The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Miscellanies [Vol. 11]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.


In the winter and early spring of 1838, the American Peace Society held a course of lectures in Boston. This lecture was the seventh in the course. Mr. Alcott wrote in his diary at that time:—

"I heard Emerson's lecture on Peace, as the closing discourse of a series delivered at the Odeon before the American Peace Society. … After the lecture I saw Mr. Garrison, who is at this time deeply interested in the question of Peace, as are many of the meekest and noblest souls amongst us. He expressed his great pleasure in the stand taken by Mr. Emerson and his hopes in him as a man of the new age. This great topic has been brought before the general mind as a direct consequence of the agitation of the abolition of slavery."

The lecture was printed in 1849 in AEsthetic Papers, edited by Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody.

Although the chronicles of the campaigns and acts of prowess of the masterly soldiers were always attractive reading to Mr. Emerson,—much more acts of patriotic devotion in the field,—and he was by no means committed as a non-resistant, he saw that war had been a part of evolution, and that its evils might pave the way for good, as flowers spring up next year on a field of carnage. He knew that evolution required an almost divine patience, yet his good hope was Page  579 strengthened by the signs of the times, and he desired to hasten the great upward step in civilization.

It is evident from his words and course of action during the outrages upon the peaceful settlers of Kansas, and when Sumter was fired upon and Washington threatened, that he recognized that the hour had not yet come. He subscribed lavishly from his limited means for the furnishing Sharp's rifles to the "Free State men." In the early days of the War of the Rebellion he visited Charlestown Navy-Yard to see the preparations, and said, "Ah! sometimes gunpowder smells good." In the opening of his address at Tufts College, in July, 1861, he said, "The brute noise of cannon has a most poetic echo in these days, as instrument of the primal sentiments of humanity." Several speeches included in this volume show that at that crisis his feeling was, as he had said of the forefathers' "deed of blood" at Concord Bridge,—

Even the serene Reason says
It was well done.
But all this was only a postponement of hope.

Page 152, note 1. With regard to schooling a man's courage for whatever may befall, Mr. Emerson said: "Our culture therefore must not omit the arming of the man. Let him hear in season that he is born into the state of war, and that the commonwealth and his own well-being require that he should not go dancing in the weeds of peace, but warned, self-collected and neither defying nor dreading the thunder, let him take both reputation and life in his hand, and with perfect urbanity dare the gibbet and the mob by the absolute truth of his speech and the rectitude of his behavior."—"Heroism," Essays, First Series.

Page  580 "A state of war or anarchy, in which law has little force, is so far valuable that it puts every man on trial."—"The Conservative," Nature, Addresses and Lectures.

Page 156, note 1. Mr. Emerson used to take pleasure in a story illustrating this common foible of mankind. A returned Arctic explorer, in a lecture, said, "In this wilderness among the ice-floes, I had the fortune to see a terrible conflict between two Polar bears—" "Which beat?" cried an excited voice from the audience.

Page 160, note 1. In his description of the Tower of London in the journal of 1834, it appears that the suits of armor there set up affected Mr. Emerson unpleasantly, suggesting half-human destructive lobsters and crabs. It is, I believe, said that Benvenuto Cellini learned to make the cunning joints in armor for men from those of these marine warriors.

In the opening paragraphs of the essay on Inspiration Mr. Emerson congratulates himself that the doleful experiences of the aboriginal man were got through with long ago. "They combed his mane, they pared his nails, cut off his tail, set him on end, sent him to school and made him pay taxes, before he could begin to write his sad story for the compassion or the repudiation of his descendants, who are all but unanimous to disown him. We must take him as we find him," etc.

Page 162, note 1. In English Traits, at the end of the chapter on Stonehenge, Mr. Emerson gave a humorous account of his setting forth the faith or hope of the non-resistants and idealists in New England, to the amazed and shocked ears of Carlyle and Arthur Helps.

Page 164, note 1. "As the solidest rocks are made up of invisible gases, as the world is made of thickened light and arrested electricity, so men know that ideas are the parents of men and things; there was never anything that did not Page  581 proceed from a thought."—"The Scholar," Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 164, note 2. In "The Problem" he says of the Parthenon and England's abbeys that

out of Thought's interior sphere
These wonders rose to upper air.

Page 167, note 1. Mr. Emerson in his conversation frankly showed that he was not yet quite prepared to be a non-resistant. He would have surely followed his own counsel where he says, "Go face the burglar in your own house," and he seemed to feel instinctive sympathy with what Mr. Dexter, the counsel, said in the speech which he used to read me from the Selfridge trial:—

"And may my arm drop powerless when it fails to defend my honor!"

He exactly stated his own position in a later passage, where he says that "in a given extreme event Nature and God will instruct him in that hour."

Page 172, note 1. Thoreau lived frankly and fearlessly up to this standard.

Page 173, note 1. This same view is even more attractively set forth in "Aristocracy" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, pp. 36-40).

Rev. Dr. Cyrus A. Bartol, in an interesting paper on "Emerson's Religion,"1 gives, among other reminiscences, the following: "I asked him if he approved of war. 'Yes,' he said, 'in one born to fight.'"