Transcendentalism In Civil Disobedience

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The transcendentalism time period is described as a time that stressed equality, social responsibility, and the power of the individual. Although this time period had many influential authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were two of the most influential writers of this era. Throughout both Self Reliance, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Civil Disobedience, written by Henry David Thoreau, the lesson of non-conformity to society and the idea that it is each person’s social responsibility to stand up for themselves is discussed. One of Emerson’s main goal of Self Reliance was wanting to explain an important idea of individuality and that humans should not conform to the societal views that were being forced upon them and that…show more content…
In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau questions, “must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think we should be men first, and subjects afterward”, indicating that man should take more focus on standing up for what is right instead of conforming to what the majority is thinking or what people are being told to think by the government (Thoreau). Thoreau explains that every man has a conscience for a reason, all men are able to generate an opinion on what is right and what is wrong and that men should in a sense “man up” and fight instead of backing down to become slaves to the legislative government. Thoreau gives an example of his non-conformity in Civil Disobedience when he writes about how he stood up against the government by withholding money to pay his taxes. While in prison, Thoreau also demonstrated the act of social responsibility when he chose to view the man from prison as an honorable man instead of judging him for his…show more content…
In “A Plea for Captain John Brown”, a series of speeches given by Thoreau, he endorsed the use of force to eradicate a system of slavery when stated that “a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him” (Thoreau 2009). In his book, Righteous Violence, author Larry Reynolds mentions that Emerson was involved with abolitionism; but his involvement was much less extreme than that of Thoreau. As time moved on, both Thoreau and Emerson eventually adopted the idea of righteous violence, the idea that using violence is justified when fighting for God, country, or
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