Alex Peek blog

List of posts    Blog archive    About


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Henry David Thoreau and independence


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, B. D. Maxham


Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American philosopher best known for his analysis of liberty and self reliance. Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne said,


"He is a singular character - a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own... Mr. Thoreau is a keen and delicate observer of nature - a genuine observer - which, I suspect, is almost as rare a character as even an original poet; and Nature, in return for his love, seems to adopt him as her especial child, and shows him secrets which few others are allowed to witness." (Journal Entry, 1842)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Thoreau.


Independence and government


"The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls... it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning." (Slavery in Massachusetts, 1854)


"A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men." (Civil Disobedience, 1849)


"To speak practically and as a citizen unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it." (Civil Disobedience, 1849)


"I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right." (Civil Disobedience, 1849)




"If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him... he will be surrounded by grandeur. He is in the condition of a healthy and hungry man..." (Letter to Harrison Blake, 1860)


"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." (Walden, 1854)


"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Walden, 1854)


Nature and reality


"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life..." (Walden, 1854)


"Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him." (Walking, 1862)


"A true account of the actual is the rarest poetry, for common sense always takes a hasty and superficial view." (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)


"I find it so difficult to dispose of the few facts which to me are significant, that I hesitate to burden my attention with those which are insignificant, which only a divine mind could illustrate. Such is, for the most part, the news in newspapers and conversation. It is important to preserve the mind's chastity in this respect." (Life Without Principle, 1863)