Henry David Thoreau And Transcendatalism

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Henry David Thoreau And Transcendatalism

Henry David Thoreau harbored many anarchist thoughts toward
the American
government of the decades before the Civil War, which he
collected and wrote
about in the essay, Civil Disobedience, which, in fact
was originally
called Resistance to Civil Government, giving the essay a
powerful message
that would not only reflect Thoreau's own views toward the
Mexican war, but
also give the essay a powerful anti-slavery message, as
well as affect the
whole idea of Civil Rights, as well as shape the leaders of
Civil Rights.
In examining the essay, Civil Disobedience, we must also
immerse ourselves
into the reasoning of the essay. Henry David Thoreau lived
a quiet life in a
small cabin he had built in Walden. Thoreau thought paying
his taxes was
wrong in principal, Thoreau declares that he cannot
associate with the
American government, because it is a slave's government
(BECK Index).
Thoreau jails himself after being asked about taxes by the
Constable of
Concord, Sam Staples, a friend of Thoreau. Thoreau refuses
to pay the tax,
and is only released after some family member pays the tax
for him. Thoreau
is infuriated that someone would pay his tax for him after
he would not
(About.com).
Thoreau refuses to pay taxes due to their use in the
Mexican War. As Thoreau
declares Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few
individuals using the
standing government as their tool. Thoreau, gives 'civil
Disobedience' its
urgency... as a result of the leadership of imperialists
like President
James Polk and Southern planters who were determined to add
new land to
their cotton culture, was making war on Mexico and would
take away half its'
territory (Smith, 60). The action of the government is
more like that of a
monarchy to Thoreau. Witness the present Mexican war, the
work of
comparatively few individuals, (Thoreau, 1). Thoreau
speaks by the basic
Transcendentalist though of self-reliance. Thoreau also,
questions the personal morality involved in the Mexican
war (Hildebidle,
69). In Civil Disobedience, we can see the stark
contrasts between the
attitude of the state and Toreau's own views.
Thoreau explains why slavery is a moral evil. Thoreau only
disagreed with
the principle behind slavery, he knew no Negroes, had
never experienced the
slightest social oppression, but was a radical
individualist (Smith, 62).
Thoreau was a staunch supporter of John Brown, and went as
far as to honor
his death at Harper's Ferry. Thoreau influenced many
leaders of later Civil
Rights movements. Thoreau's essay is a noble ringing
reiteration of the
highest religious individualism as a self-evident social
principle
(Emerson, 5)
The essay also had a power with great minds who were
looking to break free
of oppressive governments. It has been well documented that
King and Gandhi
were both affected by the essay in threir quest for civil
equality, for
Gandhi, as a young leader of the oppressed Indians in South
Africa, was
looking for a political strategy by which to resist a
totally oppressive
government. (Hildebidle, 74) Civil Disobedience gives
each reader a
message about speaking out about what you believe in. For
Thoreau, the
problem is simply of putting the highest possible value on
the individual
rather than on the state, (Salt, 174). Again, Thoreau
light s the fire in
the reader, to think of what is good for himself or
herself.
John F. Kennedy said in his inauguration speech, Ask not
what you country
can do for you, but what you can do for your country. This
thought
expresses many values a person may have towards an action,
taking place.
Thoreau has this to say about the government, It does not
keep the country
free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate.

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