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Essay/Term paper: The declaration of individualism and the encouragement of protest from birmingham jail

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History Essays

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The Declaration of Individualism and The Encouragement of Protest from Birmingham

Although the time periods and goals may be different the method for
bringing about change is usually the same, this method is protest.   This method
is supported by two different people, in two different time periods, with two
different goals; these two people are Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King Junior's letter from Birmingham Jail was an
expression of his encouragement for protest against tradition and established
laws and a justification for his actions.   King, a leader of a civil-rights
group that supported protest against traditional views, encouraged protesting
against tradition and established laws that are unjust.  In his letter from
Birmingham Jail King states:

"It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany.  Even so, I am
sure that, had I lived in Germany at that time, I would have aided and comforted
my Jewish brothers.  If today I lived in a Communist country where certain
principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate
disobeying that country's anti-religious laws."

This excerpt shows that King encourages protest because in some situations he
deems it necessary, be it in Hitler's Germany, a Communist country, or any
situation in which injustices are occurring.  In the last sentence of the
excerpt King openly admits that he would protest against established laws or
traditions.  King was against the traditional views and unjust laws, which
discriminated against him and his fellow people.  He felt that the only way that
these unjust laws and traditional beliefs would ever change would be by means
of protest.  He felt that without protest the laws and traditions would remain
the same forever.  Along with encouraging protest, King's letter was also a
justification of his actions.  The letter was written to his fellow clergymen to
explain his prior actions and to attempt to justify them.  In the letter he
tried to explain to the clergy that his actions although illegal were justified
and appropriate for the situation.  He expressed that he exhausted every other
option possible and direct action was the only available option left, which
could make a difference.

Similarly to King's letter from Birmingham Jail, The Declaration of
Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson to encourage the protest of
established laws and justify possible actions.  But unlike King, Jefferson also
encouraged individualism in his declaration.  His views are distinctly stated in
the first sentence of The Declaration of Independence:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
the Laws of Nature and the Laws of God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to separation."

In this single sentence Jefferson states his support for the encouragement of
individualism and the need for protest against established laws. The
declaration was written to bring about unity to our nation.  Even though it was
meant to bring unity and similarity as a group it still encouraged individualism,
just on a larger scale.  The document states that we, the entire country, need
to unite to become an individual separate from England.  Jefferson feels that it
is in the course of human event for individualism to occur, and that without
individualism change would never occur.  The entire document is basically a
declaration of individualism.  "The Declaration of Independence", along with the
encouragement individualism supports the protest against established laws.  The
laws of England were the established laws at the time prior to the writing of
the declaration, and Jefferson felt that everyone should have the right protest
against any laws that they feel are unjust no matter how well established they
may be.  Throughout the entire declaration Jefferson states how he, and the
majority of the nation, felt that the established laws of the time were unjust
and deserved protest. Jefferson's view on protest is clear in one specific
sentence of the declaration, "whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish
it".  Since the laws of the time were thought to be unjust, protest was
appropriate and well justified in Jefferson's eyes.  Jefferson stated multiple
reasons to justify his view that the colonies needed to separate from England. 
This document was not only meant to bring about individualism and protest, but
justify the future action that would occur to achieve it.    Martin Luther
King Jr. and Thomas Jefferson were both leaders of revolutions, and though each
revolution was vastly different, they believed in the idea that change would not
occur unless it was forced along.  They believed that change among established
laws and traditions could only occur through protest.  Two different men, nearly
two hundred years apart, with two different goals, and nearly identical methods
of achieving their goals


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