[and, if ever they should use it in earnest as a real one against each other, it will surely split.]
These words do not appear in the 1866 “Civil Disobedience.” See “A Note on the Text.”
[Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note,]
Thoreau is quoting Charles Wolfe (1791–1823), “The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna.” In “Civil Disobedience” (1866), “nor” was changed to “not” and “ramparts” to “rampart.” (See “A Note on the Text.”) In his edition of RCG for The Works of Henry D. Thoreau, Wendell Glick points to Henry A. Small, The Field of His Fame: A Ramble in the Curious History of Charles Wolfe’s poem “The Burial of Sir John Moore” (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1953), p.7 for the authority of “not” and “rampart.” It’s worth noting, however, that “nor” replaces “not” in some reprintings of the poem, including those of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine Vol. I, No. 3 (June 1817): 277-78. and The North-American Review and Miscellaneous Journal [Vol. 5, No. 15 (September 1817): 342-43]. The poem originally appeared in the Newry Telegraph on April 19, 1817 with no attribution other than the author’s initials. Lord Byron’s discovery of it (presumably in Blackwood’s) led to a mention in Thomas Medwin’s Conversations of Lord Byron and to both the identification of Wolfe as author and some of the “curious history” recounted by Small.
[to discover a pretext for conformity.]
In the 1866 “Civil Disobedience,” the following lines appear after “conformity”:
“We must affect our country as our parents;
And if at any time we alienate
Our love or industry from doing it honor,
We must respect effects and teach the soul
Matter of conscience and religion,
And not desire of rule or benefit.”
They are quoted (with slight alteration) from George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar, 2.2.425-30. See “A Note on the Text.”
[and they dread the consequences of disobedience to it to their property and families]
In the 1866 “Civil Disobedience,” the latter part of this sentence reads, “and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it.” See “A Note on the Text.”
In both “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849) and “Civil Disobedience” (1866), the paragraphs on this page (beginning with “The night in prison…” and ending with “This is the whole history of ‘My Prisons'”) are offset visually from the main flow of the text.
On the editorial issues presented by the text, Rossi cites Wendell Glick, “Scholarly Editing and Dealing with Uncertainties: Thoreau’s ‘Resistance to Civil Government,'” Analytic and Enumerative Bibliography 2 (1978): 103-15; Thomas Woodson, “The Title and Text of Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,'” Bulletin of Research in the Humanities 81 (1978): 103-12; Fritz Oehlschlager, “Another Look at The Text and Title of Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,'” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 36 (1990): 239-254; and James Dawson, “Recently Discovered Revisions Made by Thoreau to the First Edition Text of ‘Civil Disobedience,'” Concord Saunterer: New Series 15 (2007).
November 5, 2018 at 3:06 pm
[If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders]
What an amazing quote! This is a rather unremarkable sentence but seems to get at the heart of the essay.
See in context
September 28, 2018 at 3:34 am
Posted in: ENGL 203 Geneseo F18
[commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching my father attended, but never I myself]
I included this passage in my blog as an example of how Thoreau felt the state took advantage of people. He found it hard to believe that they charged people for activities that they did not partake in. He also did not agree that the state and the church were intertwined because this gave them more power than they should have had.
September 28, 2018 at 3:30 am
[I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.]
I included this passage in my blog post because it perfectly represents Thoreau’s view of the government and slavery. It is my belief that his hatred of enslavement influenced his disapproval of the state. His opinion was not widely agreed on, but that did not stop him from questioning how one human could own another while the state permitted it.
September 28, 2018 at 3:27 am
September 27, 2018 at 10:30 pm
[His words are wisdom to those legislators who contemplate no essential reform in the existing government; but for thinkers, and those who legislate for all time, he never once glances at the subject.]
he doesn’t really to seem to know the difference in what they are doing wrong so if there is an issue it is our job as human beings to educate others and make them aware of whats really going on.
September 25, 2018 at 1:39 pm
Posted in: Panel of Experts
[I HEARTILY accept the motto, — “That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.]
“That government is best which governs least” was the motto of the Democratic Review, edited by John O’Sullivan. The quotation is sometimes mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
September 25, 2018 at 6:07 am
[Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?]
Unjust laws are not always morally correct. Subjectivity due to circumstance is what makes moral law superior to the ideal of political law. Over time, political law is adjusted but what we find to be morally correct is somewhat of a recurring principal in political culture. The laws that crucified, excommunicate and pronounces people is due entirely to circumstance. Franklin and Washington broke the laws but were paraded for their efforts, however Copernicus was excommunicated for his heliocentric theory.
September 25, 2018 at 5:59 am
Thoreau goes up one level of abstraction when he switches from the story to his argument. He begins with an example of a neighbor stealing tour money and the feeling of being cheated and relates this back his questioning of ‘joy’ in holding opinions. After being cheated, you’re willing to take any steps necessary in never being ‘cheated’ again. This causes polarization.
September 25, 2018 at 5:51 am
[Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.]
(relating to my comment in the previous paragraph) People who follow a blind patriotism and trust for their government are the hardest to budge when it comes to reform. Traditionalists can see a moral wrong, but will attempt no such actions to prevent it, in fear of damaging the natural order of the laws.
September 25, 2018 at 5:47 am
[The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war;]
Thoreau critiques the stigma that the government can do no wrong or that the government is not to be criticized. People will disapprove of a government action but will hesitate in truly speaking out about such actions.
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