He also served as an abolitionist against slavery for his entire life by lecturing across the country against the Fugitive Slave Law. Every man's search for wisdom can be connected to Thoreau's simple search for truth, in which he praises these three main characteristics as the most admirable qualities of the American man.
Thoreau's theoretical energy was inspired by the wild. He found it necessary to live free in the wilderness provided by Walden Pond for two years and two months , in order to find the clarity he needed to search for truth. He followed the notion set by Plato, that wisdom is attained through the continuous pursuit of truth. This was a concept originated by Plato's mentor Socrates through his ideals of continuous self analysis. All, of which, is presumed will lead one to the most meaningful life. In his piece, Natural History of Massachusetts he says, You cannot go into any field or wood, but it will seem as if every stone had been turned, and the bark on every tree ripped up. But, after all, it is much easier to discover than to see when the cover is off. It has been well said that "the attitude of inspection is prone." Wisdom does not inspect, but behold Thoreau, pp. 130-131). Here as Thoreau teaches patience through the appreciation of nature. He also argues in favor of self preservation in that he promotes the preservation of nature and believes man to be as equally a part of nature as any other animal in the wild.
Virtue is also a core ideal that Thoreau aspires for in his writing and in turn convinces the reader to aspire for as well. He would often contrast virtue with popular ideals at the time which he felt were unbefitting to the ideal American male, but he also often spoke directly on the concept of morality and virtuous behavior. In his 1849 piece, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers he says, Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not
to have any rule at all in such a case (Thoreau, p.74). In his chapter on economy, Thoreau contrasts the popular view of inherited wealth. Where most people would consider inheriting great wealth as a blessing, Thoreau's take is the opposite. He believes it impedes a man's freedom to live his own life, by inheriting a subservience to, what he calls, necessity. In his piece On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, which he wrote in 1849, he communicates this concept to the reader in his text when he says, The rich man ... is always sold to the institution which makes him rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue. Here Thoreau contrasts the concept of wealth with that of virtue. He makes the direct statement that one born into wealth is not free but sold into never being able to be virtuous. It's very ironic that he is able to flip one of the most desired and admired origins in American Capitalist society on its head. The American Dream in essence is the pursuit of wealth/happiness; by Thoreau denouncing the pursuit of money he is indirectly redefining, or disregarding, the American Dream. One might assume that this disdain for the American Dream and its detrimental affect on manhood was a reoccurring theme that developed over time in Thoreau's writing, because in his 1854 work