I do agree with Thoreau’s point that it is our duty as Americans to resist unjust laws. This idea can be found in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it…” The framers of this document believed strongly in our right and responsibility to revolt against oppressive powers. From reading John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government I understand that there must be certain boundaries put in place for those interventions. According to Locke, people should only revolt if their lives or property are threatened by a tyrannical government and when other means have been exhausted (like voting). He also maintains that any revolution must not include violence unless absolutely necessary.
Look at Henry David Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government.” He claims that it is not just our right as Americans, but it is also our duty to defy unjust laws. This is a very American idea. Part of the American identity involves intervening in the face of injustice. Do you agree with this point? What boundaries should exist to those interventions? Support your claims using “Resistance to Civil Government” AND one of the other assigned readings from this week.
In his “Resistance to Civil Government” Thoreau echoes many of these ideas; he writes: “If anyone spends money which might have been better invested…he will soon learn that even this small act has an unlooked-for consequence…it may turn out that he has resisted civil government with success.” By saying this, Thoreau is essentially advocating for peaceful protests against injustice as opposed to violent uprisings. Put together, both readings make clear what boundaries should exist when intervening against injustice: peaceful resistance and reformative measures should always take precedence over violent revolts and individuals should only intervene when their lives or property are being threatened by an unjust authority.