Above: There are only 25 left in stock of our Thoreau original - available for 20% off while supplies last!
Born today in 1817, Thoreau was a bright, if indecisive, kid.
He went to Harvard, graduating in 1837, then tried life as a teacher for a short while before realizing it wasn’t for him.
He fell back to working at his father's pencil factory in Concord (cool fact: Thoreau pencils were regarded as the best in America — largely thanks to the young Henry’s dogged research of German manufacturing techniques).
But work at the pencil factory neither distracted Thoreau from his intellectual pursuits nor converted him into a materialist, obsessed with the stuff of finance and profit margins.
He became a close friend and follower of America’s most famous public intellectual, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who also happened to live in Concord.
Emerson’s philosophical promotion of the spiritual over the material, and of conscience over convenience, made their mark on Thoreau.
Such a mark, in fact, that when President James Polk launched an unprovoked, land-grabbing invasion of Mexico in 1846, Thoreau launched a one-man tax boycott of the American government in response.
He could not bring himself to pay taxes to — and so become complicit in — a regime which fought unjust wars and maintained the vile institution of slavery (Thoreau was also a passionate abolitionist).
Unsurprisingly, this act of moral resistance landed him in jail.
When Emerson visited him, he asked the prisoner: “what are you doing in there?”
Thoreau, certain his actions had been right, replied simply: “what are you doing out there?”
Reflecting on his small, defiant confrontation with the United States government, Thoreau gave a lecture two years later which he called 'Resistance to Civil Government'.
Distributed later on as an essay with the slimmed down title Civil Disobedience, its message can be summed up by a single sentence: