2. Be familiar with the excerpt from "Civil Disobedience" that we discussed in class. The entire essay is online. http://thoreau.eserver.org/civil1.html
3. Know what Thoreau thought of railroads, the post office and the telegraph.
4. Know the attitudes of Sam Staples, Thoreau's mother, Lydian Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson--
5. Know how Ulysses S. Grant felt about the Mexican War.
6. Know how a certain young congressman from Illinois felt about the Mexican War.
7. What happened to John Thoreau?
8. What were Thoreau's many occupations as he described them to Sam Staples?
9. Did Thoreau want to leave jail or did he wish to stay?
10. Know the basic tenets of Transcendentalism.
11. Know what the Lyceum Lecture circuit was.
12. Know why Thoreau and Emerson had a huge argument. Know the nature of their argument as representd in dialogue in this play.
13. Know the basic biographical facts of Emerson and Thoreau's lives. These have been discussed in class and are based on cursory info in the literature book, but can also be found online.
14. Be aware of Thoreau and his family's involvement with the abolitionist movement. You are responsible for the brief info below.
1840-1845: White Abolitionism in Concord. By the 1840s, Concord was a center of reformist thought and action. The town's Lyceum (or adult education center) in its first years debated topics including "Is the Union threatened by the present aspect of affairs?" -- "Would it be an act of humanity to emancipate at once all slaves?" - and "Is it ever proper to offer forcible resistance?" (Thoreau and his brother defended the affirmative.
Before retiring to the shore of Walden Pond, Henry Thoreau served as an officer of the Lyceum in 1842-44, seeing to it that audiences absorbed abolitionist principles from Ralph Waldo Emerson Theodore Parker, Horace Greeley, and Wendell Phillips, among many speakers.
The town's Female Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1837, had an outspoken early member in Henry's mother Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau, among other progressive townswomen. Her family's continuing activism in the underground railroad, and that of Henry Thoreau, are well documented.
Part I. Slavery and Civil Disobedience
1846: Rejecting the law of the land. In July 1846, Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond was interrupted by his famous one-night imprisonment in a whitewashed jail cell in the town of Concord. Opposed to slavery, Thoreau had protested for several years by refusing to pay his poll tax. (He paid other taxes willingly.)
A Wave of Protest. Thoreau's individual resistance was part of a mounting wave of reform activism that had begun in the 1840s.
- The idea of tax refusal as a protest tactic was being raised in free black communities. Declaring "No privileges - no pay" as early as 1841, Massachusetts antislavery activist Charles Lenox Remond "anticipated Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience' and argued that African Americans should be willing to go to jail rather than pay taxes to institutions that discriminated against them."
- Also, radical abolitionists were beginning to view the Constitution, which supported slavery, as an invalid document. Some who preferred individual protest instead of organized activism had already seized upon the practice of conscientious refusal to pay the poll tax. Three years before Thoreau, his close friend Bronson Alcott, philosopher and educator, had been arrested by the same Concord constable for exactly the same act of protest.
Thoreau's motive. By refusing to pay the government, Thoreau intended to stay in jail and set an example to his community. (When the constable, Sam Staples, offered to personally lend Henry the amount owed, Thoreau refused.) This plan backfired when the debt (and future taxes) were paid by a relative (probably Henry's Aunt ) - freeing the angry Thoreau the very next morning. Surely, only one night in jail fell far short of Thoreau's heroic intention.
15. You are also responsible for knowing the information about Thoreau and John Brown, which is discussed in an entry further down on this webpage. Please scroll down and carefully read about Thoreau and John Brown.