Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. He later graduated from Harvard, majoring in English. Upon graduation he returned home where he became a companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson became a strong parental figure to Thoreau, introducing him to his social circle, which included the most important American writers & thinkers like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, etc.
Emerson pushed Thoreau to contribute essays & poems to the transcendentalist magazine, The Dial.He first wrote "Natural History of Massachusetts".
Thoreau became involved in transcendentalism shortly after. He worked in his father's pencil workshop from 1837-1838.
Thoreau & his brother, John, opened a grammer school in Concord in 1838, teaching until his brother became fatally ill in 1841.
In 1841 he was invited into the Emerson household, where he lived until 1843, working as a handyman & assistant to Emerson.
Thoreau embarked on a 2 year experiment in simple living on July 4th,1845, when he moved to a 2nd growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond.
One day, on his way into town, he ran into the local tax collector who asked him to pay 6 years of delinquent poll taxes. Thoreau refused because of his opposition to the Mexican-American war, which was about the U.S. trying to take Texas, then part of Mexico, forcefully. Thoreau also opposed slavery. So he was arrested & spent the night in jail. When Emerson visited him in jail, he asked: " Henry, what are you doing in there?" To which Thoreau replied: " Ralph, what are you doing out there?".
In 1849, he wrote "On The Duty of Civil Disobedience" in response to the war of conquest being waged by his country, in the Mexican-American war. Thoreau said, " If...the machine of of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."
This basic but profound principle has inspired & influenced activists for generations, including Gandhi & Dr.Martin Luther King,Jr.
In 1854, he published, "Walden", recounting his 2 years he spent at Walden Pond.
In 1851, he became increasingly fascinated with natural history. He became a land surveyor & wrote many things about natural history.
Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835 & suffered from it over the rest of his life, but he died from it in 1862.
For his stand against slavery, as well as against the forceful & deceitful taking of Texas from Mexico in the Mexican-American war, Henry David Thoreau was a revolutionary to be proud of.
When he witnessed injustice against the people of Mexico, he stood up against his own country, at a time when that was very dangerous.
I can only imagine Thoreau is spinning in his grave right now due to the current treatment of Mexican immigrants here in the U.S. He knew best, that this was Mexican land before it was taken from the people of Mexico.

" Under a goverment that imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison."-Thoreau