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Henry David Thoreau
1817 - 1862

American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher, author of Walden (1854), and the essay "Civil Disobedience"

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Walden & Civil Disobedience (1942)
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Click here for an essay by Henry David Thoreau
Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

1854 - from Walden
There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.

1849 - from "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"
When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?

Any truth is better than make-believe... rather than love, than money than fame, give me truth.

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.

The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.

What does education often do? It makes a straight cut ditch of a free meandering brook.

... government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of the way. It does not keep the country free....It does not educate.

When will the world learn that a million men are of no importance compared with one man?

Our life is frittered away by detail...Simplify, simplify.

That government is best which governs least.

1949 - from "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"
Men have become the tools of their tools.

Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.