Civil Disobedience Quotes To Read During Your Next Sit-In

Listing the best civil disobedience quotes is easy. Anyone can do it. I just did it. But it takes a great deal of tact to endorse its practice. 

On the one hand, I do believe civil disobedience is a moral response to an immoral state of affairs; on the other, I hardly need some boneheaded misanthropes with a pile of bricks and a lust for shop windows to go blaming this article for their poor life choices.

Is it civil disobedience to create a ruckus for the sake of disrupting the status quo? No – even if your intentions for burning down a broad swath of Main Street are as pure as the driven snow, the act would amount to mere vandalism. It’s better to leave blowing up urban centers to the experts who allocate your tax dollars. 

Civil disobedience is when you refuse to obey unjust laws or pay unjust taxes or fines. Whether or not you deem a law unjust depends wholly on your philosophy. For example, I do not believe that gun control is moral, let alone Constitutional, which is why I decided to become one of the tens of thousands of Americans who lost their entire gun collection during a freak boating accident. Likewise, I do not believe that taxation in any form is moral. That is why I legally changed my race to Irish Setter and bark whenever I see census takers approaching.

A word of caution before you go out civilly disobeying the government: It’s dangerous to do it alone. If you’ve got a lot of followers (or, if you’re not charismatic, are one of a lot of followers), then you’ve got a good chance at starting the 21st Century’s Salt March. But if you’re just some guy in a cabin who doesn’t want to fund wars of imperialism, then you’d better hope you look good wearing orange rompers.

Best Civil Disobedience Quotes

Civil disobedience quotes - "Rebellion against Tyrants is obedience to God."
“Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Civil disobedience quotes - "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to questions authority."
“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Civil disobedience quotes - "Perhaps is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen."
“Perhaps is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Civil disobedience quotes - "Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be consequence."
“Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence.”
– Juvenal
Civil disobedience quotes - "Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it."
“Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.”
– Albert Einstein
Civil disobedience quotes - "I heartily accept the motto - 'that government is best..."
“I heartily accept the motto – ‘That government is best which governs least’; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Essay on Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
– Albert Einstein
Civil disobedience quotes - "If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine..."
“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth – certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Essay on Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least..."
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Essay on Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is..."
“A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Essay on Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of..."
“Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations.”
– Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "I was not born to be forced."
“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”
– Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "When evil men make bad laws, righteous..."
“When evil men make bad laws, righteous men disobey them.”
– Pastor Butch Paugh
Civil disobedience quotes - "To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men."
“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.”
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Protest
Civil disobedience quotes - "Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion..."
“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”
– John Stuart Mill, University of St. Andrews 1867 inaugural address
Civil disobedience quotes - "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find...."
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
– Robert Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Civil disobedience quotes - "Only the truly evil do not believe in civil disobedience..."
“Only the truly evil do not believe in civil disobedience under any circumstance. If you refuse to disobey when the government demands that you commit atrocities, you are devoid of values. Every man with a conscience has some line in the sand over which the Government may not pass!”
– Dennis Kreiss, Survival Guide: Living Boldly in Trying Times
Civil disobedience quotes - "That which is not just, is not law; and that which is not law..."
“That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.”
– Algernon Sydney, Discourses Concerning Government
Civil disobedience quotes - "A dog can bit you but you must not bite the dog! Your every movement in life must be..."
“A dog can bite you but you must not bite the dog! Your every movement in life must be peaceful; otherwise you lose your ethical superiority! Nonviolent civil disobedience is a genius; no power can beat it; use it when necessary!”
– Mehmet Murat İldan
Civil disobedience quotes - "Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude..."
“Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude to civil war – as the declaration of a total break with a country’s political institutions.”
– Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
Civil disobedience quotes - "Far more violence has been done in obeying the law than in breaking the law."
“Far more violence has been done in obeying the law than in breaking the law.”
– Robert Frost
Civil disobedience quotes - "Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over..."
“Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.”
– Howard Zinn, The Problem Is Civil Obedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people..."
“This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government – and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes.”
– Howard Zinn, The Problem Is Civil Obedience
Civil disobedience quotes - "Human history begins with man's act of disobedience, which is at the..."
“Human history begins with man’s act of disobedience, which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason.”
– Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion
Civil disobedience quotes - "Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong..."
“Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.”
– Mark Twain
Civil disobedience quotes - "As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man..."
“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.”
Civil disobedience quotes - "It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason..."
“It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.”
– Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation

Wow! That was a lot of civil disobedience quotes! If you made it this far, then you deserve one more piece of advice about civil disobedience: Pouring milk all over your face after you get pepper sprayed doesn’t actually do anything. It just wastes milk, and there’s never an ethical justification for that.