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While the essay focuses specifically on slavery in the United States, the logic behind civil disobedience could be applied more generally to any number of grievances against government.
For Thoreau, out of these acts of conscience flow "a man's real manhood and immortality."Money is a generally corrupting force because it binds men to the institutions and government responsible for unjust practices and policies, notably the enslavement of black Americans and the pursuit of the war with Mexico.
Thoreau sees a paradoxically inverse relationship between money and freedom.
The country is full of men who defer to majority opinion and the shortcomings of a political process that offers a limited number of candidates and choices.
Thoreau believes that the real obstacle to reform lies with those who disapprove of the measures of government while tacitly lending it their practical allegiance.
But Thoreau reveals himself to be far more nuanced over the course of the essay.
His fundamental respect for democracy and the Constitution coexists with a pervasive cynicism about the integrity of politicians and the voting process, which significantly limits the ability of ordinary citizens to express their will in the first place.
At the very least, if an unjust government is not to be directly resisted, a man of true conviction should cease to lend it his indirect support in the form of taxes.
Thoreau exhorts his reader to "action from principle" but again weighs the proportionality of the "remedy" (the measures of civil disobedience taken in the name of resistance) to the "evil" (the injustice to be remedied).
Though it may not be convenient to resist, and the personal costs greater than the injustice to be remedied, Thoreau firmly asserts the primacy of individual conscience over collective pragmatism.
Civil disobedience does, however, involve at least two restrictions: 1) the means of resistance advocated and practiced by Thoreau are nonviolent (though in later political writings, he appears to change his mind on this matter); 2) the act of resistance should specifically target the injustice to be remedied.