Themes in Civil Disobedience
In Government, Less Is More: Thoreau takes up the principles of the American colonists railing against their British rulers, as well as of the Anti-Federalists of the early days of the nation. Thoreau calls for less taxation, fewer meddlesome laws, and better policies at home and abroad. In general, Thoreau casts a skeptical gaze at the democratic process, judging that the policies and laws which receive the most votes are not necessarily the best, only the most popular.
Freedom and Responsibility for Individuals: Intertwined with Thoreau’s desire for a downscaled government is his desire for a more autonomous American populace. According to Thoreau’s diagnosis, obedience in all domains of life is a serious problem. Those who yield to federal law and procedure help to sustain a corrupt system. Those to yield their efforts to industry pay for their riches with their lives. Thoreau envisions an America in which its citizens are self-sufficient and self-reliant.
Themes Examples in Civil Disobedience:
"I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax...." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State, than it would to obey...." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"The opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called the “means” are increased...." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"But the rich man—not to make any invidious comparison—is always sold to the institution which makes him rich...." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters..." See in text (Civil Disobedience)
"The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterested virtue to sustain it...." See in text (Civil Disobedience)