Thoreau critiques the basis of representative democracy in Civil Disobedience in which he not only advocates for opposition to decadent and unjust actions but also censures them. His main concept was that there is a higher rule than civil law that requires individual obedience. His major question, impelled by his opposition to oppression as well as the Mexican War, was how citizens may react towards a government that pursues rules they believe are unjust (Thoreau,1993). As a result of this immoral policy, dissenters arose, which caused Thoreau to worry. He pondered the purpose of any reaction to unfair policies that the individual does not directly or indirectly support. Thus, he concluded that the most effective methods in the fight against injustice are resistance to the state and a lack of attachment to it. As a result, Thoreau argues that dissenters should not be exiled because an individual is the source of all moral power.
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Thus, Thoreau attempted to fight injustice against the persecution and the Mexican War. Thoreau refused to eat to pay his poll tax, an act of defiance that placed him in prison for a night. Furthermore, when he was ordered to pay a levy to support an ecclesiastic prior to that act, he not only refused to pay it but also declared his independence from the state. He wrote in the paper the following “I Henry David Thoreau, do not intend to be considered as a member of any community which I have not joined,” he wrote in the paper (Thoreau, 1993, p.12). In the end, he contended that egalitarianism would be enhanced if the government allowed some people to live beyond the reach of the state.
Furthermore, human law and government are secondary, and when the two are not in conflict, a person must act in accordance with his or her conscience and, if necessary, disregard human law. According to Thoreau, the government is the only means by which the people have chosen to carry out their will, and it is equally susceptible to abuse and perversion (Thoreau, 1993). For example, during the Mexican War, a small number of people used the existing government as a tool from the very beginning. Thus, many people agreed with their position regarding the use of government. Instead of going for exile, Thoreau proposed a better system in which each individual expresses what kind of government he would respect. This is since justice cannot be guaranteed in a government where the majority rules in all circumstances. Thoreau also claimed that persons should come first, followed by subjects (Thoreau, 1993). This is because cultivating respect for the law at the expense of the right is not desired.
Dissenters should not be exiled, because everyone recognizes the right to revolution, which includes the right to reject allegiance to and counter-attack the government when its inadequacy becomes unbearable. When a sixth of the population of a country that has pledged to be a shelter for liberty is enslaved, and the entire nation is unjustly occupied by a foreign army and subjected to military law, honest persons can dissent, according to Thoreau (Thoreau, 1993). When this happens, dissenters should not be expelled because the invading army has completely overrun the country, making the duty even more vital. Above all, it is not a man’s obligation to commit himself to the abolition of even the most heinous injustice.
Thoreau also opposed the idea of exiling dissenters by expressing an important viewpoint on the importance of nonconformity. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the American government’s policies of unfairness and intolerance of nonconformity and dissent. Many of the world’s ills, according to Thoreau, stem from affluent majorities making it impossible for others to pursue justice in the way they see it (Thoreau 1993). As a result, the government should let citizens choose whether or not they want to live independently of the government (Thoreau 1993). His antislavery and reform writings were a response to what he considered to be severe circumstances. They signify a recognition that inner research loses its purpose if moral issues are ignored.
The government enforces civil law using physical means, which are ineffective when it comes to moral matters. When a man of conscience disagrees with the state, he is punished by physical incarceration, which is a type of coercion that accomplishes nothing. This is why dissenters should not be exiled because the government can only make people obey a higher law. Furthermore, rules governing concerns of conscience fall into a different category than those that can be decided by a majority vote (Thoreau, 1993). In other words, when the government becomes engaged in moral concerns, it oversteps its power.
Above all, moral concerns must be settled by the individual and his morality, not by the mainstream through government, which has the ability to impose exile. Individual action, rather than the governmental process, can end the Mexican War, which Thoreau believes must be ended. Because civil disobedience is a plea for limited government, those who engage in it should not be banished but rather given a fair trial under the law. The dissenter criticizes the government’s engagement in topics over which it has no authority by refusing to pay taxes. This is simply a peaceful revolution that does not necessitate a resolution of exile.
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Thoreau, H. D. (1993). Civil disobedience, and other essays. Courier Corporation.