|a refusal to obey laws, pay taxes, etc: a nonviolent means of protesting or of attempting to achieve political goals|
(1849) An essay by Henry David Thoreau. It contains his famous statement “That government is best which governs least,” and asserts that people's obligations to their own conscience take precedence over their obligations to their government. Thoreau also argues that if, in following their conscience, people find it necessary to break the laws of the state, they should be prepared to pay penalties, including imprisonment.
Note: Thoreau himself went to jail for refusing to pay a tax to support the Mexican War.
The refusal to obey a law out of a belief that the law is morally wrong.
Note: In the nineteenth century, the American author Henry David Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience,” an important essay justifying such action.
Note: In the twentieth century, civil disobedience was exercised by Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for independence in India. Civil disobedience, sometimes called nonviolent resistance or passive resistance, was also practiced by some members of the civil rights movement in the United States, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., to challenge segregation of public facilities; a common tactic of these civil rights supporters was the sit-in. King defended the use of civil disobedience in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”