New Book Compiles Thoreau’s Private Thoughts About Political Philosophy

One advantage to being a self-employed technical writer is that I have an excuse to pick up some top quality layout and publishing software. And one advantage to it being is the emergence of the print-on-demand publishing industry.

If you head over to, you can see where I’ve turned some of my recent months’ work of compiling Thoreau’s political philosophy into a pair of books of the dead tree variety.

One, The Price of Freedom includes the excerpts from Thoreau’s journals that touch on political philosophy and that I’ve collected here. This will please those of you who don’t like reading long works on computer screens, and it comes with a meticulous index, which my on-line version lacks.

The phrase “The Price of Freedom” is the sort of cliché that usually gets used as the caption to sanctimonious memorial day political cartoons of headstones at Arlington. I thought twice about using it as a title. But Thoreau didn’t think “the price of freedom” was measured in bodies sacrificed on Freedom’s altar, but as the work of the living — the price of freedom is to use it to the utmost:

We forget to strive and aspire, to do better ever than is expected of us. I cannot stay to be congratulated. I would leave the world behind me. We must withdraw from our flatterers, even from our friends. They drag us down. It is rare that we use our thinking faculty as resolutely as an Irishman his spade. To please our friends and relatives we turn out our silver ore in cartloads, while we neglect to work our mines of gold known only to ourselves far up in the Sierras, where we pulled up a bush in our mountain walk, and saw the glittering treasure. Let us return thither. Let it be the price of freedom to make that known.

It seemed a particularly appropriate phrase to use to title his uncensored private thoughts on political matters — those mines of gold known only to himself.

The second book I’ve titled My Thoughts are Murder to the State after a phrase from Thoreau’s essay Slavery in Massachusetts. This book compiles Thoreau’s essays concerning political philosophy, and is fairly bare-bones: no introduction, no footnotes, pretty much just Thoreau from cover to cover. The essays in this collection are:

I’m very happy with the on-demand publishing results. The books appear to me to be indistinguishable in quality of binding and materials from any other paperback you’ll see in the bookstore, and the price seems very reasonable.