Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau, (1817-1862) American author, poet, philosopher, polymath, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and transcendentalist

Henry David Thoreau Quote

“There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.”

Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau
~ Henry David Thoreau

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 1849 (original title: Resistance to Civil Goverment)

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

this quote needs be hung in all quarters of government.

Joe, North Caldwell, NJ

Agree with Mike.

helorat, Milton

Amen! That is the essence of our Constitution. The government is an island of power in a sea of rights, and has no power unless specifically granted it by the people in the Constitution. That is the basis of our rule of law, and it is violated by our federal government many times a day and we just suck it up.

E Archer, NYC

Unfortunately, the 'State' has no conscience and no mind with which to think or 'realize'. There are however many individuals that control the 'State' who DO realize the power of the People and therefore work tirelessly to make sure the People do not realize this truth nor ultimately act on it.

Ken, Allyn, WA

Mike, maybe it's not the quote that needs to be hung in government quarters. Maybe a few politicians need to be hanged in them.

Mike, Norwalk

lol - Ken, I like it, maybe to hang the poitician under the sign would be the ultimate.

warren, olathe

When a country truly has individual rights it has no cause for advocating "group" rights. Any one that advocates group rights advocates the destruction of individual rights and therefore the removal of all rights in general. Group rights always assume one group is superior to another and entitled to special privileges. Individual rights are the only true rights that can be had in a free society.

J carlton, Calgary

Exactly right Warren.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Thoreau, one of my literary heroes. I disagree with a few of his minor premises in Civil Disobedience and Walden, but over-all his works are a masterpiece of American enlightenment. To see government as the artificial creation of man, and not a creation of nature and of the Creator is a perception few men anymore adhere to. His abolitionist views stemmed from the inner-morality/code of the individual, and not from the contemporary thought of the movement of the masses.

Waffler, Smith

This recognition of the individual is what democracy is all about, each individual having his say and vote. Governments who deny the individual(s) which is to say the majority is always destined to fail, and has. Thus when parties get thrown out it is because of the actions and recognition of the individual(s).

E Archer, NYC

Seriously, Waffler, are you deranged? The individual is the individual, and groups of individuals are groups. If you value the rights of the individual, then does a group of individuals have more rights than the one individual? Thoreau is speaking about the individual, you are talking about groups, about the 'collective,' and if ANYTHING, the rights of the individual cannot be lawfully abridged by a collective of individuals. Your logic is flawed, and I know why, because the last thing you would want is someone like me being able to live my own life without violating any one's rights and won't obey whatever mob you have joined to rob me of my property, my labors, or my freedom to refuse to recognize your mob as my authority. And before you leap to the conclusion that with my own sovereignty I would use my individual power to rule over you, let me say that in a country of sovereigns, each of us has to learn how to take care of ourselves and let no man become dependent upon rulers or slaves.

Allen Weingarten, Monroe Township, NJ

"Equal rights for all, special privileges for none." This concept was called 'isonomia' in ancient Greece, and Demosthenes wrote: "it should not be lawful to propose a law affecting any one individual, unless the same applied to all Athenians." Cicero said something similar in ancient Rome. It remains an ideal, although we have gotten ever further from it, with our preference for democracy.

Bob, Charlotte, VT

"Hear, Hear !"

cal, lewisville, tx

Come on Waffler. The power of the voter. No federal judge since the beginning has ever been voted on by The People-yet they pass laws on us calling them Court Orders. Then as Stalin said, "It matters not how people vote, what matters is who counts those votes."

Ronw13, Yachats Or

4-3-2015, Befitting for the day, Psalm 4:3, 43:3 and Prov 20:15
And to reassure our standing together for support of our Declaration and Constitution Colossians 2:3


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