As he wrote: ‘Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is a prison.’Thoreau didn’t advocate the non-payment of taxes as a rule, and in fact, a well-meaning aunt soon paid his bill.
The non-payment was just one example of the many non-violent ways that a democratically elected government could and must be resisted when its actions veer into aggression and unreason.
Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.
What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.” Thoreau had put his dicta into practice already many years before.
The present is rife with examples of oppressive governments. The question that presents itself to any opposition is what is to be done? Neither, of course, did Henry David Thoreau, author of the 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience,” a document that every student of Political Philosophy 101 knows as an ur-text of modern democratic protest movements.
The likelihood of success in such cases---depending on the belligerence of the opposition and the capabilities of the government---varies widely.He denounced the Mexican-American war, the repatriation of slaves and the outlook of the government more generally.So as to underline his opposition, Thoreau held back payment of his taxes.What marked out a noble citizen of the republic, a real American, was not – in Thoreau’s view – that they respectfully shut up, but that they thought for themselves every day of an administration’s life.On the basis of just this kind of independent thinking, Thoreau signalled a radical opposition to Polk’s term.Within a year of his inauguration, he had declared full-scale war on Mexico because of squabbles over the Texan border, and was soon rattling his saber at Britain over the ownership of Oregon.To complete the picture, Polk was a vigorous defender of slavery, who dismissed the arguments of abolitionists as naive and sentimental.In July 1846, he walked into Concord, Massachusetts to get his shoes repaired and was arrested and thrown into the town’s jail.Thoreau saw nothing undignified about spending some time behind bars.An election settles who the president might be, it doesn’t determine that everything that president does is right or that one should simply do nothing until the next election.History is rife with examples of oppressive governments. But I see no moral reason to condemn people for fighting injustice, provided their cause itself is just.