a civil right in the river
...Thoreau's Journal: 23-Mar-1853
Without being the owner of any land, I find that I have a civil right in the river,—that, if I am not a land-owner, I am a water-owner. It is fitting, therefore, that I should have a boat, a cart, for this my farm. Since it is almost wholly given up to a few of us, while the other highways are much traveled, no wonder that I improve it. Such a one as I will choose to live in a township where there are most ponds and rivers and our range is widest. In relation to the river, I find my natural rights least infringed on. It is an extensive “common” still left. Certain savage liberties still prevail in the oldest and most civilized countries. I am pleased to find that, in Gilbert White’s day, at least, the laborers in that part of England enjoyed certain rights of common in the royal forests,—so called, though no large wood,—where they cut their turf and other fuel, etc., etc., and obtained materials for broom-making etc., when other labor failed. It is no longer so, according to his editor. Nobody legislates for me, for the way would be not to legislate at all.