This essay by Thoreau first published in 1849, argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences. It goes on to say that individuals have a duty to avoid allowing the government to make them the agents of injustice. The quote: "That government is best which governs least," sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, actually was first found in this essay. Thoreaus' thoughts were motivated by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican-American War but they are still relevant and resonate today.
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Can the thoughts of 1849 be applied in the 21st-century?
- Larry Bassett