Garrison, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, & Emerson-"America a last effort of Divine
American Minute with Bill Federer
William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, & Ralph Waldo Emerson - "America ... a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race."
William Lloyd Garrison published the Boston anti-slavery paper Liberator and founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.
Suffering hundreds of death threats for his politically incorrect stand on the value of human life, William Lloyd Garrison died MAY 24, 1879.
"I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard 'the fear of man which bringeth a snare,' and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power.
And here I close with this fresh dedication ...
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalizing sway - till Afric's chains Are burst,
and Freedom rules the rescued land,
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:
Such is the vow I take-SO HELP ME GOD!"
In "W.P. and F.J.T. Garrison," 1885-89, William Lloyd Garrison wrote:
"Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion."
Former slave Frederick Douglass wrote in My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855:
"After reaching New Bedford, there came a young man to me with a copy of the Liberator ... edited by William Lloyd Garrison ...
... His paper took its place with me next to the Bible ...
... It detested slavery ... and, with all the solemnity of God's word, demanded the complete emancipation of my race ...
His words were ... holy fire ... The Bible was his text book ... Prejudice against color was rebellion against God."
A contemporary writer was Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (1868).
An abolitionist, Louisa May Alcott's family used their home as part of the underground railroad to help slaves escape to the North. She, along with her mother and sister, gave free lessons in reading and writing to African American women.
When the Civil War started, Louisa May Alcott responded to the Union's call for women to enlist as field nurses during the Civil War.
Some notable lines of Louisa May Alcott are:
- "The door of opportunity opened just a crack."
- "Happy is the son whose faith in his mother remains unchallenged."
- “Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”
- "My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one.The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother."
Another writer during this time was Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter (1850).
- "Christian faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows. Standing without, you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any; standing within, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendors."
- "Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
During this period prior to the Civil War, an idealistic, philosophical movement experienced brief popularity called "transcendentalism," which attempted to maintain Christian morality without necessarily acknowledging Christianity.
It extracted Biblical concepts of the individual, freedom of conscience, self-control, and the existence of the being of God, though not always attributing the origin of these concepts to Judeo-Christian thought.
A transcendentalist prior to the Civil War was poet Henry David Thoreau.
- "It's only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to God."
- "If Nature is our mother, then God is our father."
- "When you knock, ask to see God — none of the servants."
- "As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest floor, and endeavoring to conceal itself from my sight, and ask myself why it will cherish those humble thoughts, and hide its head from me who might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race some cheering information, I am reminded of the greater Benefactor and Intelligence that stands over me the human insect."
In the spring of 1862, while he lay dying, Thoreau was asked by his aunt Louisa if he had made peace with God. Thoreau responded, "I did not know we had ever quarreled."
Henry David Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience, 1849:
"'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."
Thoreau influenced Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.
King, while at Morehouse College in 1944, read Thoreau's On Civil Disobedience.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
"In this courageous New Englander's refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery's territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance.
Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times.
I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau ...
The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement ...
Peaceful protest(s) ... are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice."
A contemporary of Thoreau was transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, born May 25, 1803.
An advocate of individualism and personal freedom, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote
"This is the history of governments ... a man who cannot be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking from afar at me, ordains that a part of my labor shall go to this or that whimsical end, not as I, but as he happens to fancy ...
Hence, the less government we have, the better ... The fewer laws ... the less confided power.
The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character ...
The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary ...
He needs no army, fort, or navy, - he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, or palace, to draw friends to him; no vantage ground, no favorable circumstance."
Ralph Waldo Emerson composed some of the best loved poems in American literature, including The Concord Hymn, of which a stanza is inscribed on the base of Daniel Chester French's Minute Man Statue:
"By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world."
Emerson commented on John Quincy Adams:
"No man could read the Bible with such powerful effect, even with the cracked and winded voice of old age."
In 1848, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloody June Days.
When he saw that mobs had cut down trees near the Champ de Mars to form barricades across downtown city streets, he wrote in his journal:
"At the end of the year we shall ... see if the Revolution was worth the trees."
When abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in 1838 and his printing press destroyed, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
"It is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast to the bullets of a mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion."
- "I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom."
- "It now appears that the negro race is, more than any other, susceptible of rapid civilization. The emancipation is observed, in the islands, to have wrought for the negro a benefit as sudden as when a thermometer is brought out of the shade into the sun. It has given him eyes and ears."
- Abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner took Ralph Waldo Emerson to the White House to meet Abraham Lincoln.
Having voted for the President Lincoln, Emerson stated of the South in a lecture at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.:
"The South calls slavery an institution ... I call it destitution ...
Emancipation is the demand of civilization."
In 1865, Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked at a memorial service for Abraham Lincoln:
"I doubt if any death has caused so much pain as this has caused."
On September 12, 2001, the day after fundamentalist Muslims committed terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, J.C. Watts, Jr., quoted Emerson:
"Politics has taken the day off. Today Congress remembers and recognizes the afflicted and the sorrowing and those who come to the aid of their fellow man. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1842, captured what we are thinking as a nation today:
'Sorrow makes us all children again,
destroys all differences of intellect.
The wisest knows nothing.'"
In May-Day and Other Pieces (1867), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
Boston Hymn, st. 2-
"God said, I am tired of kings,
I suffer them no more;
Up to my ear the morning brings
The outrage of the poor."
"So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can."
Ode, st. 5 -
"United States! the ages plead, -
Present and Past in under-song, -
Go put your creed into your deed,
Nor speak with double tongue."
"Wilt thou seal up the avenues of ill?
Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill."
Emerson wrote in The Conduct of Life (1860):
"Men are what their mothers made them."
Regarding civilization, Emerson wrote:
"The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops - no, but the kind of man the country turns out."
In Social Aims, Emerson wrote:
"Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy."
In The American Scholar (1837), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
"In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God?"
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
- "All I have seen has taught me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."
- "America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race."