The two essays, "Letters from a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King Jr. and "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau both express the author's views of the governmental system and the justice it invokes. However, King discusses the political as well as the racial injustice in America, while Thoreau speaks generally about the government and the people who run it. In addition, King and Thoreau take on different personas while discussing the government. King states the facts, while appealing directly to the pathos of the reader. On the other hand, Thoreau lectures at an almost distinguished viewpoint while making his readers feel inferior. .
To begin, both authors are disturbed with the government of the day, and how it does not function properly. Thoreau discusses his opinions of the government and sums up that it is, at its current state, pretty pathetic. For example, Thoreau demands "not at once no government, but at once a better government." However, he does not want a total absence of government, he simply believes, "That government is best which governs least." During this argument, Thoreau's rhetoric is oddly up-front and very demanding of the reader. He asks questions to which he answers in several ways and appeals strongly to the pathos and logos of the reader, while also causing a drastic reaction. (The person is either humbled by Thoreau and agrees with what he says, or is simply outraged at the claims he makes.) One example of emotional logic in Thoreau's writing would be his discussion of merchants and farmers that don't care what their government is doing at all, in fact they are "more interested in commerce and agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justice to the slave and to Mexico." In that, Thoreau speaks the truth about Americans being more concerned with their own well-being than with the oppressed down in Mexico. Also, Thoreau confronts the emotions of the reader by saying showing the stupidity of the "merchants and farmers" by how they care only about their own butts instead of humanity.