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Civil Disobedience and Other Essays [Hardcover]

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Item description for Civil Disobedience and Other Essays by Henry David Thoreau...

Philosopher, naturalist and rugged individualist, Thoreau has inspired generations of readers to think for themselves and to find meaning and beauty in nature. This representative sampling includes five of his most frequently read and cited essays: "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (1849), "Life without Principle" (1863), "Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854), "A Plea for Captain John Brown" (1869) and "Walking" (1862). Reprinted from standard editions.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: BN Publishing
Pages   122
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jun 2, 2006
ISBN  9562910687  
ISBN13  9789562910682  

Availability  0 units.

More About Henry David Thoreau

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. His father worked successively as a farmer, a grocer, and a manufacturer of pencils, and the family was frequently in difficult financial straits. After studying locally, Thoreau won admission to Harvard. When Ralph Waldo Emerson moved to Concord in 1835, Thoreau formed a close relationship with him (although the friendship would later give way to mutual criticism) and with others associated with the Transcendentalist group, including Margaret Fuller, Orestes Brownson, Bronson Alcott, Jones Very, and Theodore Parker. He worked in his father's pencil business while keeping the journals that would become his life's work, running to millions of words.

Thoreau took over the Concord Academy for several years, where he taught foreign languages and science, before closing the school in 1841. By now he was regularly publishing poems and essays in The Dial. For a time he worked in Emerson's household as a handyman, and in 1845 he built a cabin on some property of Emerson's at Walden Pond, staying for a little over two years: 'My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.' (During this time he maintained an active social life in Concord.) He spent a night in jail in 1846 as a protest against slavery, and later explained his motives in the essay 'Civil Disobedience' (1849). His first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), most of which had been written at Walden Pond, was based on a boat trip he took some years earlier with his brother. The book made little impact and sold only a few hundred copies.

Thoreau--who at this time was supporting himself as a surveyor--became increasingly involved in the Abolitionist movement and began to work for the Underground Railroad, sheltering escaped slaves en route to Canada.

Walden, on which he had been working ever since his residence at the pond, went through multiple revisions before he considered it ready for publication. This was intended as the fullest expression of his philosophy: 'Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice.' It was published in 1854 and proved unexpectedly successful.

Thoreau met John Brown in 1857, and following Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry delivered 'A Plea for Captain John Brown' in his defense: 'I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharpe's rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharpe's rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause.' For many years Thoreau had been at work on a projected study of American Indians, compiling thousands of pages of notes and extracts, and in 1861 he traveled to Minnesota, where he visited the Lower Sioux Agency at Redwood. By this time, however, he had contracted tuberculosis and it became clear that he would not live long; he died on May 6, 1862. His later travel writings, The Maine Woods (1864) and Cape Cod (1865), were published posthumously.

Henry David Thoreau lived in the state of Massachusetts. Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817 and died in 1862.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Civil Disobedience and Other Essays?


Possibly the best exemplar of what America truly stands for is Henry David Thoreau. The above title quite effectively summarizes the premise of Thoreau's CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. Unfortunately, this sentiment is no less true today than it was in Thoreau's time. The government he so despised supported slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, and a war of conquest against Mexico. The majority of Americans today agree that the first two, at least, are quite disgraceful (though only in retrospect). Wars of conquest are just fine providing that you win. As Hitler said, "Nobody will ever ask the winner if he told the truth." Few Americans would have minded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and nothing whatever to do with the destruction of the World Trade Center if Bush's war had been successful. They also do not mind that American corporations keep the majority of the world's population in unnecessary poverty and subjected to brutal "pro-American" dictatorships as long as the stolen wealth of these nations make them wealthier also. Now that these corporations are hoarding most of this stolen wealth for themselves, causing America's middle class to shrink and the number below the poverty to increase, it is likely that Americans will soon start minding corporate greed - at least at home.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is one of the books that was mentioned with mild approval in high school literature classes in the late 60's; perhaps that is why so few people ever read it. Certainly, those very few who actually read it, and acted upon its advice, were despised. Now that I have finally read it, I am astonished to find how "radical" it is. "Radical" being the term used to describe attitudes that are supposed to be both Christian and American (though the most vocal of today's Christians - the CORPORATE-WHORE sect -- revile those people who actually understand Christ and America as Godless traitors). This was the book that inspired Gandhi, who understood both the teaching of Christ and what America is really supposed to represent. It is not surprising that the hypocritical Reagan administration - the administration during which the gap between the wealthy and the middle class first started to skyrocket, corporate criminality blossomed, and a war supporting a dictatorial regime was illegally financed - adopted Thoreau's motto, "That government is best which governs least." In fact, Thoreau asserts that legislators who put obstacles in the way of commerce "deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads." If one only read the first few paragraphs of Thoreau, one might almost suppose that he was the Jesus Christ of corporate capitalism. Of course, in today's America, the corporations ARE essentially the government. When they claim they want a government that governs least they are actually declaring that they do not want Americans to have any control over them. It is mind-boggling that so many Americans lap this up. But citizens are taught to respect law rather than justice, to such a degree that they cannot distinguish between the two. "The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies." The primary human trait that has made our history so ugly is that we permit ourselves to be manipulated by the voracious. Thinking clearly enough to look out for ourselves and our brethren is condemned as traitorous, and it is against the law.

Cheney's response to being told that 71% of Americans opposed the war was, "So?" Even though it is clear now to the majority what has always been clear to radicals, (i.e. people who are not easily manipulated), that the war was for the sake of oil companies, Bush unabashedly boasts that "it was worth it." Indeed, for his ilk, the war has turned out to be far more profitable than they had imagined. But in reality it has made America one of the most hated countries in the world, has turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists, jacked up the price of oil (which is why it has been "worth it" for the oil magnates), and has made all thoughtful Americans profoundly ashamed of our country.

We are now engaged in the mesmerizing media extravaganza known as voting for a new leader. An intelligent human can only respond, "So?" Thoreau points out the obvious: "All voting is a sort of gaming . . . with a slight moral tinge to it." We can vote against evil rather than actually do anything to amend evil. America will stay in Iraq regardless of who is president. One cannot be accused of saying anything that is not already obvious by stating that the corporations decide for whom we are permitted to vote. The idea that we have a two party system is transparently false. What we really have are two factions of one party, namely the liberal and the conservative, of the corporate capitalist party. Though the difference between the two factions is not nearly as significant as it was thirty years ago since the corporations have nearly succeeded in destroying the labor unions, it does still make some difference which faction is in office. On the other hand, if our "masters" decide that they want a war with Iran, as it seems they do, then America will go to war with Iran regardless of for whom we elect as president. It is not as if our government's ethical code condemns concocting a disaster that they can blame on Iran to muster popular support for such a war.

Getting rid of the draft was a cunning strategy. If all young Americans had to face combat we would quickly see mass protests. Now the military is far easier to control and the corporations have their own private militias - Blackwater and other CORPORATE THUGS beyond the control of Congress, the Pentagon, the puppet government of the occupied Iraq, and the Geneva Convention - which are nonetheless still paid for by taxpayers. (Is it being too paranoid to fantasize that different corporate factions might start vying for power so that we will see these thugs engaging in street wars just as the illegal gangster do)?

It is noteworthy that while America - "the land of the free" - has just 6% of the world's population, it has 25% of the world's prison population. While I doubt that very many American are in prison for the crime of obeying their conscience rather than the law, is there any reason to think that Americans are so much more prone to criminality than other nationalities? Thoreau writes, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." Thoreau was imprisoned for refusing to pay his tax-bill that supported the Mexican War and slavery. Since my income tax is taken from my paycheck before I ever see it, this mode of standing up for what I know to be right is barely an option. Even if it were, I should probably not take it. "If I deny the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end." Gandhi and Thoreau had the sufficient courage and confidence to believe that their acts of defiance would accomplish something worthwhile, but I do not. I think I would merely ruin my marriage and my child's chance to get a college education, and only a handful of largely unsympathetic people would ever be aware of it. Jesus advised us, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's;" In other words, that might be interpreted to mean that we should pay our taxes. But how can one really do that in good conscience if those taxes support that which is clearly evil? If there is anyway in which I feel that I am a traitor to America, and a failure in doing what Jesus would do, it is that I obey unjust laws without doing anything more noteworthy to obey my conscience than writing essays such as this one.
Duty is the essential element  Dec 27, 2007
It's great to see this edition, a small, affordable and easily carried book for a day outing. One thing that is disappointing is that the title of the essay 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience' has been shortened. A vital point is that it is a citizens DUTY to disobey when government diverges from what is right. And to leave this off of the title, in some sort of 'fast food, fast literature' shorthand, is to diminish it in the minds of Americans.
Great to read with Emerson's Divinity School Address (for which he was banned from returning to Harvard) and Self-Reliance.
The Hobo Philosopher  Sep 24, 2007
There is one interesting fact about Thoreau that most of the reviewers here and elsewhere seem to always overlook. Everyone knows that Thoreau went to jail (overnight) for refusing to pay a poll tax. But no one ever seems to mention why Mr. Thoreau refused to pay his poll tax.
Thoreau refused to pay his poll tax in protest of this country's war against Mexico. Thoreau was a "war protester". The poll tax had been passed to raise money to support that war. Thoreau believed that the war with Mexico was an unjust war of greed and expansion on the part of the American government.
Mark Twain was another "war protester". He was the head of the Anti-Imperialist League and vigorously protested America's "rescue" of the Philippines.
The Persistance Of The Philosophers ...  Jul 24, 2005
"Because they could not seize my thoughts, they decided, to punish my body...": this sentence was the first,which remaind in my memory, consolidated in my soul, reason enough, to explore more about this Henry David Thoreau (12.7.1817-2.5.1862). He moved in the same circles of society-critical network as Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), in the middle of the 19th century at the American east coast. Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" has left behind world-wide effects: Gandhi carried it during his frequent prison stays in his pocket (later India attained home rule and racial integration), Hermann Hesse (Siddharta) was influenced, the resistance against Hitler-Germany used it for backbone-stabilization, Martin Luther King Jr. or Joan Baez were inspired by him, Bertrand Russell, Nelson Mandela or the philosopher Herbert Marcuse (19.7.1898-29.7.1979) took possession of Thoreau's patterns of thinking. Thoreau was ever convinced that he was not on earth to please anybody, but rather to be authentically. Of course Thoreau's rugged individualism is not the very first in the history of philosophy. Forerunner structures can be found in the "Antigone" of Sophokles (translated in earlier years by Thoreau himself) or in the thoughts of Confucius (well known to Thoreau) or in the essay of Boetie, a friend of the french philosopher Montaigne: Boetie wrote about "discours sur la servitude volontaire". As a guidance to nowadays political actions Thoreau's spectrum of opinions probably is no longer suitable. One should reflect on the more and more complicated administrative systems, the clever governments and political leaders, their artfulness of subterfuge, their underhand stratagems, the many snares layed out by laws and remissions, injunctions and decrees; don't forget the sometimes dull executive. They made themselves fitter than ever to overcome all sorts of social resistance. Instead of paying a poll tax Thoreau once upon a time spent a night in jail. Inspired from this classic treatise on passive, nonviolent resistance you may decide to make a sit-down-strike against crusaders and reverse-crusaders or an action, refusing to pay money for the electricity, because you like to restrain the atomic age: be sure: you will not change the direction of the politicians passing by. They will think you are a little bit farcical. To retreat obstinately into the wood living in a block hut alike Thoreau: I don't advise this method to the broad of the population in the present days, at least take a look at the medical supply situation thus worsened. Linguistically however could start a new era of Thoreau's effectiveness, if there were increasingly sensitive readers. A futile hope? Think about the sentence "I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn." What sort of consequences and changing the rules of behaviour are TODAY necessary to realize such a direction of sef-reliance? Let's finish with another quotation of a sentence, which this extraordinary American philosopher wrote - and I never can forget these words like the one in the beginning of my review. He noted in his laconic style: "The lawyer's truth is consequence." Means: Without action following a decision, supporting something is useless. It inspired me to write a book concerning "The Persistance of the Philosophers" - and to take a daily walk down by the riverside ...
The moral obligation to resist  Aug 30, 2003
Henry David Thoreau did not just think, he acted. In order to see which luxuries of life he could live without, he lived in a secluded area for two years near Walden pond. Instead of paying a poll tax he thought unjust, he spent a night in jail. Thoreau backed his thoughts with action, and this gives validity to many of his writings.

Perhaps no work of Thoreau has been more influential than his essay "Civil Disobedience." Many world leaders, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., drew inspiration from this classic treatise on passive, nonviolent resistance. Simply put, Thoreau did not believe in allowing government to take more of his personal liberty than he, Thoreau, was willing to surrender. He also believed that, as citizens under a government, people have the moral obligation to break any law they think unjust (provided it does not injure another). This is the basic premise of "Civil Disobedience," that "I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."

All of the essays in this collection are important, but none has the tremendous power of "Civil Disobedience," one of the classics in American thought.


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