“Resistance to Civil Government” by Henry David Thoreau

Current Title: On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Beyond the Majority Rule

Thoreau argued that the State should recognize and respect the autonomy and rights of the individual, and improve further upon the current form of democracy, i.e., the majority rule.

“All voting is a sort of gaming, …, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; … The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. … A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.”

Civil Disobedience

He urged that people should resist or at least disassociate from an unjust government.

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. … If any think that their influence would be lost there, …, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”


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