Comparison of Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau

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Martin Luther King, one of the most well known civil rights leaders in America, believed that some laws during his lifetime were unjust in nature and were acceptable to ignore based on ones conscience. Henry David Thoreau also believed that unjust laws were to be resisted or ignored. While Thoreau was the first American to define and use civil disobedience as a means of protest, King expanded upon it in his letter from Birmingham jail, implementing nonviolence and practical application into the traditional American protest. Henry David Thoreau believed that, “That government is best, which governs least.” Also, while Thoreau had wished for no government, he acknowledged the fact that it was logically impossible and that the government only exists because the people allow it to exist; Thoreau states, “The government does not keep the country free. It does not settle the west. It does not educate.” Thoreau also uses powerful imagery in order to persuade his readers towards his ideals. He believed that one must be conscious of the laws they choose to obey and disobey, whether or not they are in the minority. The people should not be tricked into believing that neither the government nor the majority will know what is right and what is wrong. Instead, Thoreau remarks that it is up to every man to decide for himself what is right based on his moral standards and ethics. It is important to use ones consciousness instead of their logic or rationale in order to decide what is right and what is wrong. Thoreau provides his solution to this problem by stating, “If I have unjustly wrestled a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself.” Through his imagery, Thoreau introduces his idea of civil disobedience. One can infer from his quote that if one does something wrong, it is up to that person to fix what they did even if it leads to his or her
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