December 26, 2017
You are Pure When Self-Reliant
“I was not born to be forced.” These words were penned by Henry David Thoreau in 1849 in his essay Resistance to a Civil Government. Henry David Thoreau was an author in the transcendentalist movement. He read many of Emerson’s works and was known as the practitioner because he would go out and practice the things that Emerson suggested. The Transcendentalists believed that invasive government and politics corrupted the purity of the individual. Refusing to pay his poll tax, Thoreau was thrown into jail in July of 1846. He spent one night in jail and made it his mission to reveal the flaws in the American government. Attempting to flee the government, Thoreau went into the woods to live by himself and be self-reliant. During this time he wrote a lecture that one year later would become his essay entitled Resistance to a Civil Government.
In Resistance to a Civil Government, Thoreau argues that the government follows the majority even if the majority is not correct and that people should follow what they believe is right not just if it is the belief of the majority. He also states that it is not the duty of people to destroy all evils, but it is the duty of people to not participate in them. He says that one of these evils is the government. He mentions some of the things that makes a government evil or unjust. These are slavery and invasive war. He says that to defend your country with your army is one thing, but to actively go out and attack people in a means to protect your country is unjust. Additionally, he attacked slavery as immoral and unjust because the American Government’s Declaration of Independence states that “All men are created equal.” Thoreau comments that the American government when created was a just government, but that as it got older it was losing more and more integrity and moving more towards entropy.
In this essay Thoreau is trying to prove that the best way for people to live is as if they are self-reliant and not relying on any entity such as the government for help. He believed that individuals are at their best when left alone. He understood that individuals needed to work for what they wanted. He believed that government causes the corruption of the individual because it took away the need for self-sufficiency gives people the tools to get what they want and have power over people. He believes that government can be good if it is not too powerful. The manifest destiny was his prime example of invasive war. The manifest destiny was the legislation that allowed the US to try to invade Mexico and gain as much land as we could. With this doubts Thoreau was more doubtful that reform could from within the government. This is why Thoreau spent most of his life in the woods to disassociate himself from the government.
Henry David Thoreau wrote his essay Resistance to a Civil Government to express his views on the government. The two fundamental issues he found were Invasive war and slavery. This is why he lived in the woods. Thoreau was looking to avoid the government.