Thoreau Civil Disobedience Essay Questions

Henry David Thoreau popularized the term in the US with his essay Civil Disobedience, although the concept itself has been practiced longer before.

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In the essay, Thoreau explained his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican–American War.

He writes, If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders.

Pro Public and typically peaceful resistance to political power would remain an integral tactic in modern American minority rights politics.

It later became an effective tool by various peoples who objected to British occupation, such as in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919.

Thus, by the time Thoreau's lectures were first published under the title "Civil Disobedience", in 1866, four years after his death, the term had achieved fairly widespread usage.

It has been argued that the term "civil disobedience" has always suffered from ambiguity and in modern times, become utterly debased.

Following the Peterloo massacre of 1819, the poet Percy Shelley wrote the political poem The Mask of Anarchy later that year, that begins with the images of what he thought to be the unjust forms of authority of his time—and then imagines the stirrings of a new form of social action.

According to Ashton Nichols, it is perhaps the first modern statement of the principle of nonviolent protest.

Marshall Cohen notes, "It has been used to describe everything from bringing a test-case in the federal courts to taking aim at a federal official.

Indeed, for [US] Vice President [Spiro] Agnew it has become a code-word describing the activities of muggers, arsonists, draft evaders, campaign hecklers, campus militants, anti-war demonstrators, juvenile delinquents and political assassins."the formulation of a single all-encompassing definition of the term is extremely difficult, if not impossible.


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