As in many countries precious metals belong to the crown, so here more precious natural objects of rare beauty should belong to the public.—Journal, 3 January 1861
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"
In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society.—"Walking"
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.—"Civil Disobedience"
One sensible act will be more memorable than a monument as high as the moon.—Journal, 26 June 1852
The chief want, in every state that I have been into, was a high and earnest purpose in its inhabitants.—"Life Without Principle"
The world rests on principles.—Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 19 December 1854
There is a coarse and boisterous money-making fellow in the outskirts of our town who is going to build a blank-wall under the hill along the edge of his meadow. The powers have put this into his head to keep him out of mischief, and he wishes me to spend three weeks digging there with him. The result will be that he will perhaps get some more money to hoard, and leave for his heirs to spend foolishly. If I do this, most will commend me as an industrious and hard-working man; but if I choose to devote myself to certain labors which yield more real profit, though but little money they may be inclined to look on me as an idler. Nevertheless, as I do not need the police of meaningless labor to regulate me, and do not see anything absolutely praiseworthy in this fellow’s undertaking any more than in many an enterprise of our own or foreign governments, however amusing it may be to him or them, I prefer to finish my education at a different school.—"Life Without Principle"
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison.—"Resistance to Civil Government"
Wealth cannot purchase any great private solace or convenience. Riches are only the means of sociality.—Journal, 2 January 1842