[They only can force me who obey a higher law than I]
In a comment on the chapter title “Higher Laws” in Walden, Walter Harding points out that “The phrase Higher Laws’ was very popular in the years prior to the Civil War, particularly among transcendentalists and abolitionists in their fight against the proslavery laws passed by Congress.” Sandra Harbert Petrulionis examines the political uses of the phrase in “The ‘Higher Law’: Then and Now,” Thoreau Society Bulletin 262, Spring 2008 (5-7), available at the Internet Archive.
March 14, 2016 at 7:40 pm
Posted in: Panel of Experts
See in context
November 20, 2015 at 2:27 pm
Posted in: General Discussion
Here Thoreau shows that he isn’t protesting taxes, but rather the allegiance of joining a state that is engaged in war. He disagrees with the killing and slavery in the society he lives and “silently declare[s] war” against these actions. His dedication is seen by him willing to face jail time. Although the work of one person won’t stop these actions, Thoreau gains awareness on the situation and shows how people have to lay themselves down and take some risks for reform to take place.
November 19, 2015 at 3:23 am
This quote is applicable to the politicians and celebrities that has maintained a consistent record of fighting for moral reform throughout the years and yet still considered to be on equal (or sometimes lower) platform with their peers. Senator Bernie Sanders has long fought for racial equality since the beginning of the Civil Rights era and yet he is judged for being too old whereas Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pragmatic in her campaign run regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Director Spike Lee is seen as foolish by those who perceive his documentaries are distorted truths regarding racism in America. “When The Levees Broke”, Lee’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina was released, critics judged it as an unfair representation of the situation. In reality, the lower, impoverished, and primarily black, class of Katrina did suffer the most.
November 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm
Posted in: Open Humanities SUNY Geneseo
[I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night]
Thoreau’s decision to not pay taxes, I believe, can be compared to the recent protests of the Mizzou football players. Thoreau stopped paying taxes because he did not want to endorse a government that actively supported slavery. Similarly, the football players of Mizzou chose not to participate in their university’s football game with BYU because they did not want to play for a school that did not properly address previous racial and hateful incidents that had been occurring prior to the game. Both of these protests were taking place because the institutions (U.S. government for Thoreau and the University of Missouri for the football players) in control were not doing right by people existing within them. They all have the right to protest or disobey these institutions until they are satisfied that all wrongs have been amended.
November 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm
This paragraph looks at the idea that government can be considered a machine that will either eventually wear itself out, or if it is not a machine then it is us the people who are in control of the government. This is getting at the point of a higher law that if there is not agreement with the law should you go with it or break the law.
November 18, 2015 at 5:26 pm
It is the right and duty of the American citizen to protest and reject the actions or inactions of their government when a wrong is accepted. That had been the case regarding racism on campus locally and across the nation. Here we see though the charge to communicate how we wish to see the change occur. What specifically can be done by government officials (who are inevitably distanced from the problems citizens are raising, based on the current culture of our society). Unfortunately this has proven to be the problem behind movements like Occupy ____, and I can see a similar trend occurring with the Black Lives Matter campaign. Their message is clear, but their solutions are unclear, or radical and impractical at best. On a smaller scale, the protest at Geneseo appeared to be far more focused, and more of a call for social awareness and reflection, though it still lacked the specific requests we may posit would help spark change. This does not take away the responsibility of the government to act on their own accord, or muse solutions that have not specifically been requested, but to claim the rights of citizens, without playing an active part of the productive civil process becomes contradictory, and no longer earns the respect of the government at question, while also failing to help shape the government that citizens are ready and willing to respect.
November 18, 2015 at 5:20 pm
This quote is applicable to the politicians and celebrities that has maintained a consistent record of fighting for moral reform throughout the years and yet still considered to be on equal (or sometimes lower) platform with their peers. Senator Bernie Sanders has long fought for racial equality since the beginning of the Civil Rights era and yet he is judged for being too old whereas Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pragmatic in her campaign run regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Director Spike Jonze is seen as foolish by those who perceive his documentaries are distorted truths regarding racism in America. “When The Levees Broke”, Jonze documentary about Katrina was released, critics judged it as an unfair representation of the situation. In reality, the lower, impoverished, and primarily black, class of Katrina did suffer the most.
November 18, 2015 at 4:58 pm
[I think sometimes, Why, this people mean well; they are only ignorant; they would do better if they knew how: why give your neighbors this pain to treat you as they are not inclined to? But I think, again, this is no reason why I should do as they do, or permit others to suffer much greater pain of a different kind.]
This passage applies well to the recent firing of University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe. While the President may have not acted with any malicious intent in failing to correctly disciplining the students who acted in a racially insensitive manner, this does not change the fact that he is then ill suited to his job and should be removed.
November 18, 2015 at 4:14 pm
I feel as though this passage relates to what the people were protesting during Wednesday’s class and the events that have been going on throughout the country on many college campuses. That very question:
” Shall we be content to obey them or shall we endeavor to amend them?”
I don’t believe it’s as much as unjust laws exist, but rather the laws are doing enough to protect people, especially minorities in this country. Many people are afraid to stand up for their beliefs because of the dire consequences that could come along with it (further hatred and oppression by people who disagree with their beliefs) which is why many minorities feel as if they should not do anything. But it’s prevalent, that idea of not doing anything has ben outdated and it is time for them to stand up for their rights.
November 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm
This paragraph relates to the civil rights protest on Friday because it explains how the people in power do not always govern justly, with the rights and dignity of all people in mind when they construct and enforce policies. In our society we are still experiencing gross injustices towards minorities. Thoreau said, “Law never made men a wit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice” and by this he could mean that until the laws are created by a truly accurate representative body with equality, justice, and protection for everyone as their prerogative, we further the injustices faced by those who do not belong to the parties in power.