Ralph Waldo Emerson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 403 pages of information about Ralph Waldo Emerson.

His optimism flowers out in all its innocent luxuriance in the paragraph from which this is quoted.  Of course with notions like these he could not be hand in hand with the Abolitionists.  He was classed with the Free Soilers, but he seems to have formed a party by himself in his project for buying up the negroes.  He looked at the matter somewhat otherwise in 1863, when the settlement was taking place in a different currency,—­in steel and not in gold:—­

  “Pay ransom to the owner,
    And fill the bag to the brim. 
  Who is the owner?  The slave is owner,
    And ever was.  Pay him.”

His sympathies were all and always with freedom.  He spoke with indignation of the outrage on Sumner; he took part in the meeting at Concord expressive of sympathy with John Brown.  But he was never in the front rank of the aggressive Anti-Slavery men.  In his singular “Ode inscribed to W.H.  Channing” there is a hint of a possible solution of the slavery problem which implies a doubt as to the permanence of the cause of all the trouble.

  “The over-god
  Who marries Right to Might,
  Who peoples, unpeoples,—­
  He who exterminates
  Races by stronger races,
  Black by white faces,—­
  Knows to bring honey
  Out of the lion.”

Some doubts of this kind helped Emerson to justify himself when he refused to leave his “honeyed thought” for the busy world where

  “Things are of the snake.”

The time came when he could no longer sit quietly in his study, and, to borrow Mr. Cooke’s words, “As the agitation proceeded, and brave men took part in it, and it rose to a spirit of moral grandeur, he gave a heartier assent to the outward methods adopted.”

* * * * *

No woman could doubt the reverence of Emerson for womanhood.  In a lecture read to the “Woman’s Rights Convention” in 1855, he takes bold, and what would then have been considered somewhat advanced, ground in the controversy then and since dividing the community.  This is the way in which he expresses himself: 

“I do not think it yet appears that women wish this equal share in public affairs.  But it is they and not we that are to determine it.  Let the laws he purged of every barbarous remainder, every barbarous impediment to women.  Let the public donations for education be equally shared by them, let them enter a school as freely as a church, let them have and hold and give their property as men do theirs;—­and in a few years it will easily appear whether they wish a voice in making the laws that are to govern them.  If you do refuse them a vote, you will also refuse to tax them,—­according to our Teutonic principle, No representation, no tax.—­The new movement is only a tide shared by the spirits of man and woman; and you may proceed in the faith that whatever the woman’s heart is prompted to desire, the man’s mind is simultaneously prompted to accomplish.”

Emerson was fortunate enough to have had for many years as a neighbor, that true New England Roman, Samuel Hoar.  He spoke of him in Concord before his fellow-citizens, shortly after his death, in 1856.  He afterwards prepared a sketch of Mr. Hoar for “Putnam’s Magazine,” from which I take one prose sentence and the verse with which the sketch concluded:—­

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Ralph Waldo Emerson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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