Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

(1817 - 1862)

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which we will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

Henry David Thoreau,
“Civil Disobedience”
originally delivered as a public speech first entitled
On the Relationship between the Individual and the State

and then
On Resistence to Civil Government

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Here There Is No State

Here There Is No State

By Henry David Thoreau

What is life like away from the powers of the State? Only a handful of people have sought to answer this question as fully as Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau strove to see liberty in action in his life. Thinking and theorizing about liberty was not enough for this man. Here There Is No State is a collection of the best of Thoreau’s works on living a life devoted to freedom. Liberty.me has brought these works together with the ideas of three contemporary scholars to show how essential Thoreau’s works are to our tradition. Wendy McElroy writes the introduction to Civil Disobedience and explains its importance to those devoted to individualism. Sarah Skwire sets the record straight on what Thoreau’s work Walden is and is not, and where it fits in our tradition. Finally, Jeff Riggenbach argues why we can consider Thoreau as “one of the founding fathers of American libertarian thought.” Thoreau focused his energy on investigating what it meant…