The Universal LibraryHenry Thoreau
1 January 2015
Published by Atlantic Books
In 1846 the philosopher Henry Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay his taxes. He did so on the grounds that he did not recognise the authority of a government that ‘buys and sells men, women, and children.’ It was this practise of slave ownership in America, as well as his negative feelings towards the popular Mexican-American War, that triggered the writing of his essay, Civil Disobedience, published in 1849. In it he argued that individuals should not allow governments to overrule or destroy their consciences through imposed policy. Thoreau went as far as to say that people have a duty to protect themselves from such acquiescence by rejecting their leaders’ attempts to make them the agents of injustice. In an entrepreneurial and innovative age, he believed that rather than following the directions of others, that every man should try instead to find some way to ‘invent and get a patent for himself’.