BirminghamJailThe Declaration of Individualism and The Encouragement of Protest from BirminghamJailAlthough the time periods and goals may be different the method forbringing about change is usually the same, this method is protest. This methodis supported by two different people, in two different time periods, with twodifferent goals; these two people are Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther KingJunior.Martin Luther King Junior’s letter from Birmingham Jail was anexpression of his encouragement for protest against tradition and establishedlaws and a justification for his actions. King, a leader of a civil-rightsgroup that supported protest against traditional views, encouraged protestingagainst tradition and established laws that are unjust. In his letter fromBirmingham Jail King states:”It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I amsure that, had I lived in Germany at that time, I would have aided and comfortedmy Jewish brothers.

If today I lived in a Communist country where certainprinciples dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocatedisobeying that country’s anti-religious laws.”This excerpt shows that King encourages protest because in some situations hedeems it necessary, be it in Hitler’s Germany, a Communist country, or anysituation in which injustices are occurring. In the last sentence of theexcerpt King openly admits that he would protest against established laws ortraditions. King was against the traditional views and unjust laws, whichdiscriminated against him and his fellow people. He felt that the only way thatthese unjust laws and traditional beliefs would ever change would be by meansof protest.

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He felt that without protest the laws and traditions would remainthe same forever. Along with encouraging protest, King’s letter was also ajustification of his actions. The letter was written to his fellow clergymen toexplain his prior actions and to attempt to justify them. In the letter hetried to explain to the clergy that his actions although illegal were justifiedand appropriate for the situation.

He expressed that he exhausted every otheroption possible and direct action was the only available option left, whichcould make a difference.Similarly to King’s letter from Birmingham Jail, The Declaration ofIndependence was written by Thomas Jefferson to encourage the protest ofestablished laws and justify possible actions. But unlike King, Jefferson alsoencouraged individualism in his declaration. His views are distinctly stated inthe first sentence of The Declaration of Independence:”When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people todissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and toassume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to whichthe Laws of Nature and the Laws of God entitle them, a decent respect to theopinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impelthem to separation.

“In this single sentence Jefferson states his support for the encouragement ofindividualism and the need for protest against established laws. Thedeclaration was written to bring about unity to our nation. Even though it wasmeant to bring unity and similarity as a group it still encouraged individualism,just on a larger scale. The document states that we, the entire country, needto unite to become an individual separate from England. Jefferson feels that itis in the course of human event for individualism to occur, and that withoutindividualism change would never occur. The entire document is basically adeclaration of individualism.

“The Declaration of Independence”, along with theencouragement individualism supports the protest against established laws. Thelaws of England were the established laws at the time prior to the writing ofthe declaration, and Jefferson felt that everyone should have the right protestagainst any laws that they feel are unjust no matter how well established theymay be. Throughout the entire declaration Jefferson states how he, and themajority of the nation, felt that the established laws of the time were unjustand deserved protest. Jefferson’s view on protest is clear in one specificsentence of the declaration, “whenever any Form of Government becomesdestructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolishit”. Since the laws of the time were thought to be unjust, protest wasappropriate and well justified in Jefferson’s eyes.

Jefferson stated multiplereasons to justify his view that the colonies needed to separate from England.This document was not only meant to bring about individualism and protest, butjustify the future action that would occur to achieve it. Martin LutherKing Jr. and Thomas Jefferson were both leaders of revolutions, and though eachrevolution was vastly different, they believed in the idea that change would notoccur unless it was forced along. They believed that change among establishedlaws and traditions could only occur through protest.

Two different men, nearlytwo hundred years apart, with two different goals, and nearly identical methodsof achieving their goals


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