Historical Context in Civil Disobedience
Historical Context Examples in Civil Disobedience:
"Webster..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
During the early 19th century, Daniel Webster (1782–1852) was an influential American statesman. Through his legal counsel, he helped support the authority of the federal government and set Constitutional precedents. Thoreau appears to claim that despite Webster’s accomplishments, he failed to question the role of government in an individual’s life.
"Confucius..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE) is considered one of the most influential thinkers and teachers in history. His writings and philosophy, known as Confucianism, emphasize morality, positive relationships, justice, and honesty. Thoreau and other transcendentalists were greatly influenced by Confucius and other Eastern philosophers.
"esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
Thoreau is referring to General George Washington (1732–1799) and Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), two of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Thoreau critically refers to some of his peers as “children” of these founders to point out that while they claim ancestry, they lack the spirit of such leaders.
"Paley..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
William Paley (1743–1805) was a writer, utilitarian, and philosopher. His 1785 book, Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, contains a chapter titled “Duty of Submission to Civil Government”—mentioned here by Thoreau—which possibly inspired Thoreau’s own essay. Paley is perhaps best known for his argument for the existence of a God, known as his “watchmaker analogy,” in which he claims that since the insides of a watch reveal an intricate nature constructed by an intelligent being, then the same argument can be made for how the universe works.
"in the Revolution of '75..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
This is a reference to the Revolutionary War, fought from 1775 to 1783, in which the American colonies rebelled against the British Empire in order to establish independence from British rule. Thoreau refers to this revolution in order to make a parallel comparison to his current situation and argument.