Henry David Thoreau
(public domain image)
On this day in 1817, Henry David Thoreau drew his first breath in Concord (MA, US). Among his many accomplishments, one that I especially admire was his essay entitled “Resistance to Civil Government,” which was published in 1849 as “Civil Disobedience” in Aesthetic Papers. In his venerated discussion of government and individual responsibility, Mr. Thoreau set an important standard for generations that followed his.
Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?