Thoreau was once sent to jail for refusing to pay his taxes and I support this episode of civil disobedience as justified. Thoreau did not pay his taxes because he objected the use of the revenue to finance the Mexican War and enforcement of slavery laws. He did not request for his money to be used for the enforcement of slavery laws, therefore felt he had the right to protest and act out civil disobedience. Paul Harris defines civil disobedience as “an illegal, public, nonviolent, conscientiously motivated act of protest, done by someone who accepts the legitimacy of the legal and political systems and who submits to arrest and punishment” (2). Before I supported his civil disobedience, I opted to see if it was justified.
For Thoreaus arrest to be an act of civil disobedience, it has to be publicized. Being publicized distinguishes his arrest as civil disobedience rather than being criminal (7). Thoreau had many people offering to pay his taxes but refused to take them. His refusal made his arrest publicized enough for someone to pay his taxes to release him from jail. Civil disobedient acts need to be publicized to show the participant is against the political system. Thoreau showed he was against paying taxes by wanting to stay in jail and arguing that he should be the only person to pay his own taxes. This indicates he wanted his disobedience justified.
For acts of civil disobedience to be justified, those acts need to be acts of protest. Thoreau desired a change in the law and the political system, so he attempted to change a flaw in the governmental law. He demanded to stay arrested and protest in hopes of a change in the law. He was not concern that he was released, but that his disobedience had an affect. This further justifies his disobedience.
Nonviolence is a requirement for an act to be an act of civil disobedience (10). Nonviolence is a defining characteristic of civil disobedience (10). Thoreaus use of nonviolence means a serious purpose of justifying his protest against taxes and shows the respect for human rights as a moral value (10). Thoreau, when asked to go to jail, agreed to go without violence and did not let violence intrude into the process of the protest. I believe being civil disobedient involves nonviolent protests like Rosa Parks civil disobedience against racial segregation of blacks sitting in the front of buses. Both Thoreau and Parks used nonviolent tactics to change political law. I support both Thoreau and Parks for breaking unjust laws to change and make a difference in our government law.
I support Henry David Thoreaus disobedient act against paying taxes. He did not want his money to be use in a way he did not desire. Standing up for what you believe in and being disobedient does not necessary mean committing an illegal act. It can change the law to better suit society. People practicing civil disobedience break a law because they consider the law unjust, and want to call attention to its injustice, hoping to bring about its withdrawal.