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Thoreau said that his one night in jail made the state look foolish.We have now arrived at the third principle of civil disobedience: you should attempt to convert your opponent by demonstrating the justice of your cause.
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But open rebellion does become justified in two cases: first, when the friction comes to have its own machine, that is, when the injustice is no longer occasional but a major characteristic; and, second, when the machine demands that people cooperate with injustice.
Thoreau declared that, if the government Conscience vs.
The opening sentence of “Civil Disobedience” sets the tone by endorsing Thomas Jefferson’s much quoted sentiment on government — “That government is best which governs least.” Then Thoreau carries Jefferson’s logic one step further: Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. After what appears to be a call for anarchism, Thoreau pulls back and dissociates himself from “no-government men.” Speaking in practical terms and “as a citizen,” he states, “I ask for, not at once no government, but a better government.” Whatever his position on government, one point is clear: Thoreau denies the right of any government to automatic and unthinking obedience.
Obedience should be earned and it should be withheld from an unjust government.