Early life[ edit ] Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvaniato Florence Rustin and Archie Hopkins, but raised by his maternal grandparents, Julia Davis and Janifer Rustin, as the ninth of their twelve children; growing up he believed his biological mother was his older sister. With these influences in his early life, in his youth Rustin campaigned against racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws.
As an abolitionist, he had objected to the Massachusetts poll tax and refused to pay it as a protest against slavery. When the Mexican War broke out inhe protested against it as an aggressive war of conquest aimed in part at adding new slave territories to the United States, and for this reason as well, he refused to pay the tax.
When Thoreau still failed to comply, Staples arrested him on July 23 or 24 and imprisoned him in the Middlesex County jail. Hence slavery, no matter how legal and it remained legal untilwas always unjust in its violation of the integrity and divine soul of the enslaved.
He does not, however, argue for violent revolution; he advocates nonviolent resistance. Later, Thoreau would contradict such a philosophy in three essays championing John Brown, who endorsed and practiced violence.
The disobedient must be prepared to accept punishment, if necessary: The authority of government. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I conceded to it.
There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.
This doctrine has always been repellent to authoritarians of the far Right and Left, who tolerate no dissent and have had protesters beaten, imprisoned, and even killed. In the seventeenth century, Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony reproved his constituents for daring to criticize him, calling them naturally depraved and maintaining that the authorities are instituted by God and that to criticize them constitutes treason and atheism.
In Billy Budd, ForetopmanHerman Melville satirically presented the authoritarian military point of view when Captain Vere insists that those in uniform must obey without question: If our judgments approve the war, that is but coincidence.
For that law and the rigour of it, we are not responsible. Our vowed responsibility is in this: That however pitilessly that law may operate, we nevertheless adhere to it and administer it. The rationale behind war crimes trials, however, is that even the military are subject to a higher law.
All abolitionists, members of the Underground Railroad, and those who refused to obey the Fugitive Slave Act were practicing civil disobedience.
History and literature are full of examples. Mahatma Gandhi was an admirer of Thoreau and adopted his policy of nonviolent resistance to oppose racism in Africa and imperialism in India. American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In fact, the U. King and his followers repeatedly did. Thoreau never advocated the indiscriminate breaking of laws; civil disobedience applies only in cases of fundamental moral principle.
Not all individuals are necessarily right in defying the government. Similarly, opponents of abortion rights have argued that a higher law requires them to break laws that prohibit them from harassing those who sanction abortion rights.One of the most influential American writers and philosophers, Henry David Thoreau is praised by activists, environmentalists, hippies, conservatives, and idealistic college freshmen alike.
Get The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion columnists, editorials, op-eds, letters to the editor, and book and arts reviews. David Henry Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience argues that if a government is being unfair, it is an individual's duty to stand up against it.
This Penlighten post briefs you on the Civil Disobedience summary for you in an effort to explain Thoreau's ideas better. Course Summary It's easy to teach your students all the English topics they need to know by using this 10th Grade English textbook course.
In his essay “Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau opens by saying, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least’" (), and then clarifies that his true belief is “‘That government is best which governs not at all’" (). Henry David Thoreau () was an American essayist, naturalist, philosopher, and poet.
Born at Concord, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard, he began his career as a teacher. Through his older friend and neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, he became a part of the Transcendentalist circle and one of that group's most eloquent spokespersons.