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Books

Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions)

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), in his essays, expressed a point of view which continues to be relevant not only in the United States, but in any society that values civil liberties and democratic ideals. “Civil Disobedience and Other Essays,“ from Dover Publications, brings together the title essay along with four other pieces: “Slavery in Massachusetts,“ “A Plea for Captain John Brown,“ “Walking,“ and “Life Without Principle.“

Reading Thoreau's work, I was struck by how much some of his ideals are echoed by a later United States activist: the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau was passionately opposed to slavery. He also cast a critical eye on the concept of majority rule, and was concerned about the place of a minority within an unjust system of laws. He has some noteworthy thoughts on the U.S. Constitution.

Thoreau is not just a “theoretical“ radical; in the title essay he reflects on a night he spent in jail as a result of his civil disobedience (that event inspired the excellent play “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,“ by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee). Thoreau's voice is still strong after all these years, and deserves to be heard by contemporary audiences. One final note: In his defense of the militant abolitionist John Brown, Thoreau describes Brown as “the most American of us all.“

review by: Michael J. Mazza (Pittsburgh, PA USA)

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