Patriotism In Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

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Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in 1849 to inform other Americans about the government. The Mexican-American War and slavery were two very big controversies that happened during the time Thoreau wrote this because he believed the government was bringing injustice to its people. His main point in Civil Disobedience was to relay the message to others about not doing everything the government tells its people to do. Thoreau does not just tell his fellow citizens to do this - he takes his own advice by not paying certain taxes that are forced upon him by the government. Thoreau wants his audience to follow their own values and morals instead of doing what they are told to do. He wants everyone to understand that the government …show more content…
Thoreau uses pathos to make his impact stronger and to get his audience to see the government from his perspective and enact change. Patriotism is used in this next example because he is ultimately giving his audience the choice to act against the government by grouping them all as citizens (Heinrichs). Guilt is an emotion that Thoreau depends on this when he states that “a wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority” (Thoreau). He uses this to make people feel guilty about letting the majority decide on issues and not taking action themselves. Even though the government is supposed to be guided by the majority, Thoreau expresses that the elite politicians ultimately have the final say, and even if the majority is powerful it does not reflect the rightness or what the minority wants (McElroy). He wants them to feel like they have not been upstanding citizens and will not be until they take action. Not only did Thoreau use this strategy to talk about how unfair the government was, he also used it when he was talking about how horrible his experience is jail was. Thoreau uses storytelling to let others understand the experience he went through during his one night in jail (Heinrichs). Examples of this are when he talks about what the other prisoners wore and did and when we …show more content…
“Unjust laws exist” is a decree that everyone can agree with logically and that is Thoreau’s expectation (Thoreau). This gives his audience a starting point as to where they can begin wondering why their government makes these ‘unjust’ laws and why the citizens follow them. Because Thoreau went against the government, like he wants all others to do, as well as slavery, he states that “if the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the state will not hesitate which one to choose” (Thoreau). Here he is putting into perspective that the actions of the people can have an effect on the actions of the government. He continues to say “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bill this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood” Thoreau). Stating that paying the taxes only contributes to the enslaving and death of others could be seen as the “ignorance is proof” tactic (Heinrichs) but he uses these statements in a way to persuade his audience to logically think about where the government is putting their tax

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