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Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau are two philosophers who shared ideas of revolution in their books The Declaration of Independence and Civil Disobedience respectively. The writings lead Thomas Jefferson to becoming a focal point towards revolution movements in Europe and America. In support for this in France, he allowed his place to be used as meeting points for the movements. Thoreau brings in the aspect of revolution as Civil disobedience which he defines as a non violent rebelliousness towards a law that is believed to be unjust, and at the same time being ready to bear the consequences of such defiance. This is what people should do to revolutionize from government injustice.
Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau share similar ideas as they investigate revolution. They have found that revolution is the only way that can help citizens to free themselves from oppression and injustices of the government.
Revolution by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson explains that law act as driving force behind revolutionary activities in a country. In his book, the Declaration of Independence, he explains that it had reached a time that colonies must destroy their ties to Great Britain due to abusive acts of autocratic powers by the King of England. He explained that the king of England denied the Americans their rights to life, liberty and search for happiness. Jefferson states that these are the rights that are granted to human beings by the Natural Law. The American Revolution was therefore part of efforts to restore the Natural law that was being denied to the Americans. This was later achieved when government powers that observed the will of people in the United States was subordinated in the state and federal constitutions.
His dream in leading the American Revolution was on how people who have been under oppression for many years could liberate themselves from the oppressors and live in a free society. To achieve this, Jefferson realized that there are immense problems underlying this situation. However, the problems could be solved by enlightening the people and creating in them a spirit that will help in fight for independence and self rule.
Jefferson explains the revolution as a struggle for independence since it was an activity that would result in liberty and doing of people's will. In leading the revolutionary movement, Jefferson referenced the principles of John Locke of "Life, Liberty and property." He changed these words into "life, liberty and quest for happiness". Jefferson realized that the liberty of individuals decreased as the power, range and scope of the government powers increased. His promise of revolution to American was therefore a limit of the government powers so that people could have control over the government. His desire for a government that is restrained of its powers was his main reason for leading the revolution that would see separation of America from England.
Henry David Thoreau on revolution
In his book, Civil Disobedience, Thoreau defends the idea of revolution which most philosophers caution against due to the expenses and suffering that are associated with revolution. Thoreau states that since the government has become unjust and corrupt, it is time that honest citizens should rebel and revolutionize. He says that it is not appropriate top analyze the cost or the expense that could be incurred at a time when the government is facilitating injustice acts. He explains it is an immoral act which must be stopped even if it would be costly to stop (Thoreau, 23).
Thoreau therefore defines revolution as right to go against loyalty to and oppose the government when its oppression or its inefficiencies are too much and unbearable. In justifying his call for revolution, Thoreau explains that when a sixth of population of a nation that had declared to be the refuge for liberty lives under slavery, and the country is unjustly led and defeated by a foreign army, and then subjected to military law, such would be the right time for its citizens to revolutionize. He further says that a free and enlightened state will appear when the nation will start recognizing the citizens as having higher and independent power from whom the power of the government is derived. Generally, Thoreau is also for revolution that will move the citizens from the unjust acts of the government.
How their interpretation relates to personal responsibility
The two philosophers define revolution as a way of citizens freeing themselves from injustices of the government. It implies that revolution will allow citizens to have personal responsibility that will enable them to be free from oppression of the government. Self responsibility comes after citizen's free will has been adopted by the government. According to Jefferson, this will be achieved when the government powers will be subordinated to the state and federal government. It is where the people will be allowed power over their lives, their property and liberty in all their actions. Jefferson's revolution is therefore rebelling against a government that does not recognize the even the natural rights of its citizens (Jefferson & APS, 7).
Similarly, Thoreau is also for revolution in which the government will recognize the individuals as the source of its powers. He yearns for a state that can grant justice to all its citizens and teat them with much respect just as a neighbor. He calls for personal responsibility where he says that people should not just sit and wait for justice to happen or top vote for justice. He says that voting for justice is just like making wishes that justice may happen. What people should do is to be just, which does not mean that people should devote their lives into fighting for justice. People should just be committed into doing what is just and not to support acts of injustice (Thoreau, 15). His stand is that people have the responsibility of making sure that justice is being done and this they can achieve by revolutionizing. Revolution is therefore a way of going against acts of injustice. He further explains that people should also bear the consequences of their revolutionary actions which include violence, errors and crimes. However, with all these people should struggle to the end.
The two authors however share a similar organizational strategy. This is a strategy of a government that is organized in manner that power rests even on citizens. Both of them are against an organization that the rulers are the determinants of every aspect and do not pay attention to the rights of the individuals. They believe in a government that follows the will of the citizens. They believe that the power of the government should come from the individuals instead of individuals being powered by the government. A government that does not recognize the rights of the individuals and that do unjust acts is like an organization that operates under centralized governance. This is the reason why Jefferson calls for revolution that will see power distributed to the federal and state governments so that the need of the citizens can be well understood. They are advocating for an organization where people are more close to the source of power. Jefferson states that the oppression of citizens increases with increase in the scope of government. This means that the longer the hierarchy of power, the more oppressed citizens become. This is why he calls for America to break from the governance of the king of England so that its citizens can be close to power. Closeness to power would reduce the oppression of citizens since they will be governed according to their will.
The relevance of their concept
The concept of revolution by Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau was of great relevance to the republic at that time. With his concept of revolution, Thomas Jefferson drafted the document of Declaration of Independence which came to be signed by British colonists who had colonies in America. This document declared the intention of the American colonies to completely separate themselves from the Great Britain. The declaration of their intentions led to official launch of the American Revolution which later resulted to America's independence and also formation of anew republic that was governed in a unique manner different from that of governments that existed by that time.
The concept of revolution also led to formation of the movement of republicans and federalists. Jefferson was among the republicans that were for a government that looks at the interests of the citizens and not interfering with their affairs. This was the main focus of the two philosophers as they enlightened the citizens on the need for revolution.
The American Revolution in which Thomas Jefferson was the mastermind is the movement that led America to independence. The ideas of Henry David Thoreau also gave people further insight into the relevance of the concept. The two authors share a similar concept that will see people free from injustices of the government and adopt a government that recognizes their rights and does not meddle with their affairs. The two are for an organization that power is spread even among the citizens and recognizes the will of its citizens. To achieve this, the two explains that people have to revolutionize from the acts of government that deny their rights. Therefore, according to them, revolution is a means of people liberating themselves from injustices of the government.