The Corner

Civil Disobedience

People who break the law may of course be doing so in all righteousness, if

the law be unjust. And it may be that there is no other way to bring a

law’s injustice to general attention but by publicly flouting it. The law

must, none the less, be enforced, until its injustice has been made so

apparent to all that it has been repealed by the will of the people acting

through their representatives.

Samuel Johnson’s remarks about martyrdom are pertinent here:

MAYO. ‘Then, Sir, we are to remain always in errour, and truth never can

prevail; and the magistrate was right in persecuting the first Christians.’

JOHNSON. ‘Sir, the only method by which religious truth can be established

is by martyrdom. The magistrate has a right to enforce what he thinks; and

he who is conscious of the truth has a right to suffer. I am afraid there is

no other way of ascertaining the truth, but by persecution on the one hand

and enduring it on the other.’ — Life of Johnson, 5/7/1773

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