“The Price of Freedom: Political Philosophy from Thoreau’s Journals”

Kirkus Discoveries reviews The Price of Freedom: Political Philosophy from Thoreau’s Journals:

A compilation of excerpts from the journals of American icon Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau’s writings have endured via syllabi on college campuses, through the activism of Martin Luther King Jr., in the environmental stewardship of the green movement and in this volume. Editor Gross takes a tip, and his title, from Thoreau’s belief that the best of one’s thoughts are unvarnished, stripped of the gloss that makes them palatable to the masses: “Let it be the price of freedom to make that known.”

The book presents Thoreau’s reflections, , on the church, government, the media and many other topics, generously footnoted by Gross. Although Thoreau died a few years before the Civil War settled the slavery issue, a number of entries concern abolitionist John Brown, who was executed in , and much of this material was reworked and appeared in The Last Days of John Brown.

In Price, there emerges a man who loved nature, who enjoyed his own company and thoughts and perhaps engaged in social intercourse as much out of duty as desire. A few passages suggest the underlying tenor: “Society is always diseased, and the best is the sickest.” Elsewhere, Gross includes Thoreau’s remark, “I believe that in this country the press exerts a greater and more pernicious influence than the church.”

Thoreau’s thoughts on the Panic of are also applicable to the current crisis: “The merchants & banks are suspending & failing all the country over, but not the sand banks, solid & warm, & streaked with bloody blackberry vines… Invest, I say, in these county banks. Let your capital be simplicity & contentment.” Though more than a century has passed since Thoreau set these thoughts to paper, Gross reminds readers of the man’s continued relevance.

Classic Thoreau presented in a thorough, illuminating volume.