What is Thoreau's position on slavery in "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail"?  

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Passionately dedicated to the ideal that men of all races are equal, Henry David Thoreau is against slavery.  When he encounters Henry Williams, a runaway slave who is trying to escape to Canada, he treats the man with dignity and respect, and is devastated when he finds out that his namesake is shot before he can reach his objective.

Thoreau's concept of slavery goes far beyond the subjection of black slaves by white owners, however.  As he tells Henry Williams, there are all kinds of slavery in the world, and that even in Canada men are not free.  Thoreau believes that every man who is "shackled to a ten-hour work day is a work slave", and that every man who has to devote his life to labor to pay the rent and meet other financial obligations is a slave to money.  Thoreau is sickened by the idea that men must spend their days conforming to the norms of societal institutions in order to just "earn (their) keep" and make money to be able to buy themselves the little luxuries in life.  To him, this too is a form of slavery, and is every bit as damaging and immoral as the enslavement of black men by white plantation owners in the American South.

Thoreau devoted his life and writings to his opposition to  injustices perpetrated by society, especially slavery and war.  He sees the two evils as initmately connected; to him, the war against Mexico is nothing more than a ploy on the part of government to gain more territory for slavery.

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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

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