Resistanceto Civil Government

Resistanceto Civil Government

Resistanceto civil government, also known as civil disobedience is an essay byAmerican transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was published in1849. In this particular essay, Thoreau develops an argument that thegovernment should not be allowed to claim superiority over theiremotions and conscience. The reason for this is to prevent thegovernment from taking advantage of their personality and making themagents of crime or injustices within the society (Gordon, &ampWoodlief, 1999). In the article “A Plea for Captain John Brown”the writer Henry David Thoreau focuses on his first speech deliveryin Concord Massachusetts to articulate his ideas to the public. Inthe speech, the author espouses John Brown and his continuous fightfor abolition and commitment towards justice despite the voiceddispleasure and scorn against him by some Americans. Throughout thetwo Thoreau openly rejects the notion that an individual shouldcompromise their principles and beliefs for the glorification ofothers especially government related institutions.

Therefore,I find that in the two philosophical essays, Henry David Thoreauregisters dramatic changes in a bid to enhance his audience abilityto develop a clear and detailed understanding of the power theypossess. In doing this, the writer able to demonstrate howindividuals can use their conscience and principles to uphold justicewithin the society. For example, in “Resistance to CivilGovernment”, an essay contextualized around passivity, the writeruses the concept of slavery and the Mexican-American war of 1846/1848to motivate his ideological change. By this, the author candemonstrate the need for individuals not to bow unquestionable stateauthority that disregards their physical and emotional being.Therefore, it should be noted that the key reasons for the drasticchange in this essay is to explore the lack of judgment, moral senseand conscience among the service men of the state. While in “A Pleafor Captain John Brown”, an essay based on the idea of aggression,Henry David Thoreau uses the moral independence of John Brown tobring to life the idea of social morality. The reason for doing thisis to enhance the public’s understanding of the need for brevityeven in the face of opposition. For instance, in responding to thedissatisfied voices against John Brown, Thoreau says “when were thegood and brave in large numbers?” (Goldman, 2008)

Further,it can be argued that the article “Resistance to civil government”deserves passivity. That is mainly because the writer openlyadvocates for public defiance against policies established bygovernmental authorities. That is in a bid to limit publicparticipation in various acts of injustices against other beings bycreating public awareness and knowledge on the relevance ofsafeguarding their conscience and emotions against selfish governmentinstitutions. Similarly, the happening in the second essay deservesaggression. That is because it focuses on empowering the public onthe various ways to excessive brevity and uphold their moralprinciples despites the social oppositions that they might face.

Ina nutshell, it should be noted that the concept of slavery and thecivil war between America and Mexico are what motivated Americantranscendentalist Henry David Thoreau to act as a social activist inthese specifics and other differing ways. That is mainly due to theability of the events within the two essays to demonstrate the looseof human pride and dignity. That is as a result of subjectivegovernance in which a section of individuals are given power over thevulnerable population within the society.


Goldman,L., (2008). A Plea for Captain John Brown by Henry David ThoreauOctober 30, 1859. Retrieved from

Gordon,J., &amp Woodlief, A., (1999). Resistance to civil government orcivil disobedience. Retrieved from