by the alacrity with which it got out of its way

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gil12345

Senior Member
chinese
Hi there,

"Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free."

The Project Gutenberg eBook of On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

It pains me to think about the underlined part: the more I try to understand it, the more fidgety I become. Can we say "by the alacrity it got out its way"?Did he did this for emphasis? It seems that the government is not only unhelpful at all, but it also runs counter to what it is supposed to do. (I am assuming "it" refers to the American government, which, according to Thoreau, is only the expedient.)

Thanks

Gil
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Can we say "by the alacrity it got out its way"?
    Thoreau did. I see no great problem here if you can remember that one "it" is a pronoun that replaces "government" and the possessive "it" represents "further enterprise." Along comes another "it" at the beginning of the next sentence that stands once again for "this government".

    t seems that the government is not only unhelpful at all, but it also runs counter to what it is supposed to do.
    You obviously understood the point Thoreau was trying to make.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Thoreau did. I see no great problem here if you can remember that one "it" is a pronoun that replaces "government" and the possessive "it" represents "further enterprise." Along comes another "it" at the beginning of the next sentence that stands once again for "this government".
    But he said "by the alacrity with which it got out of its way." It seems unnecessary.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    You can do something with alacrity or speed, Gil. "With which" isn't unnecessary at all. If it didn't exist in that sentence, the sentence wouldn't make any sense.
     
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