Civil Disobedience

Comments on how the writings of Henry David Thoreau influenced the activist, Daniel Berrigan.

This paper explains the importance and meaning of Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, and looks at how it influenced famous activists of the 20th century, such as Mohandis Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and, in particular, Daniel Berrigan.
It is simple to say that Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, influenced two of the most well known political figures of the past hundred years, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It might be less easy to connect Thoreau’s ideas with those of more flamboyant and one might also propose less wildly successful political reformers such as Philip Berrigan. Yet that connection can be made, and moreover, it can be made in a way few students of Thoreau might have considered. Perhaps few commentators on the lives and work of Gandhi, King and Berrigan would have thought of it either. And yet, in the post-feminist age, the age of a new masculinism, Thoreau can be proposed as the intellectual forebear of a new masculinism, one that forswears guns and violence in favor of passive resistance of the sort carried out by Gandhi, King and Berrigan.