This paper compares King's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' with Thoreau's 'Resistance to Civil Government' in a comparative analysis of the two men's approaches to civil disobedience.
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of nonviolent resistance. In this discussion we will use a cognitive approach to see how Henry David Thoreau in "Resistance to Civil Government" (1849), influences a "Letter from the
Birmingham Jail" (1961) by Martin Luther King. Henry David Thoreau Deductive - to derive by reasoning. Thoreau, prided himself on using this approach in his life and in his
writing. Pathos (emotional appeal ): Thoreau is not much concerned with what we might label an emotional approach. He was confident with his own personal sense of
logic. That is not to say the he was not a friendly sort. He did odd jobs about the village and did serve as the local handyman.
We might guess that since he was working for others, that he would have had some personable skills. Thoreaus approach to civil disobedience appears to be similar to Kings, but
it is more self-absorbed, or self-contained. Thoreau mentions that he does not want the government to bother him and he wont bother the government. Thoreau states that [i]t is
not [his] business to be petitioning the Governor or the Legislature any more that it is theirs to petition [him]..." ( 650). That appears that is about as emotional
as Thoreau gets. If anything Thoreau gives us a warning about excessive public involvement: He who gives himself entirely to his fellow men appears to them useless and
selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them in pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist. It is doubtful if King would have gone along with Thoreaus philosophical bent on
this one. King was brought up with fundamental Christianity, and sacrifice was a given not a challenge. Ethos (appeal to authority) : Thoreau considers himself, his own