Answer to Question #163808 in History for Ashley Mendez

Question #163808

What specific laws does Thoreau have in mind when he writes, "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?" How were these laws Thoreau had in mind transgressed in his era?

Expert's answer

Thoreau was one of the radical personalities in American history whose views were just, firm, undoubtedly, and relevant to the natural philosophical ideas of how the government should relate to its citizens. Thoreau identified that the government is human-made and not an act of God. Therefore, he pointed out that human beings' government markers can be challenged or advised instead of the creator, God. Consequently, he noticed the government itself exercised brutality to its citizens by enacting unjust laws.

Thoreau was against the rule or the majority's law, which undermined the right, just, and fair conscience of the minority. He furthered critiqued the legislators who were afraid to make amendments to the unjust laws that the minority opposed.

Thoreau transgressed the Fugitive Slave Law Of 1850. The law promoted the recapture of the slaves that escaped than freeing them. Thoreau termed this unjust law that deserved transgression. Moreover, he refuted the laws that legislatures branded to be avenues of equality that meaning was never archived. Gays that were present in this era faced all forms of injustices that originated from the unjust laws that considered the act as a criminal offense. Thoreau and his partners' policies made it clear that gays never demanded special rights but rather enjoyed the freedoms as anyone else.

Thoreau was against the laws that were governing taxation activities, and he vehemently refuted the poll tax. Citizens were hypocrites to claim that the government was enacting unjust legislation, whereas the same citizens pay tax to support the same rogue government system. The idea that Thoreau had was to enlighten individuals of their civil responsibilities to either transgress or amend unjust law. He purported that disregarding or criticizing the unfair acts was not to harm or win over the opponent but to non-violently make them understand justice's real meaning in a friendly manner.


Thoreau, H. D., & MacLeish, A. (2001). Civil disobedience (p., 228). Virginia Tech.

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