The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Miscellanies [Vol. 11]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.
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MR. EMERSON did not wish to have his sermons published. All that was worth saving in them, he said, would be found in the Essays. Yet it seemed best, to Mr. Cabot and to Mr. Emerson's family, that this one sermon should be preserved. A record of a turning-point in his life, it showed at once his thought and his character; for he not only gives the reasons why he believes the rite not authoritatively enjoined, and hence recommends its modification or discontinuance, but with serenity and sweetness renders back his trust into his people's hands, since he cannot see his way longer to exercise it as most of them desire.

In the month of June, 1832, Mr. Emerson had proposed to the church, apparently with hope of their approval, that the Communion be observed only as a festival of commemoration, without the use of the elements. The committee to whom the proposal was referred made a report expressing confidence in him, but declining to advise the change, as the matter was one which they could not properly be called upon to decide.

The question then came back to the pastor, whether he was willing to remain in his place and administer the rite in the usual form.

He went alone to the White Mountains, then seldom visited, to consider the grave question whether he was prepared, rather than to continue the performance of a part of his priestly office from which his instincts and beliefs recoiled, to sacrifice a position of advantage for usefulness to his people to whom he was bound by many ties, and in preparation for which he had Page  548 spent long years. He wrote, at Conway, New Hampshire: "Here among the mountains the pinions of thought should be strong, and one should see the errors of men from a calmer height of love and wisdom." His diary at Ethan Allan Crawford's contains his doubts and questionings, which Mr. Cabot has given in his Memoir. Yet there was but one answer for him, and after a fortnight, he came back clear in his mind to give his decision, embodied in this sermon, to his people. On the same day that it was preached, he formally resigned his pastorate. The church was loth to part with him. It was hoped that some other arrangement might be made. Mr. Cabot learned that "several meetings were held and the proprietors of pews were called in, as having 'an undoubted right to retain Mr. Emerson as their pastor, without reference to the opposition of the church.' At length, after two adjournments and much discussion, it was decided by thirty votes against twenty-four to accept his resignation. It was voted at the same time to continue his salary for the present."

Thus Mr. Emerson and his people parted in all kindness, but, as Mr. Cabot truly said, their difference of views on this rite "was in truth only the symptom of a deeper difference which would in any case sooner or later have made it impossible for him to retain his office; a disagreement not so much about particular doctrines or observances as about their sanction, the authority on which all doctrines and observances rest."

In the farewell letter which Mr. Emerson wrote to the people of his church, he said:—

"I rejoice to believe that my ceasing to exercise the pastoral office among you does not make any real change in our spiritual relation to each other. Whatever is most desirable and excellent therein remains to us. For, truly speaking, whoever provokes me to a good act or thought has given me a Page  549 pledge of his fidelity to virtue,—he has come under bonds to adhere to that cause to which we are jointly attached. And so I say to all you who have been my counsellors and coöperators in our Christian walk, that I am wont to see in your faces the seals and certificates of our mutual obligations. If we have conspired from week to week in the sympathy and expression of devout sentiments; if we have received together the unspeakable gift of God's truth; if we have studied together the sense of any divine word; or striven together in any charity; or conferred together for the relief or instruction of any brother; if together we have laid down the dead in a pious hope; or held up the babe into the baptism of Christianity; above all, if we have shared in any habitual acknowledgment of the benignant God, whose omnipresence raises and glorifies the meanest offices and the lowest ability, and opens heaven in every heart that worships him,—then indeed we are united, we are mutually debtors to each other of faith and hope, engaged to persist and confirm each other's hearts in obedience to the Gospel. We shall not feel that the nominal changes and little separations of this world can release us from the strong cordage of this spiritual bond. And I entreat you to consider how truly blessed will have been our connection if, in this manner, the memory of it shall serve to bind each one of us more strictly to the practice of our several duties."

Page 18, note 1. The doctrine of the offices of Jesus, even in the Unitarianism of Dr. Channing, was never congenial to Mr. Emerson's mind. He notes the same with regard to his father, and even to his Aunt Mary, in spite of her Calvinism. Any interposed personality between the Creator and the created was repugnant to him. Even in March, 1831, he is considering in his journal that his hearers will say, "To what Page  550 purpose is this attempt to explain away so safe and holy a doctrine as that of the Holy Spirit? Why unsettle or disturb a faith which presents to many minds a helpful medium by which they approach the idea of God?" and he answers, "And this question I will meet. It is because I think the popular views of this principle are pernicious, because it does put a medium, because it removes the idea of God from the mind. It leaves some events, some things, some thoughts, out of the power of Him who causes every event, every flower, every thought. The tremendous idea, as I may well call it, of God is screened from the soul. … And least of all can we believe—Reason will not let us—that the presiding Creator commands all matter and never descends into the secret chambers of the Soul. There he is most present. The Soul rules over matter. Matter may pass away like a mote in the sunbeam, may be absorbed into the immensity of God, as a mist is absorbed into the heat of the Sun—but the soul is the kingdom of God, the abode of love, of truth, of virtue."

Page 19, note 1. In the hope of satisfying those of his people who held to the letter of the Scriptural Law, Mr. Emerson made the foregoing clear statement with regard to the authority for the rite, from the professional point of view. It seems quite unlike his usual method, and there is little doubt that in it appears the influence of his elder brother, William, whose honest doubts had led him to abandon even earlier the profession of his fathers. In the introductory note to the chapter on Goethe, in Representative Men, is given an account of his unsuccessful pilgrimage to Weimar, in hopes that the great mind of Germany could solve these doubts. There is a letter still preserved, written by William, soon after his return, to his venerable kinsman at Concord, Dr. Ripley, in which he explains with great clearness his Page  551 own reasons for not believing that the Communion rite was enjoined by Jesus for perpetual observance. The argument on scriptural grounds there clearly stated is substantially the same as that which his younger brother makes use of in the beginning of this sermon. Thus far he has spoken of outward authority; from this point onward he speaks from within—the way native to him.

Page 25, note 1. Mr. Emerson left the struggles of the Past behind, and did not care to recall them. Thus, writing of Lucretia Mott, whom he met when giving a course of lectures in Philadelphia, in January, 1843, he said:—

"Me she taxed with living out of the world, and I was not much flattered that her interest in me respected my rejection of an ordinance, sometime, somewhere. Also yesterday—for Philadelphian ideas, like love, do creep where they cannot go—I was challenged on the subject of the Lord's Supper, and with great slowness and pain was forced to recollect the grounds of my dissent in that particular. You may be sure I was very tardy with my texts."

Mr. Emerson's journal during the period of trial and decision, in the mountains, shows that he was reading with great interest the life of George Fox. The simplicity of the Society of Friends, their aversion to forms and trust in the inward light, always appealed to him.

In his essay on The Preacher he says:—

"The supposed embarrassments to young clergymen exist only to feeble wills. … That gray deacon, or respectable matron with Calvinistic antecedents, you can readily see, would not have presented any obstacle to the march of St. Bernard or of George Fox, of Luther or of Theodore Parker." This hints at the help he had found in the Quaker's history in his time of need.

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Mr. Emerson's Discourse was printed soon after its delivery, and with it, in an Appendix, the following notice of the celebration of the second centennial anniversary of the incorporation of the town, sent to him by "a friend who thought it desirable to preserve the remembrance of some particulars of this historical festival."

"At a meeting of the town of Concord, in April last, it was voted to celebrate the Second Centennial Anniversary of the settlement of the town, on the 12th September following. A committee of fifteen were chosen to make the arrangements. This committee appointed Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orator, and Rev. Dr. Ripley and Rev. Mr. Wilder, Chaplains of the Day. Hon. John Keyes was chosen President of the Day.

"On the morning of the 12th September, at half past 10 o'clock, the children of the town, to the number of about 500, moved in procession to the Common in front of the old church and court-house and there opened to the right and left, awaiting the procession of citizens. At 11 o'clock, the Concord Light Infantry, under Captain Moore, and the Artillery under Captain Buttrick, escorted the civic procession, under the direction of Moses Prichard as Chief Marshal, from Shepherd's hotel through the lines of children to the Meeting-house. The South gallery had been reserved for ladies, and the North gallery for the children; but (it was a good omen) the children overran the space assigned for their accommodation, and were sprinkled throughout the house, and ranged on seats along the aisles. The old Meeting-house, which was propped to sustain the unwonted weight of the multitude within its walls, was built in 1712, thus having stood for more than Page  553 half the period to which our history goes back. Prayers were offered and the Scriptures read by the aged minister of the town, Rev. Ezra Ripley, now in the 85th year of his age;—another interesting feature in this scene of reminiscences. A very pleasant and impressive part of the services in the church was the singing of the 107th psalm, from the New England version of the psalms made by Eliot, Mather, and others, in 1639, and used in the church in this town in the days of Peter Bulkeley. The psalm was read a line at a time, after the ancient fashion, from the Deacons' seat, and so sung to the tune of St. Martin's by the whole congregation standing.

"Ten of the surviving veterans who were in arms at the Bridge, on the 19th April, 1775, honored the festival with their presence. Their names are Abel Davis, Thaddeus Blood, Tilly Buttrick, John Hosmer, of Concord; Thomas Thorp, Solomon Smith, John Oliver, Aaron Jones, of Acton; David Lane, of Bedford; Amos Baker, of Lincoln.

"On leaving the church, the procession again formed, and moved to a large tent nearly opposite Shepherd's hotel, under which dinner was prepared, and the company sat down to the tables, to the number of four hundred. We were honored with the presence of distinguished guests, among whom were Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong, Judge Davis, Alden Bradford (descended from the 2d governor of Plymouth Colony), Hon. Edward Everett, Hon. Stephen C. Phillips of Salem, Philip Hone, Esq., of New York, General Dearborn, and Lieutenant-Colonel R. C. Winthrop (descended from the 1st governor of Massachusetts). Letters were read from several gentlemen expressing their regret at being deprived of the pleasure of being present on the occasion. The character of the speeches and sentiments at the dinner were manly and affectionate, in keeping with the whole temper of the day.

Page  554 "On leaving the dinner-table, the invited guests, with many of the citizens, repaired to the court-house to pay their respects to the ladies of Concord, who had there, with their friends, partaken of an elegant collation, and now politely offered coffee to the gentlemen. The hall, in which the collation was spread, had been decorated by fair hands with festoons of flowers, and wreaths of evergreen, and hung with pictures of the Fathers of the Town. Crowded as it was with graceful forms and happy faces, and resounding with the hum of animated conversation, it was itself a beautiful living picture. Compared with the poverty and savageness of the scene which the same spot presented two hundred years ago, it was a brilliant reverse of the medal; and could scarcely fail, like all the parts of the holiday, to lead the reflecting mind to thoughts of that Divine Providence, which, in every generation, has been our tower of defence and horn of blessing.

"At sunset the company separated and retired to their homes; and the evening of this day of excitement was as quiet as a Sabbath throughout the village."

Within the year, Mr. Emerson had come to make his home for life in the ancestral town, and had become a householder. Two days after the festival, he drove to Plymouth in a chaise, and was there married to Lidian Jackson, and immediately brought his bride to her Concord home.

His aged step-grandfather was the senior chaplain at the Celebration, and his brother Charles, who was to live with him in the new home, was one of the marshals.

In preparation for this address Mr. Emerson made diligent examination of the old town records, and spent a fortnight in Cambridge consulting the works on early New England in the College Library. I reproduce most of his references to his Page  555 authorities exactly, although there are, no doubt, newer editions of some of the works.

Page 30, note 1. This story is from Bede's Ecclesiastical History (chapter xiii., Bohn's Antiquarian Library). Mr. Emerson used it in full as the exordium of his essay on Immortality, in Letters and Social Aims.

Page 30, note 2. The poem "Hamatreya," wherein appear the names of many of these first settlers, might well be read in connection with the opening passages of this address.

Mr. Emerson's right of descent to speak as representative of Peter Bulkeley, who was the spiritual arm of the settlement, as Simon Willard was its sword-arm, may here be shown: Rev. Joseph Emerson of Mendon (son of Thomas of Ipswich, the first of the name in this country) married Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Edward Bulkeley, who succeeded his father, the Rev. Peter Bulkeley, as minister of Concord. Edward, the son of Joseph of Mendon and Elizabeth Bulkeley, was father of Rev. Joseph Emerson of Malden, who was father of Rev. William Emerson of Concord, who was father of Rev. William Emerson of Harvard and Boston, the father of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Page 31, note 1. Neal's History of New England, vol. i., p. 132.

Page 31, note 2. Neal, vol. i., p. 321.

Page 31, note 3. Shattuck's History of Concord, p. 158.

Page 32, note 1. On September 2, 1635, the General Court passed this order:—

"It is ordered that there shalbe a plantac̄on att Musketequid & that there shalbe 6 myles of land square to belong to it, & that the inhabitants thereof shall have three yeares im̄unities from all publ[ic] charges except traineings; Further, that Page  556 when any that plant there shall have occac̄on of carryeing of goods thither, they shall repaire to two of the nexte magistrates where the teames are, whoe shall have the power for a yeare to presse draughts, att reasonable rates, to be payed by the owners of the goods, to transport their goods thither att seasonable tymes: & the name of the place is changed & here after to be called Concord."

Page 32, note 2. Shattuck, p. 5.

Page 33, note 1. In his lecture on Boston (published in the volume Natural History of Intellect) Mr. Emerson gives an amusing enumeration of some troubles which seemed so great to the newcomers from the Old World: he mentions their fear of lions, the accident to John Smith from "the most poisonous tail of a fish called a sting-ray," the circumstance of the overpowering effect of the sweet fern upon the Concord party, and the intoxicating effect of wild grapes eaten by the Norse explorers, and adds: "Nature has never again indulged in these exasperations. It seems to have been the last outrage ever committed by the sting-rays, or by the sweet fern, or by the fox-grapes. They have been of peaceable behavior ever since."

Page 34, note 1. Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence, chap. xxxv. Mr. Emerson abridged and slightly altered some sentences.

Page 35, note 1. Mourt, Beginning of Plymouth, 1621, p. 60.

Page 35, note 2. Johnson, p. 56. Josselyn, in his New England's Rarities Discovered, speaks with respect of "Squashes, but more truly squontersquashes; a kind of mellon, or rather gourd; … some of these are green; some yellow; some longish like a gourd; others round, like an apple: all of them pleasant food, boyled and buttered, and seasoned with spice. Page  557 But the yellow squash—called an apple-squash (because like an apple) and about the bigness of a pome-water is the best kind." Wood, in his New England Prospect, says: "In summer, when their corn is spent, isquotersquashes is their best bread, a fruit much like a pumpion."

Page 36, note 1. Nashawtuck, a small and shapely hill between the Musketaquid and the Assabet streams, at their point of union, was a pleasant and convenient headquarters for a sagamore of a race whose best roadway for travel and transportation was a deep, quiet stream, the fish of which they ate, and also used for manure for their cornfields along the bluffs. Indian graves have been found on this hill.

Page 36, note 2. Josselyn's Voyages to New England, 1638.

Page 36, note 3. Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, vol. i., chap. 6.

Page 36, note 4. Thomas Morton, New England Canaan, p. 47.

Page 37, note 1. Shattuck, p. 6.

The old Middlesex Hotel, which stood during the greater part of the nineteenth century on the southwest side of the Common, opposite the court- and town-houses, had fallen into decay in 1900, and was bought and taken down by the town as an improvement to the public square to commemorate the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of Concord Fight. It is probable that Jethro's Oak, under which the treaty was made, stood a little nearer the house of Rev. Peter Bulkeley, the site of which, about one hundred paces distant on the Lowell road, is now marked by a stone and bronze tablet.

Page 38, note 1. Depositions taken in 1684, and copied in the first volume of the Town Records.

Page 39, note 1. Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence.

Page  558

Page 39, note 2. New England's Plantation.

Page 39, note 3. E. W.'s Letter in Mourt, 1621.

Page 40, note 1. Peter Bulkeley's Gospel Covenant; preached at Concord in New England. 2d edition, London, 1651, p. 432.

Page 41, note 1. See petition in Shattuck's History, p. 14.

Page 41, note 2. Shattuck, p. 14. This was the meadow and upland on the Lowell road, one mile north of Concord, just beyond the river. On the farm stands the unpainted "lean-to" house, now owned by the daughters of the late Edmund Hosmer.

Page 42, note 1. Concord Town Records.

Page 43, note 1. Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. i., p. 389.

Page 44, note 1. Savage's Winthrop, vol. i., p. 114.

Page 44, note 2. Colony Records, vol. i.

Page 44, note 3. See Hutchinson's Collection, p. 287.

Page 46, note 1. Winthrop's Journal, vol. i., pp. 128, 129, and the editor's note.

Page 46, note 2. Winthrop's Journal, vol. ii., p. 160.

Page 48, note 1. Town Records.

With the exception of the anecdotes in this and the following sentence, almost the whole of this account of the theory and practice of the New England town-meeting was used by Mr. Emerson in his oration, given in December, 1870, before the New England Society in New York. The greater part of the matter used in that address is included in the lecture on Boston, in the volume Natural History of Intellect.

The New England Society of New York recently published the Orations delivered before it previous to 1871, including Mr. Emerson's, as far as it could be recovered from the scattered manuscript, and the newspaper reports of the time.

Page  559

Page 50, note 1. Hutchinson's Collection, p. 27.

Page 51, note 1. Shattuck, p. 20. "The Government, 13 Nov., 1644, ordered the county courts to take care of the Indians residing within their several shires, to have them civilized, and to take order, from time to time, to have them instructed in the knowledge of God."

Page 52, note 1. Shepard's Clear Sunshine of the Gospel, London, 1648.

Page 52, note 2. These rules are given in Shattuck's History, pp. 22-24, and were called "Conclusions and orders made and agreed upon by divers Sachems and other principal men amongst the Indians at Concord in the end of the eleventh Month (called January) An. 1646."

The following are interesting specimens of these:—

Rule 2. "That there shall be no more Powwawing amongst the Indians. And if any shall hereafter powwaw, both he that shall powwaw, and he that shall procure him to powwaw, shall pay twenty shillings apiece."

Rule 4. "They desire they may understand the wiles of Satan, and grow out of love with his suggestions and temtations."

Rule 5. "That they may fall upon some better course to improve their time than formerly."

Rule 15. "They will wear their haire comely, as the English do, and whosoever shall offend herein shall pay four shillings."

Rule 23. "They shall not disguise themselves in their mournings as formerly, nor shall they keep a great noyse by howling."

Rule 24. "The old ceremony of a maide walking alone and living apart so many days, [fine] twenty shillings."

Page 53, note 1. Shepard, p. 9.

Page  560

Page 54, note 1. Wilson's Letter, 1651.

Page 54, note 2. News from America, p. 22.

Page 54, note 3. Winthrop, vol. ii., p. 2.

Page 55, note 1. Hutchinson, vol. i., p. 90.

Page 55, note 2. Hutchinson, vol. i., p. 112.

Page 55, note 3. Winthrop, vol. ii., p. 21.

Page 55, note 4. Hutchinson, vol. i., p. 94.

Page 55, note 5. Bulkeley's Gospel Covenant, p. 209.

Page 55, note 6. Winthrop, vol. ii., p. 94.

Page 56, note 1. Gospel Covenant, p. 301.

Page 57, note 1. Shattuck, p. 45.

Page 57, note 2. Hutchinson, vol. i., p. 172.

Page 57, note 3. See his instructions from the Commissioners, his narrative, and the Commissioners' letter to him, in Hutchinson's Collection, pp. 261-270.

Page 58, note 1. Hutchinson's History, vol. i., p. 254.

Page 58, note 2. Hubbard's Indian Wars, p. 119, ed. 1801.

Mr. Charles H. Walcott, in his Concord in the Colonial Period (Estes & Lauriat, Boston, 1884), gives a very interesting account of the Brookfield fight.

Page 58, note 3. Hubbard, p. 201.

Page 59, note 1. Hubbard, p. 185.

Page 59, note 2. Hubbard, p. 245.

Page 60, note 1. Shattuck, p. 55.

Page 60, note 2. Hubbard, p. 260.

Page 61, note 1. Neal's History of New England, vol. i., p. 321.

Page 61, note 2. Mather, Magnalia Christi, vol. i., p. 363.

Page 61, note 3. "Tradition has handed down the following anecdote. A consultation among the Indian chiefs took Page  561 place about this time on the high lands in Stow, and, as they cast their eyes towards Sudbury and Concord, a question arose which they should attack first. The decision was made to attack the former. One of the principal chiefs said: 'We no prosper if we go to Concord—the Great Spirit love that people—the evil spirit tell us not to go—they have a great man there—he great pray.' The Rev. Edward Bulkeley was then minister of the town, and his name and distinguished character were known even to the red men of the forest."—Shattuck's History, p. 59, note.

Page 61, note 4. On this occasion the name of Hoar, since honored in Concord through several generations, came to the front. John Hoar, the first practitioner of law in Concord, an outspoken man of sturdy independence, who, for uttering complaints that justice was denied him in the courts, had been made to give bonds for good behavior and "disabled to plead any cases but his oune in this jurisdiction," who had been fined £10 for saying that "the Blessing which his Master Bulkeley pronounced in dismissing the publique Assembly was no more than vane babling," and was twice fined for non-attendance at public worship, proved to be the only man in town who was willing to take charge of the Praying Indians of Nashobah, whom the General Court ordered moved to Concord during Philip's War. The magistrates who had persecuted him had to turn to him, and he made good provision on his own place for the comfort and safe-keeping of these unfortunates, and their employment, when public opinion was directed against them with the cruelty of fear. Soon, however, Captain Mosley, who had been secretly sent for by some citizens, came with soldiers into the meeting-house, announced to the congregation that he had heard that "there were some heathen in town committed to one Hoar, Page  562 who, he was informed, were a trouble and disquiet to them;" therefore, if the people desired it, he would remove them to Boston. No one made objection, so he went to Mr. Hoar's house, counted the Indians and set a guard, Hoar vigorously protesting. He came next day; Hoar bravely refused to give them up, so Mosley removed them by violence and carried the Indians to Deer Island, where they suffered much during the winter. See Walcott's Concord in the Colonial Period.

Page 62, note 1. Sprague's Centennial Ode.

Page 62, note 2. Shattuck, chap. iii. Walcott, chap. iii.

Page 63, note 1. Hutchinson's Collection, p. 484.

Page 63, note 2. Hutchinson's Collection, pp. 543, 548, 557, 566.

Page 63, note 3. Hutchinson's History, vol. i., p. 336.

The month of April has been fateful for Concord, especially its nineteenth day. On that day the military company under Lieutenant Heald marched to Boston to take part in the uprising of the freemen of the colony against Andros. On that same day, in 1775, the minute-men and militia of Concord, promptly reinforced by the soldiers of her daughter and sister towns, marched down to the guarded North Bridge and returned the fire of the Royal troops in the opening battle of the Revolution. Again on the nineteenth of April, 1861, the "Concord Artillery" (so-called, although then a company of the Fifth Infantry, M. V. M.) left the village for the front in the War of the Rebellion; and yet again in the last days of April, 1898, the same company, then, as now, attached to the Sixth Regiment, M. V. M., marched from the village green to bear its part in the Spanish War.

Page 64, note 1. Town Records.

Page 64, note 2. The following minutes from the Town Records in 1692 may serve as an example:—

Page  563 "John Craggin, aged about 63 years, and Sarah his wife, aet. about 63 years, do both testify upon oath that about 2 years ago John Shepard, sen. of Concord, came to our house in Obourne, to treat with us, and give us a visit, and carried the said Sary Craggin to Concord with him, and there discoursed us in order to a marriage between his son, John Shepard, jun. and our daughter, Eliz. Craggin, and, for our incouragement, and before us, did promise that, upon the consummation of the said marriage, he, the said John Shepard, sen. would give to his son, John Shepard, jun. the one half of his dwelling house, and the old barn, and the pasture before the barn; the old plow-land, and the old horse, when his colt was fit to ride, and his old oxen, when his steers were fit to work. All this he promised upon marriage as above said, which marriage was consummated upon March following, which is two years ago, come next March. Dated Feb. 25, 1692. Taken on oath before me. Wm. Johnson."

Page 64, note 3. Town Records, July, 1698.

Page 64, note 4. Records, Nov. 1711.

Page 65, note 1. Records, May, 1712.

Page 66, note 1. Records, 1735.

Page 66, note 2. Whitfield in his journal wrote: "About noon I reached Concord. Here I preached to some thousands in the open air; and comfortable preaching it was. The hearers were sweetly melted down. … The minister of the town being, I believe, a true child of God, I chose to stay all night at his house that we might rejoice together. The Lord was with us. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and God gave me to wrestle with him for my friends, especially those then with me. … Brother B—s, the minister, broke into floods of tears, and we had reason to cry out it was good for us to be here."

Page  564

Page 67, note 1. Church Records, July, 1792.

Page 67, note 2. The Rev. Daniel Bliss has left the name of having been an earnest, good man, evidently emotional. His zealous and impassioned preaching gave offence to some of the cooler and more conservative clergy, and indeed bred discord in the church of Concord. The "aggrieved brethren" withdrew, and, for want of a church, held public worship at a tavern where was the sign of a black horse, hence were called "the Black Horse Church." Their complaints preferred against Mr. Bliss resulted in councils which drew in most of the churches of Middlesex into their widening vortex. Yet he remained the honored pastor of the town until his death. His daughter Phebe married the young William Emerson, his successor; he was therefore Mr. Emerson's great-grandfather.

Page 67, note 3. Town Records.

Page 70, note 1. Town Records.

Page 71, note 1. Town Records.

Page 71, note 2. The spirited protest of this County Convention, presided over by Hon. James Prescott of Groton, is given in full in Shattuck's History, pp. 82-87.

Page 72, note 1. General Gage, the Governor, having refused to convene the General Court at Salem, the Provincial Congress of delegates from the towns of Massachusetts was called by conventions of the various counties to meet at Concord, October 11, 1774. The delegates assembled in the meeting-house, and organized, with John Hancock as President, and Benjamin Lincoln as Secretary. Called together to maintain the rights of the people, this Congress assumed the government of the province, and by its measures prepared the way for the Revolution.

Page 72, note 2. This eloquent sermon to the volunteers Page  565 of 1775, still preserved in MS., is very interesting. The young minister shows them the dignity of their calling, warns them of the besetting sins of New England soldiery, explains to them the invasion of their rights and that they are not rebels, tells them that he believes their fathers foresaw the evil day and did all in their power to guard the infant state from encroachments of unconstitutional power, and implores the sons to be true to their duty to their posterity. He fully admits the utter gloom of the prospect, humanly considered: would Heaven hold him innocent, he would counsel submission, but as an honest man and servant of Heaven he dare not do so, and with great spirit bids his injured countrymen "Arise! and plead even with the sword, the firelock and the bayonet, the birthright of Englishmen … and if God does not help, it will be because your sins testify against you, otherwise you may be assured."

Page 74, note 1. Journal, July, 1835. "It is affecting to see the old man's [Thaddeus Blood] memory taxed for facts occurring 60 years ago at Concord fight. 'It is hard to bring them up;' he says, 'the truth never will be known.' The Doctor [Ripley], like a keen hunter, unrelenting, follows him up and down, barricading him with questions. Yet cares little for the facts the man can tell, but much for the confirmation of the printed History. 'Leave me, leave me to repose.'"

Thaddeus Blood, who was only twenty years old at the time of Concord fight, later became a schoolmaster, hence was always known as "Master Blood." He was one of the Concord company stationed at Hull, in 1776, which took part in the capture of Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and his battalion of the 71st (Frazer) Highlanders as they sailed into Boston Harbor, not being aware of the evacuation of the town. They were confined at Concord until their exchange. See Sir Page  566 Archibald Campbell of Inverneill, sometime Prisoner of War in the Jail at Concord, Massachusetts. By Charles H. Walcott, Boston, 1898.

Page 74, note 2. In his poem in memory of his brother Edward, written by the riverside near the battle-ground, Mr. Emerson alluded to

Yon stern headstone,
Which more of pride than pity gave
To mark the Briton's friendless grave.
Yet it is a stately tomb;
The grand return
Of eve and morn,
The year's fresh bloom,
The silver cloud,
Might grace the dust that is most proud.

Page 76, note 1. Captain Miles commanded the Concord company that joined the Northern Army at Ticonderoga in August, 1776, as part of Colonel Reed's regiment.

Page 77, note 1. Judge John S. Keyes, who clearly remembers the incidents of this celebration, seen from a boy's coign of vantage, the top of one of the inner doors of the church, tells me that the ten aged survivors of the battle, who sat in front of the pulpit, bowed in recognition of this compliment by the orator, and then the audience all bowed to them. The sanctity of the church forbade in those days cheering or applause even at a civic festival.

Page 77, note 2. The following was Mr. Emerson's note concerning his authorities:—

The importance which the skirmish at Concord Bridge derived from subsequent events, has, of late years, attracted much notice to the incidents of the day. There are, as might Page  567 be expected, some discrepancies in the different narratives of the fight. In the brief summary in the text, I have relied mainly on the depositions taken by order of the Provincial Congress within a few days after the action, and on the other contemporary evidence. I have consulted the English narrative in the Massachusetts Historical Collections, and in the trial of Horne (Cases adjudged in King's Bench; London, 1800, vol. ii., p. 677); the inscription made by order of the legislature of Massachusetts on the two field-pieces presented to the Concord Artillery; Mr. Phinney's History of the Battle at Lexington; Dr. Ripley's History of Concord Fight; Mr. Shattuck's narrative in his History, besides some oral and some manuscript evidence of eye-witnesses. The following narrative, written by Rev. William Emerson, a spectator of the action, has never been published. A part of it has been in my possession for years: a part of it I discovered, only a few days since, in a trunk of family papers:—

'1775, 19 April. This morning, between 1 and 2 o'clock, we were alarmed by the ringing of the bell, and upon examination found that the troops, to the number of 800, had stole their march from Boston, in boats and barges, from the bottom of the Common over to a point in Cambridge, near to Inman's Farm, and were at Lexington Meeting-house, half an hour before sunrise, where they had fired upon a body of our men, and (as we afterward heard) had killed several. This intelligence was brought us at first by Dr. Samuel Prescott, who narrowly escaped the guard that were sent before on horses, purposely to prevent all posts and messengers from giving us timely information. He, by the help of a very fleet horse, crossing several walls and fences, arrived at Concord at the time above mentioned; when several posts were immediately Page  568 despatched, that returning confirmed the account of the regulars' arrival at Lexington, and that they were on their way to Concord. Upon this, a number of our minute-men belonging to this town, and Acton, and Lyncoln, with several others that were in readiness, marched out to meet them; while the alarm company were preparing to receive them in the town. Captain Minot, who commanded them, thought it proper to take possession of the hill above the meeting-house, as the most advantageous situation. No sooner had our men gained it, than we were met by the companies that were sent out to meet the troops, who informed us, that they were just upon us, and that we must retreat, as their number was more than treble ours. We then retreated from the hill near the Liberty Pole, and took a new post back of the town upon an eminence, where we formed into two battalions, and waited the arrival of the enemy. Scarcely had we formed, before we saw the British troops at the distance of a quarter of a mile, glittering in arms, advancing towards us with the greatest celerity. Some were for making a stand, notwithstanding the superiority of their number; but others more prudent thought best to retreat till our strength should be equal to the enemy's by recruits from neighboring towns that were continually coming in to our assistance. Accordingly we retreated over the bridge, when the troops came into the town, set fire to several carriages for the artillery, destroyed 60 bbls. flour, rifled several houses, took possession of the town-house, destroyed 500 lb. of balls, set a guard of 100 men at the North Bridge, and sent up a party to the house of Colonel Barrett, where they were in expectation of finding a quantity of warlike stores. But these were happily secured, just before their arrival, by transportation into the woods and other by-places. In the mean time, the guard set by the enemy to secure the pass at the North Page  569 Bridge were alarmed by the approach of our people, who had retreated, as mentioned before, and were now advancing with special orders not to fire upon the troops unless fired upon. These orders were so punctually observed that we received the fire of the enemy in three several and separate discharges of their pieces before it was returned by our commanding officer; the firing then soon become general for several minutes, in which skirmish two were killed on each side, and several of the enemy wounded. It may here be observed, by the way, that we were the more cautious to prevent beginning a rupture with the King's troops, as we were then uncertain what had happened at Lexington, and knew [not]1 that they had began the quarrel there by first firing upon our people, and killing eight men upon the spot. The three companies of troops soon quitted their post at the bridge, and retreated in the greatest disorder and confusion to the main body, who were soon upon the march to meet them. For half an hour, the enemy, by their marches and counter-marches, discovered great fickleness and inconstancy of mind, sometimes advancing, sometimes returning to their former posts; till, at length they quitted the town, and retreated by the way they came. In the mean time, a party of our men (150) took the back way through the Great Fields into the east quarter, and had placed themselves to advantage, lying in ambush behind walls, fences and buildings, ready to fire upon the enemy on their retreat.'

Page 78, note 1. Fifty years after his death the town erected a cenotaph to the memory of its brave young minister, whose body lies by the shore of Otter Creek, near Rutland, Vermont. On it they wrote:—

Page  570 "Enthusiastic, eloquent, affectionate and pious, he loved his family, his people, his God and his Country, and to this last he yielded the cheerful sacrifice of his life."

Page 78, note 2. Town Records, Dec. 1775.

Page 79, note 1. These facts are recorded by Shattuck in his History.

Page 79, note 2. Bradford's History of Massachusetts, vol. ii., p. 113.

Page 79, note 3. Shattuck.

Page 80, note 1. Town Records, May 3, 1782.

Page 81, note 1. Town Records, Sept. 9, and Bradford's History, vol. i., p. 266.

Page 81, note 2. The Rev. Grindall Reynolds, late pastor of the First Church in Concord, wrote an interesting account of Shays's Rebellion, and various papers concerning his adopted town which are included in his Historical and Other Papers, published by his daughter in 1895.

Page 81, note 3. Town Records, Oct. 21.

Page 82, note 1. Town Records, May 7.

Page 82, note 2. Town Records, 1834 and 1835. In 1903-4 the town, with a population of about 5000, appropriated for public purposes $65,752, the amount for school purposes being $28,000.

Page 82, note 3. The Unitarian and the "Orthodox" (as the Trinitarian Congregationalist society has always been called in Concord) churches have for a century been good neighbors, and for many years have held union meetings on Thanksgiving Day. At the time of Mr. Emerson's discourse it is doubtful if Concord contained a single Catholic or Episcopalian believer. The beginning of the twentieth century finds a larger body of Catholic worshippers than the four other societies contain. Yet all live in charity with one another.

Page  571

Page 83, note 1. Mr. Emerson's honored kinsman, Rev. Ezra Ripley, who sat in the pulpit that day, was eighty-four years old, and when, six years later, he died, he had been pastor of the Concord church for sixty-three years.

Page 83, note 2. Lemuel Shattuck, author of the excellent History of Concord, which was published before the end of the year.

Page 85, note 1. In Mr. Emerson's lecturing excursions during the following thirty-five years, he found with pleasure and pride the sons of his Concord neighbors important men in the building up the prairie and river towns, or the making and operating the great highways of emigration and trade.


April 19, 1838, Mr. Emerson made this entry in his Journal:—

"This disaster of the Cherokees, brought to me by a sad friend to blacken my days and nights! I can do nothing; why shriek? why strike ineffectual blows? I stir in it for the sad reason that no other mortal will move, and if I do not, why, it is left undone. The amount of it, to be sure, is merely a scream; but sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.

"Yesterday wrote the letter to Van Buren,—a letter hated of me, a deliverance that does not deliver the soul. I write my journal, I read my lecture with joy; but this stirring in the philanthropic mud gives me no peace. I will let the republic alone until the republic comes to me. I fully sympathize, be sure, with the sentiments I write; but I accept it rather from Page  572 my friends than dictate it. It is not my impulse to say it, and therefore my genius deserts me; no muse befriends; no music of thought or word accompanies."

Yet his conscience then, and many a time later, brought him to do the brave, distasteful duty.


The tenth anniversary of the emancipation by Act of Parliament of all slaves in the insular possessions of Great Britain in the West Indies was celebrated in Concord, in the year 1844, by citizens of thirteen Massachusetts towns, and they invited Mr. Emerson to make the Address. The Rev. Dr. Channing, on whose mind the wrongs of the slave had weighed ever since he had seen them in Santa Cruz, had spoken on Slavery in Faneuil Hall in 1837, had written on the subject, and his last public work had been a speech on the anniversary of the West Indian Emancipation in 1842, in the village of Lenox. The public conscience was slowly becoming aroused, especially among the country people, who had not the mercantile and social relations with the Southerner which hampered the action of many people in the cities. Yet even in Concord the religious societies appear to have closed their doors against the philanthropists who gathered to celebrate this anniversary in 1844, but the energy of the young Thoreau, always a champion of Freedom, secured the use of the Court-House, and he himself rang the bell to call the people together.

It is said that Mr. Emerson, while minister of the Second Church in Boston, had held his pulpit open to speakers on behalf of liberty, and to his attitude in 1835 Harriet Martineau Page  573 bears witness in her Autobiography. After speaking of the temperamental unfitness of these brother scholars, Charles and Waldo, to become active workers in an Abolitionist organization, she says: "Yet they did that which made me feel that I knew them through the very cause in which they did not implicate themselves. At the time of the hubbub against me in Boston, Charles Emerson stood alone in a large company and declared that he would rather see Boston in ashes than that I or anybody should be debarred in any way from perfectly free speech. His brother Waldo invited me to be his guest in the midst of my unpopularity, and during my visit told me his course about this matter of slavery. He did not see that there was any particular thing for him to do in it then; but when, in coaches or steamboats or anywhere else, he saw people of color ill treated, or heard bad doctrine or sentiment propounded, he did what he could, and said what he thought. Since that date he has spoken more abundantly and boldly, the more critical the times became; and he is now, and has long been, identified with the Abolitionists in conviction and sentiment, though it is out of his way to join himself to their organization."

Mr. Cabot in his Memoir1 gives several pages of extracts from Mr. Emerson's journal showing his feelings at this time, before the slave power, aggressive and advancing, left him, as a lover of Freedom, no choice but to fight for her as he could, by tongue and pen, in seasons of peril.

This Address was printed in England, as well as in America, the autumn after its delivery here. In a letter to Carlyle written September 1, Mr. Emerson says he is sending proof to the London publisher.

"Chapman wrote to me by the last steamer, urging me to send him some manuscript that had not yet been published in Page  574 America [hoping for copyright, and promising half profits]. … The request was so timely, since I was not only printing a book, but also a pamphlet, that I came to town yesterday and hastened the printers, and have now sent him proofs of all the Address, and of more than half of the book." He requests Carlyle to have an eye to its correct reproduction, to which his friend faithfully attended.

Page 100, note 1. It was characteristic of Mr. Emerson that, as a corrective to the flush of righteous wrath that man should be capable of

laying hands on another
To coin his labor and sweat,
came his sense of justice, and the power of seeing the planter's side, born into such a social and political condition, by breeding and climatic conditions unable to toil, and with his whole inheritance vested in slaves. In a speech in New York in 1855, Mr. Emerson urged emancipation with compensation to the owners, by general sacrifices to this great end by old and young throughout the North, not as the planters' due, but as recognizing their need and losses. Yet with all due consideration for the planters' misfortune of condition, he said, on the main question, "It is impossible to be a gentleman and not be an abolitionist."

Page 103, note 1.

Sole estate his sire bequeathed,—
Hapless sire to hapless son,—
Was the wailing song he breathed,
And his chain when life was done.
These lines from "Voluntaries" in the Poems, and the stanza which there follows them, are recalled by this passage.

Page  575

Page 106, note 1. Granville Sharp (1734-1813) was a broad-minded scholar and determined philanthropist. He left the study of law to go into the ordnance office, which he left, when the American Revolution came on, disapproving of the course of the government. In the case of one of the slaves whom he defended, the Lord Mayor discharged the negro, but his master would not give him up. The case then went before the Court of Kings Bench, and the twelve judges decided in 1772 that a man could not be held in, or transported from, England. In June, 1787, Sharp with Clarkson and ten others, nine of whom were Quakers, formed a committee "for effecting the abolition of the slave trade;" Sharp was chairman. Defeated in Parliament in 1788 and 1789, they were joined by Pitt and Fox in 1790. In 1793 the Commons passed an act for gradual abolition of the trade, which was rejected by the Peers. This occurred again in 1795 and 1804. In 1806, the Fox and Grenville Ministry brought forward abolition of the trade as a government measure. It was carried in 1807. Then the enemies of slavery began to strive for its gradual abolition throughout the British dominions, Clarkson, Wilberforce and Buxton being the principal leaders. The course of events, however, showed that immediate emancipation would be a better measure. The government brought this forward in 1823, modified by an apprenticeship system. The bill with this feature and some compensation to owners was passed in 1833.

Page 108, note 1. In the essay on Self-Reliance Mr. Emerson said: "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson."

Page 112, note 1. The "praedials" seem to have been Page  576 the slaves born into captivity, as distinguished from imported slaves.

Page 115, note 1. Emancipation in the West Indies: A Six Months' Tour in Antigua, Barbadoes and Jamaica, in the year 1837. By J. A. Thome and J. H. Kimball, New York, 1838.

Page 120, note 1. This was very soon after the coronation of the young Queen Victoria, which occurred in the previous year.

Page 125, note 1. "All things are moral, and in their boundless changes have an unceasing reference to spiritual nature. Therefore is nature glorious with form, color and motion; that every globe in the remotest heaven, every chemical change from the rudest crystal up to the laws of life … every animal function from the sponge up to Hercules, shall hint or thunder to man the laws of right and wrong, and echo the Ten Commandments."—Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 40. See also the last sentence in "Prudence," Essays, First Series.

Page 131, note 1. "For he [a ruler] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Epistle to the Romans, xiii. 4.

Page 132, note 1. The cause for Mr. Emerson's indignation was great and recent. His honored townsman, Samuel Hoar, Esq., sent by the State of Massachusetts as her commissioner to South Carolina to investigate the seizures, imprisonments, punishments, and even sale of colored citizens of Massachusetts who had committed no crime, had been expelled with threats of violence from the city of Charleston. (See "Samuel Hoar," in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.)

Page  577

Page 133, note 1.

A union then of honest men,
Or union never more again.

"Boston." Poems.

Page 134, note 1. John Quincy Adams, who, though disapproving, as untimely, the legislation urged on Congress by the abolitionists, yet fought strongly and persistently against the rules framed to check their importunity, as inconsistent with the right of petition itself.

Page 144, note 1. Here comes in the doctrine of the Survival of the Fittest that appears in the "Ode inscribed to W. H. Channing," but, even more than there, tempered by faith in the strength of humanity. See the "Lecture on the Times," given in 1841 (Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 220), for considerations on slavery more coolly philosophical than Mr. Emerson's warm blood often admitted of, during the strife for liberty in the period between the Mexican and Civil Wars.

Page 145, note 1.

To-day unbind the captive,
So only are ye unbound;
Lift up a people from the dust,
Trump of their rescue, sound!

"Boston Hymn," Poems.

Page 146, note 1. In the early version of the "Boston" poem were these lines:—

O pity that I pause!
The song disdaining shuns
To name the noble sires, because
Of the unworthy sons.
Page  578
Your town is full of gentle names,
By patriots once were watchwords made;
Those war-cry names are muffled shames
On recreant sons mislaid.


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.'"

Page  582


The opening passages of this speech to his friends and neighbors show how deeply Mr. Emerson was moved. He could no longer be philosophical, as in the "Ode" inscribed to his friend William Channing, and in earlier addresses. The time had come when he might at any moment be summoned to help the marshal's men seize and return to bondage the poor fugitive who had almost reached the safety of England's protection. Such men were frequently passing through Concord, concealed and helped by the good Bigelow, the blacksmith, and his wife, the Thoreaus, Mrs. Brooks, and even once at a critical moment by her husband, the law-abiding "'Squire" himself.

Mr. Emerson instantly took his stand, and did not hesitate to run atilt against the dark giant, once so honored. The question of secession for conscience' sake had come up among the Abolitionists. Mr. Emerson had stood for Union, yet felt that there could be nothing but shame in Union until the humiliating statute was repealed. Meanwhile he fell back on the reserve-right of individual revolution as the duty of honest men. The Free-Soilers soon after renominated Dr. John Gorham Palfrey for a seat in Congress, and in his campaign Mr. Emerson delivered this speech in several Middlesex towns. In Cambridge he was interrupted by young men from the college, Southerners, it was said, but it appears that the disturbance was quite as much due to "Northern men who were eager to keep up a show of fidelity to the interest of the South," as a Southern student said in a dignified disclaimer. Mr. Cabot Page  583 in his Memoir gives an interesting account by Professor James B. Thayer of Mr. Emerson's calm ignoring of the rude and hostile demonstration.

Writing to Carlyle, in the end of July, 1857, Mr. Emerson said: "In the spring, the abomination of our Fugitive Slave Bill drove me to some writing and speech-making, without hope of effect, but to clear my own skirts."

This was the reaction which could not but be felt by him where he had been forced to descend into the dust and conflict of the arena from the serene heights. He wrote in his journal next year:—

"Philip Randolph [a valued friend] was surprised to find me speaking to the politics of anti-slavery in Philadelphia. I suppose because he thought me a believer in general laws and that it was a kind of distrust of my own general teachings to appear in active sympathy with these temporary heats. He is right so far as it is becoming in the scholar to insist on central soundness rather than on superficial applications. I am to give a wise and just ballot, though no man else in the republic doth. I am to demand the absolute right, affirm that, and do that; but not push Boston into a showy and theatrical attitude, endeavoring to persuade her she is more virtuous than she is. Thereby I am robbing myself more than I am enriching the public. After twenty, fifty, a hundred years, it will be quite easy to discriminate who stood for the right, and who for the expedient."

Yet however hard the duty of the hour might be, Mr. Emerson never failed in his duty as a good citizen to come to the front in dark days.

"In spite of all his gracefulness and reserve and love of the unbroken tranquillity of serene thought, he was by the right of heredity a belligerent in the cause of Freedom."

Page  584

Page 181, note 1. Shadrach was hurried to Concord after his rescue, and by curious coincidence Edwin Bigelow, the good village blacksmith who there harbored him and drove him to the New Hampshire line, was one of the jurors in the trial of another rescue case.

Page 183, note 1. Mr. Emerson wrote in his journal, after Mr. Hoar's return:—

"The position of Massachusetts seems to me to be better for Mr. Hoar's visit to South Carolina in this point, that one illusion is dispelled. Massachusetts was dishonored before, but she was credulous in the protection of the Constitution, and either did not believe, or affected not to believe in that she was dishonored. Now all doubt on that subject is removed, and every Carolina boy will not fail to tell every Massachusetts boy whenever they meet how the fact stands. The Boston merchants would willingly salve the matter over, but they cannot hereafter receive Southern gentlemen at their tables without a consciousness of shame."

Page 192, note 1. Apparently from Vattel, book i., ch. i., p. 79.

Page 201, note 1.

But there was chaff within the flour,
And one was false in ten,
And reckless clerks in lust of power
Forgot the rights of men;
Cruel and blind did file their mind,
And sell the blood of human kind.
Your town is full of gentle names
By patriots once were watchwords made;
Those war-cry names are muffled shames
On recreant sons mislaid.
Page  585
What slave shall dare a name to wear
Once Freedom's passport everywhere?

See note to poem "Boston."

Mr. Charles Francis Adams's Life of Richard H. Dana gives light on the phrase used in the first of these verses. The following passage is from Mr. Dana's journal during the trial of Anthony Burns, the fugitive:—

"Choate, I had an amusing interview with. I asked him to make one effort in favor of freedom, and told him that the 1850 delusion was dispelled and all men were coming round, the Board of Brokers and Board of Aldermen were talking treason, and that he must come and act. He said he should be glad to make an effort on our side, but that he had given written opinions against us in the Sims case on every point, and that he could not go against them.

"'You corrupted your mind in 1850.'

"'Yes. Filed my mind.'

"'I wish you would file it in court for our benefit.'"

Shakspeare said,—

"For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind."

Page 202, note 1. Mr. F. B. Sanborn, in his Life of Thoreau, says that Webster gave, as a reason for not visiting Concord in his later years, that "Many of those whom I so highly esteemed in your beautiful and quiet village have become a good deal estranged, to my great grief, by abolitionism, free-soilism, transcendentalism and other notions which I cannot but regard as so many vagaries of the imagination."

Page 204, note 1.

Or who, with accent bolder,
Dare praise the freedom-loving mountaineer?
Page  586 I found by thee, O rushing Contoocook!
And in thy valleys, Agiochook!
The jackals of the negro-holder.
Virtue palters; Right is hence;
Freedom praised, but hid;
Funeral eloquence
Rattles the coffin-lid.

Poems, "Ode," inscribed to W. H. Channing.

See also what is said of "the treachery of scholars" in the last pages of "The Man of Letters," Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 209, note 1. This appeal for a general movement in the free states to free the slaves and to recompense the planters, unhappily brought up to the institution, for their loss, was so much better in an anti-slavery address in New York, in 1855, than in the Concord speech four years earlier, that I have substituted the later version here. In Mr. Cabot's Memoir, pp. 558-593, a portion of the New York speech, including this paragraph, is given.


Writing to his friend Carlyle on March 11, 1854, Mr. Emerson said:—

"One good word closed your letter in September … namely, that you might come westward when Frederic was disposed of. Speed Frederic, then, for all reasons and for this! America is growing furiously, town and state; new Kansas, new Nebraska looming up in these days, vicious politicians Page  587 seething a wretched destiny for them already at Washington. The politicians shall be sodden, the States escape, please God! The fight of slave and freeman drawing nearer, the question is sharply, whether slavery or whether freedom shall be abolished. Come and see."

Four days before thus writing, he had given this address, to a fairly large audience, in the "Tabernacle" in New York City, for, however dark the horizon looked, the very success of the slave power was working its ruin. Encouraged by the submission of the North to the passage of the evil law to pacify them, they had resolved to repeal the Missouri Compromise, which confined slavery to a certain latitude. It was repealed within a few days of the time Mr. Emerson made this address. During the debate, Charles Sumner said to Douglas, "Sir, the bill you are about to pass is at once the worst and the best on which Congress has ever acted. … It is the worst bill because it is a present victory for slavery. … Sir, it is the best bill on which Congress has ever acted, for it annuls all past compromises with slavery and makes any future compromises impossible. Thus it puts Freedom and Slavery face to face and bids them grapple. Who can doubt the result?" The rendition to slavery of Anthony Burns from Boston in May wrought a great change in public feeling there. Even the commercial element in the North felt the shame.

Though not a worker in the anti-slavery organization, Mr. Emerson had always been the outspoken friend of freedom for the negroes. Witness his tribute in 1837 to Elijah Lovejoy, the martyr in their cause (see "Heroism," Essays, First Series, p. 262, and note). But the narrow and uncharitable speech and demeanor of many "philanthropists" led him to such reproofs as the one quoted by Dr. Bartol, "Let them first be anthropic," or that in "Self-Reliance" to the angry Page  588 bigot: "Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper; be good-natured and modest; have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off."

But now the foe was at the very gate. The duty to resist was instant and commanding. Mr. Emerson wrote in his journal, soon after:—

"Why do we not say, We are abolitionists of the most absolute abolition, as every man that is a man must be? … We do not try to alter your laws in Alabama, nor yours in Japan, or in the Feejee Islands; but we do not admit them, or permit a trace of them here. Nor shall we suffer you to carry your Thuggism, north, south, east or west into a single rod of territory which we control. We intend to set and keep a cordon sanitaire all around the infected district, and by no means suffer the pestilence to spread.

"It is impossible to be a gentleman, and not be an abolitionist, for a gentleman is one who is fulfilled with all nobleness, and imparts it; is the natural defender and raiser of the weak and oppressed."

With Mr. Emerson's indignation at Webster's fall was mingled great sorrow. From his youth he had admired and revered him. The verses about him printed in the Appendix to the Poems show the change of feeling. He used to quote Browning's "Lost Leader" as applying to him, and admired Whittier's fine poem "Ichabod" ("The glory is departed," I. Samuel, iv., 21, 22) on his apostasy.

Mr. Emerson's faithfulness to his sense of duty, leading him, against his native instincts, into the turmoil of politics, striving to undo the mischief that a leader once revered had wrought in the minds of Americans, is shown in the extract from his journal with regard to this lecture:—

Page  589 "At New York Tabernacle, on the 7th March, I saw the great audience with dismay, and told the bragging secretary that I was most thankful to those that staid at home; every auditor was a new affliction, and if all had staid away, by rain or preoccupation, I had been best pleased."

Page 217, note 1. In Lectures and Biographical Sketches, in the essay on Aristocracy, and also in that on The Man of Letters, the duty of loyalty to his thought and his order is urged as a trait of the gentleman and the scholar, and in the latter essay, the scholar's duty to stand for what is generous and free.

Page 219, note 1. Mr. Emerson in his early youth did come near slavery for a short time. His diary at St. Augustine, quoted by Mr. Cabot in his Memoir, mentions that, while he was attending a meeting of the Bible Society, a slave-auction was going on outside, but it does not appear that he actually saw it.

Page 221, note 1. Carlyle described Webster as "a magnificent specimen. … As a Logic-fencer, Advocate, or Parliamentary Hercules, one would incline to back him at first sight against all the extant world. The tanned complexion, that amorphous, crag-like face, the dull black eyes under their precipice of brows, like dull anthracite furnaces needing only to be blown, the mastiff-mouth, accurately closed:—I have not traced as much of silent Berserkir-rage, that I remember of, in any other man."1

Page 225, note 1. Mr. James S. Gibbons (of the New York Tribune) in a letter written to his son two days after this speech was delivered, says, referring evidently to this passage:—

"Emerson gave us a fine lecture on Webster. He made Page  590 him stand before us in the proportions of a giant; and then with one word crushed him to powder."

Page 226, note 1. Professor John H. Wright of Harvard University has kindly furnished me with the passage from Dio Cassius, xlvii. 49, where it is said of Brutus:—  [ gap:  ]  —which he renders, "He cried out this sentiment of Heracles, 'O wretched Virtue, after all, thou art a name, but I cherished thee as a fact. Fortune's slave wast thou;' and called upon one of those with him to slay him."

Professor Wright adds that Theodorus Prodromus, a Byzantine poet of the twelfth century, said, "What Brutus says (O Virtue, etc.) I pronounce to be ignoble and unworthy of Brutus's soul." It seems very doubtful whence the Greek verses came.

Page 233, note 1. Just ten years earlier, Hon. Samuel Hoar, the Commissioner of Massachusetts, sent to Charleston, South Carolina, in the interests of our colored citizens there constantly imprisoned and ill used, had been expelled from that state with a show of force. See Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 234, note 1. The sending back of Onesimus by Paul was a precedent precious in the eyes of pro-slavery preachers, North and South, in those days, ignoring, however, Paul's message, "Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself."1

Page  591

Page 235, note 1. The hydrostatic paradox has been before alluded to as one of Mr. Emerson's favorite symbols, the balancing of the ocean by a few drops of water. In many places he dwells on the power of minorities—a minority of one. In "Character" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches) he says, "There was a time when Christianity existed in one child." For the value and duty of minorities, see Conduct of Life, pp. 249 ff., Letters and Social Aims, pp. 219, 220.

Page 236, note 1. This was a saying of Mahomet. What follows, with regard to the divine sentiments always soliciting us, is thus rendered in "My Garden:"

Ever the words of the gods resound;
But the porches of man's ear
Seldom in this low life's round
Are unsealed, that he may hear.

Page 236, note 2. This is the important key to the essay on Self-Reliance.

Page 238, note 1. In the "Sovereignty of Ethics" Mr. Emerson quotes an Oriental poet describing the Golden Age as saying that God had made justice so dear to the heart of Nature that, if any injustice lurked anywhere under the sky, the blue vault would shrivel to a snake-skin, and cast it out by spasms.

Page 240, note 1. There seems to be some break in the construction here probably due to the imperfect adjustment of lecture-sheets. It would seem that the passage should read: "Liberty is never cheap. It is made difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man—the finished man; earning and bestowing good;" etc.

Page 241, note 1. See Lectures and Biographical Sketches, pp. 246 and 251.

Page  592

Page 242, note 1. The occasion alluded to was Hon. Robert C. Winthrop's speech to the alumni of Harvard College on Commencement Day in 1852. What follows is not an abstract, but Mr. Emerson's rendering of the spirit of his address.


One evening in May, Judge Hoar came to Mr. Emerson's house, evidently deeply stirred, and told in a few words the startling news that the great Senator from Massachusetts had been struck down at his desk by a Representative from South Carolina, and was dangerously hurt. The news was heard with indignant grief in Concord, and a public meeting was held four days later in which Mr. Emerson and others gave vent to this feeling.

Among Mr. Emerson's papers are the fragmentary notes on Sumner, given below, without indication as to when they were used.


Clean, self-poised, great-hearted man, noble in person, incorruptible in life, the friend of the poor, the champion of the oppressed.

Of course Congress must draw from every part of the country swarms of individuals eager only for private interests, who could not love his stern justice. But if they gave him no high employment, he made low work high by the dignity of honesty and truth. But men cannot long do without faculty Page  593 and perseverance, and he rose, step by step, to the mastery of all affairs intrusted to him, and by those lights and upliftings with which the spirit that makes the Universe rewards labor and brave truth. He became learned, and adequate to the highest questions, and the counsellor of every correction of old errors, and of every noble reform. How nobly he bore himself in disastrous times. Every reform he led or assisted. In the shock of the war his patriotism never failed. A man of varied learning and accomplishments.

He held that every man is to be judged by the horizon of his mind, and Fame he defined as the shadow of excellence, but that which follows him, not which he follows after.

Tragic character, like Algernon Sydney, man of conscience and courage, but without humor. Fear did not exist for him. In his mind the American idea is no crab, but a man incessantly advancing, as the shadow of the dial or the heavenly body that casts it. The American idea is emancipation, to abolish kingcraft, feudalism, black-letter monopoly, it pulls down the gallows, explodes priestcraft, opens the doors of the sea to all emigrants, extemporizes government in new country.

Sumner has been collecting his works. They will be the history of the Republic for the last twenty-five years, as told by a brave, perfectly honest and well instructed man, with social culture and relation to all eminent persons. Diligent and able workman, with rare ability, without genius, without humor, but with persevering study, wide reading, excellent memory, high stand of honor (and pure devotion to his country), disdaining any bribe, any compliances, and incapable of falsehood. His singular advantages of person, of manners, and a statesman's conversation impress every one favorably. He has the foible of most public men, the egotism which seems Page  594 almost unavoidable at Washington. I sat in his room once at Washington whilst he wrote a weary procession of letters,—he writing without pause as fast as if he were copying. He outshines all his mates in historical conversation, and is so public in his regards that he cannot be relied on to push an office-seeker, so that he is no favorite with politicians. But wherever I have met with a dear lover of the country and its moral interests, he is sure to be a supporter of Sumner.

It characterizes a man for me that he hates Charles Sumner: for it shows that he cannot discriminate between a foible and a vice. Sumner's moral instinct and character are so exceptionally pure that he must have perpetual magnetism for honest men; his ability and working energy such, that every good friend of the Republic must stand by him. Those who come near him and are offended by his egotism, or his foible (if you please) of using classic quotations, or other bad tastes, easily forgive these whims, if themselves are good, or magnify them into disgust, if they themselves are incapable of his virtue.

And when he read one night in Concord a lecture on Lafayette we felt that of all Americans he was best entitled by his own character and fortunes to read that eulogy.

Every Pericles must have his Cleon: Sumner had his adversaries, his wasps and back-biters. We almost wished that he had not stooped to answer them. But he condescended to give them truth and patriotism, without asking whether they could appreciate the instruction or not.

A man of such truth that he can be truly described: he needs no exaggerated praise. Not a man of extraordinary genius, but a man of great heart, of a perpetual youth, with the highest sense of honor, incapable of any fraud, little or large; loving his friend and loving his country, with perfect steadiness to his purpose, shunning no labor that his aim Page  595 required, and his works justified him by their scope and thoroughness.

He had good masters, who quickly found that they had a good scholar. He read law with Judge Story, who was at the head of the Law School at Harvard University, and who speedily discovered the value of his pupil, and called him to his assistance in the Law School. He had a great talent for labor, and spared no time and no research to make himself master of his subject. His treatment of every question was faithful and exhaustive, and marked always by the noble sentiment.

Page 252, note 1. With this message of comfort to Sumner, struck down for his defence of Liberty, may be contrasted what is said of Webster when he abandoned her cause:—

"Those to whom his name was once dear and honored, as the manly statesman to whom the choicest gifts of Nature had been accorded, disown him: … he who was their pride in the woods and mountains of New England is now their mortification,—they have torn his picture from the wall, they have thrust his speeches into the chimney," etc.—"Address on the Fugitive Slave Law," at Concord, 1851.


By an act of Congress, passed in May, 1854, the territories of Kansas and Nebraska were organized, and in a section of that act it was declared that the Constitution and all the laws of the United States should be in force in these territories, except the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820, which was Page  596 declared inoperative and void. The act thereby repealed had confined slavery to the region of the Louisiana Purchase south of latitude 36°, 30′ North. Foreseeing the probable success of this measure to increase the area of slavery, Emigrant Aid Societies had been formed in Massachusetts first, and later, in Connecticut, which assisted Northern emigrants to the settlement of this fertile region. Settlers from the Northwestern States also poured in, and also from Missouri, the latter bringing slaves with them. A fierce struggle, lasting for some years and attended with bloodshed and barbarities, began at once, hordes of armed men from the border state of Missouri constantly voting at Kansas elections and intimidating the free state settlers, and even driving parties of immigrants out of the state. Franklin Pierce was then President, and threw the influence and power of the administration on the side of the pro-slavery party in Kansas. Despairing of redress from Washington, the settlers from the free states appealed in their distress to their friends at home, and sent Mr. Whitman, Rev. Mr. Nute, and later, John Brown, to make known to them their wrongs, and ask moral and material aid, especially arms to defend their rights, and reinforcements of brave settlers. Meetings were held, not only in the cities, but in the country towns, and, certainly in the latter, were well attended by earnest people who gave, a few from their wealth, but many from their poverty, large sums to help "bleeding Kansas." In response to the petitions of the friends of Freedom, who urged the Legislature of Massachusetts to come to the rescue, a joint committee was appointed by the General Court to consider the petitions for a state appropriation of ten thousand dollars to protect the interests of the North and the rights of her citizens in Kansas, should they be again invaded by Southern marauders. John Brown addressed this committee Page  597 in February, 1856. He made a clear and startling statement of the outrages he had witnessed and the brave struggles of the settlers, and told of the murder and imprisonment and maltreatment of his sons, seven of whom were in Kansas with him during the struggle.1

Mr. Emerson always attended the meetings in aid of Kansas in Concord, gave liberally to the cause, and spoke there and elsewhere when called upon.

Page 263, note 1. George Bancroft, the historian, said of the conclusion of this speech:—

"Emerson as clearly as any one, perhaps more clearly than any one at the time, saw the enormous dangers that were gathering over the Constitution. … It would certainly be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find any speech made in the same year that is marked with so much courage and foresight as this of Emerson. … Even after the inauguration of Lincoln several months passed away before his Secretary of State or he himself saw the future so clearly as Emerson had foreshadowed it in 1856."2

Page  598


Mr. F. B. Sanborn, in his Familiar Letters of Thoreau, says that he introduced John Brown to Thoreau in March, 1857, and Thoreau introduced him to Emerson. This was at the time when Brown came on to awaken the people of Massachusetts to the outrages which the settlers and their families were suffering, and procure aid for them. His clear-cut face, smooth-shaven and bronzed, his firmly shut mouth and mild but steady blue eyes, gave him the appearance of the best type of old New England farmers; indeed he might well have passed for a rustic brother of Squire Hoar. Mr. Emerson was at once interested in him and the story of the gallant fight that the Free-State men in Kansas were making, though Brown was very modest about his own part and leadership. Indeed he claimed only to be a fellow worker and adviser. I think that soon after this time, on one of his visits to Concord, he stayed at Mr. Emerson's house; certainly he spent the evening there. The last time he came to Concord he was a changed man; all the pleasant look was gone. His gray hair, longer and brushed upright, his great gray beard and the sharpening of his features by exposure and rude experiences gave him a wild, fierce expression. His speech in the Town Hall was excited, and when he drew a huge sheath-knife from under his coat and showed it as a symbol of Missouri civilization, and last drew from his bosom a horse-chain and clanked it in air, telling that his son had been bound with this and led bareheaded under a burning sun beside their horses, by United States dragoons, and in the mania brought on by this inhuman treatment had worn the rusty chain bright,—the old man Page  599 recalled the fierce Balfour of Burley in Scott's Old Mortality. It was a startling sight and sent a thrill through his hearers. Yet on earlier occasions his speech had been really more effective, when a quiet farmer of mature years, evidently self-contained, intelligent, truthful and humane, simply told in New England towns what was going on in Kansas, the outrages committed upon the settlers, the violation of their elementary rights under the Constitution,—and all this connived at by the general government. He opened the eyes of his hearers, even against their wills, to the alarming pass into which the slave power had brought the affairs of the country.

But now wrong and outrage, not only on others but terribly suffered in his own family, had made Brown feel that not he but "Slavery was an outlaw" against which he "held a commission direct from God Almighty" to act. A friend quoted him as having said, "The loss of my family and the troubles in Kansas have shattered my constitution, and I am nothing to the world but to defend the right, and that, by God's help, I have done and will do."

The people were not ready to follow him in revolutionary measures, but when on his own responsibility he had precipitated the inevitable conflict by breaking with a government, then so unrighteous, and offered his life as a sacrifice for humanity, they could not but do homage to him as a hero, who was technically a traitor. He had cut the Gordian knot which they had suffered to be tied tighter.

Of course Mr. Emerson had known nothing of John Brown's plan for a raid into the slave states. It was the motive and courage he honored, not the means. He wrote: "I wish we should have health enough to know virtue when we see it, and not cry with the fools and the newspapers, 'Madman!' when a hero passes."

Page  600 On the first day of November, John Brown had been sentenced to death. This meeting in Boston, to give aid to his family, was held on the eighteenth, just two weeks before his execution.

The verses which serve as motto are from Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman's poem written at the time, which Mr. Emerson used to read aloud to his family and friends with much pleasure.

Page 269, note 1. "This court acknowledges, I suppose, the validity of the Law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or, at least, the New Testament. That teaches me that all things 'whatsoever I would that men should do unto me, I should do even so to them.' It teaches me further to 'remember them which are in bonds as bound with them.' I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted that I have done, in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments—I submit: so let it be done." From the Speech of John Brown to the Court.

Page 270, note 1. Among the sheets of the lecture "Courage" is one which seems to have been used at that time:—

"Governor Wise and Mr. Mason no doubt have some right to their places. It is some superiority of working brain that put them there, and the aristocrats in every society. But Page  601 when they come to deal with Brown, they find that he speaks their own speech,—has whatever courage and directness they have, and a great deal more of the same; so that they feel themselves timorous little fellows in his hand; he outsees, out-thinks, outacts them, and they are forced to shuffle and stammer in their turn.

"They painfully feel this, that he is their governor and superior, and the only alternative is to kneel to him if they are truly noble, or else (if they wish to keep their places), to put this fact which they know, out of sight of other people, as fast as they can. Quick, drums and trumpets strike up! Quick, judges and juries, silence him, by sentence and execution of sentence, and hide in the ground this alarming fact. For, if everything comes to its right place, he goes up, and we down."

Page 271, note 1. Commodore Hiram Paulding, in 1857, had broken up Walker's filibustering expedition at Nicaragua. The arrest of Walker on foreign soil the government did not think it wise wholly to approve.

Page 272, note 1. The allusion is to the trials of the fugitives Shadrach, Sims and Burns in Boston. The story of these humiliations is told in full and in a most interesting manner in the diary of Richard H. Dana,1 whose zeal in the cause of these poor men did him great honor.

During the trial of Sims, a chain was put up, as a barrier against the crowd, around the United States Court-House, and Page  602 the stooping of the judges to creep under this chain in order to enter the court-house was considered symbolic of their abject attitude towards the aggressive slave power.


The second of December, on which day John Brown was executed at Charlestown, Virginia, was bright in that State, but in New England was of a strange sultriness with a wind from the south and a lowering sky. At noon, the hour appointed for his death, in Concord (as in many New England towns) the men and women who honored his character and motives gathered and made solemn observance of a day and event which seemed laden with omens. There was a prayer, I think offered by the Rev. Edmund Sears of Wayland,1 Mr. Emerson read William Allingham's beautiful poem "The Touchstone" which is used as the motto to this speech, Thoreau read with said bitterness Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Soule's Errand." Hon. John S. Keyes read some appropriate verses from Aytoun's "Execution of Montrose" and Mr. Sanborn a poem which he had written for the occasion.

Page 279, note 1. Here, as often in Mr. Emerson's speech Page  603 and writing, is shown his respect for the old religion of New England and its effect on the thought and character of her people. As Lowell said of them in his Concord Ode in 1875:—

"And yet the enduring half they chose,

Whose choice decides a man life's slave or king,

The invisible things of God before the seen and known."

Page 279, note 2. I well remember the evening, in my school-boy days, when John Brown, in my father's house, told of his experiences as a sheep-farmer, and his eye for animals and power over them. He said he knew at once a strange sheep in his flock of many hundred, and that he could always make a dog or cat so uncomfortable as to wish to leave the room, simply by fixing his eyes on it.

Page 281, note 1. "Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always right; and although a different breeding, different religion and greater intellectual activity would have modified or even reversed the particular action, yet, for the hero, that thing he does is the highest deed, and is not open to the censure of philosophers and divines."—"Heroism," Essays, First Series.

"I can leave to God the time and means of my death, for I believe now that the sealing of my testimony before God and man with my blood will do far more to further the cause to which I have earnestly devoted myself than anything else I have done in my life."—Letter of John Brown to a friend.

Page  604


Theodore Parker, worn by his great work in defence of liberal religion and in every cause of suffering humanity, had succumbed to disease and died in Florence in May, 1860, not quite fifty years of age. Born in the neighbor town of Lexington when Emerson was seven years old, they had been friends probably from the time when the latter, soon after settling in Concord, preached for the society at East Lexington, from 1836 for two years. Parker was, during this period, studying divinity, and was settled as pastor of the West Roxbury church in 1837. In that year he is mentioned by Mr. Alcott as a member of the Transcendental Club and attending its meetings in Boston. When, in June, 1838, Mr. Emerson fluttered the conservative and the timid by his Divinity School Address, the young Parker went home and wrote, "It was the most inspiring strain I ever listened to. … My soul is roused, and this week I shall write the long-meditated sermons on the state of the church and the duties of these times."

Mr. Parker was one of those who attended the gathering in Boston which gave birth to the Dial, to which he was a strong contributor. Three years after its death, he, with the help of Mr. James Elliot Cabot and Mr. Emerson, founded the Massachusetts Quarterly Review, vigorous though short-lived, of which he was the editor. Parker frequently visited Emerson, and the two, unlike in their method, worked best apart in the same great causes. Rev. William Gannett says, "What Emerson uttered without plot or plan, Theodore Page  605 Parker elaborated to a system. Parker was the Paul of transcendentalism."

Mr. Edwin D. Mead, in his chapter on Emerson and Theodore Parker,1 gives the following pleasant anecdote:—

"At one of Emerson's lectures in Boston, when the storm against Parker was fiercest, a lecture at which a score of the religious and literary leaders of the city were present, Emerson, as he laid his manuscript upon the desk and looked over the audience, after his wont, observed Parker; and immediately he stepped from the platform to the seat near the front where Parker sat, grasping his hand and standing for a moment's conversation with him. It was not ostentation, and it was not patronage: it was admiring friendship,—and that fortification and stimulus Parker in those times never failed to feel. It was Emerson who fed his lamp, he said; and Emerson said that, be the lamp fed as it might, it was Parker whom the time to come would have to thank for finding the light burning."

Parker dedicated to Emerson his Ten Sermons on Religion. In acknowledging this tribute, Mr. Emerson thus paid tribute to Parker's brave service:—

"We shall all thank the right soldier whom God gave strength to fight for him the battle of the day."

When Mr. Parker's failing forces made it necessary for him to drop his arduous work and go abroad for rest, Mr. Emerson was frequently called to take his place in the Music Hall on Sundays. I think that this was the only pulpit he went into to conduct Sunday services after 1838.

It is told that Parker, sitting, on Sunday morning, on the deck of the vessel that was bearing him away, never to return. Page  606 smiled and said: "Emerson is preaching at Music Hall to-day."

Page 286, note 1. Mr. Emerson wrote in his journal:—

"The Duc de Brancas said, 'Why need I read the Encyclopédie? Rivarol visits me.' I may well say it of Theodore Parker."

Page 290, note 1. Richard H. Dana wrote in his diary, November 3, 1852:—

"It is now ten days since Webster's death. … Strange that the best commendation that has appeared yet, the most touching, elevated, meaning eulogy, with all its censure, should have come from Theodore Parker! Were I Daniel Webster, I would not have that sermon destroyed for all that had been said in my favor as yet."

Page 293, note 1. I copy from Mr. Emerson's journal at the time of Mr. Parker's death these sentences which precede some of those included in this address:—

"Theodore Parker has filled up all his years and days and hours. A son of the energy of New England; restless, eager, manly, brave, early old, contumacious, clever. I can well praise him at a spectator's distance, for our minds and methods were unlike,—few people more unlike. All the virtues are solitaires. Each man is related to persons who are not related to each other, and I saw with pleasure that men whom I could not approach, were drawn through him to the admiration of that which I admire."

Page  607


On January 31, 1862, Mr. Emerson lectured at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington on American Civilization. Just after the outbreak of war in the April preceding, he had given a lecture, in a course in Boston on Life and Literature, which he called "Civilization at a Pinch," the title suggesting how it had been modified by the crisis which had suddenly come to pass. In the course of the year the flocking of slaves to the Union camps, and the opening vista of a long and bitter struggle, with slavery now acknowledged as its root, had brought the question of Emancipation as a war-measure to the front. Of course Mr. Emerson saw hope in this situation of affairs, and when he went to Washington with the chance of being heard by men in power there, he prepared himself to urge the measure, as well on grounds of policy as of right. So the Boston lecture was much expanded to deal with the need of the hour. There is no evidence that President Lincoln heard it; it is probable that he did not; nor is it true that Mr. Emerson had a long and earnest conversation with him on the subject next day, both of which assertions have been made in print. Mr. Emerson made an unusual record in his journal of the incidents of his stay in Washington, and though he tells of his introduction to Mr. Lincoln and a short chat with him, evidently there was little opportunity for serious conversation. The President's secretaries had, in 1886, no memory of his having attended the lecture, and the Washington papers do not mention his presence there. The following notice of the lecture, however, appeared in one of the local papers: "The Page  608 audience received it, as they have the other anti-slavery lectures of the course, with unbounded enthusiasm. It was in many respects a wonderful lecture, and those who have often heard Mr. Emerson said that he seemed inspired through nearly the whole of it, especially the part referring to slavery and the war."

A gentleman in Washington, who took the trouble to look up the question as to whether Mr. Lincoln and other high officials heard it, says that Mr. Lincoln could hardly have attended lectures then:—

"He was very busy at the time, Stanton the new war secretary having just come in, and storming like a fury at the business of his department. The great operations of the war for the time overshadowed all the other events. … It is worth remarking that Mr. Emerson in this lecture clearly foreshadowed the policy of Emancipation some six or eight months in advance of Mr. Lincoln. He saw the logic of events leading up to a crisis in our affairs, to 'emancipation as a platform with compensation to the loyal owners' (his words as reported in the Star). The notice states that the lecture was very fully attended."

Very possibly it may be with regard to this address that we have the interesting account given of the effect of Mr. Emerson's speaking on a well-known English author. Dr. Garnett, in his Life of Emerson, says:—

"A shrewd judge, Anthony Trollope, was particularly struck with the note of sincerity in Emerson when he heard him address a large meeting during the Civil War. Not only was the speaker terse, perspicuous, and practical to a degree amazing to Mr. Trollope's preconceived notions, but he commanded his hearers' respect by the frankness of his dealing with them. 'You make much of the American eagle,' he Page  609 said, 'you do well. But beware of the American peacock.' When shortly afterwards Mr. Trollope heard the consummate rhetorician,  [ gap: 1 word ]  [ gap: 1 word ]  he discerned at once that oratory was an end with him, instead of, as with Emerson, a means. He was neither bold nor honest, as Emerson had been, and the people knew that while pretending to lead them he was led by them."

Mr. Emerson revised the lecture and printed it in the Atlantic Monthly for April, 1862. It was afterwards separated into the essay "Civilization," treating of the general and permanent aspects of the subject (printed in Society and Solitude), and this urgent appeal for the instant need.

The few lines inspired by the Flag are from one of the verse-books.

Page 298, note 1. Mr. Emerson himself was by no means free from pecuniary anxieties and cares in those days.

Journal, 1862. "Poverty, sickness, a lawsuit, even bad, dark weather, spoil a great many days of the scholar's year, hinder him of the frolic freedom necessary to spontaneous flow of thought."

Page 300, note 1. This was during the days of apparent inaction when, after the first reverses or minor successes of the raw Northern armies, the magnitude of the task before them and the energy of their opponents was realized, and recruiting, fortification, organization was going on in earnest in preparation for the spring campaign. General Scott had resigned; General McClellan was doing his admirable work of creating a fit army, and Secretary Cameron had been succeeded by the energetic and impatient Stanton. But the government was still very shy of meddling with slavery for fear of disaffecting the War Democrats and especially the Border States.

Page  610

Page 307, note 1. A short time before this address was delivered Mr. Moncure D. Conway (a young Virginian, who, for conscience' sake, had left his charge as a Methodist preacher and had abandoned his inheritance in slaves, losing in so doing the good will of his parents, and become a Unitarian minister and an abolitionist) had read in Concord an admirable and eloquent lecture called "The Rejected Stone." This stone, slighted by the founders, although they knew it to be a source of danger, had now "become the head of the corner," and its continuance in the national structure threatened its stability. Mr. Emerson had been much struck with the excellence and cogency of Mr. Conway's arguments, based on his knowledge of Southern economics and character, and in this lecture made free use of them.

Page 308, note 1. Mason and Slidell, the emissaries sent by the Confederacy to excite sympathy in its cause in Europe, had been taken off an English vessel at the Bermudas by Commodore Wilkes, and were confined in Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. President Lincoln's action in surrendering them at England's demand had been a surprise to the country, but was well received.

Page 309, note 1. From the Veeshnoo Sarma.

Page 309, note 2. See in the address on Theodore Parker the passage commending him for insisting "that the essence of Christianity is its practical morals; it is there for use or nothing," etc.

Page 311, note 1. In the agitation concerning the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, gradual emancipation was at first planned, as more reasonable and politic, but, in the end, not only the reformers but the planters came in most cases to see that immediate emancipation was wiser.

Page  611


On the 22d of September, President Lincoln at last spoke the word so long earnestly desired by the friends of Freedom and the victims of slavery, abolishing slavery on the first day of the coming year in those states which should then be in rebellion against the United States.

At a meeting held in Boston in honor of this auspicious utterance, Mr. Emerson spoke, with others.

The address was printed in its present form in the Atlantic Monthly for November, 1862.

Page 316, note 1. It may be interesting in this connection to recall the quiet joy with which Mr. Emerson in his poem "The Adirondacs" celebrates man's victory over matter, and its promise to human brotherhood, when the Atlantic Cable was supposed to be a success in 1858.

Page 320, note 1. Milton, "Comus."

Page 321, note 1. It is pleasant to contrast this passage with the tone of sad humiliation which prevails in the address on the Fugitive Slave Law given in Concord in 1851.

Page 324, note 1. See the insulting recognition of this disgraceful attitude of the North by John Randolph, quoted by Mr. Emerson in his speech on the Fugitive Slave Law in Concord in 1851.

Page 326, note 1. Shakspeare, Sonnet cvii.

Page 326, note 2. The tragedy of the negro is tenderly told in the poem "Voluntaries," which was written just Page  612 after they had gallantly stood the test of battle in the desperate attack on Fort Wagner.

On the first day of the year 1863, when Emancipation became a fact throughout the United States, a joyful meeting was held in Boston, and there Mr. Emerson read his "Boston Hymn."


In the year 1865, the people of Concord gathered on the Nineteenth of April, as had been their wont for ninety years, but this time not to celebrate the grasping by the town of its great opportunity for freedom and fame. The people came together in the old meeting-house to mourn for their wise and good Chief Magistrate, murdered when he had triumphantly finished the great work which fell to his lot. Mr. Emerson, with others of his townsmen, spoke.

Page 331, note 1. On the occasion of his visit to Washington in January, 1862, Mr. Emerson had been taken to the White House by Mr. Sumner and introduced to the President. Mr. Lincoln's first remark was, "Mr. Emerson, I once heard you say in a lecture that a Kentuckian seems to say by his air and manners, 'Here am I; if you don't like me, the worse for you.'"

The interview with Mr. Lincoln was necessarily short, but he left an agreeable impression on Mr. Emerson's mind. The full account of this visit is printed in the Atlantic Monthly for July, 1904, and will be included among the selections from the journals which will be later published.

Page  613

Page 332, note 1. Mr. Emerson's poem, "The Visit," shows how terrible the devastation of the day of a public man would have seemed to him.

Page 336, note 1. The brave retraction by Thomas Taylor of the hostile ridicule which Punch had poured on Lincoln in earlier days contained these verses:—

"Beside this corpse, that bears for winding-sheet
The Stars and Stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?
"Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen;—
To make me own this hind of princes peer,
This rail-splitter a true-born king of men."

The whole poem is included in Mr. Emerson's collection Parnassus.

Page 337, note 1. This thought is rendered more fully in the poem "Spiritual Laws," and in the lines in "Worship,"—

This is he men miscall Fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late,
But ever coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrong-doers down.

Page 338, note 1. The following letter was written by Mr. Emerson in November, 1863, to his friend, Mr. George P. Bradford, who, as Mr. Cabot says, came nearer to being a "crony" than any of the others:—


DEAR GEORGE, —I hope you do not need to be reminded Page  614 that we rely on you at 2 o'clock on Thanksgiving Day. Bring all the climate and all the memories of Newport with you. Mr. Lincoln in fixing this day has in some sort bound himself to furnish good news and victories for it. If not, we must comfort each other with the good which already is, and with that which must be.

Yours affectionately, R. W. EMERSON.

A year later, he wrote to the same friend:—

I give you joy of the Election. Seldom in history was so much staked on a popular vote—I suppose never in history.

One hears everywhere anecdotes of late, very late, remorse overtaking the hardened sinners and just saving them from final reprobation."

Journal, 1864-65. "Why talk of President Lincoln's equality of manners to the elegant or titled men with whom Everett or others saw him? A sincerely upright and intelligent man as he was, placed in the chair, has no need to think of his manners or appearance. His work day by day educates him rapidly and to the best. He exerts the enormous power of this continent in every hour, in every conversation, in every act;—thinks and decides under this pressure, forced to see the vast and various bearings of the measures he adopts: he cannot palter, he cannot but carry a grace beyond his own, a dignity, by means of what he drops, e. g., all pretension and trick, and arrives, of course, at a simplicity, which is the perfection of manners."

Page  615


It was a proud and sad, and yet a joyful day, when Harvard welcomed back those of her sons who had survived the war. All who could come were there, from boys to middle-aged men, from private soldier to general, some strong and brown, and others worn and sick and maimed, but all on that day proud and happy. The names of the ninety-three of Harvard's sons who had fallen in the war were inscribed on six tablets and placed where all could see.

In the church, where then the college exercises were held, the venerable ex-president, Dr. Walker, read the Scriptures, Rev. Phillips Brooks offered prayer, a hymn by Robert Lowell was sung, and the address was made by the Rev. George Putnam. In the afternoon the alumni, civic and military, with their guests, were marshalled by Colonel Henry Lee into a great pavilion behind Harvard Hall, where they dined. Hon. Charles G. Loring presided; Governor Andrew, General Meade, General Devens and other distinguished soldiers spoke, and poems by Dr. Holmes and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe were read. The president of the day called on Mr. Emerson as representative of the poets and scholars whose thoughts had been an inspiration to Harvard's sons in the field.

Page 344, note 1. This was the mother of Robert Gould Shaw, who lost his life a few months later, leading his dusky soldiers up the slopes of Fort Wagner. It was in his honor that Mr. Emerson wrote in the "Voluntaries,"—

Page  616
Stainless soldier on the walls,
Knowing this,—and knows no more,—
Whoever fights, whoever falls,
Justice conquers evermore,
Justice after as before,—
And he who battles on her side,
God, though he were ten times slain,
Crowns him victor glorified,
Victor over death and pain.

Page 345, note 1.

"O Beautiful! my Country! ours once more!
What words divine of lover or of poet
Could tell our love and make thee know it,
Among the Nations bright beyond compare?
What were our lives without thee?
What all our lives to save thee?
We reck not what we gave thee;
We will not dare to doubt thee,
But ask whatever else, and we will dare!"

Lowell, "Commemoration Ode.

Page  617


In 1836, the "Battle Monument" to commemorate "the First organized Resistance to British Aggression" had been erected "in Gratitude to God and Love of Freedom" on "the spot where the first of the Enemy fell in the War which gave Independence to the United States." Thirty-three years later, on the Nineteenth day of April, with its threefold patriotic memories for Concord,1 the people gathered on the village common to see their new memorial to valor. The inscription on one of its bronze tablets declared that


The inscription on the other tablet is the single sentence,—

with the forty-four names.

Hon. John S. Keyes as President of the Day opened the Page  618 ceremonies with a short address. The Rev. Grindall Reynolds made the prayer. An Ode written by Mr. George B. Bartlett was sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Hon. Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, the Chairman of the Monument Committee, read the Report, in itself an eloquent and moving speech. This was followed by Mr. Emerson's Address. Mr. F. B. Sanborn contributed a Poem, and afterwards short speeches were made by Senator George S. Boutwell, William Schouler, the efficient Adjutant-General of the State, and by Colonels Parker and Marsh respectively of the Thirty-second and Forty-seventh regiments of Massachusetts Volunteers, in which the Concord companies had served. The exercises were concluded by the reading of a poem by Mr. Sampson Mason, an aged citizen of the town.

It was a beautiful spring day. The throng was too large for the town hall, so, partly sheltered from the afternoon sun by the town elm, thickening with its brown buds, they gathered around the town-house steps, which served as platform for the speakers.

Page 351, note 1. Compare, in the Poems, the lines in "The Problem" on the adoption by Nature of man's devotional structures.

Page 352, note 1.

Great men in the Senate sate,
Sage and hero, side by side,
Building for their sons the State,
Which they shall rule with pride.
They forbore to break the chain
Which bound the dusky tribe,
Checked by the owners' fierce disdain,
Lured by "Union" as the bribe.
Page  619 Destiny sat by, and said,
'Pang for pang your seed shall pay,
Hide in false peace your coward head,
I bring round the harvest day.'

Page 353, note 1. Wordsworth's Sonnet, No. xiv., in "Poems dedicated to National Independence," part ii.

Page 355, note 1. Mr. Emerson had in mind the astonishing fertility of resource in difficulties shown by the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment in the march from Annapolis to Washington, as told by Major Theodore Winthrop in "New York Seventh Regiment. Our march to Washington." (Atlantic Monthly, June, 1861). See "Resources," Letters and Social Aims, p. 143.

Judge Hoar in his report on this occasion said, "Two names [on the tablet] recall the unutterable horrors of Andersonville, and will never suffer us to forget that our armies conquered barbarism as well as treason."

Page 356, note 1. Between 1856 and 1859 John Brown and other Free-State men, Mr. Whitman, Mr. Nute and Preacher Stewart, had told the sad story of Kansas to the Concord people and received important aid.

Page 358, note 1. This was Captain Charles E. Bowers, a shoemaker, and Mr. Emerson's next neighbor, much respected by him, whose forcible speaking at anti-slavery and Kansas aid meetings he often praised. When the war came, Mr. Bowers, though father of a large family, and near the age-limit of service, volunteered as a private in the first company, went again as an officer in the Thirty-second Massachusetts Regiment, and served with credit in the Army of the Potomac until discharged for disability.

Page 358, note 2. George L. Prescott, a lumber dealer Page  620 and farmer, later Colonel of the Thirty-second Regiment, U. S. V. He was of the same stock as Colonel William Prescott, the hero of Bunker Hill.

Judge Hoar said of him, "An only son, an only brother, a husband and a father, with no sufficient provision made for his wife and children, he had everything to make life dear and desirable, and to require others to hesitate for him, but he did not hesitate himself."

Page 361, note 1. Blaise de Montluc, a Gascon officer of remarkable valor, skill and fidelity, under Francis I. and several succeeding kings of France.

Page 365, note 1. It was well said by Judge Hoar: "His instinctive sympathies taught him from the outset, what many higher in command were so slow and so late to learn, that it is the first duty of an officer to take care of his men as much as to lead them. His character developed new and larger proportions, with new duties and larger responsibilities."

Page 366, note 1. The Buttricks were among the original settlers of Concord, and the family has given good account of itself for nearly two hundred and seventy years, and still owns the farm on the hill whence Major John led the yeomen of Middlesex down to force the passage of the North Bridge. Seven representatives of that family of sturdy democrats volunteered at the beginning of the War of the Rebellion. Two were discharged as physically unfit, but the others served in army or navy with credit, and two of them lost their lives in the service. Alden Buttrick had fought the Border Ruffians in Kansas. Humphrey, a mason by trade, but a mighty hunter, left his wife and little children at the first call, and was first sergeant of Prescott's company. Mr. Emerson omits to state that he was commissioned lieutenant in the Forty-seventh Regiment the following year. His service, especially as Page  621 captain in the Fifty-ninth Regiment, was arduous and highly creditable.

Page 368, note 1. Edward O. Shepard, who had been master of the Concord High School, afterwards a successful lawyer, had an excellent war record, and rose to be lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-second Regiment.

George Lauriat left the gold-beater's shop of Ephraim W. Bull (the producer of the Concord Grape) to go to the war in Concord's first company. Modest and brave, he became an excellent officer and returned captain and brevet-major of the Thirty-second Regiment.

Page 368, note 2. Francis Buttrick, younger brother of Humphrey, a handsome and attractive youth, had lived at Mr. Emerson's home to carry on the farm for him.

Page 375, note 1. These three were Asa, John and Samuel Melvin. Asa died of wounds received before Petersburg; both his brothers of sickness, Samuel after long suffering in the prison-pen at Andersonville. They came of an old family of hunter-farmers in Concord. Close by the wall next the street of the Old Hill Burying Ground is the stone in memory of one of their race, whose "Martial Genius early engaged him in his Country's cause under command of the valiant Captain Lovel in that hazardous Enterprise where our hero, his Commander, with many brave and valiant Men bled and died."

Page 379, note 1. The writer of this letter, a quiet, handsome school-boy the year before the war broke out, lived just across the brook behind Mr. Emerson's house. He was an excellent soldier in the Thirty-second Regiment, and reënlisted as a veteran in 1864.

Page  622


Mr. Cabot, in his Memoir, says that just before Mr. Emerson sailed for Europe in 1847, Theodore Parker, Dr. S. G. Howe and others (Mr. Cabot was one of these) met to consider whether there could not be "a new quarterly review which should be more alive than was the North American to the questions of the day." Charles Sumner and Thoreau are mentioned as having been present. Colonel Higginson says that Mr. Parker wished it to be "the Dial with a beard." It was decided that the undertaking should be made. Mr. Parker wished Mr. Emerson to be editor, but he declined. A committee was chosen—Emerson, Parker and Howe—to draft a manifesto to the public. Mr. Emerson wrote the paper here printed, but when the first number of the Review came to him in England, was annoyed at finding his name set down as one of the editors. I think that the only paper he ever wrote for it, beyond the "Address to the Public," was a notice of "Some Oxford Poetry,"—the recently published poems of John Sterling and Arthur Hugh Clough.

Theodore Parker was the real editor. During its three years of life the Massachusetts Quarterly—now hard to obtain—was a brave, independent and patriotic magazine, and, like the Dial, gives the advancing thought of the time in literary and social matters, and also in religion and politics.

Page 384, note 1. Plutarch tells that Cineas, the wise counsellor of Pyrrhus, king of the Epirots, asked his monarch when he set forth to conquer Rome what he should do afterwards. Page  623 Pyrrhus said he could then become master of Sicily. "And then?" asked Cineas. The king told of further dreams of conquest of Carthage and Libya. "But when we have conquered all that, what are we to do then?" "Why then, my friend," said Pyrrhus, laughing, "we will take our ease, and drink and be merry." Cineas, having brought him thus far, replied, "And what hinders us from drinking and taking our ease now, when we have already those things in our hands at which we propose to arrive through seas of blood, through infinite toils and dangers, innumerable calamities which we must both cause and suffer?"

Page 386, note 1. "To live without duties is obscene."—"Aristocracy," Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 389, note 1. This was shortly after the annexation of Texas, and during the successful progress of the Mexican War. The slave power, although awakening opposition by its insatiable demands, was still on the increase. Charles Sumner, though a rising statesman, had not yet entered Congress.

Page 389, note 2.

For Destiny never swerves,
Nor yields to men the helm.

"The World-Soul," Poems.


On a beautiful day in May, 1852, Louis Kossuth, the exiled governor of Hungary, who had come to this country to solicit her to interfere in European politics on behalf of his oppressed people, visited the towns of Lexington and Concord, and spoke to a large assemblage in each place.

Kossuth was met at the Lexington line by a cavalcade from Page  624 Concord, who escorted him to the village, where he received a cordial welcome. The town hall was crowded with people. The Hon. John S. Keyes presided, and Mr. Emerson made the address of welcome.

Kossuth, in his earnest appeal for American help, addressed Mr. Emerson personally in the following passages, after alluding to Concord's part in the struggle for Freedom in 1775:—

"It is strange, indeed, how every incident of the present bears the mark of a deeper meaning around me. There is meaning in the very fact that it is you, sir, by whom the representative of Hungary's ill-fated struggle is so generously welcomed … to the shrine of martyrs illumined by victory. You are wont to dive into the mysteries of truth and disclose mysteries of right to the eyes of men. Your honored name is Emerson; and Emerson was the name of a man who, a minister of the gospel, turned out with his people, on the 19th of April of eternal memory, when the alarm-bell first was rung. … I take hold of that augury, sir. Religion and Philosophy, you blessed twins,—upon you I rely with my hopes to America. Religion, the philosophy of the heart, will make the Americans generous; and philosophy, the religion of the mind, will make the Americans wise; and all that I claim is a generous wisdom and a wise generosity."

Page 398, note 1. I am unable to find the source of these lines.

Page 399, note 1. For the power of minorities, see "Progress of Culture," Letters and Social Aims, pp. 216-219, and "Considerations by the Way," Conduct of Life, pp. 248, 249.

Page  625


Perhaps the pleasantest word Mr. Emerson ever spoke about women was what he said at the end of the war: "Everybody has been wrong in his guess except good women, who never despair of an ideal right."

Mr. Emerson's habitual treatment of women showed his real feeling towards them. He held them to their ideal selves by his courtesy and honor. When they called him to come to their aid, he came. Men must not deny them any right that they desired; though he never felt that the finest women would care to assume political functions in the same way that men did.

Mr. Cabot gives in his Memoir (p. 455) a letter which Mr. Emerson wrote, five years before this speech was made, to a lady who asked him to join in a call for a Woman's Suffrage Convention. His distaste for the scheme clearly appears, and though perhaps felt in a less degree as time went on, never quite disappeared. At the end of the notes on this address is given the greater part of a short speech which he wrote many years later, but which he seems never to have delivered. Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson is reported in the Woman's Journal as having said at the New England Women's Club, May 16, 1903, that Mr. Cabot put into his Memoir what Mr. Emerson said in his early days, when he was opposed to woman's suffrage (the letter above alluded to), and "left out all those warm and cordial sentences that he wrote later in regard to it, culminating in his assertion that, whatever might be said of it as an abstract question, all his Page  626 measures would be carried sooner if women could vote." This last assertion, though not in the Memoir, Mr. Cabot printed in its place in the present address, and the only other address on the subject which is known to exist, Mr. Cabot did not print probably because Mr. Emerson never delivered it.

Page 406, note 1. This passage from the original is omitted:—

"A woman of genius said, 'I will forgive you that you do so much, and you me that I do nothing.'"

Page 411, note 1. This sentence originally ended, "And their convention should be holden in a sculpture-gallery."

Page 412, note 1. From The Angel in the House, by Coventry Patmore.

Page 413, note 1. Milton, Paradise Lost.

Because of the high triumph of Humility, his favorite virtue, Mr. Emerson, though commonly impatient of sad stories, had always a love for the story of Griselda, as told by Chaucer, alluded to below. In spite of its great length, he would not deny it a place in his collection Parnassus.

Page 413, note 2. From "Love and Humility," by Henry More (1614-87).

Page 414, note 1. These anecdotes followed in the original speech:—

"'I use the Lord of the Kaaba; what is the Kaaba to me?' said Rabia. 'I am so near to God that his word, "Whoso nears me by a span, to him come I a mile," is true for me.' A famed Mahometan theologian asked her, 'How she had lifted herself to this degree of the love of God?' She replied, 'Hereby, that all things which I had found, I have lost in him.' The other said, 'In what way or method hast thou known him?' She replied, 'O Hassan! thou knowest Page  627 him after a certain art and way, but I without art and way.' When once she was sick, three famed theologians came to her, Hassan Vasri, Malek and Balchi. Hassan said, 'He is not upright in his prayer who does not endure the blows of his Lord.' Balchi said, 'He is not upright in his prayer who does not rejoice in the blows of his Lord.' But Rabia, who in these words detected some trace of egoism, said, 'He is not upright in his prayer, who, when he beholds his Lord, forgets not that he is stricken.'"

Page 415, note 1. See "Clubs," in Society and Solitude, p. 243.

Page 417, note 1. "The Princess" is the poem alluded to. Mr. Emerson liked it, but used to say it was sad to hear it end with, Go home and mind your mending.

Page 426, note 1. The internal evidence shows that the short speech given below was written after the war. All that is important is here given. There were one or two paragraphs that essentially were the same as those of the 1855 address.

On the manuscript is written, apparently in Mr. Emerson's hand, in pencil, "Never read," and evidently in his hand, the title, thus:—

Discours Manqué WOMAN

I consider that the movement which unites us to-day is no whim, but an organic impulse,—a right and proper inquiry,—honoring to the age. And among the good signs of the times, this is of the best.

The distinctions of the mind of Woman we all recognize; their affectionate, sympathetic, religious, oracular nature; their swifter and finer perception; their taste, or love of order and Page  628 beauty, influencing or creating manners. We commonly say, Man represents Intellect; and Woman, Love. Man looks for hard truth. Woman, with her affection for goodness, benefit. Hence they are religious. In all countries and creeds the temples are filled by women, and they hold men to religious rites and moral duties. And in all countries the man—no matter how hardened a reprobate he is—likes well to have his wife a saint. It was no historic chance, but an instinct, which softened in the Middle Ages the terror of the superstitious, by gradually lifting their prayers to the Virgin Mary and so adopting the Mother of God as the efficient Intercessor. And now, when our religious traditions are so far outgrown as to require correction and reform, 't is certain that nothing can be fixed and accepted which does not commend itself to Woman.

I suppose women feel in relation to men as 't is said geniuses feel among energetic workers, that, though overlooked and thrust aside in the press, they outsee all these noisy masters: and we, in the presence of sensible women, feel overlooked, judged,—and sentenced.

They are better scholars than we at school, and the reason why they are not better than we twenty years later may be because men can turn their reading to account in the professions, and women are excluded from the professions.

These traits have always characterized women. We are a little vain of our women, as if we had invented them. I think we exaggerate the effect of Greek, Roman and even Oriental institutions on the character of woman. Superior women are rare anywhere, as superior men are. But the anecdotes of every country give like portraits of womanhood, and every country in its Roll of Honor has as many women as men. The high sentiment of women appears in the Hebrew, the Page  629 Hindoo; in Greek women in Homer, in the tragedies, and Roman women in the histories. Their distinctive traits, grace, vivacity, and surer moral sentiment, their self-sacrifice, their courage and endurance, have in every nation found respect and admiration.

Her gifts make woman the refiner and civilizer of her mate. Civilization is her work. Man is rude and bearish in colleges, in mines, in ships, because there is no woman. Let good women go passengers in the ship, and the manners at once are mended; in schools, in hospitals, in the prairie, in California, she brings the same reform. …

Her activity in putting an end to Slavery; and in serving the hospitals of the Sanitary Commission in the war, and in the labors of the Freedman's Bureau, have opened her eyes to larger rights and duties. She claims now her full rights of all kinds,—to education, to employment, to equal laws of property. Well, now in this country we are suffering much and fearing more from the abuse of the ballot and from fraudulent and purchased votes. And now, at the moment when committees are investigating and reporting the election frauds, woman asks for her vote. It is the remedy at the hour of need. She is to purify and civilize the voting, as she has the schools, the hospitals and the drawing-rooms. For, to grant her request, you must remove the polls from the tavern and rum-shop, and build noble edifices worthy of the State, whose halls shall afford her every security for deliberate and sovereign action.

'T is certainly no new thing to see women interest themselves in politics. In England, in France, in Germany, Italy, we find women of influence and administrative capacity,—some Duchess of Marlborough, some Madame de Longueville, Madame Roland,—centres of political power and intrigue. … But we have ourselves seen the great political enterprise Page  630 of our times, the abolition of Slavery in America, undertaken by a society whose executive committee was composed of men and women, and which held together until this object was attained. And she may well exhibit the history of that as her voucher that she is entitled to demand power which she has shown she can use so well.

'T is idle to refuse them a vote on the ground of incompetency. I wish our masculine voting were so good that we had any right to doubt their equal discretion. They could not easily give worse votes, I think, than we do.


Within a quarter of a mile of Concord Common was a natural amphitheatre, carpeted in late summer with a purple bloom of wild grass, and girt by a horseshoe-shaped glacial moraine clothed with noble pines and oaks. It was part of Deacon Brown's farm, and reached by a lane, with a few houses on it, cut through a low part of the ridge of hills which sheltered the old town. When the Deacon died, the town laid out a new road to Bedford, cutting off this "Sleepy Hollow" (as the townspeople who enjoyed strolling there had named it) from the rest of the farm. Mr. John S. Keyes saw the fitness of the ground for a beautiful cemetery, and induced the town to buy it for that purpose; and as chairman of the committee, laid out the land. The people of the village—for Concord had nothing suburban about it then—gathered there one beautiful September afternoon to choose their resting-places and consecrate the gorund. Mr. Emerson Page  631 made the address on the slope just below the place where, beneath a great pine, the tree he loved best, he had chosen the spot for his own grave.

Much of his essay on Immortality was originally a part of this discourse, and therefore that portion is omitted here, its place in the essay being indicated.


It is pleasant to be able to let Dr. Holmes, who was present at the Burns Festival, speak for himself and Lowell and Judge Hoar of Mr. Emerson's speech on that day. I have heard the Judge tell the story of his friend's success with the same delight.

"On the 25th of January, 1859, Emerson attended the Burns Festival, held at the Parker House in Boston, on the Centennial Anniversary of the poet's birth. He spoke, after the dinner, to the great audience with such beauty and eloquence that all who listened to him have remembered it as one of the most delightful addresses they ever heard. Among his hearers was Mr. Lowell, who says of it that 'every word seemed to have just dropped down to him from the clouds.' Judge Hoar, who was another of his hearers, says that, though he has heard many of the chief orators of his time, he never witnessed such an effect of speech upon men. I was myself present on that occasion, and underwent the same fascination that these gentlemen and the varied audience before the speaker experienced. His words had a passion in them not usual in the calm, pure flow most natural to his uttered thoughts; white-hot iron we are familiar with, but white-hot silver is Page  632 what we do not often look upon, and his inspiring address glowed like silver fresh from the cupel."

The strange part of all the accounts given by the hearers is that Mr. Emerson seemed to speak extempore, which can hardly have been so.

No account of the Festival, or Mr. Emerson's part therein, appears in the journals, except a short page of praise of the felicitous anecdotes introduced by other after-dinner speakers.

Page 440, note 1. Here comes out that respect for labor which affected all Mr. Emerson's relations to the humblest people he met. In the Appendix to the Poems it appears in the verses beginning,—

Said Saadi, When I stood before
Hassan the camel-driver's door.

Page 441, note 1. Thomas Carlyle.

Page 441, note 2. Mr. Emerson here recalls his childhood and that of his brothers, as in the passage in "Domestic Life," in Society and Solitude, that has been often referred to in these notes.

Page 443, note 1. Among some stray lecture-sheets was the following on the scholar or poet:—

"Given the insight, and he will find as many beauties and heroes and strokes of genius close by him as Dante or Shakspeare beheld. It was in a cold moor farm, in a dingy country inn, that Burns found his fancy so sprightly. You find the times and places mean. Stretch a few threads over an AEolian harp, and put it in the window and listen to what it says of the times and of the heart of Nature. You shall not believe the miracle of Nature is less, the chemical power worn out. Watch the breaking morning, or the enchantments of the sunset."

Page  633


The following notes on Shakspeare were written by Mr. Emerson for the celebration in Boston by the Saturday Club of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the poet's birth.

In Mr. Cabot's Memoir of Emerson, vol. ii., page 621, apropos of Mr. Emerson's avoidance of impromptu speech on public occasions, is this statement:—

"I remember his getting up at a dinner of the Saturday Club on the Shakspeare anniversary in 1864, to which some guests had been invited, looking about him tranquilly for a minute or two, and then sitting down; serene and unabashed, but unable to say a word upon a subject so familiar to his thoughts from boyhood."

Yet on the manuscript of this address Mr. Emerson noted that it was read at the Club's celebration on that occasion, and at the Revere House. ("Parker's" was the usual gathering-place of the Club.) The handwriting of this note shows that Mr. Emerson wrote it in his later years, so it is very possible that Mr. Cabot was right. Mr. Emerson perhaps forgot to bring his notes with him to the dinner, and so did not venture to speak. And the dinner may have been at "Parker's."

Page  634


The Boston Society of Natural History celebrated the One Hundredth Anniversary of the birth of Humboldt. Dr. Robert C. Waterston presided at the Music Hall, where Agassiz made the address. In the evening there was a reception in Horticultural Hall. The occasion was made memorable by the Society by the founding of a Humboldt and Agassiz scholarship in the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy in Cambridge.

Poems by Dr. Holmes and Mrs. Howe were read. Professor E. J. Young and Dr. Charles T. Jackson gave reminiscences of Humboldt; Colonel Higginson, the Rev. Dr. Hedge and others spoke. Mr. Emerson's remarks are taken from an abstract given in the account of the celebration published by the Society.


Although Mr. Emerson, in the period between 1838 and 1848 especially, when considering the higher powers of poetry, spoke slightingly of Scott,—in the Dial papers as "objective" and "the poet of society, of patrician and conventional Europe," or in English Traits as a writer of "a rhymed travellers' guide to Scotland,"—he had always honor for the noble man, and affectionate remembrance for the poems as well as the novels. In the poem "The Harp," when enumerating poets, he calls Scott "the delight of generous boys," but the generosus puer was his own Page  635 delight; the hope of the generation lay in him, and his own best audience was made up of such. In the essay "Illusions," he says that the boy "has no better friend than Scott, Shakspeare, Plutarch and Homer. The man lives to other objects, but who dare affirm that they are more real?" In the essay "Aristocracy," he names among the claims of a superior class, "Genius, the power to affect the Imagination," and presently speaks of "those who think and paint and laugh and weep in their eloquent closets, and then convert the world into a huge whispering-gallery, to report the tale to all men and win smiles and tears from many generations," and gives Scott and Burns among the high company whom he instances.

Mr. Emerson's children can testify how with regard to Scott he always was ready to become a boy again. As we walked in the woods, he would show us the cellar-holes of the Irish colony that came to Concord to build the railroad, and he named these deserted villages Derncleugh and Ellangowan. The sight recalled Meg Merrilies' pathetic lament to the laird at the eviction of the gypsies, which he would then recite. "Alice Brand," the "Sair Field o' Harlaw," which old Elspeth sings to the children in The Antiquary, and "Helvellyn" were again and again repeated to us with pleasure on both sides. With special affection in later years when we walked in Walden woods he would croon the lines from "The Dying Bard,"—

"Dinas Emlinn, lament, for the moment is nigh,
When mute in the woodlands thine echoes shall die."

Perhaps he had foreboding for his loved woods, beginning to be desecrated with rude city picnics, and since burned over repeatedly by the fires from the railroad,—

"When half of their charms with Cadwallon shall die."
Page  636 Of this poem he wrote in the journal of 1845:—

"'Dinas Emlinn' of Scott, like his 'Helvellyn,' shows how near to a poet he was. All the Birmingham part he had, and what taste and sense! Yet never rose into the creative region. As a practitioner or professional poet he is unrivalled in modern times." Yet he immediately adds, "In lectures on Poetry almost all Scott would be to be produced."

Page 463, note 1. Mr. Emerson took especial pleasure in the passage in the Lord of the Isles where the old abbot, rising to denounce excommunicated Bruce to his foes, is inspired against his will to bless him and prophesy his triumph as Scotland's deliverer.

Mr. Emerson, writing in his journal in 1842 of his impatience of superficial city life, during a visit to New York, alludes to the renewed comfort he had in the Lord of the Isles:

"Life goes headlong. Each of us is always to be found hurrying headlong in the chase of some fact, hunted by some fear or command behind us. Suddenly we meet a friend. We pause. Our hurry and empressement look ridiculous. … When I read the Lord of the Isles last week at Staten Island, and when I meet my friend, I have the same feeling of shame at having allowed myself to be a mere huntsman and follower."

His boyish love for the Lay of the Last Minstrel remained through life. As we walked on Sunday afternoons he recited to his children the stanzas about "the custom of Branksome Hall," and the passage where the Ladye of Branksome defies the spirits of the flood and fell; and the bleak mile of read between Walden woods and home would often call out from him

"The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old," etc.

Page  637

Page 465, note 1. The Bride of Lammermoor was the only dreary tale that Mr. Emerson could abide, except Griselda.

Journal, 1856. "Eugène Sue, Dumas, etc., when they begin a story, do not know how it will end, but Walter Scott, when he began the Bride of Lammermoor, had no choice; nor Shakspeare, nor Macbeth."

Page 467, note 1. Journal. "We talked of Scott. There is some greatness in defying posterity and writing for the hour."


When the Chinese Embassy visited Boston in the summer of 1868 a banquet was given them at the St. James Hotel, on August 21. The young Emerson, sounding an early note of independence of the past, had written in 1824:—

I laugh at those who, while they gape and gaze,
The bald antiquity of China praise;—
but later he learned to revere the wisdom of Asia. About the time when the Dial appeared, many sentences of Chinese wisdom are found in his journal, and also in the magazine among the "Ethnical Scriptures."

Page  638


In the spring of 1867, a call for a public meeting was issued by Octavius B. Frothingham, William J. Potter and Rowland Connor "to consider the conditions, wants and progress of Free Religion in America." The response was so large as to surprise the committee, and Horticultural Hall was completely filled on May 30. Rev. Octavius B. Frothingham presided. The committee had invited as speakers the Rev. H. Blanchard of Brooklyn from the Universalists, Lucretia Mott from the Society of Friends, Robert Dale Owen from the Spiritualists, the Rev. John Weiss from the Left Wing of the Unitarians, Oliver Johnson from the Progressive Friends, Francis E. Abbot, editor of the Index; and also David A. Wasson, Colonel T. W. Higginson and Mr. Emerson. The meeting was very successful and the Free Religious Association was founded.

Mr. Emerson's genial and affirmative attitude at this meeting was helpful and important. He wished the new movement to be neither aggressive towards the beliefs of others, nor merely a religion of works, purely beneficently utilitarian. Doubtless there were many young and active radicals strong for destructive criticism. Mr. Emerson wished to see that in their zeal to destroy the dry husk of religion they should not bruise the white flower within. His counsel to young men was, "Omit all negative propositions. It will save ninety-nine one hundredths of your labor, and increase the value of your work in the same measure."

Page  639

Page 479, note 1. In the journal of 1837 he said, "Why rake up old manuscripts to find therein a man's soul? You do not look for conversation in a corpse." And elsewhere, "In religion the sentiment is all, the ritual or ceremony indifferent."


Page 486, note 1. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe writes of Mr. Emerson,—

"He knew from the first the victory of good over evil; and when he told me, to my childish amazement, that the angel must always be stronger than the demon, he gave utterance to a thought most familiar to him, though at the time new to me."1

Page 488, note 1. In the essay on Character (Lectures and Biographical Sketches), he says, "The establishment of Christianity in the world does not rest on any miracle but the miracle of being the broadest and most humane doctrine."

"The word Miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain."—"Address in Divinity College," Nature, Addresses and Lectures.

Page 490, note 1. Mr. Emerson's doctrine was not to attack beliefs, but give better: "True genius will not impoverish, but will liberate." In a letter to one of his best friends who had joined the Church of Rome he said, perhaps Page  640 in 1858: "To old eyes how supremely unimportant the form under which we celebrate the justice, love and truth, the attributes of the deity and the soul!"

Page 491, note 1. Dr. Holmes, in his tribute to his friend, after his death, read before the Massachusetts Historical Society, said:—

"What could we do with this unexpected, unprovided for, unclassified, half unwelcome newcomer, who had been for a while potted, as it were, in our Unitarian cold greenhouse, but had taken to growing so fast that he was lifting off its glass roof and letting in the hail-storms? Here was a protest that outflanked the extreme left of liberalism, yet so calm and serene that its radicalism had the accents of the gospel of peace. Here was an iconoclast without a hammer, who took down our idols from their pedestals so tenderly that it seemed like an act of worship."


The Town of Concord, in the year 1782, chose a committee of ten leading citizens to give instructions to its selectmen. The third of the seventeen articles proposed by them read thus: "That care be taken of the Books of Marters and other bookes, and that they be kept from abusive usage, and not lent to persons more than one month at one time." This indicates the root of a town library. A constitution of a Library Company, dated 1784, is extant. In 1806 a Social Library was incorporated, which was merged in the Town Library in 1851. The books were kept in a room in the Town House which was open for borrowers on Saturdays.

Page  641 William Munroe, son of a Concord tradesman who vied with the Thoreaus in the manufacture of lead pencils, after leaving the Concord schools went into business, and later into the manufacture of silk. His intelligence and force of character secured prosperity. He loved Concord, and, to use his own words, "desired to testify my regard to my native town by doing something to promote the education and intelligence, and thus the welfare and prosperity of its people." He gave to Concord a lot of land in the heart of the town and a building for a Free Public Library, which, with great care and thoroughness, he had built thereon and duly furnished; and made handsome provision for care of the land and the extension of the building later. He added a generous gift for books of reference and standard works. The town thankfully accepted the gift, placed their books in it, and chose their library committee. On a fine autumn day in 1873, the library was opened with public ceremonies. Mr. Munroe in a short and modest speech explained his purpose; Mr. H. F. Smith, on behalf of the new library committee, reported its action and the gifts which had poured in; Judge Hoar received the property on behalf of the Board of Corporation, and Mr. Emerson, but lately returned with improved health from his journey to the Nile, made the short address. Writing was now very difficult for him, but the occasion pleased and moved him, and his notes on books and on Concord, and the remembrance of his friends the Concord authors but lately gone, served him, and the day passed off well.

Page 498, note 1. The Gospel Covenant, printed in London in 1646, and quoted by Mr. Emerson in the "Historical Discourse."

Page 499, note 1. Major Simon Willard, a Kentish merchant Page  642 was Peter Bulkeley's strong coadjutor in the founding of Concord. He also is alluded to in the "Historical Discourse."

Page 500, note 1. These extracts are from the diary of Miss Mary Moody Emerson.

Page 500, note 2. This letter was written not long after the death of John Thoreau, Henry's dearly loved brother, and also of little Waldo Emerson, to whom he became greatly attached while he was a member of Mr. Emerson's household.

Page 501, note 1. Mr. Emerson here speaks for others. He could not read Hawthorne because of the gloom of his magic mirror, but the man interested and attracted him, though even as neighbors they seldom met.

Page 506, note 1. Mr. Emerson notes that this is an allusion to the "Harmonies of Ptolemy."


In 1863, during the dark days of the Civil War, before the tide had fully turned in the field, while disaffection showed itself in the North, and England and France threatened intervention, Mr. Emerson gave a hopeful lecture, the basis of the present discourse, on the Fortune of the Republic. After the war it was adapted to the new and happier conditions. On the 30th of March, 1878, six years after Mr. Emerson had withdrawn from literary work, and but four years before his death, he was induced to read the lecture in the Old South Church, in a course planned by the committee, to save the venerable building. The church was filled, Mr. Emerson's Page  643 delivery was good, and he seemed to enjoy the occasion. It was probably his last speech in public, and so fitly closes the volume.

Page 513, note 1. This passage occurred in the early lecture:—

"It is the distinction of man to think, and all the few men who, since the beginning of the world, have done anything for us were men who did not follow the river, or ship the cotton, or pack the pork, but who thought for themselves. What the country wants is personalities,—grand persons,—to counteract its materialities, for it is the rule of the universe that corn shall serve man, and not man, corn."

Page 519, note 1. Here followed: "What we call 'Kentucky,' or 'Vallandigham,' or 'Fernando Wood' is really the ignorance and nonsense in us, stolid stupidity which gives the strength to those names. … It is our own vice which takes form, or gives terror with which these persons affect us."

Page 520, note 1. This refers to a young Massachusetts scholar, of promise and beauty, whom Mr. Emerson had been pleased with, as a fellow voyager. He soon was corrupted by politics. Coming up, at a reception, to shake hands with Mr. Emerson he was thus greeted: "If what I hear of your recent action be true, I must shake hands with you under protest." Soon after, this aspirant for power attended the dinner given to Brooks after his cowardly assault on Sumner; but the moment the Emancipation Proclamation had been approved by the people, he became an ornamental figurehead at Republican and reform gatherings.

Page 520, note 2. From the last scene of Cynthia's Revels, by Ben Jonson.

Page  644

Page 521, note 1. "The one serious and formidable thing in Nature is a will."—"Fate," Conduct of Life, p. 30.

See also "Aristocracy," in Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 50.

Page 524, note 1. Ben Jonson, The Golden Age Restored.

Page 526, note 1.

She spawneth men as mallows fresh.

"Nature," II., Poems.
See also the "Song of Nature," in the Poems.

Page 526, note 2. In the earlier lecture was this passage:—

"The roots of our success are in our poverty, our Calvinism, our thrifty habitual industry,—in our snow and east wind, and farm-life and sea-life. …

"There is in this country this immense difference from Europe, that, whereas all their systems of government and society are historical, our politics are almost ideal. We wish to treat man as man, without regard to rank, wealth, race, color, or caste,—simply as human souls. We lie near to Nature, we are pensioners on Nature, draw on inexhaustible resources, and we interfere the least possible with individual freedom."

Page 527, note 1. In the "Historical Discourse" in this volume, Mr. Emerson tells of the evolution of the town-meeting of New England and its working excellence, and of the latter also in "Social Aims" and "Eloquence," in Letters and Social Aims.

Page 540, note 1.

For you can teach the lightning speech,
And round the globe your voices reach.

"Boston," Poems.

Page  645

Page 541, note 1.

I will divide my goods;
Call in the wretch and slave:
None shall rule but the humble,
And none but Toil shall have.

"Boston Hymn," Poems.

Page 544, note 1. The following passages came from the èarlier lecture:—

I must be permitted to read a quotation from De Tocqueville, whose censure is more valuable, as it comes from one obviously very partial to the American character and institutions:—

'I know no country in which there is so little true independence of opinion and freedom of discussion as in America' (vol. i., p. 259).

I am far from thinking it late. I don't despond at all whilst I hear the verdicts of European juries against us—Renan says this; Arnold says that. That does not touch us.

'T is doubtful whether London, whether Paris can answer the questions which now rise in the human mind. But the humanity of all nations is now in the American Union. Europe, England is historical still. Our politics, our social frame are almost ideal. We have got suppled into a state of melioration. When I see the emigrants landing at New York, I say, There they go—to school.

In estimating nations, potentiality must be considered as well as power; not what to-day's actual performance is, but what promise is in the mind which a crisis will bring out.

The war has established a chronic hope, for a chronic despair. It is not a question whether we shall be a nation, or Page  646 only a multitude of people. No, that has been conspicuously decided already; but whether we shall be the new nation, guide and lawgiver of all nations, as having clearly chosen and firmly held the simplest and best rule of political society.

Culture, be sure, is in some sort the very enemy of nationality and makes us citizens of the world; and yet it is essential that it should have the flavor of the soil in which it grew, and combine this with universal sympathies. Thus in this country are new traits and distinctions not known to former history. Colonies of an old country, but in new and commanding conditions. Colonies of a small and crowded island, but planted on a continent and therefore working it in small settlements, where each man must count for ten, and is put to his mettle to come up to the need. …

Pray leave these English to form their opinions. 'T is a matter of absolute insignificance what those opinions are. They will fast enough run to change and retract them on their knees when they know who you are. …

I turn with pleasure to the good omen in the distinguished reception given in London to Mr. Beecher. It was already prepared by the advocacy of Cobden, Bright and Forster, Mill, Newman, Cairnes and Hughes, and by the intelligent Americans already sent to England by our Government to communicate with intelligent men in the English Government and out of it. But Mr. Beecher owed his welcome to himself. He fought his way to his reward. It is one of the memorable exhibitions of the force of eloquence,—his evening at Exeter Hall. The consciousness of power shown in his broad good sense, in his jocular humor and entire presence of mind, the surrender of the English audience on recognizing the true master. He steers the Behemoth, sits astride him, strokes his fur, tickles his ear, and rides where he will. And I like Page  647 the well-timed compliment there paid to our fellow citizen when the stormy audience reminds him to tell England that Wendell Phillips is the first orator of the world. One orator had a right to speak of the other,—Byron's thunder-storm, where

'Jura answers from his misty shroud
Back to the joyous Alps who call to him aloud.'

The young men in America to-day take little thought of what men in England are thinking or doing. That is the point which decides the welfare of a people,—which way does it look? If to any other people, it is not well with them. If occupied in its own affairs, and thoughts, and men, with a heat which excludes almost the notice of any other people,—as the Jews, as the Greeks, as the Persians, as the Romans, the Arabians, the French, the English, at their best times have done,—they are sublime; and we know that in this abstraction they are executing excellent work. Amidst the calamities that war has brought on our Country, this one benefit has accrued,—that our eyes are withdrawn from England, withdrawn from France, and look homeward. We have come to feel that

'By ourselves our safety must be bought;'
to know the vast resources of the continent; the good will that is in the people; their conviction of the great moral advantages of freedom, social equality, education and religious culture, and their determination to hold these fast, and by these hold fast the Country, and penetrate every square inch of it with this American civilization. …

Americans—not girded by the iron belt of condition, not taught by society and institutions to magnify trifles, not Page  648 victims of techinical logic, but docile to the logic of events; not, like English, worshippers of fate; with no hereditary upper house, but with legal, popular assemblies, which constitute a perpetual insurrection, and by making it perpetual save us from revolutions.

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