Practical Tendencies.

From: Transcendentalism in New England: A History (1880)
Author: Octavius Brooks Frothingham
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1880 New York



  MR. EMERSON—we find ourselves continually appealing to him as the finest interpreter of the transcendental movement-made a confession which its enemies were quick to seize on and turn to their purpose.

  “It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest observer, that many intelligent and religious persons withdraw themselves from the common labors and competitions of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a certain solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. They hold themselves aloof; they feel the disproportion between themselves and the work offered them, and they prefer to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the city can propose to them. They are striking work and crying out for somewhat worthy to do. They are lonely; the spirit of their writing and conversation is lonely; they repel influences; they shun general society; they incline to shut themselves in their chamber in the house; to live in the country rather than in the town; and to find their tasks and amusements in solitude. They are not good citizens; not good members of society; unwillingly they bear their part ‘Of the public and private burdens; they do not willingly share in the public charities, in the public religious rites, in the enterprises of education, of missions, foreign or domestic, in the abolition of the slave trade, or in the temperance society. They do not even like to vote. The philanthropists inquire whether Transcendentalism does not mean sloth; they had as lief hear that their friend is dead as that he is a Transcendentalist; for then is he paralyzed, and can do nothing for humanity.”

  This extreme statement must not be taken as either complete or comprehensive. They who read it in the lecture on “ The Transcendentalist “ must be careful to notice Mr. Emerson’s qualifications, that “this retirement does not proceed from any whim on the part of the separators;” that “this part is chosen both from temperament and from principle; with some unwillingness too, and as a choice of the less of two evils;” that “they are joyous, susceptible, affectionate;” that “they wish a just and even fellowship or none;” that “what they do is done because they are overpowered by the humanities that speak on all sides;” that “what you call your fundamental institutions, your great and holy causes, seem to them great abuses, and, when nearly seen, paltry matters.” But even this apology does not quite exonerate his friends.

  Transcendentalism certainly did produce its share of idle, dreamy, useless people-as “Sensationalism” produced its share of coarse, greedy, low-lived and bestial ones. But its legitimate fruit was earnestness, aspiration and enthusiastic energy.

  We must begin with the philosophy of Man. The Transcendentalist claims for all men as a natural endowment what “Evangelical” Christianity ascribes to the few as a special gift of the Spirit. This faith comes to expression continually. The numbers of the “Dial” are alight with it.

  “Man is a rudiment and embryon of God: Eternity shall develop in him the Divine Image.”

  “The Soul works from centre to periphery, veiling her labors from the ken of the senses.”

  “The sensible world is spirit in magnitude outspread before the senses for their analysis, but whose synthesis is the soul herself, whose prothesis is God.”

  “The time may come, in the endless career of the soul, when the facts of incarnation, birth, death, descent into matter, and ascension from it, shall comprise no part of her history; when she herself shall survey this human life with emotions akin to those of the naturalist on examining the relics of extinct races of beings.”

  “Of the perception now fast becoming a conscious fact,—that there is one mind, and that also the powers and privileges which lie in any, lie in all; that I, as a man, may claim and appropriate whatever o(true or fair or good or strong has anywhere been exhibited; that Moses and Confucius, Montaigne and Leibnitz are not so much individuals as they are parts of man and parts of me, and my intelligence proves them my own,—literature is far the best expression.”

  Thus Mr. Alcott and Mr. Emerson. Thomas T. Stone,—a modest, retiring, deep and interior man, a child of the spiritual philosophy, which he faithfully lived in and up to, and preached with singular fulness and richness of power—makes his statement thus, in an article entitled “Man in the Ages,” contributed to the third number of the “Dial”:

  “Man is man, despite of all the lies which would convince him he is not, despite of all the thoughts which would strive to unman him. There is a spirit in man, an inspiration from the Almighty. What is, is. The eternal is eternal; the temporary must pass it by, leaving it to stand evermore. There is now, there has been always, power among men to subdue the ages, to dethrone them, to make them mere outgoings and servitors of man. It is needed only that we assert our prerogative,—that man do with hearty faith affirm: I am; in me being is Ages, ye come and go; appear and disappear; products, not life; vapors from the surface of the soul, not living fountain. Ye are of me,’ for me, not I of you or for you. Not with you my affinity, but with the Eternal. I am; I live; spirit I have not; spirit am I.’”

  Samuel D. Robbins, another earnest prophet of the spiritual man, utters the creed’ again in the way peculiar to himself.

  “There is an infinity in the human soul which few have yet believed, and after which few have aspired. There is a lofty power of moral principle in the depths of our nature which is nearly allied to Omnipotence; compared with which the whole force of outward nature is more feeble than an infant’s grasp. There is a spiritual insight to which the pure soul reaches, more clear and prophetic, more wide and vast than all telescopic vision can typify. There is a faith in God, and a clear” perception of His will and designs, and providence, and glory, which gives to its possessor a confidence and patience and sweet composure, under every varied and troubling aspect of events, such as no man can realize who has not felt its influences in his own heart. There is a communion with God, in which the soul feels the presence of the unseen One, in the profound depths of its being, with a vivid distinctness and a holy reverence such as no word can describe. There is a state of union with God, I do not say often reached, yet it has been attained in this world, in which all the past and present and future seem reconciled, and eternity is won and enjoyed: and God and man, earth and heaven, with all their mysteries are apprehended in truth as they lie in the mind of the Infinite.”

  The poet chimes in with the prophet. We marked for quotation several passages from the “Dial,” but a few detached stanzas must suffice. C. P. Cranch opens his lines to the ocean thus:

Tell me, brothers, what are we?
Spirits bathing in the sea of Deity.
Half afloat, and half on land,
Wishing much to leave the strand,
Standing, gazing with devotion,
Yet afraid to trust the ocean,
Such are we.

  And thus he closes lines to the Aurora Borealis:

But a better type thou art
Of the strivings of the heart,
Reaching upwards from the earth
To the Soul that gave it birth.
When the noiseless beck of night
Summons out the inner light
That hath hid its purer ray
Through the lapses of the day,—
Then like thee, thou Northern Morn,
Instincts which we deemed unborn
Gushing from their hidden source
Mount upon their heavenward course,
And the spirit seeks to be
Filled with God’s eternity.

  That a philosophy like this will impel to aspiration need not be said; aspiration is the soul of it. The Transcendentalist was constantly on the wing.

  “On all hands men’s existence is converted into a preparation for existence. We do not properly live in these days; but everywhere with patent inventions and complex arrangements are getting ready to live. The end is lost in the means, life is smothered in appliances. We cannot get to ourselves, there are so many external comforts to wade through. Consciousness stops half way. Reflection is dissipated in the circumstances of our environment. Goodness is exhausted in aids to goodness, and all the vigor and health of the soul is expended in quack contrivances to build it up.” * * * What the age requires is not books, but example, high, heroic example; not words but deeds; not societies but men-men who shall have their root in themselves, and attract and convert the world by the beauty of their fruits. All truth must be living, before it can be adequately known or taught. Men are anterior to systems. Great doctrines are not the origin, but the product of great lives. The Cynic practice must precede the Stoic philosophy, and out of Diogenes’s tub came forth in the end the wisdom of Epictetus, the eloquence of Seneca, and the piety of Antonine.” * * *

  “The religious man lives for one great object; to perfect himself, to unite himself by purity with God, to fit himself for heaven by cherishing within him a heavenly disposition. He has discovered that he has a soul; that his soul is himself; that he changes not with the changing things of life, but receives its discipline from them; that man does not live by bread alone, but J that the most real of all things, inasmuch as they are the most enduring, are the things which are not seen; that faith and love and virtue are the sources of his life, and that one realises nothing, except he lay fast hold on them. He extracts a moral lesson, a lesson of endurance or of perseverance for himself, or a new evidence of God and of his own immortal destiny, from every day’s hard task.”

  That last strain came from the man who for many years has been known as the foremost musical critic of New England, if not of America, John S. Dwight. Another writes:

  “The soul lies buried in a ruined city, struggling to be free and calling for aid. The worldly trafficker in life’s caravan hears its cries, and says, it is a prisoned maniac. But one true man stops and with painful toil lifts aside the crumbling fragments; till at last he finds beneath the choking mass a mangled form of exceeding beauty. Dazzling is the light to eyes long blind; weak are the limbs long prisoned; faint is the breath long pent. But oh! that mantling flush, that liquid eye, that elastic spring of renovated strength. The deliverer is folded to the breast of an angel.”

  The duty of self-culture is made primary and is eloquently preached. The piece from which this extract is taken, entitled “The Art of Life “ is anonymous, but supposed to be from Emerson’s pen:

  “The work of life, so far as the individual is concerned, and that to which the scholar is particularly called, is Self-Culture, the perfect unfolding of our individual nature. To this end above all others, the art of which I speak directs our attention and points our endeavor. There is no man, it is presumed, to whom this object is wholly indifferent, who would not willingly possess this too, along with other prizes, provided the attainment of it were compatible with personal ease and worldly good. But the business of self-culture admits of no compromise. Either it must be made a distinct aim or wholly abandoned.”

  But it is time wasted to speak on this point. It has been objected to Transcendentalism that it made self-culture too important, carrying it to the point of selfishness, sacrificing in its behalf, sympathy, brotherly love, sentiments of patriotism, personal fidelity and honor, and rejoicing in the production of a “mountainous Me” fed at the expense of, life’s sweetest humanities; and Goethe is straightway cited as the Transcendental apostle of the gospel of heartless indifference. But allowing the charge against Goethe to rest unrefuted, it must be made against him as a man, not as a Transcendentalist; and even were it true of him as a Transcendentalist, it was not true of Kant or Fichte, of Schleiermacher or Herder; of Jean Paul or Novalis; of Coleridge, Carlyle or Wordsworth; and who ever intimated that it was true of Emerson, who has been one of the most industrious teachers of his generation, and one of the most earnest worshippers of the genius of his native land;—of Margaret Fuller, whose life was a quickening flood of intellectual influence;—of Bronson Alcott, who, every winter for years, has carried his seed corn to the far West, seeking only a receptive furrow for his treasured being;—of Theodore Parker, who sacrificed precious days of study, his soul’s passion for knowledge, his honorable ambition to achieve a scholar’s fame, in order that his country, in her time of trial, might not want what he was able to give;—of Wm. Henry Channing, to whom the thought of humanity is an inspiration, and sacrifice an all “sufficing joy;” of George Ripley, who offered himself, all that he had and was, that the experiment of an honest friendly society might be fairly tried? By “self-culture” these and the rest of their brotherhood meant the culture of that nobler self which includes heart, and conscience, sympathy and spirituality, not as incidental ingredients, but as essential qualities. Self-hood they never identified with selfishness; nor did they ever confound or associate its attainment with the acquisition of place, power, wealth, or eminent repute; the person was more to them than the individual; they sought no reward except for service; and the consciousness of serving faithfully was their best reward.

  To Transcendentalism belongs the credit of inaugurating a theory and practice of dietetics which is preached assiduously now by the vegetarian physiologists. The people who regarded man as a soul, first taught the wisdom that is now inculcated by people who regard man as a body. The doctrine that human beings live on air and light; that food should be simple and nutritious; that coarse meats should be discarded and fiery liquors abolished; that wines should be substituted for “spirits,” light wines for heavy, and pure water for wines;—has in all ages been taught by mystics and idealists. The ancient master of it was Pythagoras. Their idea was, that as the body was, for the time being, the dwelling-place of the soul, its lodging and home, its prison or its palace, its organ, its instrument, its box of tools, the medium of its activity, it must be kept in perfect condition for these high offices. They honored the flesh in the nobility of their care of it. No sour ascetics they, but generous feeders on essences and elixirs; no mortifiers of matter, but purifiers and refiners of it; regarding it as too exquisitely mingled and tempered a substance to be tortured and imbruted. The materialist prescribes temperance, continence, sobriety, in order that life may be long, and comfortable, and free from disease. The idealist prescribes them, in order that life .may be intellectual, serene, pacific beneficent.

  The chief mystic of the transcendental band has been the chief prophet of this innocent word. “The New Ideas,” wrote Mr. Alcott, “bear direct on all the economies of life. They will revise old methods, and institute new cultures. I look with special hope to their effect on the regimen of the land. Our present modes of agriculture exhaust the soil, and must, while life is made thus sensual and secular; the narrow covetousness which prevails in trade, in labor, in exchanges, ends in depraving the land; it breeds disease, decline, in the flesh,—debauches and consumes the heart.” “The Soul’s Banquet is an art divine. To mould this statue of flesh from chaste materials, kneading it into comeliness and strength, ‘this is Promethean; and this we practise, well or ill, in all our thoughts, acts, desires. I would abstain from the fruits of oppression and blood, and am seeking means of entire independence. This, were I not holden by penury unjustly, would be possible. One miracle we have wrought nevertheless, and shall soon work all of them;—our wine is water,—flesh, bread;—drugs, fruits;—and we defy, meekly, the satyrs all, and Esculapius.”

  “It was the doctrine of the Samian Sage, that whatsoever food obstructs divination, is prejudicial to purity and chastity of mind and body, to temperance, health, sweetness of disposition, suavity of manners, grace of form and dignity of carriage, should be shunned. Especially should those who would apprehend the deepest wisdom, and preserve through life the relish for elegant studies and pursuits, abstain from flesh, cherishing the justice which animals claim at men’s hands, nor slaughtering them for food or profit.” “A purer civilization than ours can yet claim to be, is to inspire the genius of mankind with the skill to deal dutifully with soils and souls, exalt agriculture and manculture into a religion of art; the freer interchange of commodities which the current world-wide intercourse promotes, spreads a more various, wholesome, classic table, whereby the race shall be refined of traits reminding too plainly of barbarism and the beast.” Said Timotheus of Plato, “they who dine with the philosopher have nothing to complain of the next morning.” That the doctrine has its warm, glowing side, appears in a characteristic poem in the little volume called “Tablets.”

  The anchorite’s plea was not always as good as his practice. Arguing the point once with a sagacious man of the world, he urged as a reason for abstinence from animal food that one thereby distanced the animal. For the eating of beef encourages the bovine quality, and the pork diet repeats the trick of Circe, and changes men into swine. But, rejoined the friend, if abstinence from animal food leaves the animal out, does not partaking of vegetable food put the vegetable in? I presume the potato diet will change man into a potato. And what if the potatoes be small! The philosopher’s reply is not recorded. But in his case the beast did disappear, and the leek has never become prominent. In his case health, strength, agility, sprightliness, cheerfulness, have been wholly compatible with disuse of animal food. Few men have preserved the best uses of body and mind so long unimpaired. Few have lost so few days; have misused so few; are able to give a good account of so many. The vegetarian of seventy-six shames many a cannibal of forty.

  The Transcendentalist was by nature a reformer. He could not be satisfied with men as they were. His doctrine of the capacities of men, even in its most moderate statement, kindled to enthusiasm his hope of change. However his disgust may have kept him aloof for a time, his sympathy soon brought him back, and his faith sent him to the front of the battle. In beginning his lecture on “Man The Reformer,” Mr. Emerson does not dissemble his hope that each person whom he addresses has “felt his own call to cast aside all evil. customs, timidities and limitations, and to be in his place a free and helpful man, a reformer, a benefactor, not content to slip through the world like a footman or a spy escaping by his nimbleness and apologies as many knocks as he can, but a brave and upright man, who must find or cut a straight path to everything excellent in the earth, and not only go honorably himself, but make it easier for all who follow him, to go in honor and with benefit.” “The power, “he declares,” which is at once spring and regulator in all efforts of reform, is the conviction that there is an infinite worthiness in man, which will appear at the call of worth, and that all particular reforms are the removing of some impediment. Is it not the highest duty that man should be honored in us? “In the history of the world” the same great teacher remarks, “the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as at the present hour. Lutherans, Herrnhütters, Jesuits, Monks, Quakers, Knox, Wesley, Swedenborg, Bentham, in their accusations of society, all respected something,—church or state, literature or history, domestic usages, the market town, the dinner table, coined money. But now all these and all things else hear the trumpet and must rush to judgment,—Christianity, the laws, commerce, schools, the farm, the laboratory: and not a kingdom, town, statute, rite, calling, man, or woman but is threatened by the new spirit.” “Let me feel that I am to be a lover. I am to see to it that the world is the better for me, and to find my reward in the act. Love would put a new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too long, and it would warm the heart to see how fast the vain diplomacy of statesmen, the impotence of armies, and navies, and lines of defence, would be superseded by this unarmed child.”

  The method of reform followed from the principle. It was the method of individual awakening and regeneration, and was to be conducted “through the simplest ministries of family, neighborhood, fraternity, quite wide of associations and institutions.” The true reformer,” it was proclaimed, “ initiates his labor in the precincts of private life, and makes it, not a set of measures, not an utterance, not a pledge merely, but a life; and not an impulse of a day, but commensurate with human existence: a tendency towards perfection of being.” The Transcendentalist might easily become an enthusiast from excess of faith; but a fanatic, with a tinge of melancholy in his disposition, a drop of malignity in his blood, he could not be. He was less a reformer of human circumstance than a regenerator of the human spirit, and he was never a destroyer except as destruction accompanied the process of regeneration.

  This fine positive purpose appeared in all he undertook. With movements that did not start from this primary assumption of individual dignity, and come back to that as their goal, he had nothing to do. Was he an anti-slavery man—and he was certain to be one—at heart—the Transcendentalists were glowing friends of that reform,—he was so because his philosophy compelled him to see in the slave the same humanity that appeared in the master; in the African the same possibilities that were confessed in the Frank, the Anglo-Saxon, and the Celt. Did he take up the cause of education, it was as a believer in the latent capacity of every child, boy or girl; as an earnest wisher that such capacity might be stimulated by the best methods, and directed to the best ends. What he effected, or tried to effect in this way will be understood by the reader of the record of Mr. Alcott’s school; that bold and original attempt at educating, leading or drawing out young minds, which showed such remarkable promise, and would have achieved such remarkable results had more faithful trial of its method been possible. Was he a reformer of society, it was as a vitalizer, not as a machinist.

  In no respect does the Transcendentalist’s idea of social reform stand out more conspicuously than in this. With an incessant and passionate aspiration after a pure social state,-deeply convinced of the mistakes, profoundly sensible of the miseries of the actual condition, he would not be committed to experiments that did not assume his first principle—the supreme dignity of the individual man. The systems of French socialism he distrusted from the first; for they proceeded on the ground that man is not a self determined being, but a creature of circumstance. Mr. Albert Brisbane’s attempt to domesticate Fourierism among us was cordially considered, but not cordially welcomed. He seemed to have no spiritual depth of foundation; his proposition to imprison man in a Phalanx, was rejected; his omission of moral freedom in the scheme was resented; no sincerity, no keenness of criticism, no exposure of existing evils or indignation of protest against then, disarmed the jealousy of endeavors to reconstruct society, as if human beings were piles of brick or lumps of mortar.

  In 1841 a community was planned in Massachussetts, by Liberal Christians of the Universalist sect. Though never put in operation it did not escape the criticism of the “Dial.” The good points were recognized and commended; the moral features were praised as showing a deep insight into the Christian idea, and the articles of confederation were pronounced admirable in judgment and form, with a single exception, which however was fatal. Admittance of members was conditioned on pledges of non-resistance, abolition, temperance, abstinence from voting, and such like. Though these conditions were easy enough in themselves, and were expressed in the most conciliatory spirit, they were justly regarded as giving to the community the character of a church or party, much less than world embracing. “A true community,” it was declared, “can be founded on nothing short of faith in the universal man, as he comes out of the hands of the Creator, with no law over his liberty but the eternal ideas that lie at the foundation of his being.” “The final cause of human society is the unfolding of the individual man, into every form of perfection, without let or hindrance, according to the inward nature of each.”

  When the Brook Farm experiment was under way at West Roxbury, its initiators were warned against three dangers: the first, Organization, which begins by being an instrument and ends by being a master; the second, Endowment, which promises to be a swift helper, and is, ere long, a stifling encumbrance; the third, the spirit of Coterie, which would in no long time, shrink their rock of ages to a platform, diminish their brotherhood to a clique, and reduce their aims to experiences.

  Brook Farm, whereof it is not probable that a history will ever be written, for the reason that there were in it slender materials for history,—though there were abundant materials for thought,—was projected on the purest transcendental basis. It was neither European nor English, neither French nor German in its origin. No doubt, among the supporters and friends of it were some who had made themselves acquainted with the writings of St. Simon and Chevalier, of Proudhon and Fourier; but it does not appear that any of these authors shaped or prescribed the plan, or influenced the spirit of the enterprise. The Constitution which is printed herewith explains sufficiently the project, and expresses the spirit in which it was undertaken. The jealous regard for the rights of the individual is not the least characteristic feature of this remarkable document. The By-Laws, which want of space excludes from these pages, simply confirm the provisions that were made to guard the person against unnecessary infringement of independence.


  In order more effectually to promote the great purposes of human culture; to establish the external relations of life on a basis of wisdom and purity; to apply the principles of justice and love to our social organization in accordance with the laws of Divine Providence; to substitute a system of brotherly cooperation for one of selfish competition; to secure to our children and those who may be entrusted to our care, the benefits of the highest physical, intellectual and moral education, which in the progress of knowledge the resources at our command will permit; to institute an attractive, efficient, and productive system of industry; to prevent the exercise of worldly anxiety, by the competent supply of our necessary wants; to diminish the desire of excessive accumulation, by making the acquisition of individual property subservient to upright and disinterested uses; to guarantee to each other forever the means of physical support, and of spiritual progress; and thus to impart a greater freedom, simplicity, truthfulness, refinement, and moral dignity, to our mode of life;—we the undersigned do unite in a voluntary Association, and adopt and ordain the following articles of agreement, to wit:



  SEC. I. The name of this Association shall be “THE BROOK-FARM ASSOCIATION FOR INDUSTRY AND EDUCATION.” All persons who shall hold one or more shares in its stock, or whose labor and skill shall be considered an equivalent for capital, may be admitted by the vote of two-thirds of the Association, as members thereof.

  SEC. 2. No member of the Association shall ever be subjected to any religious test; nor shall any authority be assumed over individual freedom of opinion by the Association, nor by one member over another; nor shall any one be held accountable to the Association, except for such overt acts, or omissions of duty, as violate the principles of justice, purity, and love, on which it is founded; and in such cases the relation of any member may be suspended or discontinued, at the pleasure of the Association.



  SEC. I. The members of this Association shall own and manage such real and personal estate in joint stock proprietorship, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each, as may from time to time be agreed on.

  SEC. 2. No shareholder shall be liable to any assessment whatever on the shares held by him; nor shall he be held responsible individually in his private property on account of the Association; nor shall the Trustees, or any officer or agent of the Association, have any authority to do any thing which shall impose personal responsibility on any shareholder, by making any contracts or incurring any debts for which the shareholders shall be individually or personally responsible.

  SEC. 3. The Association guarantees to each shareholder the interest of five per cent annually on the amount of stock held by him in the Association, and this interest may be paid in certificates of stock and credited on the books of the Association; provided that each shareholder may draw on the funds of the Association for the amount of interest due at the third annual settlement from the time of investment.

  SEC. 4. The shareholders on their part, for themselves, their heirs and assigns, do renounce all claim on any profits accruing to the Association for the use of their capital invested in the stock of the Association, except five per cent interest on the amount of stock held by them, payable in the manner described in the preceding section.



  SEC. 1. The Association shall provide such employment for all its members as shall be adapted to their capacities, habits, and tastes; and each member shall select and perform such operations of labor, whether corporal or mental, as shall be deemed best suited to his own endowments and the benefit of the Association.

  SEC. 2. The Association guarantees to all its members, their children and family dependents, house-rent, fuel, food, and clothing, and the other necessaries of life, without charge, not exceeding a certain fixed amount to be decided annually by the Association; no charge shall ever be made for support during inability to labor from sickness or old age, or for medical or nursing attendance, except in case of shareholders, who shall be charged therefor, and also for the food and clothing of children, to an amount not exceeding the interest due to them on settlement; but no charge shall be made to any members for education or the use of library and public rooms.

  SEC. 3. Members may withdraw from labor, under the direction of the Association, and in that case, they shall not be entitled to the benefit of the above guaranties.

  SEC. 4. Children over ten years of age shall be provided with employment in suitable branches of industry; they shall be credited for such portions of each annual dividend, as shall be decided by the Association, and on the completion of their education in the Association at the age of twenty, shall be entitled to, a certificate of stock to the amount of credits in their favor, and may be admitted as members of the Association,



  SEC. I The net profits of the Association, after the payment of all expenses, shall be divided into a number of shares corresponding to the number of days’ labor; and every member shall be entitled to one share of every day’s labor performed by him.

  SEC. 2. A full settlement shall be made with every member once a year, and certificates of stock given for all balances due; but in case of need, to be decided by himself, every member may be permitted to draw on the funds in the Treasury to an amount not exceeding the credits in his favor for labor performed.



  SEC. I. The government of the Association shall be vested in a board of Directors, divided into four departments, as follows; 1st, General Direction; 2d, Direction of Education; 3d, Direction of Industry; 4th, Direction of Finance; consisting of three persons each, provided that the same person may be elected member of each Direction.

  SEC. 2. The General Direction and Direction of Education shall be chosen annually, by the vote of a majority of the members of the Association. The Direction of Finance shall be chosen annually, by the vote of a majority of the share-holders and members of the Association. The direction of Industry shall consist of the chiefs of the three primary series.

  SEC. 3. The chairman of the General Direction shall be the ‘President of the Association, and together with the Direction of Finance, shall constitute a board of Trustees, by whom the property of the Association shall be held and managed.

SEO. 4 The General Direction shall oversee and manage the affairs of the Association, so that every department shall be carried on in an orderly and efficient manner.

  SEC. 5. The departments of Education and Finance shall be under the control each of its own Direction, which shall select, and in concurrence with the General Direction, shall appoint such teachers, officers, and agents, as shall be necessary to the complete and systematic organization of the department. No Directors or other officers shall be deemed to possess any rank superior to the other members of the Association, nor shall they receive any extra remuneration for their official services.

  SEC. 6. The department of industry shall be arranged in groups and series, as far as practicable, and shall consist of three primary series; to wit, Agricultural, Mechanical, and Domestic Industry. The chief of each series shall be elected every two months by the members thereof, subject to the approval of the general Direction. The chief of each group shall be chosen weekly by its members.



  SEC. I. The Association may from time to time adopt such by-laws, not inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of these articles, as shall be found expedient or necessary.

  SEC. 2. In order to secure to the Association the benefits of the highest discoveries in social science, and to preserve its fidelity to the principles of progress and reform, on which it is founded, any amendment may be proposed to this Constitution at a meeting called for the purpose; and if approved by two-thirds of the members at a subsequent meeting, at least one month after the date of the first, shall be adopted.

  From this it appears that the association was simply an attempt to return to first principles, to plant the seeds of a new social order, founded on respect for the dignity, and sympathy with the aspirations of man. It was open to all sects; it admitted, welcomed, nay, demanded all kinds and degrees of intellectual culture. The most profound regard for individual opinion, feeling and inclination, was professed and exhibited. Confidence that surrender to the spontaneous principle, with no more restriction than might be necessary to secure its development, was wisest, lay at the bottom of the scheme.

  It was felt at this time, 1842, that, in order to live a religious and moral life in sincerity, it was necessary to leave the world of institutions, and to reconstruct the social order from new beginnings. A farm was bought in close vicinity to Boston; agriculture was made the basis of the life, as bringing man into direct and simple relations with -nature, and restoring labor to honest conditions. To a certain extent, it will be seen, the principle of community in property was recognized, community of interest and cooperation requiring it; but to satisfy the claims and insure the rights of the individual, members were not required to impoverish themselves, or to resign the fruit of their earnings.

  Provisions were either raised on the farm or purchased at wholesale. Meals were eaten in “commons.” It was the rule that all should labor—choosing their occupations, and the number of hours, and receiving wages according to the hours. No labor was hired that could be supplied within the community; and all labor was rewarded alike, on the principle that physical labor is more irksome than mental, more absorbing and exacting, less improving and delightful. Moreover, to recognize practically the nobility of labor in and of itself, none were appointed to special kinds of work. All took their turn at the several branches of employment. None were drudges or menials. The intellectual gave a portion of their time to tasks such as servants and handmaidens usually discharge. The unintellectual were allowed a portion of their time for mental cultivation. The benefits of social intercourse were thrown open to all. The aim was to secure as many hours as practicable from the necessary toil of providing for the wants of the body, that there might be more leisure to provide for the deeper wants of the soul. The acquisition of wealth was no object. No more thought was given to this than the exigencies of existence demanded. To live, expand, enjoy as rational beings, was the never-forgotten aim.

  The community trafficked by way of exchange and barter with the outside world; sold its surplus produce; sold its culture to as many as came or sent children to be taught. It was hoped that from the accumulated results of all this labor, the appliances for intellectual and spiritual health might be obtained; that books might be bought, works of art, scientific collections and apparatus, means of decoration and refinement, all of which should be open on the same terms to every member of the association. The principle of cooperation was substituted for the principle of competition; self development for selfishness. The faith was avowed in every arrangement that the soul of humanity was in each man and woman. The reputation for genius, accomplishment and wit, which the founders of the Brook Farm enterprise enjoyed in society, attracted towards it the attention of the public, and awakened expectation of something much more than ordinary in the way of literary advantages. The settlement became a resort for cultivated men and women who had experience as teachers and wished to employ their talent to the best effect; and for others who were tired of the conventionalities, and sighed for honest relations with their fellow-beings. Some took advantage of the easy hospitality of the association, and came there to live mainly at its expense—their unskilled and incidental labor being no compensation for their entertainment. The most successful department was the school. Pupils came thither in considerable numbers and from considerable distances. Distinguished visitors gave charm and reputation to the place.

  The members were never numerous; the number varied considerably from year to year. Seventy was a fair average; of these, fewer than half were young persons sent thither to be educated. Several adults came for intellectual assistance. Of married people there were, in 1844, but four pairs. A great deal was taught and learned at Brook Farm. Classics, mathematics, general literature, æsthetics, occupied the busy hours. The most productive work was done in these ideal fields, and the best result of it was a harvest in the ideal world, a new sense of life’s elasticity and joy, the delight of freedom, the innocent satisfaction of spontaneous relations.

  The details above given convey no adequate idea of the Brook Farm fraternity. In one sense it was much less than they imply; in another sense it was much more. It was less, because its plan was not materially successful; the intention was defeated by circumstances; the hope turned out to be a dream. Yet, from another aspect, the experiment fully justified itself. Its moral tone was high; its moral influence sweet and sunny. Had Brook Farm been a community in the accepted sense, had it insisted on absolute community of goods, the resignation of opinions, of personal aims interests or sympathies; had the principle of renunciation, sacrifice of the individual to the common weal, been accepted and maintained, its existence might have been continued and its pecuniary basis made sure. But asceticism was no feature of the original scheme. On the contrary, the projectors of it were believers in the capacities of the soul, in the safety, wisdom and imperative necessity of developing those capacities, and in the benign effect of liberty. Had the spirit of rivalry and antagonism been called in, the sectarian or party spirit, however generously interpreted, the result would probably have been different. But the law of sympathy being accepted as the law of life, exclusion was out of the question; inquisition into beliefs was inadmissible; motives even could not be closely scanned; so while some were enthusiastic friends of the principle of association and some were ardent devotees to liberty, others thought chiefly of their private education and development; and others still were attracted by a desire of improving their social condition, or attaining comfort on easy terms. The idea, however noble, true, and lovely, was unable to grapple with elements so discordant. Yet the fact that these discordant elements did not, even in the brief period of the fraternity’s existence, utterly rend and abolish the idea; that to the last, no principle was compromised, no rule broken, no aspiration bedraggled, is a confession of the purity and vitality of the creative thought. That a mere aggregation of persons, without written compact, formal understanding, or unity of purpose, men, women and children, should have lived together, four or five years, without scandal or reproach from dissension or evil whisper, should have separated without rancor or bitterness, and should have left none but the pleasantest savor behind them—is a tribute to the Transcendental Faith.

  In 1844, the Directors of the Association, George Ripley, Minot Pratt, and Charles Anderson Dana, published a statement, declaring: that every step had strengthened the faith with which they set out; that their belief in a divine order of human society had in their minds become an absolute certainty; that, in their judgment, considering the state of humanity and of social science, the world was much nearer the attainment of such a condition than was generally supposed. They here said emphatically that Fourier’s doctrine of universal unity commanded their unqualified assent, and that their whole observation had satisfied them of the practical arrangements which he deduced therefrom, of the correspondence of the law of groups and series with the law of human nature. At this time the farm contained two hundred and eight acres, and could be enlarged to any extent necessary. The Association held property worth nearly or quite thirty thousand dollars, of which about twenty-two thousand was invested, either in the stock of the company or in permanent loans to it at six per cent, which could remain as long as the Association might wish. The organization was pronounced to be in a satisfactory working condition; the Department of Education, on which much thought had been bestowed, was flourishing. With a view to an ultimate expansion into a perfect Phalanx, it was proposed to organize the three primary departments of labor, namely, Agriculture, Domestic Industry, and the Mechanical Arts. Public meetings had awakened an interest in the community. Appeals for money had been generously answered. The numbers had been increased by the accession of many skilful and enthusiastic laborers in various departments. About ten thousand dollars had been added by subscription to the capital. A work-shop sixty feet by twenty-eight had been erected; a Phalanstery, or unitary dwelling on a large scale, was in process of erection, to meet the early needs of the preparatory period, until success should authorize the building of a Phalanstery “with the magnificence and permanence proper to such a structure.” The prospect was, or looked, encouraging. The experiment had been tested by the hard discipline of more than two years; the severest difficulties had apparently been conquered; the arrangements had attained, systematic form, as far as the limited numbers permitted; the idea was respectfully entertained; socialism was spreading; it embraced persons of every station in life; and in its extent, and influence on questions of importance, it seemed, to enthusiastic believers, to be fast assuming in the United States a national character. This was in October 1844. At this time the Brook Farm Associationists connected themselves with the New York Socialists who accepted the teachings of Fourier; and the efforts described were put forth in aid of the new and more systematic plans that had been adopted. But this coalition, which promised so much, proved disastrous in its result. The Association was unable to sustain industrial competition with established trades. The expenses were more than the receipts. In the spring of 1847 the Phalanstery was burned down; the summer was occupied in closing up the affairs; and in the autumn the Association was broken up. The members betook themselves to the world again, and engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life. The farm was bought by the town of West Roxbury, and afterwards passed into private hands. During the civil war the government used it for military purposes. The main building has since been occupied as a hospital. The leaders of the Association removed to New York, and for about a year, till February 1849, continued their labors of propagandism by means of the “Harbinger,” till that expired: then their dream faded away.

  The full history of that movement can be written only by one who belonged to it, and shared its secret: and it would doubtless have been written before this, had the materials for a history been more solid. Aspirations have no history. It is pleasant to hear the survivors of the pastoral experiment talk over their experiences, merrily recall the passages in work or play, revive the impressions of country rambles, conversations, discussions, social festivities, recount the comical mishaps, summon the shadows of friends dead, but unforgotten, and describe the hours spent in study or recreation, unspoiled by carefulness. But it is in private alone that these confidences are imparted. To the public very little has been, or will be, or can be told.

  Mr. Hawthorne was one of the first to take up the scheme. He was there a little while at the beginning in 1841, and his note-books contain passages that are of interest. But Hawthorne’s temperament was not congenial with such an atmosphere, nor was his faith clear or steadfast enough to rest contented on its idea. His, however, were observing eyes; and his notes, being soliloquies, confessions made to himself, convey his honest impressions:

  BROOK FARM, April 13th, 1841. “I have not taken yet my first lesson in agriculture, except that I went to see our cows foddered, yesterday afternoon. We have eight of our own; and the number is now increased by a Transcendental heifer belonging to Miss Margaret Fuller. She is very fractious, I believe, and apt to kick over the milk pail . . . I intend to convert myself into a milk-maid this evening, but I pray Heaven that Mr. Ripley may be moved to assign me the kindliest cow in the herd, otherwise I shall perform my duties with fear and trembling. I like my brethren in affliction very well, and could you see us sitting round our table at meal times, before the great kitchen fire, you would call it a cheerful sight.”

  “April 14. I did not milk the cows last night, because Mr. R. was afraid to trust them to my hands, or me to their horns, I know not which. But this morning I have done wonders. Before breakfast I went out to the barn and began to chop hay for the cattle, and with such “righteous vehemence,” as Mr. R. says, did I labor, that in the space of ten minutes I broke the machine. Then I brought wood and replenished the fires; and finally went down to breakfast, and ate up a huge mound of buckwheat cakes. After breakfast Mr. R. put a four-pronged instrument into my hands, which he gave me to understand was called a pitchfork; and he and Mr. Farley being armed with similar weapons, we all three commenced a gallant attack on a heap of manure. This office being concluded, and I having purified myself, I sit down to finish this letter. Miss Fuller’s cow hooks other cows, and has made herself ruler of the herd, and behaves in a very tyrannical manner.”

  “April 16th. I have milked a cow!!! The herd has rebelled against the usurpation of Miss Fuller’s heifer; and whenever they are turned out of the barn, she is compelled to take refuge under our protection. So much did she impede my labors by keeping close to me, that I found it necessary to give her two or three gentle pats with a shovel. She is not an amiable cow; but she has a very intelligent face, and seems to be of a reflective cast of character.

  I have not yet been twenty yards from our house and barn; but I begin to perceive that this is a beautiful place. The scenery is of a mild and placid character, with nothing bold in its aspect; but I think its beauties will grow upon us, and make us love it the more the longer we live here. There is a brook so near the house that we shall be able to hear its ripple in the summer evenings,—but for agricultural purposes it has been made to flow in a straight and rectangular fashion which does it infinite damage as a picturesque object. Mr. R. has bought four black pigs.”

  “April 22nd. What an abominable hand do I scribble; but I have been chopping wood and turning a grindstone all the forenoon; and such occupations are apt to disturb the equilibrium of the muscles and sinews. It is an endless surprise to me how much work there is to be done in the world; but thank God I am able to do my share of it, and my ability increases daily. What a great, broad-shouldered, elephantine personage I shall become by and by!

  I read no newspapers, and hardly remember who is President, and feel as if I had no more concern with what other people trouble themselves about, than if I dwelt in another planet.”

  “May 1st. All the morning I have been at work, under the clear blue sky, on a hill side. Sometimes it almost seemed as if I were at work in the sky itself, though the material in which I wrought was the ore from our gold-mine. There is nothing so disagreeable or unseemly in this sort of toil as you could think. It defiles the hands indeed, but not the soul.

  The farm is growing very beautiful now,—not that we yet see anything of the peas and potatoes which we have planted, but the grass blushes green on the slopes and hollows.

  I do not believe that I should be so patient here if I were not engaged in a righteous and heaven-blessed way of life. We had some tableaux last evening. They went off very well.”

  “May 11th. This morning I arose at milking time, in good trim for work; and we have been employed partly in an Augean labor of clearing out a wood-shed, and partly in carting loads of oak. This afternoon I hope to have something to do in the field, for these jobs about the house are not at all suited to my taste.”

  “June 1st. I think this present life of mine gives me an antipathy to pen and ink, even more than my Custom-house experience did. In the midst of toil, or after a hard day’s work, my soul obstinately refuses to be poured out on paper. It is my opinion that a man’s soul may be buried and perish under a dung heap, just as well as under a pile of money.”

  “August 15th. Even my Custom-house experience was not such a thraldom and weariness as this. O, labor is the curse of the world, and nobody can meddle with it, without becoming proportionably brutified! Is it a praiseworthy matter that I have spent five golden months in providing food for cows and horses? It is not so.”

  “Salem, Sept. 3d. Really I should judge it to be twenty years since I left Brook Farm; and I take this to be one proof that my life there was an unnatural and unsuitable, and therefore an unreal one. It already looks like a dream behind me. The real Me was never an associate of the community; there had been a spectral Appearance there, sounding the horn at daybreak, and milking the cows, and hoeing the potatoes, and raking hay, toiling in the sun, and doing me the honor to assume my name. But this spectre was not myself.”

  Mr. Hawthorne was elected to high offices, to those of Trustee of the Brook Farm estate, and Chairman of the Committee of Finance; but he told Mr. Ripley that he could not spend another winter there. If we could inspect all the note-books of the community, supposing all to be as frank as Hawthorne, our picture of Brook Farm life would be fascinating. But his was, perhaps, the only note-book kept in the busy brotherhood, and his rather sombre view must be accepted as the impression of one peculiar mind. In the “Blithedale Romance,” Hawthorne disclaimed any purpose to describe persons or events at Brook Farm, and expressed a hope that some one might yet do justice to a movement so full of earnest aspiration. But he, himself, declined the task. “The old and affectionately remembered home at Brook Farm—certainly the most romantic episode of his own life—essentially a day dream, and yet a fact—thus offering an available foothold between fiction and reality,” merely supplied the scenery for the romance. More than twenty years have passed since Hawthorne’s appeal to his associates, but it has not been answered.

  The characteristic nature of transcendental reform was exhibited in the temper of its agitation for the enfranchisement of women, and the enlargement of her sphere of duty and privilege. More definitely than any other, this reform can trace its beginnings and the source of its inspiration to the disciples of the transcendental philosophy. The transcendentalists gave it their countenance, to some extent, to a man and a woman, conceding the truth of its idea even when criticising the details of its application. With almost if not quite equal unanimity, the other school regarded it with disfavor. The cause of woman, as entertained by the reformers, was not likely to commend itself to people who consulted custom, law, or institution; who accepted the authority of tradition, took history to be revelation, deferred to the decree of circumstance, or, under any other open or disguised form, bowed to the doctrine that might makes right. The philosophical conservatives and the social conservatives struck hands on this; for both, the one party in deference to established usage, the other party in deference to the opinion that mind followed organization, defended things as they were, and hoped for a better state of things, if they hoped for it at all, as a result of changes in the social environment. The disciples of the same philosophy now hold the same view of this particular reform. From them comes the charge of unsexing women and demoralizing the sex. In the belief of the transcendentalist, souls were of no sex. Men and women were alike human beings, with human capacities, longings, and destinies; and the condition of society that doomed them to hopelessness in regard to the complete and perfect justification of their being, was, in his judgment—not in his feeling, or sentiment, but in his judgment—unsound.

  The ablest and most judicial statement on the question was made by Margaret Fuller in the “Dial” of July 1843. The paper entitled the “Great Law Suit” was afterwards expanded into the little volume called “Woman in the XIXth Century,” which contains all that is best worth saying on the subject, has been the storehouse of argument and illustration from that time to this, and should be read by all who would understand the cardinal points in the case. The careful student of that book will be amazed at the misapprehensions in respect to its doctrine that are current even in intelligent circles. Certainly Miss Fuller does claim everything that may fairly be comprehended under woman’s education; everything that follows, or may be honestly and rationally held as following in the course of her intellectual development. But she claims it by rigorous fidelity to a philosophical idea; not passionately or hastily. Not as a demand of sentiment, not as a right under liberty, not as a conclusion from American institutions, but as the spiritual prerogative of the spiritual being. Her argument moves on this high table-land of thought; and moves with a steadiness, a serenity, an ease that little resemble the heated debates on later platforms. Miss Fuller was thoroughly feminine in her intuitions. It was impossible for her to treat any subject, to say nothing of a subject so complex and delicate as this, with any but the finest tempered tools. Her sympathies were with women; she attracted women by the power of her intelligence and fellow feeling. Women of feeling and aspiration—pure feeling and beautiful aspiration,—came to her. The secrets of the best hearts were revealed to her, as they could not have been, had she failed to reach or attract them on their own level. Her idea of womanly character as displayed in sentiment and action was as gracious as it was lofty.

  “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to women as freely as to man. Were this done, and a slight temporary fermentation allowed to subside, we believe that the Divine would ascend into nature to a height unknown in the history of past ages; and nature, thus instructed, would regulate the spheres, not only so as to avoid collision, but to bring forth ravishing harmony.”

  Yet then, and only then, will human beings, in her judgment, be ripe for this, when inward and outward freedom for woman as much as for man, shall be acknowledged as a right, not yielded as a concession. “What woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely, and unimpeded to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home. If fewer talents were given her, yet, if allowed the full and free employment of these, so that she may render back to the giver his own with usury, she will not complain, nay, I dare to say, she will bless and rejoice in her earthly birth-place her earthly lot.”

  “Man is not willingly ungenerous. He wants faith and love because he is not yet himself an elevated being. He cries with sneering skepticism: Give us a sign! But if the sign appears, his eyes glisten, and he offers not merely approval but homage.”

  The Transcendental idea makes her just to all, to the Hebrews who “greeted with solemn rapture all great and holy women as heroines, prophetesses, nay judges in Israel, and if they made Eve listen to the serpent, gave Mary to the Holy Ghost;” to the Greeks whose feminine deities were types of dignity and loveliness; to the Romans, whose glorious women are “of thread-bare celebrity;” to Asiatics, Russians, English. It gave her generous interpretations for laws, institutions, customs, bidding her look on the bright side of history.

  “Whatever may have been the domestic manners of the ancient nations, the idea of woman was nobly manifested in their mythologies and poems, where she appeared as Sita in the Ramayana, a form of tender purity; in the Egyptian Isis, of divine wisdom never yet surpassed. In Egypt too, the sphinx, walking the earth with lion tread, looked out upon its marvels in the calm, inscrutable beauty of a virgin face, and the Greek could only add wings to the great emblem.” “In Sparta the women were as much Spartans as the men. Was not the calm equality they enjoyed well worth the honors of chivalry? They intelligently shared the ideal life of their nation.” “ Is it in vain that the truth has been recognized that woman is not only a part of man, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, born that man might not be lonely, but in themselves possessors of and possessed by immortal souls? This truth undoubtedly received a greater outward stability from the belief of the church that the earthly parent of the Saviour of souls was a woman.”

  “Woman cannot complain that she has not had her share of power. This in all ranks of society, except the lowest, has been hers to the extent that vanity could crave, far beyond what wisdom would accept. It is not the transient breath of poetic incense that women want; each can receive that from a lover. It is not life-long sway; it needs to become a coquette, a shrew, or a good cook, to be sure of that. It is not money, nor notoriety, nor the badges of authority that men have appropriated to themselves. It is for that which includes all these and precludes them; which would not be forbidden power, lest there be temptation to steal and misuse it; which would not have the mind perverted by flattery from a worthiness of esteem. It is for that which is the birthright of every being capable to receive it,—the freedom, the religious, the intelligent freedom of the universe, to use its means, to learn its secret as far as nature has enabled them, with God alone for their guide and their judge.”

  “The only reason why women ever assume what is more appropriate to men, is because men prevent them from finding out what is fit for themselves. Were they free, were they wise fully to develop the strength and beauty of woman, they would never wish to be men or manlike. The well instructed moon flies not from her orbit to seize on the glories of her partner.”

  “Give the soul free course, let the organization be freely developed, and the being will be fit for any and every relation to which it may be called.”

  “Civilized Europe is still in a transition state about marriage, not only in practice but in thought. A great majority of societies and individuals are still doubtful whether earthly marriage is to be a union of souls, or merely a contract of convenience and utility. Were woman established in the rights of an immortal being this could not be.” But “those who would reform the world, must show that they do not speak in the heat of wild impulse; their lives must be unstained by passionate error; they must be severe lawgivers to themselves. As to their transgressions of opinions, it may be observed, that the resolve of Eloise to be only the mistress of Abelard, was that of one who saw the contract of marriage a seal of degradation. Wherever abuses of this sort are seen, the timid will suffer, the bold will protest; but society has the right to outlaw them, till she has revised her law, and she must be taught to do so, by one who speaks with authority, not in anger or haste.”

  “Whether much or little has been or will be done; whether women will add to the talent of narration, the power of systematizing; whether they will carve marble as well as iron, is not important. But that it should be acknowledged that they have intellect which needs developing, that they should not be considered complete, if beings of affection and habit alone, is important. Earth knows no fairer, holier relation than that of mother. But a being of infinite scope must not be treated with an exclusive view to any one relation.”

  “In America women are much better situated than men. Good books are allowed, with more time to read them. They have time to think, and no traditions chain them. Their employments are more favorable to the inward life than those of men. Men are courteous to them; praise them often; check them seldom. In this country, is venerated, wherever seen, the character which Goethe spoke of as an Ideal: ‘The excellent woman is she, who, if her husband dies, can be a father to the children.’”

  Nothing can be more reasonable than this; and this is the tone of transcendental feeling and thought on the subject. The only criticism that can fairly be made on the Transcendentalist’s idea of woman, is that it has more regard for essential capacities and possibilities, than for incidental circumstances, more respect for the ideal than for the actual woman. However grave a sin this may be against common sense, it is none against purity, nobleness, or the laws of private or public virtue. The dream, if it be no more than a dream, is beautiful and inspiring.

  The Transcendentalist believed in man’s ability to apprehend absolute ideas of Truth, Justice, Rectitude, Goodness; he spoke of The Right, The True, The Beautiful, as eternal realities which he perceived. The “Sensational” philosophy was shut up in the relative and conditioned; knew nothing higher than expediency; held prudence, caution, practical wisdom in highest rank among the virtues; consulted the revelations of history; recognized no law above established usage; went for guidance to the book, the record, the statute; it could not speak therefore with power, but could only consider, surmise, cast probabilities, devise plans and work carefully towards their execution. The Sensationalist distrusted the seer, rejected the prophet, and disliked the reformer. His aim was low; his work within easy distance; his object, some plainly visible and appreciable satisfaction. His faith in men and women was small; his trust in circumstances and conditions was unbounded; but as this faith had no wings, it could neither raise its possessor from the ground, nor speed him faster than a walking pace. He was easily satisfied with the world as it was; or if dissatisfied, had little hope of its being made better by anything he could do. His helplessness and hopelessness will make him in opinion an optimist, who finds it easier to assume that the order of the world is perfect and will so appear by and by, than that it is made imperfect for him to mend. Optimism is perhaps oftener the creed of the indolent than of the earnest.

  The Transcendentalist was satisfied with nothing so long as it did not correspond to the ideal in the enlightened soul; and in the soul recognized the power to make all things new. Nothing will content him short of the absolute right, the eternally true, the unconditioned excellence. He prays for the kingdom of Heaven, lives in expectation of it; would not be surprised at its coming any day. For though the distance is immense between the world as it is and his vision of the world as it should be—a distance that the Evolutionist despairs of seeing traversed in thousands of years, if he believes it will be traversed at all,—still, as the power of regeneration is supposed to be in the soul itself, which is possessed of infinite capacities and is open continually to inspirations from the world of soul, the transformation may begin when least expected, and may be completed before preparation for it can be made. Hence his boundless enthusiasm and hope; hence the ardor of his feeling, the glow of his language. Hence his disposition to exaggerate the force of tendencies that point in his direction; to take the brightest view of events, and put the happiest construction on the signs of the times. In the anti-slavery period the Transcendentalist glorified the negro beyond all warrant of fact, seeing in him an imprisoned soul struggling to be free. The same soul he sees in woman oppressed by limitations; the same in the drunkard, the gambler, the libertine. His eye is ever fixed on the future.

All Sub-Works of Transcendentalism in New England: A History (1880):
PDF Sub-Works open in a new tab. Close the tab when done viewing to return here.