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Henry David Thoreau


Timeline. Though essentially a friendly person, Thoreau. seemed not to fit in. ... paying his poll tax, which he had withheld in protest against the Mexican War. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
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.
These words of Thoreaus are perhaps his most
well-known statement of philosophy. The
integrity of each individual was, for him (and
Emerson, too), the primary concern in his
beliefs. Let each person be (and become) her or
himself and go about it in the way most suited to
each as a person.
  • Born in Concord in 1817, he later became a
    protégé of Emerson
  • He attended Harvard, and became a teacher in
    Concord, but resigned when he was expected to
    whip his pupils.
  • He worked as a, a pencil maker, a handyman, a
    farmer, yet was at the same time an accomplished
    Greek scholar.
  • He remains one of the most accomplished and
    deliberate writers in the country.
  • Yet, as a person, he had only one goalto live as
    honestly and wisely as he could.

Thoreaus birthplace
Thoreau at 39
  • Timeline

  • Though essentially a friendly person, Thoreau
  • seemed not to fit in. While other young men
  • typical paths of career, marriage, and family,
  • Thoreau spent his time wandering about the fields
  • surrounding Concord village.

He had liked teaching, and after resigning his
position with the Concord school board, he and
his brother established their own experimental
school. It was successful, but his brothers
illness and early death caused the school to
close in 1842. Thoreau's School
His brothers death and the closing of his school
left Thoreau with no means of support. It was
then that his relationship with Emerson blossomed.
  • Emersons kindness toward and fondness for
    Thoreau led to the offer of various odd jobs
    around his Concord estate. At one point shortly
    after his brothers death, Thoreau lived with the
    Emersons for a while, not the only time he would
    be welcomed into their home.

Emersons home
Emerson introduced Thoreau to the Concord
intellectual group (including Hawthorne, Alcott,
Ellery Channing and Margaret Fuller) and
published Thoreaus essays in his
Transcendentalist magazine, The Dial.
  • In 1843, Emerson secured a position for Thoreau
    as a tutor for his brother William Emerson in New
    York, where Thoreau met Horace Greeley, editor of
    the New York Tribune and who published many of
    Thoreaus essays.
  • After only one year in Staten Island, Thoreau
    could no longer try to fit in to the mold of

In 1844, he returned to Concord where, on July 4,
1845, he began the 26-month experiment that made
him famous. On the banks of Walden Pond, on
property owned by Emerson, Thoreau built a cabin.
  • At Walden, Thoreau intended to reduce life to its
  • bare essentials, forgoing what others considered
  • necessities. He grew only as much food as he
  • could eat, worked only enough to provide himself
  • shelter, and led the deliberate life, apart
    from the
  • impediments of civilization.

He spent his time roaming the woods, observing
nature and his fellows.
  • In his time at Walden Pond, Thoreau turned out
  • on any subject that appealed to him and wrote his
  • book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

He kept his journal and nearly completed the
draft of his most renowned work, Walden.
  • During his two year experiment, Thoreau was
    arrested for not paying his poll tax, which he
    had withheld in protest against the Mexican War.
    Out of his night spent in jail, he wrote Civil
    Disobedience, questioning which has primacythe
    laws of a state or a mans conscience?

  • After his experience with civil
  • disobedience, Thoreau left
  • Walden to move in with the
  • Emersons. He continued his
  • activism, protesting the
  • Fugitive Slave Act and, in 1859,
  • delivering a passionate appeal
  • asking justice for abolitionist
  • John Brown, who was
  • condemned and later executed
  • for his raid on Harpers ferry.

Abolitionist John Brown
  • In the remaining
  • years of his life,
  • after leaving
  • Walden Pond,
  • Thoreau also
  • continued his
  • observations of
  • nature, traveling
  • about New England,
  • collecting
  • specimens and
  • writing in his
  • journal.

It was on one of his winter forays into the woods
that he contracted a cold so severe cold that his
tubercular lungs could no longer function.
  • Henry David Thoreau died in 1862, at the age of
    45. Five more of his works were published after
    his death.

On Materialism
  • I am convinced that if all men were to live as
    simply as I, thieving and robbery would be
    unknown. These take place in communities where
    some have more than is sufficient, while others
    have not enough.

On Philosophy
To be a philosopher is . . . so to love wisdom
as to live according to its dictates, a life of
simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.
On Work/Labor
  • . . . Everywhere, in shops, and offices,and
    field, men have appeared . . . to be doing
    penance in a thousand remarkable ways. . . . I am
    convinced. . . that to maintain ones self on
    this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we
    will live simply and wisely. It is not
    necessary that man should earn his living by the
    sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I

On Government
  • In a government which supports injustice, the
    proper place for a just man is in jail.

We should be men first and subjects afterwards.
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for
the law so much as for the right . . .
I ask for, not at once no government, but at
once a better government.
The mass of men serve the state . . . Not as men
mainly, but as machines.
A wise man will only be useful as a man, and
will not submit to be clay . . .
  • Concord A Nations Conscience. Guidance
    Associates of Pleasantville, N.Y., 1971.
  • Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection,
    NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo and F.A. Pazandak Photograph
    Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo.
  • Images courtesy of
  • the Special Collections of the Concord Free
    Public Library. Concord Free Public Library,
    Esther Howe Wheeler Anderson Slide Collection
    (purchased from William Wheeler Anderson, Jr.,
  • Photographs courtesy of Tom Brosnahan,
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