There is much that Thoreau learns from his short time in jail about both his town and his relationship to the government. Thoreau gets thrown in jail because he has refused to pay the poll-tax for a number of years. A poll-tax is a tax that every individual is required to pay, regardless of their income. Thoreau is not keen on being "required" to do anything by the government, and thus he claims to have not paid the tax on principle, to protest the war with Mexico.
Of course, once put in jail, Thoreau feels that he has been treated unjustly. He writes, "I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up." While Thoreau recognizes the power that his government holds over him, he feels that this should not be so, that individuals should be free to act as they choose. Acting according to one's nature is crucial to Thoreau, and, while recounting his prison experience, he makes the following
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