Famed government theoretician John Stuart Mill took great exception with the Puritans who traveled to the New World in order to start a community based upon similar fanatical religious beliefs. The reason that he took such issue with the Puritans is that they used religion as a basis of government but worse than this they used that religious intolerance in order to oppress and marginalize others. The Puritans made their laws based upon the assertion that their restriction encouraged moral behavior, but in doing so they took away each person's right to make individual choices. Mill wrote, "With respect to what is said of the necessity of protecting society from the bad example set to others by the vicious or the self-indulgent; it is true that bad example may have a pernicious effect, especially the example of doing wrong to others with impunity to the wrongdoer. But we are now speaking of conduct which, while it does no wrong to others, is supposed to do great harm to the agent himself: and I do not see how those who believe this, can think otherwise" (5). By oppressing the people's right to choose good or ill, you take away autonomy and therefore the rightness that they do is always limited because it has been forced upon them.
2. Does Mill defend Mormonism? Explain.
John Stuart Mill believed in equality and personal freedom, which includes the freedom to choose who to marry. He saw that the Mormon Church received a great deal of negative attention because they were known to practice polygamy. Without explaining whether or not he was in favor of the practice, Mill came to the defense of the Mormons on the grounds that the women who became involved in polygamous unions did so out of their own free will and that as women they absolutely had the right to enter this lifestyle if they saw fit. "It must be remembered that this relation is as much voluntary on the part of the woman concerned in it, and who may be deemed the sufferers by it, as is the case with any other form of the marriage institution; and however surprising this fact may appear, it has its explanation in the common ideas and customs of the world, which teaching women to think marriage the one thing needful, make it intelligible that many a woman should prefer being one of several wives, to not being a wife at all" (Mill 8). Mill remarks that women are told that their only value in the world is as a wife and so she should not be chastised for wanting to enter the institution of marriage. Neither should the husband. As long as both parties are entering the marriage willingly and no one is being harmed, then there is no reason to disallow polygamy.
3. According to Thoreau, what should men serve the state with? Explain.
Most people serve the state through the sacrifice of their bodies by joining the militia, according to Henry David Thoreau. This, he feels, is an unsatisfactory way to live. Instead, he believes that the way men should serve the state is through civil disobedience. He says, "In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt" (Thoreau 2). Men should speak practically and honestly and be good citizens by behaving kindly to those in the community and doing what is best for you and for the rest of mankind. The service to the state should be far removed and the service to the community should be the paramount idea.
4. In Thoreau's estimation, how should one respond to "unjust laws?" Explain.
Henry David Thoreau believed that there were many laws in the United States which were unjust. There are laws which do not do right by the people and only serve to provide for the government who are in turn oppressing the population. For all these reasons, Thoreau believes that if a person finds a law unjust, then they should not only ignore it but that they should go out of their way to break the law. He says, "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn" (Thoreau 5). Only by actively breaking the law can the government realize how much people oppose it and then they will be forced to act in order to appease the people. To follow an unjust law or to merely ignore an unjust law is not enough; it must be actively worked against.
5. Why did Thoreau pay no poll tax? Explain.
Thoreau refused to pay taxes in order to support the clergy and he proudly proclaimed that he went years without paying his poll taxes and was imprisoned over night for refusing to pay taxes. Proudly he said, "I have paid no poll tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being stuck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up" (Thoreau 7). He claimed that by paying taxes, the people were supporting the actions of the government even when they did not agree with those actions. At the time, the United States was involved in the Mexican-American War, which Thoreau was particularly opposed to. Since he did not support the war, Thoreau refused to provide the government with money which would help them in the war effort.
6. For Douglass, how was Lincoln the "white man's president?" Explain.
Frederick Douglass's speech is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and expressing his gratitude and the gratitude of all free black men to President Lincoln. However, he does not want the mythology the surrounds the fallen president to usurp the truth of the man's administration and his policies. Douglass states that Lincoln was a white man's president because he was preeminently concerned with preserving the nation for and of white men. He said, "[Lincoln] was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country" (Douglass 2). What Douglass said was absolutely true. Abraham Lincoln himself said that he was concerned with reuniting the union by any means and if he could do this without emancipating the slaves he would have. The only reason that he did declare the Emancipation Proclamation was to give southern slaves a reason to abandon the Confederate armed forces in which they were ordered to fight. Although he was an abolitionist at heart, he was not going to make slavery the issue of his presidency, until the issue was forced upon him.
7. In the end of the speech, how does Douglass view Lincoln? Explain.
Today, Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the nation's greatest presidents, but in his own time he was not universally beloved particularly in the south. However, because of his actions and the violent way in which he died, a universal feeling of appreciation and of grief came following his assassination. Frederick Douglass asserts that even had Lincoln not been assassinated and had been allowed to live out a long, full life he would have still be considered one of the greatest Americans. "Dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate -- for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him -- but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever" (Douglass 6). Every person, whether they were a northerner or a southerner, had to respect Lincoln for his dedication to the country. Even those who had been involved in the Confederacy respected Abraham Lincoln and his dedication to the preservation of the country.
8. According to King, how should the U.S. government respond to the "revolutionary times?" Explain.
The United States in the 1960s was a time of great upheaval. People were exploring civil rights, grieving the loss of a president, and trying to understand massive violence. One of the most contentious aspects of the 1960s was the decision to…