Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power, without resorting to physical violence. It is one of the primary tactics of nonviolent resistance. However there were many different viewpoints of what the true definition of civil disobedience is. The American author Henry David Thoreau used the modern theory behind this practice in his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience, originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government”.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as Mahatma Gandhi) used non-violent civil disobedience in South Africa in a campaign for civil rights for the people who came from India and lived in South Africa. This campaign was from 1893-1914. When Gandhi returned to India, he used civil disobedience in the campaign for the independence of India in 1930 from the British rule, when India was a British colony.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and young activists in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s also used civil disobedience techniques, during and after the Vietnam War.
Martin Luther King Jr
As a civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr chose civil disobedience as a way of changing the pattern of things during his time. He didn’t believe in physical force as other leaders did so he chose the way of peace. (Letter from brigham by MLK Jr ) He felt that a peaceful protest or rebellion got a point across stronger than an violent protest did. Martin Luther King Jr believed that a law was unjust when it went against the code of god.(Letter from brigham by MLK Jr) MLK believed someone must be willing to accept consequences for acts of civil disobedience. As he said in the letter from birmingham he would accept the consequence in order for things to be changed.
Henry David Thoreau
After Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail on july of 1846 for refusal to pay tax in protest against slavery and the Mexican War, Thoreau lectured before the Concord Lyceum in January of 1848 on the subject “On the Relation of the Individual to the State.” The lecture was published under the title “Resistance to Civil Government” in Elizabeth Peabody’s Aesthetic Papers, in May 1849.(~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience) Thoreau starts his paper by saying “That government is best which governs least,” and he speaks in favor of a government that does not intrude upon men’s lives. Government is only an expedient — a means of attaining an end. It exists because the people have chosen it to execute their will, but it is vulnerable to misuse. Thoreau reintroduces the right to revolution and reflects on the American Revolution. (~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience) He develops an image of the government as a machine. Saying that may or may not do enough good to counterbalance what evil it commits, he urges rebellion. He also states that wrong will not be fixed by the government but by individual rebellion. (~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience)
The late Mahatma Gandhi will be forever remembered for his commitment to nonviolent means of resistance. In the case of India, that resistance was directed against the British Raj, the British Empire’s period of colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent. Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolent forms of resistance to injustice was both spiritual and practical. He understood the scale of bloodshed that would occur should Indian opponents of British rule resort to violence. (“Non-violent Resistance” by Gandhi) The purpose of the nonviolent resistance according to gandhi is too persuade people to go a different route so that no one gets hurt and too gain some self respect.(“Non-violent Resistance” by Gandhi) Ghandi strongly urges spiritual leadership in his article. Gandhi believes that nonviolent forms of rebellion have a greater impact on the people’s mind than a violent rebellion.