Abolitionists, Emerson, and Thoreau by Sanderson Beck

Thoreau began his essay with the well-known motto-"Thatgovernment is best which governs least."28 This carried toits natural conclusion is no government at all, which he saidwill happen when people are prepared. He objected particularlyto a standing army and the current "Mexican war, the workof comparatively a few individuals using the standing governmentas their tool."29 Yet Thoreau realized that the immediateneed is not for no government but for better government. "Letevery man make known what kind of government would command hisrespect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it."30Majorities usually rule because they are the strongest physically;but their policies are based upon expediency. Thoreau asked whetherit is not better to decide right and wrong by conscience, whicheveryone has. "It is not desirable to cultivate a respectfor the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation whichI have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right."31But a corporation has no conscience, although conscientious peoplemay be a corporation a conscience. Undue respect forlaw leads to soldiers marching to the wars against their wills,common sense, and consciences. Such men have let themselves becomemachines, serving the state with their bodies. Others, like lawyersand politicians, serve the state with their heads. A few, reformersand martyrs, serve the state with their consciences also, butthey are usually treated as enemies.

Thoreau attended Harvard as well, and that was where he was introduced to Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s influential essay “Nature,” published in 1836, is the foundational document for the Transcendentalist Movement. In “Nature,” Emerson set forth his belief that God can be found in all aspects of nature, and that only by studying nature can man understand his relationship to the universe. The essay greatly influenced Henry David Thoreau, Branson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman and many others.

Essay: Emerson and Thoreau - EssayTube

Both Emerson and Thoreau gave up their careers to pursue Transcendentalist philosophy.

Some listed here may now be out of print or unavailable. (Sacks)

Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" is often the first or only exposure students get to Emerson's thought. Here are some resources to help understand this essay:

An essay introducing the background and context of Transcendentalism, for help in understanding where Emerson's ideas came from.
From Emerson himself, with some dictionary and other simple definitions listed as well.
Basic information on Transcendentalism - links to the two items above plus more.
- HTML searchable copy of the text at

Ann Woodlief's excellent introduction to the Emerson essay, Self-Reliance.
An article by Alfred I.

Emerson essay thoreau Custom paper Writing Service

In their essays “Self-Reliance” and “Civil Disobedience”, Emerson and Thoreau, respectively, argue for individuality and personal expression in different manners.

How are dickinson and whitman similar to emerson and thoreau

In “Self-Reliance”, Emerson calls for individuals to speak their minds and resist societal conformity, while in “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau urged Americans to publicly state their opinions in order to improve their own g...

Emerson and thoreau today essay

We develop an opinion of what makes a person “great.” In the well-known essay “Self-Reliance”, Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a beautiful way of approaching these choices, and he reveals a very inspiring set of values centralized around going through life answering only to yourself....

Self-Reliance - Understanding the Essay - Henry David Thoreau

Therefore in order to have a well-formed society, citizens should focus inward and have confidence in their own ideas before beginning to look towards other individuals; moreover, Emerson calls individuals not only in “Self-Reliance,” but also in numerous essays to act independently...

Week Six: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman | American …

The words were taken from Thoreau’s quote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.'; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau changed our lives.