Thoreaus’ Campaign against Blind Obedience to the Government

Category: Obedience
Last Updated: 12 Mar 2023
Pages: 2 Views: 127

Led by his disgust against the slavery and the war of the United States against Mexico, Henry David Thoreau (1848) called on men and women to stand up against a government that perpetuates injustices through his essay Resistance to Civil Government, also known as Civil Disobedience. The central tenet of this essay is his pronouncement that “that government is best, which governs least. ” He expounded on the role of the government as being more harmful than helpful to the overall condition of the people in the society.

He said that even democracy is not an answer to this, because democracy simply highlights the decision of the majority, which is not necessarily seasoned by wisdom. One of the important expressions of the will of the government is through its laws. Thoreau, however, favors the cultivation of respect towards what is right since the law does not make humans more just. In this essay, he also used the metaphor of the machine in depicting the kind of agency the government is.

Moreover, he referred to people who blindly follow the government as robots without conscience. Thoreau also raised his voice against paying taxes and even voting for justice since, according to him, these activities only contribute to the injustices committed by the government. He conceded, however, that he is willing to pay taxes which will directly contribute to the upholding of his neighbor’s good.

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In a bold statement, he also called for the breaking of the law if the law is unjust. Being put in jail is but another means to assert one man’s freedom since the government cannot really take away from him who he is. Simple living is another value exemplified by Thoreau in his essay. By being simple, he does not have great anxieties. Thoreau’s essay has had far-reaching consequences and influence on subsequent leaders who used civil disobedience.


Thoreau, H. D. (1848). On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Retrieved 19 July 2007 from

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Thoreaus’ Campaign against Blind Obedience to the Government. (2016, Aug 22). Retrieved from

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