97 Textual Introduction

Initially given as a speech, “Civil Disobedience”, which was published as an essay in 1849, draws attention to the actions (Mexican-American War) and inactions (continuation of slavery) of the American government at the time. Arguing that he “cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.” Henry David Thoreau questions what a person’s role in a society should be, and gives his own opinion and brief account of the actions that he took. Calling into question the actions that the government makes soldiers take, Thoreau inquires about what role various members of society’s consciences play. Also challenging readers not to just cast a vote, but rather their whole vote. Thoreau questions how effective someone inside the system can reinvent the system while relying upon it. Making a claim that one cannot change what they rely upon, he challenges the reader to act in a manner of civil disobedience, and to not pay their taxes and to not partake in the unjust larger government, while still acting civilly in your and other communities. Even believing that if going to prison is what it takes for a person to be just in an unjust society, than that is the action that they should take. Thoreau believes readers should do as he has done and disrupt the status quo, and cast their full vote.

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Textual Introduction by Timothy Robbins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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