“I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest”

“I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

This quote is from Resistance to Civil Government by Henry David Thoreau. This essay was published 1849. During this time, many authors including Thoreau were Transcendentalists. Transcendentalism was a religious theory in the nineteenth-century that proclaimed that truth can’t be found just by observation, and that it rather “transcends” the senses over time. Resistance to Civil Government was written when Thoreau refused to pay taxes. It argues that individuals shouldn’t let permit the government to overrule their consequences. His refusal to pay taxes was intended as a protest against an unpopular tax and an indirect protest against the government condoning slavery. Later, Thoreau was threw in jail.



This quote was significant during that time because he thought that if he didn’t believe in something that was going on in the government, you shouldn’t be forced to pay taxes. He wanted to let people know that they have the duty to avoid allowing the government to make them the agents of injustice.


This quote is a very strong one. I think it means that he shouldn’t have to be forced to pay taxes to a government he doesn’t agree with. He thinks the government is corrupt and doesn’t think he should be forced to pay taxes. When I read Resistance to Civil Government, I totally understand where Thoreau was coming from when he wrote it. I agree with this quote. If I was reading this quote without knowing the meaning behind it, I would say that it means no one should be able to force me to do anything. I am my own person and I can make my own decisions. I will do what I want to do.


I think this quote is applicable today. Whether using it toward the government or just saying it to someone. It is used to open people’s eyes about something and getting them to understand where you’re coming from. Using this quote today can get points across today just like it did in the nineteenth-century.



Salem Witch Trials

During the Nathaniel Hawthorne section of class, I read the biography on him. In the biography, it stated that his name was “Hathorne” but he added the “w” so he could distance himself from his father. His father was a judge in the Salem witch trials. I’ve heard of the Salem witch trials before, but I really didn’t know what it was. If Hawthorne added a “w” to his last name to distance himself from his father, the Salem witch trials must have been something serious. 

In the 17th century, many people in Salem, Massachusetts that practiced Christianity and others of different beliefs thought strongly that the Devil could give certain individuals the special power to harm others in return of their loyalty. These people were known as witches. Most of these witches were peasants and did witchcraft, which was considered “dark magic,” associated with demons and evil spirits. Men and women in Salem believed that any misfortunes, such as the death of a child or crop failures were considered the work of the devil. 



In January of 1692, three little girls in Salem started having “fits”. They screamed, threw things, and did strange things that didn’t seem like them. The local doctors blamed the supernatural. On February 29, the three girls were interrogated by Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father). The girls accused three women of afflicting them. The women were interrogated for several days by local magistrates. Two of the women pleaded innocence, but one admitted. She told them that she signed a book for the Devil and  many more witches were going to destroy the Puritans. All women were thrown in jail and later went before the Supreme Court. They were found guilty and hung, even the women that may have been innocent.  



Nearly 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem and 20 were executed. Nineteen were hung, one man was pressed with a stone, and several died in prison. The colony eventually admitted the trials were wrong and that they were a mistake and the families of those convicted were compensated. The Salem witch trials were horrible and the people could have went by fixing the problem in a better way. 




“Uncle Tom”

When you hear the term “Uncle Tom,” what comes to mind? Does Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character come up or something totally different? I ask this question because over the years, the term Uncle Tom has changed a lot. It is being used in a negative way. Its all associated with black people. Some people say it means “sellout,” meaning a black man will do anything to stay in good standing with the white man. Even if it means betraying his own people.


In Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Uncle Tom is a hard working, Christian slave. Uncle Tom was loyal to his master and by the end of the book, he gave his own life to protect other slaves.If the Uncle Tom from the story dies to protect his own kind, why is the new term “Uncle Tom” the complete opposite?

So, where did this get started? The “Uncle Tom” common usage began in the 1960’s and 70’s. During this time was civil rights movements led by many African Americans. Members of the movement were encouraged to speak out and stand up for their rights. They refused to let themselves be put down by white people. Acts of civil disobedience such as sitting in the front of the bus were committed with the goal of promoting equality and many were successful. People who were scared to participate in the civil rights movements were being accused as being “Uncle Tom.”  People believed that they were bringing down all African Americans by obeying and cooperating with white people. It was also being used when African American people chose mainstream paths, like academic careers, even when they worked hard on changing the system from the inside.



Any person who was complicit with some aspect of white culture was accused of being Uncle Tom, from segregation policies to professional black people. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called a Uncle Tom.

I think because Uncle Tom from the book was obedient to his masters, that what caused people to start using the term in a negative way. He was a slave though and if it were anyone else, they would’ve obey their masters as well. I haven’t heard anyone say “Uncle Tom” since middle school so I really don’t think its being used like it was in the 1960’s. Maybe people started to realize that it was a pretty ridiculous term.