Sunday, April 6, 2014

Badass Quotes from Henry David Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government"

Today, I read the 19th century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau's famous essay "Resistance to Civil Government," which inspired 20th century civil rights leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  As I read, I was continually astonished by all the quotable gems in his writing.  Here are some that I found…

"This American government--what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity?"

"Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?"

"It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."

"A corporation has no conscience."

"The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines with their bodies."

"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today?  I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.  I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also."

"This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people."

"They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect.  They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret."

"Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it."

"If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders."

"If it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."

"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"The more money, the less virtue."

"The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor."

"You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself, always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs."

"It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State, than it would to obey."

"I have paid no poll-tax for six years.  I was put into jail once on this account."

"If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man."

"I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually."

"The government does not concern me much, and I shall bestow the fewest possible thoughts on it."

"Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it."

"I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor."


Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

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