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free government and equal suffrage in the South incalculable harm."
Between 1868 and 1872 they added ten millions by wanton extravagance to
the State debt. Large sums were stolen; taxes rose to six per cent.; and
land was assessed far above its value, with the avowed purpose of taking
it away from the whites. Such management was agreed at a public meeting
of coloured voters under Federal protection, in Charleston, in 1874,
to have "ruined our people and disgraced our State." Negro suffrage was
declared by the New York Evening Post to have resulted in "organising
the ignorance and poverty of the State against its property and

This took place all over the South, and also in Philadelphia, New
York, and other northern cities. Here the illiterate vote was largely
European; and the corruption of politics was facilitated by the
absorption of property-holders in business. There was great need that
intelligent citizens of all races, parties, and sections should work
together to reform political methods sufficiently to secure honest
government. Some progress has already been made, but by no means so much
as might have been gained if the plundered taxpayers at the South had
made common cause with those at the North in establishing constitutional
bulwarks against all swindlers whose strength was in the illiterate and
venal vote.

Unfortunately, prejudice against negroes encouraged intimidation; and
fraud was used freely by both parties. When elections were doubted,
Republican candidates were seated by Federal officials and United States
soldiers. These latter were not resisted; but the Southern Democrats
made bloody attacks on the negro militia. One such fight at New Orleans,
on September 14, 1874, cost nearly thirty lives. What was called a
Republican administration collapsed that day throughout Louisiana; but
it was soon set up again by the army which had brought it into power.

At last the negroes found out that, whoever might conquer in this
civil war, they would certainly lose. They grew tired of having hostile
parties fighting over them, and dropped out of politics. The Republicans
held full possession of the presidency, both branches of Congress, the
Federal courts, the army, the offices in the nation's service, and most
of the State governments; but they could not prevent the South from
becoming solidly Democratic. The new governments proved more economical,
and the lives of the coloured people more secure. The last important
result of negro suffrage in South Carolina and Louisiana was an alarming
dispute as to who was elected President in 1876. The ballot has not been
so great a blessing to the freedmen as it might have been if it had
been preceded by national schools, and given voluntarily by State after

These considerations justify deep regret that emancipation was not
gained peaceably and gradually. Facts have been given to show that it
might have been if there had been more philanthropy among the clergy,
more principle among the Whigs, and more wisdom among the abolitionists.


I. The best work for liberty has been done by men who loved her too
wisely to vituperate anyone for differing from them, or to forestall
the final verdict of public opinion by appealing to an ordeal by battle.
Such were the men who took the lead in establishing freedom of thought
in America. Very little individual independence of opinion was found
there by Tocqueville in 1831; and the flood of new ideas which had
already burst forth in England was not as yet feeding the growth of
originality in American literature. This sterility was largely due to
preoccupation with business and politics; but even the best educated men
in the United States were repressed by the dead weight of the popular
theology; and Channing complained that the orthodox churches were
"arrayed against intellect." The silence of the pulpit about slavery
is only one instance of the general indifference of the clergy to new
ideas. We shall see that at least one other reform was opposed much more
zealously. The circulation of new books and magazines from Europe was
retarded by warnings against infidelity; and colleges were carefully
guarded against the invasion of new truth.

Intercourse with Europe was fortunately close enough for the brightness
of her literature and art to attract many longing eyes from New England.
Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Jean Paul, Mme. de Stâel, and Rousseau won
readers in the original, as well as in translations; and the influence
of Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Carlyle increased rapidly.
Plato and Kant found many worshippers, and a few students. The plain
incapacity of orthodoxy to solve the pressing moral and intellectual
problems of the day permitted young people who knew nothing about
science to welcome the idea that the highest truth is revealed by
intuitions which transcend experience and should supersede logic. This
system is peculiarly that of Schelling, who was then expounding it in
Germany; but the credit for it in America was given to his disciples,
and especially to Coleridge. A few admirers of these authors formed
the Transcendental Club in Boston, in September, 1836; and the new
philosophy made converts rapidly. Severity of climate and lack of social
amusements favoured introspection. Thinkers welcomed release from the
tyranny of books. Lovers of art were glad of the prospect of a broader
culture than was possible in the shadow of Puritanism. Reformers seized
the opportunity of appealing from pro-slavery texts and constitutions
to a higher law. Friends of religion hoped that the gloom of the popular
theology would be dispelled by a new revelation coming direct from God
into their souls.

II. A mighty declaration of religious independence was made on July 15,
1838, when Emerson said to the Unitarian ministers: "The need was never
greater of new revelation than now." "It cannot be received at second
hand." There has been "noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus."
"Cast aside all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with
Deity." "The old is for slaves." Much controversy was called out by
the publication of this address. It was preceded by another in which
educated men were told that they must believe themselves "inspired
by the Divine Soul which inspires all men." "There can be no scholar
without the heroic mind." "Each age must write its own books." Emerson
had also sent out in 1836 a pamphlet entitled _Nature_; and one of its
first readers has called it "an 'open sesame' to all thought, and
the first we had ever had." Still more important were the essays on
"Heroism" and "Self-Reliance," which were part of a volume published in
1841. Then Emerson's readers were awakened from the torpor of submission
to popular clergymen and politicians by the stern words: "Whoso would
be a man must be a nonconformist." "Insist on yourself: never imitate."
"The soul looketh steadily forwards." "It is no follower: it never
appeals from itself." The Russian Government was so well aware of the
value of these essays as to imprison a student for borrowing them. A
Lord Mayor in England acknowledged that their influence had raised him
out of poverty and obscurity. Bradlaugh's first impulse to do battle for
freedom in religion came from Emerson's exhortation to self-reliance.

The author's influence was all the greater, because he was already an
impressive lecturer. There was much more demand, both in England and
in America, between 1830 and 1860, for literary culture and useful
knowledge than was supplied by the magazines and public libraries.
The Americans were peculiarly destitute of public amusements. Dancing,
playing cards, and going to the theatre were still under the ban; and
there was not yet culture enough for concerts to be popular. There was
at the same time much more interest, especially in New England, in the
anti-slavery movement than has been called out for later reforms; for
these have been much less picturesque. The power with which Phillips and
Parker pleaded for the slave was enough to make lectures popular; but
I have known courses attended, even in 1855, by young people who went
merely because there was nowhere else to go, and who came away in
blissful ignorance of the subjects. Deeper than all other needs lay that
of a live religion. Emerson was among the first to satisfy this demand.
His earliest lecture, in 1833, took a scientific subject, as was then
customary; but he soon found that he had the best possible opportunity
for declaring that "From within, or from behind, a light shines through
upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is
all." Invitations were frequent as early as 1844, though the audience
was usually small; and his genius became generally recognised after his
return, in 1848, from a visit to England. There scholarship was high
enough to give him, as early as 1844, thousands of readers for that
little book on _Nature_, of which only a few hundred copies had been
sold in America. Invitations to lecture came from all parts of Great
Britain, and in such numbers that many had to be declined. The
aristocracy of rank as well as of intellect helped to crowd the halls in
Manchester, Edinburgh, and London. Once at least, he had more than two
thousand hearers. The newspapers reported his lectures at such length
that much of his time was spent in writing new ones. He had not intended
to be anyone's guest; but invitations were so numerous and cordial, that
he could seldom escape into solitude. He wrote to his wife, "My
reception here is really a premium on authorship."

Success in England increased his opportunities, as well as his courage,
to speak in America. Invitations grew more and more frequent, and
compensation more liberal. His thrilling voice was often heard,
thenceforth, in the towns and cities of New England. In 1850, he went to
lecture at St. Louis, and met audience after audience on the way. During
the next twenty years he spent at least two months of discomfort,
every winter, lecturing in city after city throughout the free States.
Everywhere he gave his best thought, and as much as possible of it, in
every lecture. Logical order seemed less important; and he spent much
more time in condensing than in arranging the sentences selected from
his note-books. Strikingly original ideas, which had flashed upon him at
various times, were presented one after another as if each were complete
in itself. The intermixture of quotations and anecdotes did not save the
general character from becoming often chaotic; but the chaos was
always full of power and light. Star after star rose rapidly upon his
astonished and delighted hearers. They sometimes could not understand
him; but they always felt lifted up. Parker described him in 1839 as
pouring forth "a stream of golden atoms of thought"; and Lowell called
him some twenty years later "the most steadily attractive lecturer in
America." These young men and others of like aspirations walked long
distances to visit him or hear him speak in public. The influence of
his lectures increased that of the books into which they finally
crystallised. In 1860, he had made his way of thinking so common that
his _Conduct of Life_ had a sale of 2500 copies in two days. His readers
were nowhere numerous, outside of Boston; but they were, and are, to be
found everywhere.

Lovers of liberty on both sides of the Atlantic were brought into closer
fellowship by books singularly free from anti-British prejudice; but he
was so thoroughly American that he declared, even in London, that the
true aristocracy must be founded on merit, for "Birth has been tried and
failed." This lecture was often repeated, and was finally given in 1881
as his last word in public. Introspective and retiring habits kept him
for some time from engaging actively in the reforms which were in full
blast about 1840; but Lowell said he was "the sleeping partner who has
supplied a great part of their capital." His words about slavery
were few and cold before the Fugitive Slave Bill was passed in 1850.
Indignation at this command to kidnap made him publicly advise his
neighbours to break the wicked law. He spoke in support of a Free Soil
candidate in 1852, and for the Republican party in 1854; but John Brown
called out much more of his praise than any other abolitionist. The
attempt of the Garrisonians to persuade the North to suffer the seceders
to depart in peace won his active aid; but the speech which he tried to
deliver on their platform, early in 1861, was made inaudible by a mob
of enthusiasts for maintaining the Union by war. He rejoiced in
emancipation; but it was not achieved until he had lost much of his
mental vigour. This, in fact, was at its height between 1840 and 1850.
His last volumes were in great part made up of his earliest writings.
There was no change in his opinions; and his address in 1838 was fully
approved by him when he re-read it shortly before his death.

His most useful contribution to the cause of reform was the
characteristic theory which underlies all he wrote. In the essays
published in 1841, he states it thus: "Every man knows that to his
involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due."... "We know truth when
we see it." From first to last he held that "Books are for the
scholar's idle hours."... "A sound mind will derive its principles from
insight."... "Truth is always present; it only needs to lift the iron
lids of the mind's eye to read its oracles." This was a doctrine much
more revolutionary than Luther's. Emerson proclaimed independence of the
Bible as well as of the Church. His innate reverence was expressed in
such sayings as "The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so
pure, that it is profane to interpose helps." Love of spontaneity made
him declare that "Creeds are a disease of the intellect." It was in
his indignation at the Fugitive-Slave Law that he said, "We should not
forgive the clergy for taking on every issue the immoral side." His
treatment of religious institutions was not perfectly consistent; but
the aim of all his writings was to encourage heroic thought. He wrote
the Gospel of Nonconformity. Personal knowledge of his influence
justified Bishop Huntington in saying that he has "done more to unsettle
the faith of the educated young men of our age and country in the
Christianity of the Bible than any other twenty men combined."

How desirous Emerson was to have the inner light obeyed promptly and
fully may be judged from his describing his own habit of writing as
follows: "I would not degrade myself by casting about for a thought,
nor by waiting for it."... "If it come not spontaneously, it comes not
rightly at all." Much of the peculiar charm of his books is due to his
having composed them thus. Again and again he says: "It is really of
little importance what blunders in statement we make, so only that we
make no wilful departure from the truth."... "Why should I give up
my thought, because I cannot answer an objection to it?"... "With
consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do."... "Speak what you
think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in
hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day."...
"I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and
consistency. Let the words be"... "ridiculous henceforward." This
is not meant for mere theory. We are told often that "Virtue is the
spontaneity of the will."... "Our spontaneous action is always the
best."... "The only right is what is after my own constitution, the only
wrong what is against it."

III. The passages quoted in the last paragraph are of great importance;
for they did more than any others to abolish slavery. Its defenders
appealed to the Bible as confidently as to the national Constitution;
but the Garrisonians declared with Emerson, that "The highest virtue is
always against the law." They were confident that they knew the truth
as soon as they saw it, and had no need to answer objections. The same
faith in spontaneous impressions inspired the suffragists, of whom the
next chapter will give some account. Agitations against
established institutions sprang up thickly under the first step of
Transcendentalism. Church, State, family ties, and business relations
seemed all likely to be broken up. Lowell says that "Everybody had a
mission (with a capital M) to attend to everybody else's business."...
"Conventions were held for every hitherto inconceivable purpose."
"Communities were established where everything was to be in common
but common sense." The popular authors about 1840 were mostly
Transcendentalists; and nearly every Transcendentalist was a Socialist.
Some forty communities were started almost simultaneously; but not
one-half lasted through the second year. One of the first failures was
led by a man who had been working actively against slavery, but who had
come to think that the only way to attack it was to try to do away with
all private property whatever. Brook Farm lasted half a dozen years,
with a success due partly to the high culture of the inmates, and partly
to some recognition of the right of private ownership. The general
experience, however, was that a Transcendentalist was much more willing
to make plans for other people, than to conform in his own daily life
to regulations proposed by anyone else. The very multiplicity of the
reforms, started in the light of the new philosophy, did much to prevent
most of them from attaining success. We have seen how slavery was
abolished; but no one should regret the failure of most of the
Transcendentalist schemes.

The subsidence of Socialism was especially fortunate on account of the
frankness with which matrimony was repudiated by the system most in
vogue, that of Fourier. He had followed the spontaneous and instinctive
impulses of man with the utmost consistency. Other Socialists have been
more cautious; but the problem of reconciling family ties with communal
life has not been solved. Some of the English Transcendentalists
published a pamphlet recommending systematic encouragement of
licentiousness; and an American philosopher, who turned Roman Catholic
in 1844, declared that free love was "Transcendentalism in full
bloom." The term "higher law" was used to support the pretence of some
obligation more binding than marriage. A free-love convention was held
in New York about 1857; and very lax ideas had been already announced by
active apostles of spontaneity known as Spiritualists.

No writer has done more to encourage purity of thought than Emerson. His
life was stainless; but perhaps the best proof of this is his saying,
"Our moral nature is vitiated by any interference of our will"; and
again, "If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts,
and there abide, the huge world will come round to him." No man
ever wrote thus who was not either notoriously corrupt or singularly
innocent. Policemen and jailers exist largely for the purpose of
preventing people from planting themselves on their instincts - for
instance, those which lead to theft, drunkenness, and murder. Socialism
would perhaps be practicable if industry were as natural as laziness.
Almost all moralists have thought it necessary to insist on constant
interference with the instincts. So earnest and able a Transcendentalist
as Miss Cobbe gives these definitions in her elaborate treatise on
_Intuitive Morals_: "Happiness is the gratification of all the desires
of our nature." "Virtue is the renunciation of such of them as are
forbidden by the moral law." Theodore Parker insisted on the duty of
subordinating "the low qualities to the higher," but Emerson held, as
already mentioned, that "Virtue is the spontaneity of the will."

Such language was largely due to his perception that all activity,
however innocent, of thought and feeling had been too much repressed by
the Puritanical churches, in whose shadow he was brought up. The same
mistake was made in the Dark Ages; and the reaction from that asceticism
was notorious during the Renaissance. The early Unitarians overrated
human nature in their hostility to the Trinitarians, who underrated
it; and Emerson went beyond his original associates in the Unitarian
ministry because he was more Transcendental. The elevation of his own
character encouraged him to hope that our higher qualities are so strong
as to need only freedom to be enabled to keep all impure desire in
subjection. It was a marked change of tone when in 1876 he allowed these
words to be printed in one of his books: "Self-control is the rule. You
have in you there a noisy, sensual savage which you are to keep down,
and turn all his strength to beauty." Similar passages, especially
a censure of the pruriency of Fourierism, occur in essays which were
probably written some years earlier, but were not published until after
his death. Most of the Transcendentalists have fortunately acknowledged
the duty of self-control much more plainly and readily. It is a fair
question whether they were more consistent. How does anyone know which
of his instincts and impulses to control and which to cultivate? What
better light has he than is given either by his own experience or by
that of his parents and other teachers? I acknowledge the power of
conscience; but its dictates differ so much in different individuals as
to be plainly due to early education. Thus even a Transcendentalist has
to submit himself to experience; as he would not do if it were really
transcended by his philosophy.

Emerson himself was singularly fortunate in his "involuntary
perceptions." Those of most men are dark with superstition and
prejudice. It is what we have heard earliest and oftenest that recurs
most spontaneously. If all mankind had continued satisfied to "trust
the instinct to the end though it can render no reason," we should still
believe in the divine right of kings, and the supremacy of evil spirits.
There would have been very little persecution if men could have known
truth when they saw it. Parker believed devoutly in the intuitions, but
he said that Emerson exaggerated their accuracy to such an extent that
he "discourages hard and continuous thought." "Some of his followers
will be more faithful than he to the false principles which he lays
down, and will think themselves wise because they do not study, and
inspired because they say what outrages common sense." The danger of
following instinctive impressions in regard to the currency has
been shown in recent American politics. Anyone who is familiar with
scientific methods will see where Emerson's failed. It is true that he
prized highly many of the results of science, especially the theory of
evolution as it was taught by Lamarck and other forerunners of Darwin.
His inability to see the value of investigation and verification is
disclosed plainly; and he preferred to have people try to "build science
on ideas." He acknowledged that too much time was given to Latin and
Greek in college; but his wishes in regard to study of the sciences were
so old-fashioned as to call out a remonstrance from Agassiz.

IV. How little scientific culture there was before 1860 may be judged
from the rapid growth of Spiritualism. Transcendentalism had shown
tremendous strength in helping people escape from the old churches; but
it was of little use in building new ones. Churches exist for the
express purpose of enabling believers in a common faith to unite in
public worship. No society could be so holy as solitude to a sincere
Transcendentalist; and the beliefs of his neighbours seemed much less
sacred than his own peculiar intuitions. Exceptional eloquence might
make him pastor of a large society; but it began to decline when he
ceased to speak. Transcendentalism was excellent material for
weathercocks, but it had to be toughened by adulteration with baser
metal before it supplied any solid foundation for a new temple.

Most of the people who had lost faith in the old churches were longing
after some better way of receiving knowledge about the heavenly world.
Millions of Americans and Europeans rejoiced to hear that spirits had
begun to communicate by mysterious raps at Rochester, N. Y., on the last
day of March, 1848. Messages from the departed were soon received in
many places; but the one thing needful was that the room be filled with
believers; and a crowded hall was peculiarly likely to be favoured with
strange sounds and sights. Here was the social element necessary for
founding a new religion. It appealed as confidently as its rivals to

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