Resistance to Civil Government

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 612 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Words: 612|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Thoreau's Arguments
  3. Evaluation of Thoreau's Arguments
  4. Relevance in Contemporary Society
  5. Conclusion


Resistance to Civil Government, also known as Civil Disobedience, is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau in 1849. Thoreau's essay explores the concept of civil disobedience as a means of protesting unjust laws and government actions. This essay has had a significant impact on political and social movements throughout history and continues to be a source of inspiration for those seeking social change. In this essay, I will analyze Thoreau's arguments, evaluate their validity, and explore their relevance in contemporary society.

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Thoreau's Arguments

Thoreau's central argument in Resistance to Civil Government is that individuals have a moral duty to resist unjust laws and government actions. He posits that the government is often corrupt and that individuals have a responsibility to act according to their own conscience rather than blindly following the law. Thoreau writes, "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right" (Thoreau, 1849).

Thoreau also argues that civil disobedience is a means of expressing one's individuality and asserting one's rights. He asserts that individuals should not be passive spectators to injustice but active participants in the fight against it. Thoreau writes, "I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest" (Thoreau, 1849).

Evaluation of Thoreau's Arguments

Thoreau's arguments in Resistance to Civil Government are thought-provoking and raise important questions about the nature of government and the individual's role in society. However, they are not without criticism.

One criticism of Thoreau's argument is that civil disobedience may lead to chaos and anarchy. While Thoreau advocates for peaceful resistance, there is the potential for individuals to interpret his ideas as a justification for violent protest. Additionally, the absence of a clear definition of what constitutes an "unjust" law leaves room for subjective interpretation and potentially dangerous actions.

Another criticism is that Thoreau's argument assumes a level of privilege and autonomy that not everyone possesses. For marginalized communities, the consequences of civil disobedience can be much more severe than for those in positions of power. Thoreau's essay does not adequately address the potential risks and consequences for individuals who choose to resist unjust laws.

Relevance in Contemporary Society

Despite these criticisms, Thoreau's ideas on civil disobedience continue to resonate in contemporary society. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, draws inspiration from Thoreau's essay, advocating for nonviolent resistance to combat systemic racism and police brutality. Similarly, the environmental movement has embraced Thoreau's call to action, with activists engaging in acts of civil disobedience to raise awareness about the urgent need for environmental conservation.

Thoreau's emphasis on individual conscience and the importance of taking a stand against injustice remains relevant today. In a society where conformity and complacency often prevail, Thoreau's essay serves as a reminder of the power of individual agency and the necessity of questioning authority.


Resistance to Civil Government is a seminal work that challenges individuals to question the legitimacy of unjust laws and government actions. Thoreau's arguments, while not without criticism, continue to inspire social and political movements today. By engaging in civil disobedience, individuals can assert their rights, challenge oppressive systems, and work towards a more just society.

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Thoreau's essay reminds us that the fight for justice and equality requires active participation and a willingness to challenge the status quo. In a world where injustice persists, Thoreau's call to action remains as relevant today as it was when he first penned his words. As individuals, we must ask ourselves: will we passively accept the injustices around us, or will we follow Thoreau's lead and engage in resistance to civil government?

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Resistance To Civil Government. (2024, March 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
“Resistance To Civil Government.” GradesFixer, 19 Mar. 2024,
Resistance To Civil Government. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
Resistance To Civil Government [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 19 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from:
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