Of Interest


The Henry D. Thoreau Quotation Page: Conscience and Social Responsibility
  • The chief want, in every state that I have been into, was a high and earnest purpose in its inhabitants. ["Life Without Principle"]
  • Talk about slavery! It is not the peculiar institution of the South. It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or a tool, and surrenders his inalienable rights of reason and conscience. Indeed, this slavery is more complete than that which enslaves the body alone.” [Journal, 4 December 1860] 
  • I would remind my countrymen, that they are to be men first, and Americans only at a late and convenient hour. No matter how valuable law may be to protect your property, even to keep soul and body together, if it do not keep you and humanity together. ["Slavery in Massachusetts"] 
  • The world rests on principles. [Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 19 December 1854] 
  • What is wanted is men of principle, who recognize a higher law than the decision of the majority. The marines and the militia whose bodies were used lately were not men of sense nor of principle; in a high moral sense they were not men at all. [Journal, 9 June 1854] 
  • Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. ["Civil Disobedience"] 
  • It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. ["Civil Disobedience"] 

    A Note on the Text: Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906)



Carlisle Reach (Photographer: Herbert Gleason, from The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, 1906)

If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. — Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 27 March 1848

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