Employment & Labor Quotations

 

I have been making pencils all day, and then at evening walked to see an old schoolmate who is going to help make Welland Canal navigable for ships round Niagara. He cannot see any such motives and modes of living as I; professes not to look beyond securing certain "creature comforts". And so we go silently different ways . . .—Journal, 17 March 1842
I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day.—Walden
Incessant labor with my hands, at first, for I had my house to finish and my beans to hoe at the same time, made more study impossible.—Walden
It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?
Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 16 November 1857
Men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer.—Journal, 14 July 1845
Men should not labor foolishly like brutes, but the brain and the body should always, or as much as possible, work and rest together—Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 2 May 1848
Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine.—Walden
One says to me, “I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.” But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day. And so, if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you; and as for seeing the country and getting experience of that kind, I should have to cut your acquaintance altogether.—Walden
Returning, stopped at Barrett's sawmill while it rained a little. Was also attracted by the music of his saw. He was sawing a white oak log; was about to saw a very ugly and knotty white oak log into drag plank, making an angle.—Journal, 19 May 1856
Some are "industrious," and appear to love labor for its own sake, or perhaps because it keeps them out of worse mischief; to such I have at present nothing to say. Those who would not know what to do with more leisure than they now enjoy, I might advise to work twice as hard as they do—work till they pay for themselves, and get their free papers.—Walden
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