On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Posted: June 26, 2010 in Book Notes
  • That government is best which governs least…That government is best which governs not at all.
  • Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
  • But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it.
  • The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right.
  • The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.
  • He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.
  • 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.
  • I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.
    • A man has not every thing to do, but something; and because he cannot do every thing, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong.
    • It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong, he may still properly have other concerns to engage him, but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.
  • For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done for ever.
  • Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue, for money comes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him; and it was certainly no great virtue to obtain it.
  • You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself, always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs.
  • If a State is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects to shame; if a State is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame. – Confucius
  • Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses.
  • I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.
  • We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire.
  • Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?
    • There will never be a really free and enlightened State, until the State come to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.

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