"On the Duty of Civil Disobedience", published by Henry David Thoreau in 1849, speaks eloquently and personally about one man's desire to live a peaceful, government-free life. In this short essay, Thoreau lays out his philosophy best summed up by the author as, "That government governs best that does not govern at all." Thoreau takes on the key issues of his day: slavery and the Mexican war.
In 1839, two years after graduating from Harvard, Henry David Thoreau and his older brother, John, took a boat-and-hiking trip from Concord, Massachusetts, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After John's sudden death in 1842, Thoreau began to prepare a memorial account of their excursion during his stay at Walden Pond. Modern listeners have come to see Thoreau's story of the river journey as an appropriate predecessor to Walden, depicting the early years of his spiritual and artistic growth.
This essay by Thoreau first published in 1849, argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences. It goes on to say that individuals have a duty to avoid allowing the government to make them the agents of injustice. The quote: "That government is best which governs least," sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, actually was first found in this essay. Thoreaus' thoughts were motivated by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican-American War but they are still relevant and resonate today.
Walden or, "Life in the Woods", is, primarily, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. Henry David Thoreau kept a journal during his stay in a cabin beside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, for two years, two months, and two days, from July 1845 to Sept 1847. The book is based on that journal.