By the year 1840 the concept of Independence had been forever embedded in American tradition and American government. The value of freedom had yet to be accepted nor granted peacefully. The Revolution released America from the grasp of Britain and it would take yet another war to release the black man from the shackles of slavery. America was still in its infancy; the West was not yet settled, the South was still a confederacy and unity was just a dream. The country was torn by slavery. And some men began to question the integrity of their government. Henry David Thoreau was one such man.
Henry Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts to a successful pencil manufacturer John Thoreau and a strong-willed, quick-witted mother, Cynthia. Early on Henry enjoyed reading books and observing nature in solitude. He inherited the gift of gab and intellectual inquiry from his mother as well as both Puritan and abolitionist ideals. In 1837 he graduated from Harvard. In 1841 Henry moved into Ralph Waldo Emerson's home.
Emerson was a prominent writer and philosopher of the time famous for his transcendentalist view on life and God. Transcendentalism divided the universe into "Nature and Soul" and classified people as either "Materialists or Idealists" (Schneider, 1987). Transcendentalists disagreed with John Locke's "blank slate" theory of human development believing rather that we are, "born with certain innate ideas that provide a direct connection between the child and God." Therefore, a transcendentalist should "hold oneself above merely material concerns and to focus one's energies on attaining moral and spiritual excellence." (Schneider, 1987). Thoreau held these ideals very close to his heart. Even as a boy he had sought for something more in life and to find it he turned to Nature. Now, through Emerson Thoreau had found himself and so would set forth to discover the secrets of the Universe.
Surrounded by great minds like Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thoreau traded philosophies and refined his own continuing to write, all the while being pushed by his contemporaries to lecture and write until finally he traveled to New York. His stay would not last long. The hustle and bustle of the big city exemplified the country's materialism and disgusted Thoreau. He promptly returned to Concord where he built a small cabin on Emerson's land alongside Walden Pond. For two years he experimented with farming and writing, and studied nature.
Meanwhile, the country was at war with Mexico over the rights to Texas. One night in July1846 Thoreau spent a night in the Concord jail for refusing to pay the poll tax, which helped to finance the war with Mexico. It's safe to say that Henry did a great deal of thinking that night. In the future this night would be celebrated as the most important night of his entire life. Thoreau's beliefs as a transcendentalist are well known; a striving to attain spiritual connections between God,...