Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society, but they have no resting-place without it. They may be men of a certain experience and discrimination, and have no doubt invented ingenious and even useful systems, for which we sincerely thank them; but all their wit and usefulness lie within certain not very wide limits. They are wont to forget that the world is not governed by policy and expediency.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Civil Disobedience," originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government" (1849), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 384, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
The "institution" to which Thoreau refers is government.