Henry David Thoreau

Philosopher / Abolitionist / Environmentalist

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."

David Henry Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts July 12, 1817. His father was a pencil maker. His grandfather led the "Butter Rebellion" - the first recorded student protest in the Colonies. Perhaps he was an influence on the young Henry who changed his name after he graduated from Harvard and would go on to become something of an anarchist himself.

"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."

Thoreau ran into a tax collector in 1846 who wanted him to pay six years of late poll taxes. When he refused because of his opposition to the Mexican-American war and slavery, he spent a night in jail. He thought of the Mexican-American War as a means to expand slavery. He also disapproved of the subjugation of Native Americans, frivolous applications of technology, and strong government. In response, he gave many lectures and wrote many essays including "On Civil Disobedience". These inspired people like Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

"Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand."

Thoreau became restless and decided to "live deliberately", so he built a cabin near the shores of Walden Pond and spent over two years there. He wrote a book based on his experiences called Walden. This book explored the simplicity of nature as well as harmony and beauty as models for just social conditions. Although not popular when written it is now considered one of America's most celebrated works of literature. Thoreau is also considered one of the first environmentalists for his work and experiments with nature.
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