After reading A Plea for Captain John Brown , I find it hard to decide which side to take. Knowing a little history about the subject, I originally sided against the Captain, but by reading Thoreau s essay, I am swayed the other way. He makes a very strong argument for John Brown and probably persuaded many people at the time of his writing.
I look at what John Brown did and the first thing that comes to my mind is that it is illegal. I think many people probably looked at the situation and thought the same thing. This is why everyone sided against him so fast. Thoreau points out that Captain Brown was doing what was morally correct. However, we can t all go around breaking the law because we find other aspects of it immoral. That would be anarchy.
I think it takes away from my image of Thoreau as a very intelligent man, when he attempts to justify what John Brown did. I could use Thoreau s same philosophy to bomb an abortion clinic. Because my moral beliefs say that abortion doctors have taken the lives of at least five children, it is my sacred duty to take revenge on five of these murderers. I could also liken this to say that if these were my beliefs and someone else took revenge on the doctors, I would applaud them. Which is exactly what Thoreau is doing.
Another thing I don t respect about Thoreau is how he made a generalization of the modern Christian . Thoreau says that the modern Christian is a man who prays for injustices being done to stop, but at the same time will not do anything to stop them himself, and instead leaves it all in God s hands. How unfair for him to say that! How exactly does he know what the modern anything believes when he subscribes to no religions? Who is Thoreau to make assumptions of people in one sentence and shame others for doing the same in the next? When he chides the newspapers and editors for printing stories that viewed John Brown in an unfavorable light, it was somehow different than him publishing an essay which showed all Christians as inactive.
For a free thinker, I find Thoreau to be very close-minded to other people s opinions. I will not say that John Brown was entirely wrong in what he did, but I think anyone would agree that the adoption of this morally correct policy could tear the country apart. When push comes to shove Thoreau is just like everyone else: a person who will bend the rules in a situation where their morals conflict with someone else s. His only difference is that he can write persuasively enough that he might convert you, this and he is immovably strong in his beliefs so as not to follow anyone else. After reading this composition I noticed that it was written more than ten years after Civil Disobedience, and it shows. Sadly, by this time, Thoreau has become more of a slavery-hating fanatic than a philosopher.