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Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience

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Thoreau's influential 1849 essay on following your own conscience.
Thoreau's influential 1849 essay on following your own conscience.

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Published by: Mosi Ngozi (fka) james harris on Feb 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Essay: “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”Author: Henry David Thoreau, 1817–62First published: 1849The original essay is in the public domain in the United Statesand in most, if not all, other countries as well. Readers outside theUnited States should check their own countries’ copyright laws to be certain they canlegally download this ebook. TheOnline Books  Page has anFAQwhich gives a summary of copyright durations for many other countries, as well as links to more official sources.(Links will open in a new window.)This PDF ebook wascreated by José Menéndez.
accept the motto,—“That government is best whichgoverns least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidlyand systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, whichalso I believe,—“That government is best which governs not atall;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but anexpedient; but most governments are usually, and all governmentsare sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have beenbrought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty,and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against astanding government. The standing army is only an arm of thestanding government. The government itself, which is only themode which the people have chosen to execute their will, isequally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can actthrough it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government astheir tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consentedto this measure.This American government,—what is it but a tradition,though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired toposterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has notthe vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man canbend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the peoplethemselves; and, if ever they should use it in earnest as a real oneagainst each other, it will surely split. But it is not the lessnecessary for this; for the people must have some complicatedmachinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of 

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