From Concord’s Jail – An Address by H. D. Thoreau

Introduction: On July 23rd, 1846, Henry David Thoreau, protesting slavery and the ensuing Mexican war (1845 – 48) chose incarceration rather than paying his $1.00 poll tax. From this experience came the essay CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE which directly influenced Mohandas K. Gandhi in his efforts to free India from British rule and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

The following monologue is the author’s fictionalized attempt to portray Thoreau’s state of mind shortly after the incident and the areas of consideration leading to his momentous essay.

Setting: July 24th, 1846, Concord – H.D. Thoreau is invited to speak at the Concord Lyceum about his recent act of civil disobedience. The lyceum was a place where relevant topics of the day were presented to the public.

Note: H. D. Thoreau did, in fact, speak at the lyceum about this matter, but it was not until two years later in 1848 and later published CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.

Almost Utopia: The Residents and Radicals of Pikes Falls, Vermont, 1950, Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, Exhibition at the Vermont Center for Photography

In posterity Scott Nearing (1883-1983) has led a double life of sorts. In the rural areas of southern Vermont and coastal Maine, where he spent the second half of his century, a virtual cult surrounds his memory and that of his wife Helen, as pioneers of the Back-to-the-Land Movement, which was decisively influenced by their book, Living the Good Life, and its sequels. These remain popular with even the most suburban-minded second home buyers as guides to country living. While the movement flourished most purely and most intensely in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it continues today, focused around the environmental movement, and exerts a significant influence on at least certain aspects of how many of us live, even in places like Cambridge, Park Slope, or here in Williamstown. The Nearings’ teachings about simple, self-sufficient living in rural surroundings and their ideals are perpetuated by The Good Life Center at Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine, their last home.

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