Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
  • Born: July 12, 1817
  • Died: May 6, 1862
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Author









Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience" (originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government"), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Quote Topics Cited
A government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Justice & Injustice
Any fool can make a rule And any fool will mind it. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
At present … the best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only,—when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road, and walking over the surface of God’s earth shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come. Public Works & Natural Resources
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Do we call this the land of the free? What is it to be free from King George and continue the slaves of King Prejudice? What is it to be born free and not to live free? What is the value of any political freedom, but as a means to moral freedom? … We are a nation of politicians, concerned about the outmost defenses only of freedom. It is our children's children who may perchance be really free.. Freedom & Liberty
Duty is one and invariable; it requires no impossibilities, nor can it ever be disregarded with impunity; so far as it exists, it is binding, so as on no account to be neglected. Citizenship & Patriotism
For the majority of mankind, religion is a habit, or, more precisely, tradition is their religion. Though it seems strange, I think that the first step to moral perfection is your liberation from the religion in which you were raised. Not a single person has come to perfection except by following this way. Religion & God
Government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. Government ;Business, Commerce & Finance
He is not Brown any longer. He is an angel of light. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
He wrote in prison, not a History of the World, like Raleigh, but an American book which I think will live longer than that. I do not know of such words, uttered under such circumstances, and so copiously withal, in Roman or English or any history. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
I foresee the time when . . . at least the present form of Slavery shall be no more here. We shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till then, we will take our revenge. Freedom & Liberty ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
If a thousand [citizens] were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. Civil Disorder, Riots, Protests & Demonstrations
If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated ... Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonal experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. Citizenship & Patriotism
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It seems to me that the god that is commonly worshipped in civilized countries is not at all divine, though he bears a divine name, but is the overwhelming authority and respectability of mankind combined.. Religion & God
Men have become the tools of their tools. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force ;Capitalism
Most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders—serve the state chiefly with their heads; and ... are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America …. Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. Legislating & Legislative Process
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.. Human Nature
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. Life ;Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war Civil Disorder, Riots, Protests & Demonstrations
The spirit of sect and bigotry has planted its hoof amid the stars. You have only to discuss the problem, whether the stars are inhabited or not, in order to discover it. Space Exploration
The true man of science - will smell, taste, see, hear better than other men. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The wisest man preaches no doctrines. Human Nature
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
There is nothing to fear as much as fear. Human Nature
Things do not change; we change. Miscellaneous
Those services which the community will most readily pay for it is most disagreeable to render. You are paid for being something less than a man. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. Citizenship & Patriotism
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. Citizenship & Patriotism
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison... Justice & Injustice ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
We do not ride upon the railroad. It rides upon us. Transportation
We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire Miscellaneous
We love to hear some men speak, though we hear not what they say. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
We must look a long time before we can see. Human Nature ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith…. We should wait till their bones begin to crumble – and then avoid too near a likeness to the living. Memorials, Monuments, Medals, Statues & Buildings
When I observe that there are different ways of surveying, my employer commonly asks which will give him the most land, not which is most correct. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
When were the good and the brave ever in a majority? Human Nature
You can hardly convince a man of an error in a lifetime, but must content yourself with the reflection that the progress of science is slow. If he is not convinced, his grandchildren may be. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Morning
Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness. Life
Be not simply good - be good for something.
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Life
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Money, Coins & Minting ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. Life ;Environment & Environmentalism
Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?
Friends... they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to one another's dreams. Friendship
Goodness is the only investment that never fails.
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. Religion & God
How sweet is the perception of a new natural fact!
I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.
I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness. Truth
I cannot read a single word of the Hindoos without being elevated.
I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.
I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. Society ;Friendship
I have found that hollow, which even I had relied on for solid.
I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.
I have the habit of attention to such excess, that my senses get no rest - but suffer from a constant strain.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. Life
I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one. Time
I often visited a particular plant four or five miles distant, half a dozen times within a fortnight, that I might know exactly when it opened.
I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life. Life
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Life
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Music, Chants & Rapps ;Inspiration
If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. Time ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Environment & Environmentalism
If it is surely the means to the highest end we know, can any work be humble or disgusting? Will it not rather be elevating as a ladder, the means by which we are translated? Work, Workers & The Labor Force
If misery loves company, misery has company enough.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Life ;Success
If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Nature ;Government ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.
Is the babe young? When I behold it, it seems more venerable than the oldest man.
It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are... than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.
It is never too late to give up our prejudices.
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
It is not part of a true culture to tame tigers, any more than it is to make sheep ferocious.
It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man. History
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant.
Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around. Inspiration
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.
May we so love as never to have occasion to repent of our love! Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Men are born to succeed, not to fail.
Men have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of proportion to the use they commonly serve. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Respect
Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Life
Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. Nature
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. Nature
Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. Life
Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them.
Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake. Life
Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;War & Peace
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. Truth ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Money, Coins & Minting
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Success
Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. Religion & God ;Environment & Environmentalism
Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.
The bluebird carries the sky on his back. Nature
The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument.
The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time. Time
The heart is forever inexperienced. Relationships
The language of friendship is not words but meanings. Friendship
The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others? Life
The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star. Morning
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend. Friendship
The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth. Truth
The savage in man is never quite eradicated.
The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness. Religion & God ;Happiness & Unhappiness
The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.
The universe is wider than our views of it.
There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. Nature
There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living. Life
There is no remedy for love but to love more. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself. Life ;Happiness & Unhappiness
There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
They can do without architecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
This world is but a canvas to our imagination. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. Time
To be awake is to be alive.
True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Friendship
Truths and roses have thorns about them.
We are always paid for our suspicion by finding what we suspect.
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New, but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.
We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.
Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. Life ;Money, Coins & Minting
What is called genius is the abundance of life and health. Life ;Health, Healthcare & Medicine ;Motivation
What is once well done is done forever.
What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.
Where there is an observatory and a telescope, we expect that any eyes will see new worlds at once.
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.