Epic battles in practical ethics: Arendt vs Thoreau

The Author at Walden Pond, photo by Jennifer Sears

In late July 1846, Henry David Thoreau ran into a tax collector, Sam Staples, in the town of Concord, Massachusetts. Staples asked Thoreau to pay six years of due poll taxes, but the American writer refused, on the grounds of his opposition to both slavery and the Mexican-American war of expansion. As a result, Thoreau spent the night in jail, being freed the following day when his aunt paid the taxes…