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Name: __________________________________

AP Lang. Comp.
Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
Vocab.
alacrity
effectual

obstruction
impetuous

inherent
indifference

insurrection penitent
amoral
poll tax

posterity

Pre-reading Question:
Are we obligated to always obey the law? If yes, why? If no, what criteria can be used to
determine when disobedience is morally justified?

Reading Questions:
1. What is Thoreau's view on slavery?
2. What is Thoreau's primary act of civil disobedience in his own life?
3. What government activities does Thoreau object to?
4. What is Thoreau's opinion on the "right" to rebel against one's government?
5. Why does Thoreau say the majority rules in democracies?
6. What are a person's duties regarding injustice, according to Thoreau?
7. In Thoreau's opinion, what is the appropriate way to respond to unjust laws?
8. What measures does Thoreau suggest to minimize the personal costs of civil disobedience?
9. What does Thoreau call on Abolitionists to do?
10. Which does Thoreau say is more important: the need to be an honest individual or the need
to be a responsible citizen?
11. What does Thoreau use as a metaphor for government?
12. Which politician does Thoreau criticize in his essay?
13. What does Thoreau say he learned from his night in jail?
14. What does Thoreau mean when he says he refuses to sit on another man's shoulders?
15. Why is Thoreau impatient with politicians?
16. What kind of a state does Thoreau imagine at the end of his essay?
17. Why does Thoreau say it costs him less to disobey the law than to obey it?
18. Why doesn't Thoreau value voting?

1. What is Thoreau's view on slavery? Slavery is a moral evil that should be eliminated.
2. What is Thoreau's primary act of civil disobedience in his own life? Refusal to pay taxes
3. What government activities does Thoreau object to? The elimination of tariffs
4. What is Thoreau's opinion on the "right" to rebel against one's government? There is a right
to revolution against injustice, and this revolution would be acceptable against the contemporary
United States.
5. Why does Thoreau say the majority rules in democracies? The majority is stronger than the
minority.
6. What are a person's duties regarding injustice, according to Thoreau? One must refuse to
support something that is wrong.
7. In Thoreau's opinion, what is the appropriate way to respond to unjust laws? One must
disobey the laws at once.
8. What measures does Thoreau suggest to minimize the personal costs of civil disobedience?
Live within yourself. Be self-sufficient. Don't accumulate private property.
9. What does Thoreau call on Abolitionists to do? Stop paying taxes or supporting the
Massachusetts government in any way
10. Which does Thoreau say is more important: the need to be an honest individual or the need
to be a responsible citizen? A person should be an individual first and a citizen second.
11. What does Thoreau use as a metaphor for government? A machine
12. Which politician does Thoreau criticize in his essay? Daniel Webster
13. What does Thoreau say he learned from his night in jail? He gained a new view of his town.
He realized that the State is ultimately weak. He realized that his neighbors were only friends
during good times.
14. What does Thoreau mean when he says he refuses to sit on another man's shoulders? He
refuses to benefit from injustice directed toward others.
15. Why is Thoreau impatient with politicians? They can't look critically at political institutions.
There have not been any Americans with legislative genius. They forget that the world isn't ruled
by policy and expediency.
16. What kind of a state does Thoreau imagine at the end of his essay? One that respects the
individual and will even allow people to live independently of the state
17. Why does Thoreau say it costs him less to disobey the law than to obey it? He would feel
ashamed if he became rich under an unjust state.
18. Why doesn't Thoreau value voting? Voting leaves justice to the chance of a majority vote.