Comparative Essay Analysis

King wrote this letter as he was responding to a statement that eight clergymen from Alabama had made on April 12th, 1963. The clergymen had agreed that social injustices were existent. However, they were on the opinion that the war on racial segregation could be fought in the courts. They wanted it to be exclusively so. They felt that the war on social injustices should not go to the streets. They also criticized King stating that he was an outsider. They said that martin’s only intention was to cause trouble in Birmingham.

In his response, King made a remark that all communities had a relation in one way or another. He wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.” He expressed regrets over the occurrence of demonstrations were only in Birmingham. However, he added that the social injustices and distribution of power left the blacks with few or no options.


The letter from Martin Luther King allows him to present his rebuttal. It is a counterargument that he presents in response to the accusations that clergymen threw at him. The letter communicates directly to his audience. He uses pathos, ethos and logos to object his opponents’ ideas and claims. This presents his point of view artistically. Martin starts by stating his general purpose for writing the letter. He says, "You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham, but your statement... fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.  This statement is a strong statement. It enables Martin to lay his foundation. He then presents to his audience the purpose of the demonstrations, presenting them as inevitable and extremely necessary.  He says, " is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.” This presents to his audience a scenario whereby the Negroes had nothing else to do, but demonstrate.

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He then shows his audience what a non-violent campaign means.  He makes use of extreme statements in his letter. For instance, he says, "Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.” Such a statement appeals to any educated person who would take the time to read his letter.

Martin also appeals to logic in his letter. Firstly, he identifies a part of his opponents’ argument. He identifies a part of his opponents’ argument and picks it apart. For instance, he picks the word tension and shows how it varies. He states that tension can either be violent or non-violent. He states that constructive and no- violent tension can change the days of prejudice and discrimination and bring a better place for all to live and enjoy.

In his letter, Martin Luther King Jr. also makes use of a combination of ethos and logos to show his audience the importance of respecting and upholding the law. He says, “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws." This then leads into a discussion about morals and the types of laws: "just and unjust." This way, King guides his audience to think rationally.

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By using rhetorical strategies that are specific, Martin Luther King Jr. refuted the clergymen's argument. This helps him create a base for his argument. He slows goes into his argument, picking his audience’s claims, one by one. This enables him to shatter their claims.

Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience)

Henry Thoreau argues that people should not allow the government to rule over their consciences to the extent that their rights become irrelevant. He advises people on their rights to avoid such atrocities in the name of allowing the government to rule over them and show case injustice upon them. David feels motivated to write this by existing slavery and the Mexican-American war.

He starts by saying, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That the government is best which governs least’” He then goes on to clarify this by saying, “Government is best which governs not at all.” Thoreau analyzes the federal government and says that it is an artificial institution which powerful people create. Moreover, the same people claim that government serves a purpose that is crucial. He adds that this system is likely to remain part and parcel of American life.

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Social and historical conditions provoked him to write. The poor treatment of Mexicans by America was one factor that coerced him to write his essay.  The ideas of acceptance of Christian beliefs of sacrifice, and failure to help vulnerable people by the American government disturb him. He is categorical in stating that Copernicus and Luther have experienced excommunication.

Thoreau also feels moved by the state of injustices in America. The institution of slavery disturbs and saddens him.  He says, “I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government, which is the slave’s government also.”  In fact, the practice of slavery in the United States is the single most hypocritical aspect of the government as far as Thoreau is concerned.”

The 2007-2012 Economic Crisis may Cause Civil Disobedience

I agree with the ideas of both King and Thoreau. Firstly, a government should serve all people. This means upholding all the necessary mechanisms to ensure safety and comfortable lives for its citizens. The financial crisis of 2007-2012 has done a lot of harm to the US government. To start with, the living standards of citizens have gone down (Bennett S. 2012 pg 87). This is because commodities have become extremely expensive by the day.

The crisis came as a result of many factors. These included easy credit conditions between 2002 and 2008. This encouraged high-risk lending and borrowing practices. It also resulted to international trade imbalances; real-estate bubbles. Moreover, there was instability in fiscal policy that relate to government revenues and expenditure. This was similar to approaches that some governments take such as assuming private debt burdens for people and making loses a national approach.

The 2007-2012 economic crisis may call for civil disobedience. This is because citizens are still paying taxes for economic improvement. Moreover, they elected the government to take care of their interests. Instead, such basic tasks as controlling interests rates seem to be overwhelming them.  If citizens call for unrest so that this issue may be resolved once and for all, the government will have no choice but to comply. The letter by King to the clergymen, in response to their accusations against blacks is justifiable. The clergymen claim that the Birmingham demonstrations were illegal. I argue that if the government is so concerned about the law to the extent of speaking publicly about it, then it ought to have led from the front. It is unimaginable that the same government that people elected in a democratic process is sleeping on its job. This amounts to hypocrisy where leaders pretend that they are indeed committed to their job. If the government is working, America should be moving forward. This is the reason that drives Thoreau’s to criticize the issue of hypocrisy in government. If a government only cares about a certain section of its people, it has no business being in power. Thoreau made wrote this as the slave trade was prevalent in America at the time.

Civil disobedience will help in a great way. One of the things it will achieve is to call the government into action. It will show the government that citizens are serious about their economic standards. It will call the government to stop sleeping on its job. The government will feel threatened. It will feel that people are dissatisfied with the way its governing them. This way, the government will have to start checking on ways and means of controlling the situation. The government may control the economic crisis by using proper fiscal mechanisms (Leclaire Joelle J. , Tae-Hee Jo, Knodel Jane E 2011p. 94 ). It is its duty to do. Civil disobedience would remind the government of this crucial role.

It is true that civil disobedience may result to tension. This may make the opposing force complain. For instance, the clergymen made it clear that they felt dissatisfied about the enormous tension that the demonstrations in Birmingham created. However, this should not deter civil obedience. King responded to this by saying that he and his supporters had opted for nonviolent techniques to take a point home. He says they created the tension so as to make the entire community see the issue in question and to enable them to face it. He says that all they wanted was growth and not violence. In his letter, he further pointed out that without non-violent techniques; there would never be peace and achievement of civil rights.

Citizens should have a fair share of the national cake. A good economy is what they deserve. It is one way of having a fair share in the government. This explains why King expressed his feeling that black Americans had not had their fair share of rights in a long time. He felt that the society was denying them justice. Citizens have a right to enjoy life. When economic conditions are too harsh, it is almost impossible to be happy. If it happens that the only thing they are experiencing is economic hardships because the government cannot control monetary policies, then this is extremely dangerous.


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