Unit 2: The American Reniassance, Influencing the Transcendentalists
The AmericanRenaissance Influencing the Transcendentalists
DO NOT TAKEA. The Rise of Nationalism 1. The Monroe Presidency, 1817-1825, “The Era of Good Feelings” a. Monroe Doctrine (1822)i. Americas not available for European colonization ii. national interest more important than regional interestsb. McColluch vs. Maryland: national interests more importantc. Missouri Compromisei. Missouri becomes a state (slave state) ii. other states fear upset in balance of free and slave states iii. Maine becomes state (free state)
2. War of 1812 DO NOT TAKEa. US vs. Britain, reasons for war:i. trade restrictions ii. impressment of US Navy personnel into British Navy iii. British support of Natives against American expansionb. Battle of New Orleans: fought and won by general Andrew Jacksonc. Treaty of Ghent 1814i. ends war, restores “status quo” before war ii. Britain wins Nepoleonic wars, establishes era of peace 3. The Jackson Presidency, 1829-1837a. Indian Removal Act: relocate five Indian tribes fromsoutheast to west; decimated Cherokee tribe (Trail of Tears)b. conflict over Second US Bank (national; upset states)
DO NOT TAKEB. Conflicts due to Western Expansion 1. Manifest Destiny (western migration, 1840s-50s) a. belief that it was a God-given right to settle all land coast to coastb. Sante Fe, Oregon, Mormon trails (most famous)c. Gold Rush, 1848-49 California 2. Texas Independencea. part of Mexico, 1821, colonized by Americans 1823b. became independent republic, 1836 (won war with Mexico at Battle of San Jacinto after loss at the Alamo)c. votes to become US state 3. Mexican-American War a. US takes control of New Mexicob. Americans in California revolt against Mexico (“Bear Flag Revolt”)c. 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: US gains New Mexico, California,Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming territories
ADD TO NOTEBOOKC. The American Novel, “Wilderness” Experience 1. more independent of traditional forms; explorative 2. different subject matter available, limitless frontiers 3. coincided with westward expansion and nationalism 4. New Hero a. virtue = American innocenceb. youthful, innocent, intuitive, close tonature, skillful, frontiersmanc. modeled by perceptions of Andrew Jacksonin Battle of New Orleans
ADD TO NOTEBOOKD. American Romanticism 1. value feeling, intuition over reason 2. truth accompanied by powerful emotion, associated with natural beauty 3. wanted to rise above “dull realities” a. used exotic settings (more “natural,” removed from industrial)b. sometimes used supernatural realm or old legends/folklorec. reflection on natural world until underlying truth revealedd. similar to Puritans: draw moral lessons from nature
ADD TO NOTEBOOKE. Transcendentalism 1. one must transcend (“go beyond”) everyday experience 2. human perfectibility 3. native mysticism: experience of nature leads to spiritual understanding 4. optimisma. God works through natureb. tragic events explained on spiritual levelc. each person part of the Divine Soul 5. appealed to audiences who lived in economic downturns, regional strife
The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy.– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Transcendentalist”In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. – Aristotle
Transcendentalism: IntroductionWhen people hear the word Transcendentalism,they tend to equate its meaning with its root,transcend, meaning “to rise above the humanexperience.” In fact, though, the philosophy ofTranscendentalism actually refers to that which iswithin the human mind. It refers to the innateability within all people to fulfill their potential, toovercome adversity, to face challenges directly, torely on an inner voice and instinct to guide themthrough life. Listening to the inner voice, theTranscendentalist, at one with God and Nature,grows into an autonomous, self-reliant individualwho feels no need to seek affirmation outside ofhim or herself.
Transcendentalism: IntroductionAmerican Transcendentalism began as acombination of Unitarian theology—including thebelief that God is one, rather than the Catholic“trinity”—and German philosophy in the mid-1800s. The Industrial Revolution was bringingrapid change to the country. A new materialismdistracted Americans in vast numbers. Being agood citizen meant abiding by laws that were notalways moral or right. For example, in a blend ofgreed, commerce, and immoral law, the federalgovernment decreed in the Fugitive Slave Lawsthat slaves who managed to escape to the Northwere still property and must be returned to theirowners.
Transcendentalism: IntroductionTranscendentalists, including Henry DavidThoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke outagainst such injustice. Theircontemporaries, including Hawthorne andPoe, often viewed them as radicalnonconformists. Thoreau and Emerson usedThe Dial magazine, founded by women’s rightsactivist Margaret Fuller, as a platform to speakabout such topics as equal rights forwomen, the abolishment of slavery, the rightsand responsibilities of the individual, and theinjustices perpetrated in the name ofDemocracy.
Transcendentalism: IntroductionThe Transcendentalists valued individuality abovesocial acceptance and creativity above financialprosperity. More controversial, however, wastheir belief that the Divine existed within Natureand that man existed above the traditional deityof organized religion, which they believedinspired fear and condemnation of self and ofothers. The movement also valued personalvision and truth above external reality, and itsproponents believed in experiential education toheighten innate curiosity, rather than the rotememorization and drilling employed by publicschools.
Transcendentalism: IntroductionMost Transcendentalists became unhappy with social and political developments of the day. As a group, they developed and honed a powerful political voice, which can be seen as a forerunner of and inspiration to the Environmental Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for women’s rights, and the struggle to end wars through peaceful protest. The Transcendentalists helped define the spirit of American individualism and independence.
G. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) 1. Background a. born in Concord, Massachusettsb. entered Harvard in 1833, graduated four years laterc. very familiar with English literature and German philosophyd. unsuccessful at teaching, took land in Walden (offered by Emerson)e. Walden experiment attempted to rediscover grandeur of simple lifei. focus for contemplative urge ii. saw private confrontation as heroic iii. spent over two years, returned home to publish essaysf. “civil disobedience”i. refused to pay poll tax in protest of Mexican-American War (spent night in jail) ii. helped fugitives escape slavery on way to Canada iii. defended abolitionist John Brown 2. Writings a. unique blend of style, contentb. believes style imitating nature spoke spiritual truthsc. inspired passive resistance of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862Maxham daguerreotype of Henry David Thoreau made in 1856
Civil Disobedience, 1849Henry David Thoreau is best known for Walden, which chronicles his experiment in simple, self-sufficient living. Less remembered, however, is that while living at Walden Pond, he was imprisoned for refusing to pay his poll tax as a statement of protest against slavery and what he saw as an unjust war with Mexico.After someone else paid his tax, he was released, but he gave an 1848 lecture on "Resistance to Civil Government"--since published as "Civil Disobedience"--to explain his action.While far less known than Walden, "Civil Disobedience" has arguably had much farther reaching effects. It helped inspire the Danish resistance in World War II, Gandhi in India, and tax resistors and civic protestors of all types for many decades.
“Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the statehas become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barterswith such a state shares in its corruption andlawlessness...Every citizen is responsible for every act of hisgovernment...There is only one sovereign remedy, namely,non-violent non-cooperation. Whether we advertise thefact or not, the moment we cease to support thegovernment it dies a nature death....My method isconversion, not coercion, it is self-suffering, not thesuffering of the tyrant… Civil disobedience is the assertion ofa right which law should give but which it denies...Civildisobedience presupposes willing obedience of our self-imposed rules, and without it civil disobedience would becruel joke....Civil disobedience means capacity for unlimitedsuffering without the intoxicating excitement ofkilling....Disobedience to be civil has to be open andnonviolent.”
“The willingness to accept the penalty forbreaking the unjust law is what makes civildisobedience a moral act and not merely anact of lawbreaking.” MLK-led March through Selma, Alabama
Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, b. 1943
“Our firm conviction that ours is a just causeand that we must find a peaceful way toattain our goals gave us the strength and theawareness of the limits beyond which wemust not go.”“We shall not yield to violence. We shall notbe deprived of union freedoms. We shallnever agree with sending people to prison fortheir convictions."
Current Acts of Civil Disobedience Tibetan Monks, many of whom are in India in exile, have been protesting against the Chinese government for not recognizing Tibet’s independence. They do so by lighting themselves on fire; this has been going on since the 1960s. The trend has recently increased – over 30 deaths have resulted from these protests in the past year. Crisis in Tibet
H. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) 1. Background a. born in Boston, poor but culturedb. father died at age 8, mother opened boarding housec. influenced by aunt Mary, energy drove to achievementd. life laid out for him early: Harvard, become minister (like 8 generations before him)e. entered Harvard age 14, took job at school, then became ministerf. married in 1829, wife died of tuberculosis 17 months laterg. grief coincided with disenchantment with established religionh. became friends with Romantic English poets Wordsworth and Coleridge while in Englandi. returned to states, remarried, began lecturing 2. Writings a. expressed advantages of “young land”; freedom from old, corrupt, dying thought and customs of Europeb. access to higher laws directly through nature, not books, teachingsc. distinctly American view: denied importance of pastd. individual souls part of larger entity, “over-soul”e. appealed to both intellectuals and general public