Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau was written in the year of 1848. Thoreau, born in 1817, was an abolitionist, author and poet. He gave lectures often against the use of slavery in the United States. Thoreau intended for his essay to explain his thoughts and feelings toward the American government at that time. He was unsatisfied with the way the politicians were running the country. He disagreed with the war that was going on between America and Mexico and he also was angered by the fact that many Americans had slaves. He did not believe that the ordinary man had any virtue or decency to make decisions based on the right thing to do rather than for his own personal gain. Thoreau wrote this essay because he believed it was mans own duty to rebel against an unjust government. He wanted a way for people to defy unjust laws without being morally wrong. “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil.” (Thoreau, par.16). Thoreau believes that the government does not make decisions with their conscious but rather with only their own selfish intentions in mind. He does not believe that voting with a majority is fair or makes the best choice because the majority does not guarantee a good decision, but just the strongest decision (Thoreau). He wants men to decide for themselves without having all their decisions made for them by the government. He thinks the average man is weak in making proper choices for the good of his country. He does not believe there are any intelligent virtuous men in the government at that moment and wants man to do what he thinks is right. He talks about his refusal to pay government taxes and believes that he is doing more good for his country by refusing and going to jail, than just paying for a tax he does not believe in. He enjoyed his night in jail and felt freer than he does in his own town. He criticizes men who do not agree with the government and how it is being run and yet they do not do anything to fix it, “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.”(Thoreau. Par. 14). He argues that any form of punishment he may receive from the government for not obeying laws and better than losing his own integrity and pride. He believes in moral decisions and choices over following rules he believe are corrupt and wrong. He encourages any kind of resistance towards a corrupt government even if it means breaking the law. Throughout the essay he is giving the message that those who let injustice happen before them and do nothing, are no better than those who commit the injustice. Even the smallest action to do what is right is doing something. He explains, “For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”(Thoreau. Par.21).
Influential people throughout history have read and agreed with Thoreau’s essay and his beliefs for a non-violent way of reform. Most well known figures were Martin Luther King and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Martin Luther King was born January 15, 1929. He was an African American civil rights activist in the 1960’s and played a huge role in the progression of rights for African Americans throughout the country. MLK was a southern Baptist and help found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King was heavily influenced by Thoreau’s essay and quickly began to use it as his primary plan for the advancement of