My name is Andrew Jay Richardson, and like many other people, I read your inspiring paper “Civil Disobedience.” Even though I am a farmer from the great state of Indiana with a low education (according to most), I understood your paper quit fluently. If you would take the time to read my thoughts on your revolutionary paper I would be most obliged. Now Mr. Thoreau, you start off your paper stating “I heartily accept the Motto” “”That government is best which governs the least. “” I also accept this motto to heart; the government sticks their nose in places it does not belong. We do need a strong government in this time of uncertainty, but as men we strive for a perfect government. As we both know this might be a goal that we never will achieve in our life time, but for our children and their children, hopefully they will understand what it takes to achieve it. It will be a hard thing to do if our government does not start acting more like “humans.”
You write “The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.” Famous words by you sir, and I clearly know what you are getting at with this statement. In my opinion, we think of our government as a horse. It needs to be able to get the job done as fast as possible, even though it gets a little lazy from time to time. But the problem with horses is that they need guidance, or they will stray from the guided path. How does the government know what is morally right and wrong? They want our respect, but why should we give it to them when they not have the rights to earn it? They will not admit it, but they need our guidance if they truly want to be successful individuals, not politicians, but as a collective great leader. Politicians sometimes make decisions without knowing it is wrong, and that is understandable since everyone has made mistakes, but for them to know it is wrong, is precisely why they need to listen to our opinions and thoughts. Politicians have a great responsibility when they win our votes to office.
“All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it,” as you put it I could not have said this better myself. The government tells us ideas to persuade us to vote for them, and they also try to discredit their opponent in a battle of wits. But ultimately it is up to us to choose who we believe will do the best job. People vote for a great deal of reasons, some people just vote to vote, and some people just do not vote at all, or maybe they vote for the “Popular” choice.
I get the feeling from reading your essay that your attitude toward people’s opinions is not the problem, but you want to know why someone has their beliefs. An example is when a man said, “I voted for him because it was the right thing to do.” Would you question this man why is it the right thing to do? He would not give you a straight answer; you would consider him a hypocrite, and you would have the right to say that about him, for we live a society where we no longer ask ourselves questions. Instead, we just take the easy way and just act not think. This is a big part of what is wrong with our country today, and the only way it will change is if we start having minds of our own.
You say “I have never declined paying the highway tax, because I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject; and as for supporting schools, I am doing my part to educate my fellow countrymen now. It is for no particular item in the tax bill that I refuse to pay it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually.” You have this idea, and you went to jail for it. I believe what you are trying to say is: I believe in paying a tax that would affect me or my neighbors, but why would I pay a tax that has no connection to me? I