Civil Disobedience Essay

Submitted By geehaley
Words: 655
Pages: 3

Civil disobedience is peacefully protesting against laws or governmental demands that are viewed as immoral. Throughout history this strategy has been used as a way to stand up for one’s morals against unjust laws. People who have used, and strongly believed in this method include: Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and many others. After analyzing several documents concerning dissent, I can conclude that one should use civil disobedience to support their conscience and defend their beliefs about unjust laws.
Henry David Thoreau was a man who strongly believed that much of what the government was doing at the time was morally incorrect. In his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” Thoreau asserts that if our conscience tells us something is unjust, it is our duty to act against it (1-5). He demonstrated this by refusing to pay poll taxes, which supported the Mexican War. Being an abolitionist, Thoreau was strongly against this war which purpose was to expand slavery into the western states. He suggests an interesting point by stating, “I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was” (10). In jail, he felt free because the state could not hurt or demolish his thoughts, they could only punish his literal body, and being locked in a room did not affect his spirit. Thoreau points out that the government believes that a revolution would be far worse than the injustice. He then questions, “Why does it not encourage its citizens to put out its faults, and do better than it would have them?” (6). The point he is making is that by resisting unjust laws, and showing them their flaws, the people would be helping to create a better government. Thoreau declares that no man should ignore his conscience just to maintain the integrity of the state (2). He uses a significant metaphor that gives the reader a clear picture of how doing what is right might be hard, but it is still the morally correct choice when he stated, “If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself” (3-4). This clearly shows that despite the convenience of ignoring one’s conscience, the just decision is always the right decision.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had gone to Birmingham to “the