Thoreau Says, "Government Is At Thesis


After suffering the loss of his liberty, he sees how little his neighbors are willing to risk of their own security to see justice done.

Paraphrase each of these observations:

a. "I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends;"

I saw that the people amongst whom I lived were good in name only -- they spoke about the value of justice, but would not lift a finger to do promote justice.

b. "that their friendship was for summer weather only;"

They did good deeds only when it was convenient for them to do so.

c. "that they were as distant a race from me by their prejudices and superstitions as the Chinamen

and Malays are;"

My sincere conviction in justice was completely foreign to my neighbors.

d. "that, in their sacrifices to humanity, they ran no risks, not even to their property;"

Their land and money meant more than the freedom of other human beings.

e. "that, after all they were not so noble but they treated the thief as he treated them;"

They would steal if it suited them: they were not compassionate but really believed in 'an eye for an eye' in their actual administration of justice.

f. "[they] hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight and useless path from time to time, to save their souls."

By not offending others, they hoped that this would win them a place in heaven.

36. What difference does Thoreau see in these taxes that he willingly pays and the poll tax, which he refuses?

School taxes help children, highway taxes serve a purpose to secure the roads he uses, but he does not want his money spent on a state that funds unjust wars so he refuses to pay his poll taxes.

37. In this paragraph,...


Thoreau here counters the argument that he is simply being belligerent or cantankerous by not paying his poll tax. What is Thoreau's argument?
Thoreau is resisting a state made up of human beings; he is not obstinately resisting a force of nature.

43. In order to understand this paragraph, you need to know that "Webster" is Daniel Webster, a lawyer, orator, and statesman who lived from 1782 to 1852. In a famous Senate debate in 1830, Webster defended the Union against individual states' rights. However, he alienated anti-slavery forces when he supported the Compromise of 1850, which stopped secession of Southern states. Part of the Compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act, which Webster strictly enforced as Secretary of State. Explain the metaphor in paragraph 44.

"Webster never goes behind government, and so cannot speak with authority about it." Webster is a practical man and a good politician, but not a model for justice.

46. In the last paragraph, Thoreau says that democracy is not an end in itself but a step in a process. What have been the previous steps? What will the next step be?

"The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual." Thoreau envisions a progression from the dominion of one man, to the dominion of the many, to a society where all men (majority or minority in their opinions) have the ability for self-actualization.

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