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Claire Rawlins

Pre – AP


25 April 2018
Argumentative Essay

Henry David Thoreau, an American abolitionist, once stated, “The only obligation

which I have the right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.” What he meant

was that we must always put our conscience as our first guide to action before the law.

Because imperfect people make the law, laws can easily become corrupted and immoral

if they are not kept in check. We must never blindly follow the law without consideration

for its purpose. However, it is equally important that one person’s moral beliefs never

dictate. The consequences of following only one person’s moral code can be equally

devastating to corrupt laws. Therefore, society must create a balance between moral

beliefs and justice so that they will keep each other in check. Throughout history there

have been several occasions in which people have broken the law in order to do what

they believed to be right, and others who did what they believed to be right and went too

far. Some people who demonstrate these behaviors are Nelson Mandela, Mahatma

Gandhi and Adolf Hitler.

Nelson Mandela was the epitome of doing what is truly right instead of what the

law deemed right. Mandela saw inequality and unfairness in South Africa because of its

system of apartheid. He joined the African National Congress in 1942 and fought against

apartheid and “ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule” so that blacks and whites

could both live together in harmony. He was quickly imprisoned for sabotage and

sentenced to 27 years. Nelson Mandela later led the very nation that arrested him and
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forced him to spend so much of his life behind bars. Mandela had to fight against the

laws set before him in order to point out the flawed system and eventually help to

improve it.

Mahatma Gandhi was an advocate for peaceful protest during a time when

violence and conflict was rampant in India. Gandhi peacefully fought against Britain’s

negligent control by exposing the flaws in its imperialistic rule to the other citizens of

India. He organized peaceful protests and demonstrations to express their opinions about

the need for independence in India, and prevented a lot of bloodshed that otherwise

would have occurred. He came to be known as the “Father of India”.Gandhi was able to

help India gain independence from Britain and its corrupt grasp on India. But it first

required that he fight against the laws in place and recognize his own will to fix it.

Though an individual should think critically of the law, and consider his other

moral code, Adolf Hitler is an example of someone who went too far with his own

beliefs. Adolf Hitler had a deep love for Germany and, as a political leader, sought to

help Germany in its poor economic condition. Hitler slowly gained political power and

rose up in political ranking, but eventually organized a team to assassinate over one

hundred important politicians in one night so that he would be an unstoppable dictator the

next day. Once in power, Hitler ordered that several minority groups in Germany should

be exterminated, because his own beliefs were that they were the cause of their economic

issues. His commands lead to the brutal killing of over six million Jews, and 5 million

other minority groups such as homosexuals, Gypsies, blacks and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

He “exploited violence” all throughout German towns and his “strong arm” police would

burn anything they believed to be sematic or opposing Nazi beliefs. Hitler’s moral beliefs
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were the only code determining the government’s actions, and they were unquestionably

followed by the Nazi regime. He may have followed what he believed to be correct, but

his actions had devastating consequences. Hitler’s rise to power demonstrates that we

must not only decide what degree to allow morals to govern, but also create a balance so

that moral code and justice keep each other in check.

Mankind has a habit of building hierarchical systems of government as well as

social systems, and because mankind is flawed, these systems quickly become corrupt

when they are not kept in check. It takes the brave few to acknowledge when the law

becomes corrupt and to do whatever is necessary to correct it, using what they believe to

be true as their guide. However, when we allow moral code to be the guide of a country,

we must not let one person’s beliefs be the sole dictator, but rather have checks and

balances in place. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi have been some of those brave

few who have broken the law to do what is truly right, to create a better world, while

Adolf Hitler stands as reminder of why we should place limits.

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Works Cited

“Adolf Hitler.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Mar. 2018,

“Henry David Thoreau.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998,

“Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Leader).” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2000,

“Nelson Mandela.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998,