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Because Thoreau and his fellow transcendentalists trusted their own inner light as a moral guiding force, they were possessed of a fierce spirit of self-reliance.They were individualists; they liked to make decisions for themselves.In contrast, William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) was moved to devote all of his energy and resources to a tireless crusade for abolition.
Readings to Accompany The Audio From : William Lloyd Garrison, "Man Cannot Hold Property in Man" (pp.
77-80); Frederick Douglas, "You Are a Man, and So Am I" (pp.
, which was to exercise a great influence on subsequent generations of thinkers.
This module explores political obligation generally, including the questions whether one should submit to unjust demands from political authorities and whether a citizen should acquiesce when the state makes him or her "the agent of injustice to another." Thoreau draws on a long libertarian tradition that holds that, although our universal, or general, obligations are not the result of choice or action (for example, the obligation not to take the life, liberty, or justly held possessions of any other person), particular obligations, that is, specific obligations to specific persons, are based on some act of the obligee, for example, assenting to a contract that requires the payment of a sum of money for a service rendered.
Thoreau first presented the essay as a lecture on January 26, 1848, at the Concord (Massachusetts) Lyceum.
In May 1849, it was published under the title "Resistance to Civil Government" in Aesthetic Papers, a short-lived journal of transcendentalist Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894).
81-87); William Ellery Channing, "A Human Being Cannot Be Justly Owned" (pp.
88-91); Herbert Spencer, "The Right to Ignore the State" (pp. 142-48); Lysander Spooner, "The Constitution of No Authority" (pp. From Some proponents of abolishing slavery favored compensating the slaveholders for loss of their slaves. Would secession by the Northern states from the Union have been justified as a means of eliminating the Fugitive Slave Laws?
David Boaz, in his chapter "The Obsolete State," speculates that the growth of the market and the spread of new technologies may allow individuals greater opportunity in the future to "bypass the state." Of overriding importance to Thoreau was his refusal to sanction the evil institution of slavery, and thus his violation of the Fugitive Slave Laws and his participation in the Underground Railway to freedom for escaped slaves.
While Thoreau opposed slavery, his principal response was to resist it passively, rather than to crusade for its abolition.