Pay the Man In eighteen forty-nine, Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay called “Civil Disobedience”, in response to his one- night imprisonment for refusing to pay his poll-tax, in protest of the Mexican War. Thoreau believed that if one “HONEST” man were to withdraw from the state, and be locked up in the jail therefore, it would be the beginning of revolution and reform in the United States. This is not logical. The state uses jails to neutralize dangerous people, because nothing can be accomplished from a jail cell. He writes, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” I say the true place for this “just” man is on the community radio station, in the Sunday morning newspaper, and even in front of the city library, letting his ideas get out in the open where people like you and me can listen, read, and discuss. Sitting in a cage for a just cause is passive resistance and it is simply not enough to inspire people to action. Thoreau explains that resistance to the civil government should be based on my conscience; that in all circumstances, I should do what I believe is right. “Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but [a man’s] conscience? Must the citizen ever for a moment or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then?” Two examples Thoreau uses are the waging of war against Mexico, and the holding of slaves. He urges, “This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.” Thoreau’s conscience told him that slavery was wrong, immoral, or against his personal beliefs. However, to Thoreau’s neighbor, who truly believes that God gave white men dominion over black men, it would be immoral to give blacks the same rights as whites. If two men, who make decisions accordin…
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