known as “Civil Disobedience,” was originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government” in Aesthetic Papers (1849). Thoreau exhibited a thoughtful view of issues such as taxation. For example, he held no objection to government taxes for education and transportation, which he stated made “good neighbors.” However, government, he says, is often based on public convenience rather than justice. He was arrested in Concord for one night in 1846 for not paying his poll tax. His act of defiance was a protest against slavery and the Mexican War, since he and other abolitionists believed the tax served as a means to expand the slave territory.
Thoreau asserted, “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.” He further declared that if a law “is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another…then, I say, break the law.” His essay affirms that civil disobedience is a moral principle.
Thoughts snacks for the month of October focus on building awareness about the purpose of civil disobedience.
Celebrate freedom of speech and creative expression!
- Caroline (Carrie) Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.