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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13285/henry-david-thoreau-founding-father-of-american-libertarian-thought/

Henry David Thoreau: Founding Father of American Libertarian Thought

July 15, 2010 by

Thoreau’s body of writing on political matters makes up a relatively small portion of his total production. But it is that political writing that is primarily responsible for his enduring reputation. FULL ARTICLE by Jeff Riggenbach


mpolzkill July 15, 2010 at 10:41 am

Hey, Tibuk, what do you think of this dirty plantation-socialist?

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Thanks, Mr. Riggenbach, for another great article.

My main man, Thoreau. I was wondering if anyone else here had him for required reading in school? I had two years of correspondence elementary and “middle” level schooling from Calvert of Baltimore, and his words are forever burned in my brain. D.C. has surely taken care of this oversight by now.

Peter July 16, 2010 at 12:05 am

Yup; had to read Walden and Civil Disobedience for HS English…paid more attention to the latter.

Havvy July 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

About half of my Senior English Class did. I made it about 4 chapters through Walden while trying to do other things. Probably should finish it I should. The tests for the book were too easy though, as they were more opinion questions than factual questions.

Matt Palmer July 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I’m surprised this article excluded one of my favorite Thoreau quotes. Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay taxes during the Mexican War. When Emerson saw Thoreau in jail, he asked him, “what are you doing in there?”

Thoreau’s reply to Emerson is a classic: “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

As for Emerson, his essay “On Politics”, although perhaps not quite consistent enough for this crowd, is a great work in defense of the individual. It can be read any number of places free online by googleing the title.

Franklin July 15, 2010 at 8:19 pm

“… the question is what are you doing out there?”
Is there a verified citation for this? I’ve heard this exchange quoted before — in fact, used it oftentimes myself — but I thought I read somewhere that it might have been part legend.
Well, as Roscoe Lee Brown smirked in _The Cowboys_, “If it ain’t true, it ought to be.”

(To mpolzkill, 35 years ago, in high school, I was expected to read him. My kids, in NH the past decade, were required to read some of his work. But not enough.)

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Wow, does it still not provoke shivers up the spine!

Lemmywinks July 15, 2010 at 3:43 pm

It’s really good to see Thoreau mentioned on here. Although not truly consistent, I think he presents another side of libertarianism which is often neglected.

His essays on charity and labor are brilliant. Modern liberals focus on trying to do “good” by using the state, whereas Thoreau saw the disagreeable actions of the state (slavery, the Mexican American war), and tried to not lend his support.

ks July 16, 2010 at 12:09 am

Henry David Thoreau’s writing and wikipedia links at gutenberg project for download


They include

Civil Disobedience (English) (as Author)
Excursions (English) (as Author)
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (English) (as Author)
A Plea for Captain John Brown
Read to the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts on Sunday evening, October thirtieth, eighteen fifty-nine (English) (as Author)
Walden (English) (as Author)
Walden (English) (as Author)
Walking (English) (as Author)
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (English) (as Author)
Wild Apples (English) (as Author)

Dick Fox July 16, 2010 at 6:20 am

When in college I was considered a left-wing liberal because I read and quoted Gandhi and Thoreau and other libertarians. Today I am considered a right-wing nut for quoting Gandhi and Thoreau and other libertarians.

I do find it amusing that those on the left embraced libertarian thought as a tool to install their central planning ideas in the state, which I rejected when I was considered a left-wing liberal by the way, and now they have abandoned Gandhi and Thoreau and other libertarians. But I see quotes from Gandhi adn Thoreau at nearly every Tea Party rally.

Chris Bieber July 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Thanks Jeff for an inspiring work of an inspiring individual in American(and Freedom’s) history.

The Howard Roarke-ian(Yes Ive seen the movie..what..300 times:-0 !!!!) like life, words and works of Mr. Thoreau are very inspiring..

Especially today in the vapid Russell Kirke-ian “low-brow” “conservative” and noisy libertine highbrow “libertarian” whirpools today….still not willing to oppose the premises of the State and its function and viewing IT as THE foe…NOT(but are still wrong) ACORN or Vouchers or Sarah Palin or OBLaden(mere symptoms)

Keep up the good writing!

and Thanks
Chris Bieber
OAFer(CAYAF State Director 1985-1995 Member of Year 1994..where I met Lew!)

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Jose Quintero February 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I as a high school English teacher often revisit Thoreau, and what I am amazed at is his contempt for racism (position opposing slavery) and imperialism (Mexican American War). He was an activist, yet very much individualist. He had views which today the liberal left embraces, but I rarely see the right embrace. Thoreau would be considered a libertarian in terms of his positions on economics. I think it is time that libertarians emerge like THoreau staunch defenders of individual liberty, and freedom and capitalism in economics and at the same time advocates for freedom in the area of civil rights for all individuals.What if Martin Luther King was a libertarian what would that look like? JM Quintero

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