The Legitimacy of Civil Disobedience as a Legal Concept
The Leg itimac y of Civil Disobedience as a Legal Concept
Delbert D. Smith 0
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Recommended Citation Delbert D. Smith, Th e Legitimacy of Civil Disobedience as a Legal Concept, 36 Fordham L. Rev. 707 (1968). Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol36/iss4/5
Nothing useful can be said or learnt about non-violent action unless its
essentially coercive and potentially subversive content is recognised at the
outset. It is at the opposite extreme from "passivism." It is an alternative,
if embryonic, source of power.'
T HE use of civil disobedience as a social tactic has developed
dramatically within the past several years. What was once confined to Indian
nonviolent protest has grown to encompass moral and political
demonstrations of various forms taking place in numerous geographical
areas.The technique of the act itself has become extremely sophisticated, the
rationale for its use has been defined in contradictory terms, and the
resultant legal implications have become increasingly vague. The mass
media have been indiscriminate in their application of the phrase "civil
disobedience" and have applied it to a wide variety of acts both violent
and nonviolent, legal and illegal. This popular usage of the term has
resulted in confusion, both as to its precise legal content, and as to its
significance when used as a criterion to determine legally permissible
action. The problem becomes one of developing a restricted definition of
civil disobedience that endows it with reasonably precise content coupled
* Supervisor in International Law and Research
1. C. Driver, The Disarmers: A Study in Protest, 243 (1964).
2. For example, anti-war demonstrations involving over 100,000 people took place in
Washington, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Ottawa, and Sidney over the weekend of Oct. 21,
1967. The Times (London), Oct. 23, 1967, at 1, col. 6. In London, on that same weekend
47 arrests were made, as a result of demonstrations in front of the American Embassy, and
members of the Committee of 100 sat down in the road near the shipyard where Britain's
latest Polaris submarine was to be launched. The Sunday Times (London), Nov. 5, 1967,
at 5, col. 4. In Oakland, California, over 4,000 people formed barricades in the streets to halt
buses carrying recruits to the Army conscription center. The Times (London), Oct. 21, 1967,
at 1, col. 5. In San Francisco, California, nine arrests were made when demonstrators
protested the trial of an American serviceman who would not go to Viet Nam. The Times
(London), Nov. 14, 1967, at 5, col. 3. In Tokyo, demonstrators protesting against their
Prime Minister's tour of South Viet Nam attempted to block his car at the airport and a
number of arrests were made. The Times (London), Oct. 9, 1967, at 5, col. 1. In South
Viet Nam Buddhist nuns burned themselves to death in individual protests against their
government's interference in the affairs of the Buddhist Church. The Times (London),
Oct. 20, 1967, at 1, col. 7.
with the flexibility necessary to allow for its application to a variety of
forms of public protest.
It is the purpose of this article to examine the idea of civil disobedience,
the conditions under which it can be resorted to as a form of social protest,
the various attempts made to arrive at a satisfactory definition, and the
nature of the act itself seen in the context of the relationship between law
and morality. While aspects of this problem are philosophical in nature
requiring ethical and moral judgments, these concerns are basic to judicial
development in that they set the social prerequisites for effective judicial
decision-making. This, in itself, is a debatable suggestion since there is a
body of opinion that finds these matters of only limited concern: "[M] ost
jurists and teachers of law, in this country [the United States] at least,
under the influence of "legal realism" find philosophical issues not to their
taste and anyway irrelevant to the Science of Law .... The question, of
course, is whether this is or is not a desirable state of affairs."' It is not a
desirable state of affairs when, as is the case with civil disobedience, the
philosophical issues provide the base from which any further study into
the definition and scope of permissible action must proceed. The lawyer
should not be absolved from considering the larger moral issues simply
because they do not correspond to "legal science," but rather there should
be a rapprochement between the philosopher and the lawyer resulting in
mutual advantage. The present gap in the literature consists not of the
application of the term civil disobedience to particular factual events, but
rather of any consideration of the term itself and the justification for its
application. The ambiguity found in the literature pertaining to civil
disobedience is capable of causing confusion and misunderstanding on the
part of lay people, judges and other professional people who attempt to
apply the concept within one context or another. While a certain degree
of ambiguity is desirable, an excess of it is dangerous in the sense that
those who do not take the time to linger over the initial definitional
problem may retard the struggle for racial equality and basic human rights by
attempting to fit diverse and sometimes mutually contradictory actions
under the veil of a socially tolerable exercise.
THE CONTEXT OF CivIL DISOBEDIENCE
There are a variety of value positions from which civil disobedience
may be examined. From the time of the Socratic dialogues which called
for men to examine the premises of their personal morality and civic
obligation, and from the early theater which presented the dilemma of
3. Cames, Why Should I Obey the Law? 71 Ethics 14, 24 (1960-62).
Antigone deciding whether she should bury her brother, given the dictates
of the state, thereby committing an act of civil disobedience, there has
always been the necessity for personal choice. In one sense, this situation
of ethical choice does not affect the law and can be studied in a detached
manner. The result of the individual choice will not have any noticeable
effect on society. However, when the decision to do a civilly disobedient
act involves the possibility of a large scale political change-and the act
itself becomes an effective technique of social protest-then the extent
of protection to be given by the state to those who make this decision must
be carefully evaluated. Illustrations of this type of politically-charged
situation include the Gandhian protests, the Algerian War, the Nuremberg
and Eichmann trials, Negro civil rights protests and antiwar
When is civil disobedience justified? When can the individual decide
whether he will or will not obey a law? "There are chiefly two issues
before us. The first is the question of whether organized mass
disobedience can ever have the same ethical justification which belongs to the
individual's conscientious act. The second is whether these ethical
justifications extend to disobedience whose primary motive is political rather
than moral, and is employed as a means to influence or change policy."4
There are ethical justifications for the individual's choice to disobey a
law if he is willing to pay the price of disobedience, but can these apply
to situations or organized mass disobedience? Is the fact that the
implications of the act are multiplied by the number of people making the same
decision sufficient to change the essential nature of the act and subject it
to different evaluation criteria? What relative measure of size can be
developed that could serve as a guide for differing circumstances? It is
arguably not acceptable to circumscribe the right of civil disobedience
with a number quota unless it can be shown that the substance of the act
changes when engaged in by a given number of people simultaneously. On
the other hand, if the freedom to elect to act in a civilly disobedient
manner is predicated upon the fact that there will be no appreciable
change in the political structure of the nation involved, then mass civil
disobedience must be classified separately. This approach would take into
consideration whether the primary motive of the act was moral or
political; the moral decision having no effect on political policy, while political
protest would be intended to influence or change it. Put another way, so
long as the protest was ineffective, it could be tolerated, but when it
be4. Dunbar, Sources of Political Rights: A Paper for the Southern Political Science
Association (Nov. 13, 1964). Dunbar is the Executive Director of the Southern Regional
Council, an American Civil Rights organization.
came a possible source of change then it must be controlled. While it is
possible that a large scale moral change in a community might eventually
affect political and legal norms, this change would not be as direct as
that where the political order was challenged directly.
The absolutist position in relation to all of the above questions is
that civil disobedience to the law can never be justified whatever the
circumstances.5 The necessary premises here are that every law is just,
and that a greater wrong always results when a law is broken than if it
were to be followed. While one does not have to accept both of these
premises to arrive at the above conclusion, it is likely that some variant
of them will appear in any thoughtful rationalization. The goals of
stability and security are achieved at the expense of any allowance for a
disturbance of the status quo. Freedom to dissent through positive action
is forbidden and the supremacy of the law is held to be absolute and
infallible. In theory, there is also a denial of any ethical justification for
the individual moral protest that would violate the law as well as a
restriction against mass disobedience. Defense of this position requires
empirical evidence that security and stability result from absolute
obedience, and this evidence is not readily available.' Further, since the law
changes with time and adjusts to new social and economic conditions, it is
unlikely that absolute obedience would provide the necessary indications
of the need for change.
Alternatively, civil disobedience may be justified under a despotic
regime, but not in a democracy where there are legal instruments
available for the redress of grievances. The substitutes for civil disobedience
in a democracy include the court system, and at another level, the
legislature. As nondemocratic political structures do not allow for access to
these bodies, civil disobedience is justified. The fact of voluntary
participation in a democracy precludes the right to protest against the system
through disobedience to a law. 7 The assumption here is that there is
some5. Frankel, Is It Ever Right to Break the Law? N.Y. Times, Jan. 12, 1964, § 6
(Magazine) at 17.
6. Wasserstrom, The Obligation to Obey the Law, 10 U.C.LA.L. Rev. 780, 796 (1963).
Wasserstrom argues that a person will take into account whether his action is more desirable
than any other conduct and that therefore the absolutist position is difficult to defend. I-Ic
further argues that any obligation to the law can be overridden by conflicting obligations.
In fact, obedience is usually obligatory and that disobedience often turns out to be
7. Id. at 800. The counter-argument is that even in a democracy there is no guarantee
that an unjust law will not be passed. The difficulty with majority rule is that, if it is
accepted as final, then the option of civil disobedience does not exist and in the Negro situation
in the South their position would not have been changed.
Further: When can one say that alternative remedies have ceased to be available? A
thing inherently undemocratic with a morally-prompted disobedience of
the law, the motive for which may only be a betterment of the system.
One fallacy is that the ideals and aims of democracy in a general sense
are confused with "the inevitably less than perfect accomplishments of
democracy at any given moment." s For example, in the struggle for civil
rights for American Negroes in the South there have been instances of
rigged elections, biased courts and most seriously inadequate or
nonexistent remedies for legal rights. Under these or even other less critical
circumstances, what harm can be done to democratic principles by
allowing civil disobedience? Put another way, what evidence of harm must be
produced to justify the control or elimination of this right?
Assuming that civil disobedience can be an appropriate means of protest
in a democracy, under what particular circumstances can it be said to be
acceptable? If the purpose of the civil disobedience is to alter the law,
then its form must be developed to create an awareness on the part of the
courts of inequitable law. One of the most direct ways of accomplishing
this is to demonstrate, through disobedience to that law, its
ineffectiveness. If the target is the legislature, then the same act, when reported in
the mass media, may result in an increased public awareness that will lead
to new legislation. Reinforcement for this position is found in a subsidiary
"time factor" argument. While one can say that in a democracy there
exist the means for peaceful, legal change, this is not to say that this
change will occur within any given time. In fact, an injury being done to
large numbers of citizens may go unnoticed for a long period of time, or
the system could be too inflexible to change to accommodate new
circumstances, thus doing irreparable damage to those concerned. Where basic
human rights are concerned, the major objective should be the change in
the law rather than the sacredness of the principle. In sum, it would
appear baseless to assume that obedience to the law is always conducive to
strengthening a democratic system, and that, indeed, there may be times
when civil disobedience will be able to jolt the democratic processes into
greater awareness and immediate action. However, there are also
limitations to temper the acceptance of civil disobedience as a social-change
technique and to limit its application.
If, for example, civil disobedience is used to create a test case to
challenge the legality of a state or local ordinance, the result may be a
subDeclaration of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association stated that
camping in government or business offices, blocking traffic or like wilful obstructions are
antithetical to equal rights for all. They are unnecessary in New York where no obstacles
to peaceful protest exist. Brownell, Civil Disobedience-the Lawyers Challenge 3 Am. Crim.
L.Q. 27, 31-32 (1964).
8. Frankel, supra note 5, at 36, col. 4.
stantiation of the validity of the statute with its prescribed penalty or the
statute may be overturned. If the protesting act is not illegal, then there
is no civil disobedience and if the act is illegal then there is, since "[i] t
[the law] logically cannot take the position that in the course of a public
protest the breach of a valid law is no breach."9 There can never be a
legally-permitted case of law-breaking. If the law is broken, the penalty
must be accepted, since if the act can be justified, then the law ought to
permit it. "The supposition that anyone who believes a law to be bad is
legally absolved from obedience to it is inconsistent with the notion of
law and incompatible with the application of it."'" However, while there
is no legal right to justify an act of civil disobedience, there may be a
Within a democracy, even the moral right to civil disobedience is
hedged with numerous qualifications. First, there is the standard of just
and fair behavior. There must be an apparent and socially significant
reason for the action taken and it must relate in some way to the law that
is to be disregarded. Could one legitimately protest the placement of a
traffic light by sitting-in at the intersection and halting all traffic on the
road? What forms of protest would be consistent with a protest against
the color that park benches are being painted? There must be some
proportion between the end desired and the means employed to accomplish it.
The extent to which society is disturbed should be commensurate with the
alleged evil of the regulation. The severity of the behavior involved should
illustrate the wrong to be remedied, but it should not give way to general
lawlessness or create a greater wrong in its accomplishment. There must
be a relationship between the civilly disobedient act and the alleged evil.
One cannot justifiably sit-in at a fire station and render it ineffectual in
order to protest the racial discrimination in a school system.
The risk that others will act in a similar manner to one who is being
civilly disobedient creates another limitation: "We cannot devise a neutral
rationalization assigning to ourselves such powers of judgment (as to
which laws are just) without at the same time granting them to our fellow
citizens, whose views as to justice and injustice may not be the same as
ours."" It is obvious that chaos would follow if everyone would decide to
disobey any law that he found he did not agree with. As a matter of fact,
it is highly unlikely that everyone, or even a large number of people, will
begin to act in a disobedient manner, but the possibility does exist. The
person who acts in a civilly disobedient manner asks the rest of us to
9. Brown, Civil Disobedience, 58 J. Philosophy 669, 672 (1961).
10. Id. at 673.
11. MacGuigan, Civil Disobedience and Natural Law, 11 Catholic Lawyer 118 (1965).
trust him and suggests that we go along with him. "[H]e dramatizes the
fascinating and fearful possibility that those who obey the law might do
the same."1' 2 This restriction creates difficulty inasmuch as any act of
civil disobedience, if participated in by a majority of people would lead
to chaos, and hence lose any characterization as a ritual act of civil
disobedience. On the other hand, it would also demonstrate overwhelming
public support for the change being suggested. A problem of control would
be created, since the law would, of necessity, have to be enforced until the
processes of change could function to alter it by legislative means. There
is arguably an implied limitation to the effect that the person engaging in
a civilly disobedient act will not encourage others to join in his act, but
rather will clearly indicate that the purpose of his act is to stimulate the
legally constituted bodies to take action and hence there is no need for
mass action. It is less clear whether this limitation would hold after an
individual protest had failed to accomplish its objective.
These, then, are the general arguments relating to civil disobedience
within a democracy and the conditions under which the act may be
justified. They can be analysed further through a consideration of the various
definitions that have been suggested for civil disobedience.
"Anyone commits an act of civil disobedience if and only if he acts
illegally, publicly, nonviolently, and conscientiously with the intent to
frustrate (one of) the laws, policies, or decisions of his government.""3
One approach to the problem of what constitutes a civilly disobedient
act is to consider definitions found in the literature and examine their
provisions. The above definition pertains to the individual and not to
group action of any sort. It prescribes the characteristics of the act
comprehensively (if and only if), and attempts to specify the intent of the
actor. In considering the nature of the act, it first requires illegality, for
without it there would be no disobedience. There is disagreement within
the United States civil rights movement as to whether illegality in terms
of the explicit law of the land is a requirement. On one hand, it is argued
that a violator who appeals "not simply to moral law, but to positive,
articulated law such as the Constitution of the United States""4 is not,
in fact, engaged in civil disobedience as generally defined. The
counterargument is that "they [the demonstrators] have thought of themselves
as civilly disobedient, they have violated state and local laws, regulations,
and injunctions whose Constitutional validity was generally accepted
throughout the nation, and they have been punished."' 5 It is
problematical whether the fact that the demonstrators consider themselves as civilly
disobedient makes any objective difference, or whether the fact that they
have been punished is significant. Any consideration of the moral base of
their actions appears to be missing, and it is questionable whether the
fact that the act is conscientious remedies this situation. Further, the
illegal act must have for its purpose the frustration of a government
policy, law or decision. What if the act is done with the intention of
creating a public disturbance? Does this have the effect of frustration of
policy, or is it simply a public act designed to draw attention to the
alleged wrong through the arrest of the participants who identify
themselves with a particular cause?
The public nature of the act of civil disobedience also raises numerous
problems. What is to be considered a public act? If reference is to the
immediate character of the act, the concern would be with the size of
the crowd that witnessed the act. However, the presence of the mass
media could negate the need for any physical presence, and in fact make
almost any private act into a public one for these purposes. Another
interpretation would be that "publicly" meant that the public interest must be
affected, and therefore reference was to the result of the act no matter
what its immediate character. It is thus possible that the harrassment of a
public official in his place of business or even at his home could be
considered a public act even if the immediate effect of the act were only on
the person involved. This would only hold true, however, if the official
were directly concerned with the law or policy that was being disputed.
An even more difficult task is to give the term "nonviolently" any
precise content. A particular activity may be nonviolent and coercive, or
nonviolent and destructive in a nonphysical sense. At what point does
the act cease to be one with an object of frustrating an official policy and
become one of coercion? Could not the threat of a repeated civilly
disobedient act over a long period of time or in other critical circumstances
become coercion? May not a nonviolent act, if carried on in
circumstances where large numbers of people are involved simply by size of
numbers do violence to some other activity? For example, a sit-in in a
public official's office may suspend his activities for the day, or the
disruption of traffic on a major highway could hinder the passage of
emergency or police vehicles. Further, there may be nonviolent acts that,
15. Dunbar, supra note 4, at 11.
because of particular circumstances, might cause violence on the part of
observers. An example of this would be the violence done by white
onlookers after a Negro demonstration.' 6 From this it might be argued that
there is a freedom to perform a civilly disobedient act only so long as the
rights of others are not directly affected in ways that are not connected
with the policy or law under protest.
Finally, how can it be objectively determined whether an act was done
conscientiously or not? Can this be determined in any other way than
by asking the individual involved? It is doubtful that any external
observation can be made that will be meaningful. Is the conscientiousness
to be related to the need felt by the individual for participating in a
civilly disobedient act, or in the desire to aid in the frustration of a
government policy? Is there a qualitative difference between an
individual's conscientious act and a group conscientious act? In any event
how could the measure of a group conscientiousness be taken? While the
argument is made that there cannot be a conscientiously performed act
when there is a specific intent to disobey the law,1" there is also the
position that such an act must be conscientious since the individual
realizes the legitimacy of the law and "proposes to justify his disobedience
by an appeal to the incompatibilty between his political circumstances
and his moral convictions." 8 To the person in this latter case, it is worse
to obey the law than to disobey it,19 and this belief provides the standard
One source for the right of the individual to disobey a morally
iniquitous law, which is "affirmed by western ethics and need not be further
debated,"4' - is to be found in religious pronouncements. These are, by
nature, nonrational, but may be extremely powerful. They provide the
individual with a source of authority that is not subject to compromise.
16. In Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157 (1961), which involved a peaceful
demonstration at a lunch counter for the purpose of protesting against racial discrimination, the court
found that there was no evidence that petitioners had disturbed the peace either by
outwardly boisterous conduct, or by passive conduct likely to cause a public disturbance even
though there was some white violence. Id. at 174.
17. Morris Liebman argues that righteous civil disobedience is a semantic trap and that
the act cannot be conscientious when there is specific intent to disobey the law. He states
that at times we let our sympathies interfere with our judgment and that, since our legal
system allows for change, righteous civil disobedience is incompatible with our system.
Liebman, Civil Disobedience-A Threat to Our Law Society, 3 Am. Crim. L.Q. 21, 25 (1964).
18. Bedau, supra note 13, at 659.
19. "About the only moral convictions, therefore, we can assume in advance that a dil
disobedient must have are that it is better to suffer violence than to inflict it and that law
and order are not lightly to be disturbed." Bedau, supra note 13, at 660-61.
20. Dunbar, supra note 4, at 15.
In essence, they locate the position of Man and place him in relation to
a deity, in which the will of the deity is the guiding force for the
disobedience and cannot be ignored by the faithful. As Gandhi said, "When
neglect of the call means a denial of God, civil disobedience becomes a
preemptory duty."" However, Gandhi also pointed out that the concept
of "God" in question can be liberally interpreted. "A Satyagrahi has no
other stay but God .... Your belief in God must be your ultimate
mainstay. It may be some Supreme Power or some Being even indefinable,
but belief in it is indispensable."2 2 The whole idea of satyagraha (satya:
love, agraha: violence) was that moral strength is greater than bodily
strength and can prevail in any adverse situation. One major distinction
between satyagraha and traditional civil disobedience is that in the
former there must be an attempt to seek the conversion of the enemy
while in the latter only the frustration of official policies or the
embarrassment of officials are sought after. In America the individual has
received limited approval from Church bodies to participate in civil
disobedience. On a general level: "In some instances, where legal recourse
is unavailable or inadequate for redress of grievances from laws or their
application that, on their face, are unjust or immoral, the Christian
conscience will obey God rather than man. 2 3 It is left to the individual
to decide, not only when legal recourse is unavailable or inadequate, but
also what the Christian conscience will consider appropriate action. A
more specific mandate is provided by the Episcopal Church: "If and
when the means of legal recourse have been exhausted or are
demonstrably inadequate, the Church recognizes the right of all persons . . . of
informed conscience to disobey such laws, so long as such persons: a)
accept the just penalty for their action; b) carry out their protest in a
nonviolent manner; c) exercise severe restraint in using this privilege
of conscience, because of the danger of lawlessness attendant thereto." 4
Each of the above statements is worded in such a manner as to allow for
varied personal interpretation and serve primarily as guides which
illustrate the position of the Christian Church as moderate and in no sense
militant in support of civil disobedience.
It is possible to infer from the various justifications given for
individual civil disobedience a rationale for mass action. This is most easily
done when the socio-ethical base is used rather than the religious base.
For example, if all of our rights and values come from the need to
main21. M. K. Gandhi, Satyagraha (Non-Violent Resistance) 171 (1951).
22. Id. at 364. See also G. Ashe, Gandhi: A Study in Revolution (1968) ; L. Fischer (ed.),
The Essential Gandhi (1963).
23. Brownell, supra note 7, at 30.
24. Smith, Meanwhile, in Mississippi, 82 Commonweal 41 (1965).
tain a civilized order and live within it and not from any transcendent
source, then it becomes easy to posit a socially tolerated right of mass
civil disobedience. "In a universe where no absolute can be known, no
values certainly defined, and no penetration made beyond except through
intuition, all we can do is to act on the authority of our own social
intelligence. On society we all depend for moral instructions."*'5 Or is it the
other way around? Do we, through our individual consciences and moral
values, create a moral tone for society? Is it not society that derives its
social consciousness from the individual? The counter argument to this
is that society lies in another dimension of being from the individual and
that the moral laws valid for the latter can be applied to the former only
in an indirect fashion and with essential qualifications. -0 It would follow
that society or group relations can never be predicated on the same ethical
base as those of the individual since "the mind, which places a restraint
upon impulses in individual life, exists only in a very inchoate form in the
nation. 2 7 Further, the goals of the individual and society are not the
same; the goal of the individual is unselfishness, while the goal of society
is justice. Thus we are not depending on society for moral instruction,
but rather taking our individual morality and attempting to manifest it
in the actions of society in an imperfect manner. One method by which
this is done is through the use of political philosophies which are in
essence sets of recommendations on how men should conduct politics and
human interrelationships.2 8 In any event, since both views suggest that
the creative purpose of our rights is to help us combat irrationality and
"no efficacious means in their defense or enlargement is illegitimate,"20
these difficulties could be resolved once a course of action was agreed
It is also possible to consider civil disobedience in terms of its effect on
some segment of society. In this sense, it could be seen as the performing
of certain acts which will compel a response by a dominant group in
society.30 The acts may be legal or illegal, and the actor may be an
individual, or alternatively, there may be group action. The only necessity
is that there is a response by a dominant societal group (which does not
necessarily have to be the legal branch of government). There remains the
task of subjectively determining what constitutes a "response" and what
is meant by "dominant group," and also the question might be raised as
to whether the response of the dominant group, however defined, must be
set against the person or group that initiated the disobedience, or whether
it is sufficient that some undefined activity be altered or changed.
Emphasis could be placed on the "frustration" of the law in the civilly
disobedient act, and such an act could be interpreted as "an effort to
change the law by making it impossible to enforce the law or by making
the price of such enforcement extremely high."'1 Here the importance
of the individual's moral act is minimized since it is likely to be ineffective,
and the primary concern is with the actual processes by which the law is
changed. The ambiguity of this approach could be lessened somewhat by
constructing a definition which provided that civil disobedience is a course
of legally unauthorized conduct engaged in by relatively homogeneous
groups for the redress of grievances outside of the system provided by
established society.32 The use of the phrase "legally unauthorized
conduct" does not make it mandatory that an arrest be made and charges
brought; the conduct may be such that it is ignored by the law
enforcement officials so long as it has not been specifically authorized. The need
for effectiveness is emphasized by the use of "relatively homogeneous
groups" as the actors, which excludes consideration of the individual
conscientious objector who makes no attempt to interest others in his
cause. In fact, the difficult quality of conscientiousness is eliminated
altogether as is the requirement that the act be public in nature.
While the above do not exhaust the possible definitional approaches to
civil disobedience, they do illustrate the point that, even though precise
definition is impossible because of the dynamic nature of the word,
guidelines can be drawn within which certain activities can be classified. While
specific circumstances will continue to alter the content of any definition,
eventually a common usage will arise that will limit the scope of
permissible action and the alternative courses of action to a manageable
number. Within these guidelines different phrases will be used to describe
specifically what is meant by a particular act, the accuracy and credibility
of which will depend on the knowledge of the concept itself as generally
IV. THE NATURE OF THE ACT OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Without attempting to define precisely the characteristics of civil
disobedience, it is still possible to consider the nature of the act from several
31. Frankel, supra note 5, at 41, col. 1.
32. Riehm, Civil Disobedience-A Definition, in "Civil Disobedience and the Law: A
Symposium," 3 Am. Crim. L.Q. 11, 14 (1964).
analytical viewpoints. These could serve as workpoints for further
attempts at definition of the phrase. Gandhi recognized two types of social
Aggressive: non-violent, willful disobedience of laws of the State whose breach does
not involve moral turpitude and which is undertaken as a symbol of revolt against
Defensive: involuntary or reluctant non-violent disobedience of such laws as are
in themselves bad and obedience to which would be inconsistent with one's self-respect
or human dignity.3 4
Truth was the soul or spirit that excluded violence or "body-force" in
favor of "soul-force," since man was not capable of knowing absolute
truth and was therefore not competent to punish others. In America, the
aggressive form of nonviolent wilful disobedience, described above, is not
practiced since the end sought is not revolution but rather limited change.
The most common American form is that of the defensive disobedience
of those laws which are thought in themselves to be bad. The moral
overtones of Gandhian civil disobedience evidenced in commands to the
demonstrator to be prepared to suffer "till the end" for his cause, to
require the issue to be a true and substantial one, and to forbid hatred
against the opponent, are lacking in some American demonstrations. It is
true that the issue of civil rights for the Negroes is a true and substantial
issue, but the line between the civil riots and nonviolent disobedience has
been crossed a number of times, most notably in Watts and Detroit, and
hence the individual conscience has been ignored in favor of the test of
In regard to violence as a coordinate feature of nonviolent resistance, it
is important that "the agent does not try to accomplish his aim either
by initiating or by threatening violence, that he does not respond with
violence or violent resistance during the course of his disobedience,
regardless of the provocation he may have, and thus that he is prepared to
suffer without defense the indignities and brutalities that often greet
his act."35 However, there is some confusion whether direct resistance
allows for limited acts of violence in order to establish credibility. "[A] n
act often allows of no more than a remote connection to the objectionable
law, with the result that it appears ineffective and absurd. Hence, the
preference among dissenters of cool head and stout heart for direct
resistance.""8 One way of looking at direct resistance is to assume that it
33. Gandhi, supra note 21, at 175.
34. Id. at 176. Bertrand Russell specifies two types of conscientious civil
disobedience: (1) Aggressive-general disobedience to laws to attempt to change policy; (2)
Defensive--disobedience to an unjust law which specifically requires action.
35. Bedau, supra note 13, at 656.
36. Id. at 657.
consists of doing something positive that is forbidden by the law as
opposed to not doing something prescribed by law." A negative act is
easier to defend in terms of classic civil disobedience, but it may appear
ineffectual and remote. Nonattendance at a segregated sports event or
meeting may register disapproval of a policy, while sitting-in at a public
place, though still indirect, may more effectively make a particular point.
However, as long as there is no obstruction of a legally justified activity,
it is not clearly direct resistance. Examples of nonviolent obstruction
would include forms of physical coercion such as climbing on a
construction project or hindering the activities of a public official. The next step
is to the practice of nonviolent interjection, which is the placing of the
demonstrator's body in the way of an activity such as blocking the
entrance to a public meeting or blocking traffic on a major highway. In
all of these examples one test of their legitimacy is whether there is
privity between the action undertaken and the result desired. In the
American labor movement, the use of the strike set a pattern of
immediacy regarding the demonstration and the evil to be remedied."0 While
this was not always the case, it set the pattern for the early civil rights
demonstrations that have subsequently been altered to place the emphasis
on the rationale that "it is sufficient if the conscience of the majority is
stirred.""0 This could be a dangerous trend in that any result-oriented test
will favor action that, while effective, might fall beyond the ordinarily
accepted forms of nonviolent action.
A further alteration that has appeared in American civil disobedience
practices has been the acceptance of the right of the demonstrator to
object against the punishment meted out for his act. The actor claims, not
only that he is justified in breaking the law, but also in attempting to
resist attempts to enforce it. In the early anti-atomic weapon
demonstrations no attempt was made to justify the action and when the Golden
Rule sailed into the area of the high seas reserved for United States
nuclear bomb testing, this was justified as an expression of the people's
conscience through the means of an act harmless and peaceful in itself,
and that arrest and imprisonment were expected. 41 Later examples of
antiwar demonstrations, such as the march on the Pentagon in
Washington D.C. and demonstrations against Dow Chemical Company which
makes napalm for Viet Nam resulted in attempts to escape from the
punishment imposed for disturbing the peace and the breaking of other
The emphasis on result-oriented civil disobedience has obscured the
test of conscientiousness to a great extent. In fact, a person may have a
number of motivations for participating in an act which appears to have
but one goal. Should it make a difference to a court of law whether the
motive for a person's action is acceptable to society? One could
participate in an act of civil disobedience as part of a larger plan to topple the
government or destroy its effectiveness, or the motive might simply be to
modify or change the law involved. A person may want to stop a
particular law from applying to himself, or he may want to stop it from
applying to a group or to the entirety of society. In any event, the question
can be raised of whether the qualitative differences in motive should affect
a judicial decision or whether certain acts of civil disobedience should be
given preferential treatment over others because of the motives of those
involved. A person may obey a law but agitate for its repeal within the
context of a political pressure group that uses civil disobedence. He may
disobey a particular law, until arrested, and then, having made his point,
obey the law at all future times. Alternatively, he may disobey the law
personally, but make no attempt to persuade others to do so, or he may
disobey the law and encourage others to similar action. He may attempt
to force or coerce others to break the law. In each of these circumstances,
the real or apparent threat to the stability of society may be different
depending on the value judgments of the observer.
For example, James Farmer, speaking of the goals of the activities
of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) indicated that their motives
1. To change the law; to speed up the process of change.
2. To educate the public to the evil of the law itself.
3. To shame the supporters of the law and appeal to their consciences.
4. To make the law inoperative.4 2
The education of the public and the appeal to their consciences do not
involve questions of the motivations of the demonstrators, nor for that
matter do attempts to speed up the process of change where iniquitous
laws are involved, but attempts to make the law inoperative creates
additional questions. No distinction is made between just laws and unjust
ones, since in cases such as that involving the spreading of garbage over
the Triborough Bridge in New York the justification by CORE was that
42. Brownell, supra note 7, at 27-28.
[w] e are disobeying a law with which we agree and we are disobeying it
for another reason: to spotlight an injustice. 43 The question then
becomes one of determining how far a community can allow its laws to be
broken to spotlight other injustices, no matter how legitimate.
It is obvious that large-scale rioting and general rebellion cannot be
tolerated even if done in the name of racial justice. While the causes that
lead to rioting must be examined and corrected where possible, the legal
system must determine at what point on the continuum of social actions
lawbreaking cannot be tolerated in the name of a moral good. One
approach to this problem is to say that democracy should allow that
"degree of civil disobedience which will balance the need for its own
institutional preservation with its ultimate values, especially the
provision for maximum free play for the individual conscience."" It would
follow that the use of violence could never be in keeping with the need
for democratic institutional preservation, and the fact that it was being
used in a good cause would make no difference. When violence occurs
one moves from civil disobedience to civil rebellion which cannot be
tolerated. The tests that have been developed to describe the limits of
civil disobedience include prerequisites such as: 1) [P]ersons may not be
harmed, and property may not be destroyed; 2) [T]here must be
unconditional submission to arrest and to the legal penalties for the breaches;
and 3) [T]he protests [where breaches occur] must be directed at
constitutional defects exposing either all the people or some class ... to legally
avoidable forms of harm and exploitation.4"
The balancing process will take place in reference to each individual
act of civil disobedience, and providing that the above criteria are met,
it is probable that most forms will be found acceptable.
A further feature of nonviolent civil disobedience is that it has
generally been thought of as formalized dissent. There has been a ritualized
character to it that distinguishes it from ordinary lawbreaking. In this
ritual, lawbreaking is minimal and for the most part formal, 0 and the
act is usually highly publicized beforehand with no attempt being made
to escape arrest. The whole idea that the act is a symbol for something
else-whether a political or moral philosophy-is important to the nature
of the act. If this were to be lost, then the concept itself would have to
be redefined in terms of the necessity of maintaining internal order and
43. Id. at 28.
44. Spitz, Democracy and the Problem of Civil Disobedience, 48 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 386
45. Brown, supra note 9, at 676-77.
46. Id. at 680.
stability balanced against the occurrence of ordinary outbreaks of
disobedience to statute law. It would thus appear important that the actor
carefully establish the formal, ritualiied character of his proposed act, if
he is to claim it as an example of civil disobedience. The courts will
examine the act for evidence of formalization where it would not do so
in ordinary cases, and rule accordingly.
Finally, there is the question of whether the demonstrator can be
expected, by the court, to have any empirical knowledge of the
circumstances surrounding the cause for which he is demonstrating. Should it
make a difference in terms of gauging the legitimacy of the act?
Ordinarily it will be assumed that the person had access to all of the facts
that are necessary for him to decide whether to take a particular action
or not, but does this hold true in cases of civil disobedience? Is the
demonstrator to be held to a sophisticated standard of awareness about his
immediate circumstance and the necessity for his act of protest? "Neither
good will without thought, nor intuition, nor inductive generalization, nor
reasoning is by itself adequate for ethical and political practice, but each
requires the help of the other three ... ., Or is it sufficient that the person
simply is of the opinion that he is doing the right thing? Should it make
a difference if the act is futile or the remedy sought has already taken
effect? If the demonstrator is to be held to a high degree of knowledge
about the circumstances of his act, it is possible that civil protest will be
hindered because of fears centered around a lack of knowledge about the
justness and social desirability of a particular cause. Should the moral
romantic be held to a lower standard of prior knowledge of the effect of
his act of disobedience than the ordinary citizen? Is it desirable to draw
such distinctions? On another level of analysis, should there be different
sets of legal criteria for resolving situations concerning civil rights protests
as opposed to situations concerning demonstrations by groups such as the
American Nazi Party? It is possible that the moral, social and political
factors surrounding a particular cause will result in divergent standards
based on the desirability of the cause, but is this to be desired or made
an explicit part of the content of civil disobedience definitions?
V. CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND CIVIL RIGHTS
When one specifically considers the American race problem in the
context of the numerous acts of civil disobedience that have taken place in
support of various value positions, the fact immediately becomes
apparent that there is no basic agreement as to the justification of these
47. A. Ewing, supra note 37, at 7.
acts. The wide variety of views on the legitimacy of various acts has
led to contradictory approaches to determining their efficacy and legality.
The sit-in is a form of civil rights protest based on nonviolence and
direct action." There are two major variations of this technique, the first
where protection is being sought for an existing right, and the second
where a change in the law is desired. In the first case, the defense
given by those who participate in a demonstration is that the
perpetuation of segregation is illegal and the sit-in is an attempt to
invoke judicial and executive protection of legal and constitutional rights.
In the second case, the desired goal of equality is held to be of more
importance than obedience to a city ordinance, and attention must be
focused on the law to be changed. If the circumstances are such that the
sit-in is both moral and legal there is no question of the validity of the
act of alleged civil disobedience, and in fact "[w] ere it evident that sit-ins
were truly illegal many might hold a different view about the rightness
of sitting-in as a means to bring about integrated facilities."4 The
question of the generalization of conduct--can I expect that others will act
as I do-usually does not arise in relation to the sit-in since the ritualized
form of the demonstration assumes that numerous repetitions will not
be necessary. The determination of the precise chances that others will
take similar action is a subject for empirical research which could not be
held as a prerequisite to the act itself."0
The rightness of the cause itself has been suggested as a criteria for
judging the validity of the civilly disobedient act. The sit-in, it is argued,
is undertaken in good faith, based on specific moral and social principles,
with the understanding that "the challenger runs the risk of going to
jail if his challenge is not ultimately upheld by the courts." 1 On the
other hand, those who oppose the civil rights movement are alleged to be
acting in bad faith with the end of delaying court action and denying to
others basic constitutional rights. Does the validity of the act depend on
the legitimacy of the cause, or does this factor make no difference to
48. Southern Regional Council, The Student Protest Movement: A Recapitulation 2
49. Wasserstrom, supra note 6, at 787. There are the same distinctions to be made
regarding the freedom ride. "One primary claim for the rightness of freedom rides (is] that
these are not instances of disobeying the law. They [are] instead attempts to invoke judicial
and executive protection of legal, indeed constitutional, rights." Id. Contra, "Freedom rides
... have raised the question of whether the immorality of segregation may justify disobeying
the law." Id. at 780.
50. Id. at 796.
51. Tweed, Segal & Packer, Civil Rights and Disobedience To Law: A Lawyers' View,
36 N.Y. St. B.J. 290, 291 (1964).
judicial decision-makers? While one sit-in was sufficient to provide a
test case of the statutes providing for segregated eating facilities,
subsequent demonstrations were justified as measures to dramatize the
situation and focus public attention by bringing pressure to bear on the
white community.5 2
The requirement that the demonstrator be willing to accept the
punishment for his act53 has developed an unusual interpretation in the civil
rights field. It has been suggested that there is a feeling of latent hostility
and aggression toward whites by Negroes and that therefore there is a
strong psychological appeal for a program of nonviolence leading to
arrest and imprisonment. "'Most people... want at some time to have the
jail experience-it's become such an important part of the movement.' "I
Instead of passive resistance, participation in a sit-in or similar
demonstration is more clearly defined as "passive aggression" where the "[p]
revailing guilt feelings caused by aggressive and hostile impulses seek
satisfaction in the need for punishment."5 5 Put another way: "In an age
of ambivalence, of moral ambiguity, the Negro Movement gave us at last
a choice, as clear-cut as a sit-in, between good and evil. It let us have the
cake of certainty and eat it too, by frosting it with forgiveness,
nonviolence, love."56 The time in prison can be seen as the sacrifice required
if the movement is to have eventual success.17 Just as the Gandhian
movement had put forward the tenet that things of value could only be
purchased with suffering and not secured through reason alone, so too in
the civil rights movement the penalty for a civilly disobedient act
provides for the prisoner a: 1) personal feeling of self-esteem; 2) sense
of nobility; 3) moral and spiritual sense of being "better;" 4) a hope of
final triumph; 5) a feeling of being part of a larger whole. 8
Whether this psychological interpretation of the value of civil
disobedience in the civil rights movement (which minimizes the group and
social implications of the act) does provide the gratification suggested or
not, it does emphasize the role of the individual conscience. Even if the
psychological benefits that are supposed to accrue to the demonstrator
following imprisoment really flow from the hoped-for or actual
consequences of the social act itself, it is still important to isolate the personal
feelings involved and relate them to the rightness of the cause.
The courts have been concerned with the relationship of the civilly
disobedient act and the claim of redress that was being made by the
demonstrators. Limitations have been placed on the techniques that may
be resorted to to protest racial discrimination. "When valid laws are
broken simply to create sympathy for the civil rights position or, even
less defensibly, simply to dramatize the contentions of the demonstrators,
it seems clear that important values are being unjustifiably sacrificed.""9
It appears that the variations in form that the sit-in or other civil rights
demonstration may take are important in determining the acceptability
of the act, and therefore, whether or not one should disobey the law
"cannot be answered in abstraction from the question as to what forms
of disobedience will be employed should resistance be resolved upon.""
Objections have been raised to the location and immediate objective of
several forms of sit-in; such as the sit-in in Governor Rockefeller's office
in New York, the sit-in which caused a blockade of the Jones Beach
access road, and the sit-in which halted construction of the Downtown
Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York."' There are many other examples
of situations which have been considered to be beyond justification in the
civil rights movement, 2 and most of them have been concerned with the
motive-result factor rather than any deep analysis of personal
motiva58. Vander Zanden, supra note 55, at 549.
59. Tweed, Segal & Packer, supra note 51, at 295.
60. MacGuigan, supra note 11, at 129.
61. Tweed, Segal & Packer, supra note 51, at 295.
62. See MacGuigan, supra note 11, at 129. The following are other acts of civil
disobedience considered to be beyond justification in the civil rights movement:
San Francisco: Loading grocery carts and then dumping them by check-out counters.
St. Louis: Blocking entrance to a bank which refused to hire Negroes.
Cleveland: Human barricade in front of bulldozer at construction site. One killed when
bulldozer backed up.
New York: Dumping garbage on a major bridge during the rush hour to block traffic.
Chaining themselves to construction cranes so that work couldn't continue. Jamming stairs
tions. In one case 33 the court, in upholding a conviction for disorderly
conduct involving a sit-in in a private business office, said:
[A] man's private business office ... is hardly an appropriate forum in which to stage
a "sit-in" demonstration to remonstrate against what the defendants considered odious
housing legislation. It is true that the conduct of the defendants was nonabusive,
nonviolent and nonboisterous. What they did do was to create an annoying and
offensive condition in private offices ... which could not, and did not, serve any
legitimate purpose of theirs.64
The court's concern with the actual effect of the act rather than either
the avowed purpose or the fact that it was nonabusive, nonviolent, and
nonboisterous indicates a practical approach to civil disobedience. The
emphasis on "private business office" could also indicate that the
requirement that the act be public, and the assertion that the act in question
could not serve any legitimate purpose of the demonstrators indicated
that any sense of immediacy or relevancy was lacking.
Similarly, when civil rights demonstrators blocked a driveway at a
construction site, thereby stopping work on the project, the court, in
upholding a conviction for disorderly conduct,"a stated that "[s] uch
conduct was not justified by the social objectives of the defendants."6 In a
case where a group of parents, protesting racial imbalance, refused to leave
a school board meeting, the court, in affirming the conviction for
disorderly conduct, 67 indicated that there is a qualitative distinction between
the peaceful expression of unpopular views and actions which constituted
disorderly conduct. Here the court was concerned with the objective of
the demonstrators in determining the consequences of their conduct. In a
case involving a demonstration in a City Manager's office where the
demonstrators made repeated reference to education, the court65 pointed out
that the protest was not directed to the school board and that "[p]lainly,
however, they primarily wanted more of their number employed by the
City of Danville ... and they wanted representation upon every board
and commission of the City of Danville." 9 The court appeared to be
to a union office to keep members from going in or out. Attempting to halt World's Fair
traffic. Attempting to barricade the doors to both national political conventions. Mayer,
supra note 54, at 79-80.
63. State v. Petty, 24 Conn. Supp. 337, 190 A.2d 502 (App. Div. Cir. Ct. 19b2)
64. Id. at 343-44, 190 A2d at 506.
65. People v. Galamison, 43 Misc. 2d 72, 250 N.Y.S.2d 325 (Sup. Ct. 1964).
66. Id. at 80, 250 N.Y.S.2d at 334.
67 People v. Martin, 43 Misc. 2d 355, 251 N.Y.S.2d 66
(Sup. Ct. App. T. 1964)
, aff'd, 15
N.Y.2d 933, 207 N.E.2d 197, 259 N.Y.S2d 152, cert. denied, 382 U.S. 828 (1965).
68. Baines v. City of Danville, 337 F2d 579 (4th Cir. 1964).
69. Id. at 586.
applying a good faith test to the objectives of the demonstrators by
distinguishing their avowed purpose from what it determined to be their
real purpose and then related this to the relevancy of the protest. The
pragmatism that is indicated by these cases points out the importance of
the short-term objective of the civilly disobedient act while minimizing
the moral judgments that are made. While the "rule-of-law" theory of
government does not allow each person to determine for himself, based
on moral principles, which laws he will obey, some concession must be
made to allow for the encouragement of change and development.
One difficulty that the courts face with cases of civil disobedience is
that the techniques are constantly changing because of the necessity of
attracting public attention and notice. The "news" content of the event
and its adaptability to television or magazine coverage have become
important criteria for determining the nature of civilly disobedient acts. It
can be argued that the most undesirable forms of civil disobedience have
developed as a result of the irresponsibility of our mass media."0 However,
the alternative course of action, which would be to prescribe some form
of news management, seems equally undesirable. News suppression would
not be viable in any event since the news media are able to "color" an
event simply by their use, non-use or placement of a particular article.7 '
While it is possible to assert that the mass media manufacture
pseudoevents by overdramatizing incidents involving civil disobedience, and it
may be that some racial problems have been accentuated because of
uncritical and "sensational" news coverage,7 2 it is also true that the
frustration of nonviolent demonstrations by denying them press coverage may
have the effect of precipitating violent demonstrations.
The emotional effect of the newspaper, since it reports events that have
occurred in the past in a formal manner that people have come to expect,
is minimal compared to live television coverage which many times
searches for the most dramatic (and possibly most unrepresentative)
70. Ernst, supra note 39, at 17. For example, even before the racial disturbance in St.
Augustine, "between 150 and 175 newsmen, TV crews and cameramen began arriving in
St. Augustine from all over the United States presaging that some 'big news' would soon
break." Report, Racial and Civil Disorders in St. Augustine Legislative Investigation
Committee 34 (Feb. 1965). A conference held at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
in October, 1967 to consider the problems of the mass media and crisis coverage considered a
U.S. Justice Department preliminary report on the 1967 summer riots which concluded that
the media was the single most important factor in helping to create tension in some
communities. The defense offered by the media was that the events were "newsworthy" in
addition to which moderate leaders and events also got coverage.
71. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media 183 (1964).
72. D. Boorstin, The Image 39-40 (1962).
incidents that make for interesting visual imagery at the e-x-pense of
balanced coverage. If obtaining publicity is one of the major inducements
to acts of civil disobedience, and violent demonstrations receive more
coverage than nonviolent ones, it is probable that the frequency of the
latter form of demonstration will increase. Further, the easy designation
of every protest movement as an act of nonviolent civil disobedience by
the mass media without any concern for particular factors such as the
public nature of the act, its illegality, or its conscientious nature may
lead to the creation of a false public impression of the permissible limits
of civil disobedience and one that is at variance with that found in the
courts. The community standards that result may create difficulties in
law enforcement that would not result if these standards accurately
reflected a more sophisticated concept of what constituted civil
disobedience. As each act of so-called civil disobedience witnessed on the
mass media is struck down by the courts, people will begin to lose faith
in the legitimacy of civil disobedience as a socially tolerable form of
Since the courts often consider the actions of a reasonable man relative
to a precise standard of obedience in determining acceptable conduct, if
the rule of conduct is not clearly defined there may be some hesitancy in
enforcing its provisions. 73 Could the person arrested for an act of civil
disobedience have determined whether or not his activity was banned?74
This issue is made particularly complicated by the question of whether a
double standard is to be used in justifying civil disobedience in support
of racial equality as opposed to its use in other less worthy causes.
Finally, the courts must decide whether they are going to accept the
position that an immoral law cannot be law and thus need not be obeyed, or
whether the law itself is to be considered valid-having been enacted in
the proper form, with a clear meaning and in conformity with all of the
acknowledged criteria of validity of the system-but morally iniquitous
and hence vulnerable to disobedience.7" An acceptance of the latter
posi73. Cline v. Frink Dairy Co., 274 U.S. 445 (1927). The court stated: "(I]t vll not do to
hold an average man to the peril of an indictment for the unwise exercLse of his . ..
knowledge involving so many factors of varying effect that neither the person to decide in
advance nor the jury to try him after the fact can safely and certainly judge the result." Id.
For a contrary view, see Nash v. United States, 229 U.S. 373 (1913). "[T]he law is full of
instances where a man's fate depends on his estimating rightly, that is, as the jury
subsequently estimates it, some matter of degree. If his judgment is wrong, not only may he
incur a fine or a short imprisonment . . . he may incur the penalty of death." Id. at 377.
74. Quarles, Some Statutory Construction Problems and Approaches in Criminal Law,
3 Vand. L. Rev. 531, 543 (1950).
75. H. Hart, The Concept of Law 203 (1961).
tion appears more rational since it allows the observer to separate the
rules which are valid by the formal tests of a system of primary and
secondary rules and their moral content, and preserves the sense that
"the certification of something as legally valid is not conclusive of the
question of obedience, and that, however great the aura of majesty or
authority which the official system may have, its demands must in the
end be submitted to a moral scrutiny."70 If nonviolent action is
considered to be essentially coercive with potentially subversive content that
is practiced as an alternative form of power within a political system, then
the task of attempting to formulate the outside limits of its acceptability
and the legal limits of its justifiable use are of prime importance and
should be the object of continuing examination by the legal profession.
12. Frankel , supra note 5, at 41, col. 2.
13. Bedau , On Civil Disobedience i 58 J. Philosophy 653 , 661 ( 1961 ).
14. William T. Taylor , "Some Observations on the Strategies of Protest" (paper read before the National Civil Liberties Clearing House , 16th Annual Conference, Mar. 20 , 1964 , found in Dunbar supra note 4 , at 9).
25. Dunbar , supra note 4, at 16.
26. Address by Paul Tillich, John Nuveen Professor of Theology, University of Chicago, Pacem in Terris Convocation, New York, Feb. 18 , 1965 . Also see P. Tillich , Love, Power and Justice ( 1954 ) for an argument against the personification of the group .
27. R. Niebuhr , Moral Man and Immoral Society 87-88 ( 1932 ).
28. T. Thorson, The Logic of Democracy 68 ( 1962 ).
29. Dunbar , supra note 4, at 20.
30. MacGuigan, supra note 11, at 126.
37. A. Ewing , The Individual, the State, and World Government 69 ( 1947 ).
38. Bedau , supra note 13, at 657.
39. Ernst , Free Speech and Civil Disobedience in, "Civil Disobedience and the Law: A Symposium," 3 Am. Crim . L.Q. 15 , 19 ( 1964 ).
40. MacGuigan, supra note 11, at 127.
41. A. Bigelow , Voyage of the Golden Rule ( 1959 ).
52. Id . at 292.
53. "The right of civil disobedience is not a legal right, nor can anyone invoking that right expect to be exempt from normal penalties for violation of the law." On Civil Disobedience and the Algerian War, 50 Yale L .J. 467 ( 1960 ) (emphasis omitted).
54. Mayer , CORE: The Shock Troops of the Negro Revolt, Sat . Eve. Post, Nov. 21 , 1964 , at 79 , 82 . "Members [of CORE] are pleased when national director James Farmer is invited to the White House; they are also pleased when he goes to jail." He continues by saying that the acceptance of imprisonment "permits CORE members to hoot at the NAACP as the 'Black Bourgeoisie . '" Id. at 80.
55. Vander Zanden , The Non-Violent Resistance Movement Against Segregation, 68 Am. J. Sociology 544 , 547 - 48 ( 1963 ).
56. S. Watters, Encounter with the Future ( 1965 ).
57. In reporting the story of the arrest of Martin Luther King and Reverend Abernathy, Howard Zinn says: "According to Chief Pritchett's report, an unidentified, well-dressed Negro man showed up at City Hall, paid the fines, and the two ministers, who were anxious to stay in jail as a sign of the sacrifice required of those in the struggle, reluctantly left . H. Zinn, Albany 10 ( 1962 ).