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 are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau
~ Henry David Thoreau

Walden (1854)

Ratings and Comments

John-Douglas, Nassau

Why are we terrified at hacking at the roots (truth). As one wiseman said (more or less) "When honest men do nothing, evil prospers."

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Well, duhh! In a society obsessed with appearance the cosmetic is valued over the substantive every time. Ask Carl Rove.

  • Reply
Odette    3/9/05

Thoreau never, EVER fails to expound pure, effectively masterful truth!!!!!!!! This fact is as essential as the most basic mathematical law!!!!!!

E Archer, NYC

So let's start hacking at the root!

Elce, Chicago

Thoreau as usual is correct.

Mike, Norwalk

I like it.


Give me the thousand hacking at the branches and I'll show them the roots - yes Terry, Carl Rove is an expert at showing us the branches most of which he planted - its amazing, this government creates the roots and and gets the media to show us the brances.


I'll use Mike's stars

Greg, Chichester

The question shifts then to "what is the root?"

J Carlton, Calgary

The root is (I believe) a government that is in bed with corporations, a kleptocracy that threw us all overboard 30 years ago. Theft through inflation and taxation is keeping us all very much under control. But they put on a hell of a show don't they?

Peter, Port Huron

The root is an abstraction; the branch a concrete. It takes only eyes to see the concrete but an active mind to trace the concrete to the root - that is why so few are working on the root! To get at the root takes more work of a certain kind, abstract thought.

warren, olathe

Many that hack at branches do so to look busy and to fool the masses that evil is being attacked. They also will attack those that hack at the roots.

J Carlton, Calgary

Very well put Warren.

Robert Edwards

Warren, right on!

Allen Weingarten, Monroe Township, NJ

The question raised is "What is the root?" I submit it is 'sincerity' where one taps into his deepest sense. Do we not know that truth is better than scheming? That justice is better than advantage? Principle is better than selling out? Openness (corrigibility) is better than dogmatism? Systematic better than arbitrary? Character than status? Survival than surrender? Resistance than appeasement? Good than evil? Deep down, each of us know what ought to be for himself. From the root springs the fruit.

Jerry Johnson, Shandon, Ohio

Here’s a root of evil: American users of illegal drugs. It is reported they spend $40 billion a year on their addiction. These billions finance the drug cartels in Latin and South America which dominate those governments and are currently taking over Mexico because they have more and better fire power than the local or federal governments. These ruthless people kill judges, news reporters and political candidates who campaign against them and corrupt law enforcers on both sides of the boarder; the leaves from these branches of evil are now blowing across our entire border with Mexico, and no fence or patrol will stop them because the cartels know what their American customer wants and will find a way to deliver the goods. Attack the root (the drug user’s addiction) and the leaves will wither.

jim k, Austin

Jerry, while we are working on the users addiction . let's get rid of the 'War on Drugs". This is a 30 year war and is a disaster for this country. See LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition on the web.

Mike, Norwalk

I like Peter from Port Huron's concept. I would add to a growing list that describes the root; "the laws of nature and of nature's God" (science, physics, fiscal law, inalienable rights [not being dependent on a 3rd party] and all else that is under natural law); and "liberty" (Liberty is: “The power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature.” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary) “Liberty: exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will, in its moral freedom, to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons. Liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men.” (Blacks Law Dictionary 1st ed.) Liberty: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." (Thomas Jefferson) The branch hackers would do well to hack at that which is adversarial to the root.

Mike, Norwalk

OR, it could be said; despotism, tyranny, malefactors' actions and all that which is contrary to liberty and natural law is the root which needs to be hacked.

Robert Edwards, St. Emilion, France

Unfortunately, those hacking at the branches are unable to make the connection between the branches and the roots...

E Archer, NYC

Start with your own roots, and pull up all those that bear nothing but thorns. So often the entire premise upon which we labor is false -- nothing to strike here, just to let go of the lie and stop furthering it. If we find ourselves 'hacking' at all, it's a good time to reconsider the bigger picture and perhaps take a different tack. Sometimes it's not the tree but the vines that choke out the light. A little precise pruning can save a lot of hacking. ;-)

Ronw13, Yachats Or

The roots are the money paid by the individual as tribute for the privilege of property and livelihood. Pull the root, let nature take its course. Holding ones ground, and the paper pushers can go find another job ! From that chaos, will come order, and control returns to the people, that put the paper pushers there to begin with !! My goodness, can people teach their children a skill and responsibility. Media and materialism, blind the minds of responsibility. People, are the community, not those hired to delegate, responsibility. Take control, as a unit the people have the power to stop the runaway abuse ! Officers are part of the family, hired, by the community. Enough is enough !! Teaching is a mission field of charity and should considered as such, and not privileged, to excess !! As most in office think of themselves !!

Anonymous, newton MA

Obama is the biggest example of someone who is most evil ever, but TV media etc won't challenge the big government spending and tampling of individual rights and constitution he promotes and the crooked electioneering and suppresion of dissent using IRS

Durham, Birmingham,AL

I say that one major root is our acceptance of the lie that our republic is a "wonderful democracy".  It only takes a majority in a real, direct or representative, de-mob-ocracy to vote your money into my pocket.

Felipe, São Paulo

You guys managed to botch even Thoreau. ffs...


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