I’ve been frustrated by the absence of a good on-line collection of Thoreau’s writing on political philosophy, and so have been slowly assembling a collection of my own here at The Picket Line.
The version of Resistance to Civil Government (a.k.a. “Civil Disobedience”) hosted here is an improvement over most of what you’ll find scattered over the rest of the net — many of which carry transcription errors from a version typed in years ago before the dawn of the World Wide Web.
I also host a version of Slavery in Massachusetts here.
Today, I’ve added some excerpts from Thoreau’s journals in which he reflects on Walter Raleigh’s comparison between law and war:
…both equally rest on force as their basis, and war is only the resource of law, either on a smaller or larger scale, — its authority asserted. In war, in some sense, lies the very genius of law. It is law creative and active; it is the first principle of the law.
I have not so surely foreseen that any Cossack or Chippeway would come to disturb the honest and simple commonwealth, as that some monster institution would at length embrace and crush its free members in its scaly folds; for it is not to be forgotten, that while the law holds fast the thief and murderer, it lets itself go loose. When I have not paid the tax which the State demanded for that protection which I did not want, itself has robbed me; when I have asserted the liberty it presumed to declare, itself has imprisoned me. Poor creature! if it knows no better I will not blame it. If it cannot live but by these means, I can. I do not wish, it happens, to be associated with Massachusetts, either in holding slaves or in conquering Mexico.
In addition to prying these excerpts out from the textfiles and PDFs where they’ve been hiding, I’ve added links to help comprehension when he refers to things like “Dudleian lectures” and “Dandamis” that leave those of us with public-school education scratching our heads.