American Intervention in the Face of Injustice

Topic: Civil Rights
Words: 618 Pages: 2

Henry David Thoreau tells Americans that they do not only have the right to defy the unjust laws but it is their duty to intervene where injustice exists. He calls this a very American idea and its identity is intervening where injustice is being practiced. I find this argument valid and agree with Thoreau that interventions should be made where people are being treated unjustly, even if it is based on the provisions of laws. Whenever this happens, as Thoreau suggests, people have the duty to defy the laws leading to the unjust treatment of the whole society or part of it. Thus, the author is right to encourage defiance of unjust laws and intervention where injustice exists.

Thoreau makes significant points in his argument for a just nation and world at large as he clarifies what resistance to civil government means. When reading through his work, one would easily tell that Thoreau does this in good faith. The author calls for Americans to intervene where injustice seems to be practiced and not to fight back the same unjust laws or follow them. It is the act of defiance which he refers to as intervention. Thoreau uses the word to defy the cruel or forceful ways of defying unjust laws instead use civil ways to stop the operation of the unjust laws. He says, “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable (Thoreau, 2016).” The author’s argument is justified considering that the American government and any other government worldwide must protect its people. However, the mandate of protection does not qualify to the formation of laws that infringe the rights of the same people they ought to protect.

For example, in recent years, there have been common controversial trends where police have misused their powers in the line of duty. This has been seen when police handle the black people under the black people matter movement. In these situations, in promoting and ensuring law and order, the police subject people to suffering, torture, and harassment. Another relevant example is when the US declared the 1846 war against Mexico; Thoreau was among the Northern critics who viewed the declaration as a plot to expand its territories. Whenever this has happened, the American people have risen to the occasion to defend against the brutality. It is in this situation that Thoreau calls upon the government to act justly if they want to demand the cooperation of the citizens. Mingo (2018) believes “that actions towards justice are the collective responsibility of all who profess to be followers of God.” However, if the act commands some injustice, people have every right to cooperate or not.

However, even with the call by Thoreau, the interventions to unjust laws by Americans should have boundaries. This ensures that the defiance and resistance to the civil government are necessary, justifiable, and done in good faith. For instance, interventions are required if the laws subject some people, especially the minority, to suffering because of their race, economic status, or political position. However, strict policy applicable to criminal activities such as robbery, terrorism, or prohibition of entry of people from countries deemed dangerous to the American people, and the prosperity should not be resisted by the people. This is because they are intended to protect the people from enemies even though they sound harsh. Thus, people are only limited to what appears just not by letters of the provisions of such laws but by the context they apply. They should also act in good faith whenever they take action to defy any law that seems unjust.


Mingo, A. (2018). Just laws, unjust laws, and theo‐moral responsibility in traditional and contemporary civil rights activism. Journal of RELIGIOUS ETHICS, 46(4), 683-717. Web.

Thoreau, H. D. (2016). Resistance to civil government. Revista Filosofía UIS, 15(1), 317-333.

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