The life of henry david thoreau and his role in transcendentalism

Born inone of his first memories was of staying awake at night "looking through the stars to see if I could see God behind them. While there, Henry read a small book by his Concord neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Natureand in a sense he never finished exploring its ideas -- although always definitely on his own terms, just as he explored everything! After two years and two monthsThoreau returned to Concord -- a bare two miles away which he had visited frequently during his stay at the pond, having completed his experiment in living and his book. Unfortunately, few people were interested in purchasing his book, so he spent the next nine years, surveying and making pencils at times but primarily writing and rewriting creating seven full drafts Walden before trying to publish it.

The life of henry david thoreau and his role in transcendentalism

On Civil Disobedience is another common title. The word civil has several definitions. The one that is intended in this case is "relating to citizens and their interrelations with one another or with the state", and so civil disobedience means "disobedience to the state".

Sometimes people assume that civil in this case means "observing accepted social forms; polite" which would make civil disobedience something like polite, orderly disobedience. Although this is an acceptable dictionary definition of the word civil, it is not what is intended here.

This misinterpretation is one reason the essay is sometimes considered to be an argument for pacifism or for exclusively nonviolent resistance. The environment became especially tense after the Fugitive Slave Act of A lifelong abolitionistThoreau delivered an impassioned speech which would later become Civil Disobedience injust months after leaving Walden Pond.

The speech dealt with slavery, but at the same time excoriated American imperialismparticularly the Mexican—American War. Democracy is no cure for this, as majorities simply by virtue of being majorities do not also gain the virtues of wisdom and justice.

The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. Because of this, it is "not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize".

Such a fundamental immorality justifies any difficulty or expense to bring to an end. There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them. He exhorts people not to just wait passively for an opportunity to vote for justice, because voting for justice is as ineffective as wishing for justice; what you need to do is to actually be just.

This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, but you do have an obligation not to commit injustice and not to give injustice your practical support.

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Paying taxes is one way in which otherwise well-meaning people collaborate in injustice. People who proclaim that the war in Mexico is wrong and that it is wrong to enforce slavery contradict themselves if they fund both things by paying taxes.

Thoreau points out that the same people who applaud soldiers for refusing to fight an unjust war are not themselves willing to refuse to fund the government that started the war. In a constitutional republic like the United States, people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed.

But if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the lawmaking process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then Thoreau says the law deserves no respect and it should be broken.

In the case of the United States, the Constitution itself enshrines the institution of slavery, and therefore falls under this condemnation. Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.

The life of henry david thoreau and his role in transcendentalism

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. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose.

If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.

This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case.

He considered it an interesting experience and came out of it with a new perspective on his relationship to the government and its citizens.

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He was released the next day when "someone interfered, and paid that tax". As governments go, he felt, the U.

But he felt we could and should insist on better. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?Henry David Thoreau was born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts, into the "modest New England family" of John Thoreau, a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar.

The Literature

His paternal grandfather had been born on the UK crown dependency island of Jersey. [17]. Henry D. Thoreau's classic A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is published now as a new paperback edition and includes an introduction by noted writer John McPhee.

This work--unusual for its symbolism and structure, its criticism of Christian institutions, and its many-layered storytelling--was Thoreau's first published book. The Walden Woods Project preserves the land, literature and legacy of Henry David Thoreau to foster an ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Henry David Thoreau

This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, During my student days I read Henry David Thoreau's essay On Civil Disobedience for the first time. Here, in this courageous New Englander's refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery's.

In his essay “Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau opens by saying, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least’" (), and then clarifies that his true belief is “‘That government is best which governs not at all’" ().

Thoreau and Transcendentalism. connection with nature and the individual and 12th grade students to Thoreau’s ideas about an individual’s role in society.

In both senses, Thoreau condones a return to the nature of things, whether in nature, or the heart of man. Through an overview of Henry David Thoreau’s life, writings, and.

Henry David Thoreau | Biography & Works |