There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few went to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
Henry David Thoreau
(1817-62), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist.
Closing lines of On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849).
The passage relates to Thoreau’s refusal to pay a poll tax, for which he went to jail for one night in July 1846. This essay was often quoted by Gandhi in his campaign of passive resistance.