Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wisdom of Thoreau again....

I read an essay "Slavery in Massachusetts", which was in fact an address Thoreau delivered at the Anti-Slavery Convention at Framingham, MA, on July 4, 1854. It was also printed in the LIBERATOR for July 21, 1854.

This is another example of the great man Thoreau, who during the times human slaves in America was not against the law, yet, had advocated on the true spirit of humankind on liberty and freedom.

Here a few wise quotes and remarks from this address I wanted to record here in my blog, most of which are still very relevant today, here in America, so also in India and wherever there is injustice in one form or the other towards any individual :

1. Nowadays, men wear a fool's-cap, and call it a liberty-cap.

2. I wish my countrymen to consider, that whatever the human law may be, neither an individual nor a nation can ever commit the least act of injustice against the obscurest individual without having to pay the penalty for it. A government which deliberately enacts injustice, and persists in it, will at length even become the laughing-stock of the world.

3. I would much rather trust to the sentiment of the people. In their vote you would get something of value, at least, however small; but in the other case*, only the trammeled judgement of an individual, of no significance, be it which way it might.

[* This is in the context of a case where a Judge (I guess jury system was not formed by that time, which needs to be cross-checked), on deciding a charge on an individual case on Slavery].

4. The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free. They are the lovers of law and order who observe the law when the government breaks it.

5. I am more and more convinced that, with reference to any public question, it is more important to know what the country* thinks of it than what the city thinks. The city does not think much.

[Country, here, as in villages. This is yet another example, how Thoreau influenced Gandhi, to quote the Gram Swarajya. In that way, Thoreau had influenced to my own country, India, to be free today to some extent.]

6. Let us, the inhabitants of the country, cultivate self-respect. Let us not send to the city for aught more essential than our broadcloths and groceries; or, if we read the opinions of the city, let us entertain opinions of our own.

7. The editor is a preacher whom you voluntarily support. *
[* This comes in the context when Thoreau criticizes the large-scale print media, almost every criticism holds very good to the present day media].

8. No matter how valuable law may be to protect your property, even to keep soul and body together, if it do not keep you and humanity together.

9. Will mankind never learn that policy is not morality; - that it never secures any moral right, but considers merely what is expedient?

10. What is wanted is men, not of policy, but of probity, - who recognize a higher law than the Constitution, or the decision of the majority.

11. The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls, - the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber to the street every morning.

12. Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant. The judge still sits grinding at his organ, but it yields no music, and we hear only the sound of the handle. He believes that all the music resides in the handle, and the crowd toss him their coppers the same as before.

13. Art is as long as ever, but life is more interrupted and less available for a man's proper pursuits.

With the last quote on Art vs Life, I end this post here.

1 comment:

Sri Harsha said...

Great unheard (mostly)quotes of Thoreau...I particularly loved- 4, 5, 6, 8, 11 and 13.

It is indeed quite amusing to see the quotes (5th and 6th) that might have influenced our very own Gandhiji...

Thanks for sharing!