Transcribed by Mitchell Santine Gould from the Google Books page images at


by Charles Daniel Gelatt

A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of






1. Introduction      1

2. Quakers as the Motivating Influence

behind Emerson’s Resignation from the Ministry      12

3. Liberal Quaker Thought and Emerson’s Final Theology.                        28

4. Quakerism and Transcendentalism  55

5. Progressive Quakers an Example for Emerson’s Reform Activities          80

6. Conclusion           101



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1. Introduction

Once Emerson, on being asked by a relative if he were a Swedenborgian, replied: “I am more of a Quaker than any­thing else. I believe in the ‘still, small voice,’and that voice is Christ within us.”[1] Just how well Emerson understood his own position presents an interesting problem. Discovering how much of a Quaker Emerson really was may add the history of another influence on Emerson’s thought, and hence define more clearly one of the great influences on American ideals of today.

The problem of determining the existence and extent of any particular influence on Emerson is complicated by the difficulty of separating that influence from the many others that have been discovered in his work. How much Plato Emerson knew, how well he understood the neo-Platonists, whether or not he ever comprehended the message of the orient, and what was his attitude toward science are questions that must be satisfactorily considered before an exact and final

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statement of the Quaker influence on Emerson can be made. To attempt such finality here would be foolhardy; to at­tempt any sort of definition may be fruitless in view of G. E. Woodberry’s statement: “One follows him [Emerson] into the books he read, not for the sources of his thought, but for the mould of the man himself.” “He read only to re-enforce his own thoughts...for whatever Emerson was, he was constitutionally." [2]

What was Emerson constitutionally? From his early childhood the ministerial influence was evident. Moral Law held his imagination as the rule by force sways the obedience of the usual child. His concept of Moral Law might be said to have been born with him; and it grew with him, too. As a student at Harvard, Emerson wrote of Moral Law:

“Its divine origin is fully shown by its superiority to all other principles of our nature. It seems to be more essential to our constitution than any other feeling whatever. It dwells so deeply in the human nature that we feel it to be implied in con­sciousness. Other faculties fail, — mem­ory sleeps; Judgment is impaired or ruined; Imagination droops, — but the moral sense abides there still. In our very dreams, it wakes and judges amid the Chaos of the rest.... It has no taint of mortality in the purity and unity of its intelligence. It sometimes seems to sanction that Pla­tonic dream, that the soul of an individ­ual was but an emanation from the Abyss of Deity, and about to return whence it flowed.” [3]

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Throughout his life Emerson reiterated this concept. He found many ideas which were assimilable to it. Such he took for himself. Those ideas which were not moral or spiritual, he, in the end, discarded.

Another idea became constitutionally a part of Emerson; his belief in a Moral Law probably was responsible for his early conceiving of a philosophical idealism. As a middle-aged man, he recalled the first breaking on his mind of idealism:

“I remember, when a child, in the pew on Sundays amusing myself with saying over common words as ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘board’, etc., twenty or thirty times, until the word lost all meaning and I began to doubt which was the right name for the thing, when I saw that neither had any mutual relation; but all were arbitrary. It was my first lesson in Idealism.” [4]

Nearly all the philosophy which Emerson read and annotated was idealistic. He rarely if ever took notice of a natur­alistic or materialistic philosopher. So thoroughly was his idealism a part of him that he conversed easily in its terms, and not at all in any other.

A third and final fundamental of Emerson’s instinctive approach to the world was the distinction he made between the Reason and the understanding. [5] Such a distinction is

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what might be logically expected from his emphasis upon Moral Law and his belief in the universe as an idealistic system.

By Reason, Emerson meant the faculty which receives the moral law. It is in fact a kind of intuitive con­science. The understanding, on the other hand, is the faculty which serves the immediate wants of the body.

“When the eye of Reason opens, to out­line and surface are at once added grace and expression. These proceed from ima­gination and affection, and abate some­what of the angular distinctness of ob­jects. If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines and sur­faces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them.” [6]

In other words, Reason enables man to perceive Moral Law, and helps him to learn philosophical idealism.

Even if in Emerson’s constitution all his thoughts were pre-ordained, a study of his contacts in life and in thought will at the very least give a key to his langu­age and his actions. Certainly many scholars have believed that their efforts to prove Emerson was influenced by other thinkers were successful. Therefore, proceeding from Emer­son’s own statement that he was “more of a Quaker than any­thing else,” let us see if anyone has ever agreed.

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Doctor Augustus H. Strong believes that the early Quaker Fox “furnished him with material.” [7] Frederick B. Tolles points out that two of his contemporaries spoke of him as if he were a Quaker. [8] Mr. Van Wyck Brooks twice al­ludes to the Quaker background in Emerson’s thought. [9] Mr. Henry Seidel Canby has called Emerson half a Quaker. [10] At the same time he maintains that “the Quakers were content with inner light, but Emerson, sprung from a harsher discipline,

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and a stronger will, rationalizes this inner light and lifts it out of mysticism into a doctrine for intelligent men.” [11]

Mr. Canby is quite right in praising Emerson for going beyond the Quakers; but the Quakers then referred to could only be the original mystics who founded the Society of Friends. Between the first emergence of the Quakers in 1642 and Emerson’s last trip to Europe in 1872, the Quaker faith underwent a development and rationalization of its own on the original bases.

A brief sketch of the history of Quakerism may help to make clear the distinct kinds of Quaker faith — all based on the original proposition, the Inner Light — which could have influenced Emerson.

The original Quakers, Fox, Penn, and Barclay, whom I shall hereafter term Historical Quakers, had one doctrine: the ability of the individual to come into contact with the divine will and be guided thereby without any material inter­vention. This ability they called the Inner Light. It was pure mysticism and came out of a long tradition of mystical reformers. [12] The main derivatives from the concept of the Inner Light were a disuse of all outward forms, a democratic church organization, and a determined effort to carry into

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daily life the commands of Christ. [13]

As first transplanted to America, the Quaker faith changed little. During the eighteenth century, it became for a while as dogmatic and formalized as many of the reli­gions it earlier decried. But a growing liberalism broke out into open schism in 1827 when Eilas Hicks led a move­ment based on the original Quaker principle of individuality. Hicks himself was Unitarian; but the Hicksite movement was not. “It would be most unjust to credit Hicks’ doctrine to even a majority of those who are popularly called by his name. Their fundamental principle was that in matters of doctrine there should be the fullest liberty.” [14]

Throughout New England and Pennsylvania other liberal groups broke away from the established Quaker Church. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, a group of this type, the mem­bers of which became known to Emerson, called themselves New Light Quakers. This group contemporary with Emerson claimed to have received New Inner Light; they constituted the second Quaker type to influence Emerson.

Other Quakers, inspired by the schism, went farther and farther in creating individual religions. Quakers of the “Progressive” type — as one group called themselves — held

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an unorganized agglomeration of ideas and theories hardly to be distinguished from those generally current among the contemporary liberals, radicals, and general reformers. Of the Quakers, the liberal or progressive ones were earnest and forthright. They had in some measure lost sight of a strict idealistic attitude; but they led brilliant battles to better this world. Not so theoretical, nor so well organized in any aspect of intellectualism, they led by the power of character. Progressive or reforming Quakers, the third type Emerson knew, fought a noble earthly battle, not a universal one of spirit.

With this quick glance at three distinct Quaker types, let us now turn to a question which must be settled before any conclusions as to influence are possible: supposing that Emerson did profit by the ideas of others, when did he reach maturity? When did he begin and when did he end absorbing intellectual material from others?

In general Emerson “felt at the end of his college course that the college had done little for him.” [15] A col­lege classmate, however, felt that “his mind was unusually mature and independent.” [16] Emerson, himself, said that while keeping school (1821-25), he was writing down his “first thoughts on morals and the beautiful laws of compensation

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and individual genius.” [17]

In 1825-26 while studying again at Divinity Hall, Emerson made a relatively poor impression on Dr. Hedge: “There was no presage... of future greatness. His promise seemed faint in comparison with the wondrous brilliancy of his younger brother, Edward Bliss Emerson.” [18]

Most authorities favor the theory of a late and slow development. Professor Harry H. Clark maintains that Emerson’s ideas were plastic “up to 1838.” [19] John B. Crozier held that Emerson “finished his thinking before he commenced writing,” or before the publication of Nature in 1836. [20] Mr. F. I. Carpenter admits that “it has often been said that Nature expresses all of Emerson’s ideas, at least in the germ”; [21] but holds nevertheless that Emer­son’s “mind developed strikingly during the course of the nineteenth century.” [28] The best answer is probably Woodberry’s: “At the time he left the Church [1832], his mind, which up to that moment had been slow in unfolding, suddenly matured; in the ten years following he did all of his think­ing... he had no new ideas after he was forty years old.” [23]

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If then we take as Emerson’s formative years, those from 1828 through 1840, we need give only cursory attention to Emerson’s reading before 1828. By that time he had read rather widely in the works of Plato, Bacon, and Montaigne. These men formed an excellent background for an introduction to Quakerism. Plato especially had cleared the way for the new approach to religion and life that culminated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Protestant Reform­ation, the Calvinistic movement, and the rise of the Presbyterians in England were only partial applications of the idealism, practicality, and common sense freedom of these three men. A fuller application was made by the men Rufus Jones terms ”Spiritual Reformers.” Men like Jacob Boehme, Hans Denck, Sebastian Franck, and George Fox continued in the tradition of Platonic idealism as adapted by the neo-Platonists; but they aided the revolt encouraged by the new logic of Bacon.

In 1826 Emerson read the Swedenborgian, Sampson Reed’s Growth of the Mind, [24] and gained thereby his first intro­duction to a truly mystical religion. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience and held afterwards an exaggerated opinion of the ability and worth of Reed.

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We have seen that Emerson, later in life, held himself to be most of all a Quaker; but we don’t know which of the three distinct Quaker faiths available to him he meant. Then too, we have seen that Emerson would be attracted to Quakerism because his inherent nature tended towards a moral and idealistic answer to the question of being; and finally that because of that tendency he followed in his early reading the same paths that had led others into the region whence came the original Quakers. Let us now turn to an examination of the specific relationships between Emer­son and the Quakers to see what in particular he may have gained from their example and teachings.

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2. Quakers as the Motivating Influence Behind Emerson’s Resignation from the Ministry


Although by 1826, Emerson had read in the vein of spiritual religion, Plato and Reed, he first came into con­tact with vital Quaker ideas in May, 1827. “On board the boat in Delaware Bay,” he met an old and honored Friend, Edward Stabler (1769-1831). [1] The meeting was an important one for Emerson. Stabler at the time was at the height of his powers. After a successful career as a druggist, Stabler had become an active Quaker. He wrote numberless letters during the last few years of his life and was con­tinually interested in religious and spiritual issues. This

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intense devotion to the cause made him a character to be remembered. Whatever he did say, though we can not be sure what it was, burned deeply into Emerson’s consciousness.

To him, Stabler was one of the “few men” in the age who taught “as one having authority”. His teachings proceeded “directly from the perception of principles.” [2] And nearly a decade after the meeting, immediately after Charles Emer­son’s death, Ralph Waldo listed Edward Stabler among those “who have ministered to my highest wants.” [3]

It is impossible to discover in full what ideas these two men, one in the fire of old age and the other the cour­ageous curiosity of youth, interchanged. We do know that Stabler had led his own Friend’s Meeting at Alexandria into the liberal, Hicksite movement. But Stabler either did not understand all of Hick's ideas or, if he did, ignored some of them. For Stabler retained firmly his own belief in the personality of God and the immortality of the individual soul. However the Hicksite revolt against forms did attract him. In writing to Hicks, Stabler exclaimed: “Alas! how do systems of religion lead the children of men to overlook the omnipresent and illimitable ‘power and wisdom’ of God.” [4]

He could not look upon even the “scriptures in any other or

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higher position, than as the writings of holy men.” [5] For Stabler, “True Quakerism (which is true Christianity) stands distinguished from every other religion in this eminent particular, — that it is altogether spiritual.” [6] A man of as great teaching powers as Stabler must have spoken some­thing of all this that afternoon on the boat. What may have been its effect we shall see later.

The second time, to our knowledge, that Emerson might have had a chance to discuss the spirituality of religion in Quaker terms came in the fall of the same year, 1827. As a young preacher, Emerson made three appearances in the pulpit at New Bedford, Massachusetts. [7] That city had been founded by Quakers, and was rich in Quaker traditions. Per­haps at that time, Emerson first met Mary Rotch who later had so great an influence upon him. The New Bedford Quakers in 1827 were only three years past a serious schism. The more liberal and spiritual members, known as New Light Quakers had separated from the regular Friends Meeting and were in process of being won over by Doctor Dewey's person­ality to join the Unitarian Church. However discussion of the New Light Quakers and Emerson best fits in at the time

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Emerson took careful note of then in 1833-34. [8]

On March 11, 1829 Emerson became pastor of the Second Church of Boston, the historically famous Old North Church. After adjusting himself to his new duties, Emerson for the first time in his life was able seriously to pursue a course of reading suited to his own tastes. No longer did he have to read rhetorical writers, [9] school-works, or theological treatises. Significantly, he turned in 1830 to Clarkson’s Life of William Penn. [10] Two years later he fully marked the first volume of Sewel’s History of the Quakers. [11] The re­ferences to Quaker ideas and leaders in Emerson’s Journals throughout 1832 prove that he had the book in his hands at the latest by July l5th and perhaps as early as May 7th. [12]

By 1832, Emerson’s growing dissatisfaction with the ministry as a profession for himself was reaching a climax. Soon after leaving college, his boyish vision of becoming

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a brilliant pulpit-orator had lost its zest. [13]

Once entered upon the ministry, he had found himself lacking in the natural warmth and sympathy required of a pastor. His natural awkwardness increased his own craving for independence of thought. In January 1832, he had gone so far in his revolt as to say: “It is the best part of the man, I sometimes think, that revolts most against his being a minister. His good revolts from official goodness... if the whole man acted always, how powerful would be every act and every word.” [14] This desire to be a “whole man”, to do just as his inner self directed, dictated Emerson’s course of action. His growing independence of thought, his in­creasing doubts as to the truth of certain church doctrines are put forth in his journals. [15] The conflict which inwardly disturbed Emerson was brought to a crisis by the issue of the Lord’s Supper. As the minister Emerson was bound to per­form this rite; yet to him it seemed an empty form. In June 1832 he proposed to the church that “the Communion be observed

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only as a festival of commemoration, without the use of the elements.” [16]

Some share of Emerson’s attitude of independence in thought, especially as it found concrete expression in his request for liberalizing the communion, can be attributed to his contacts with Quakers. As early as December, 1830, he had observed that “God is the substratum of all souls.” [17] The same belief in an inner voice of God is the essence of Quakerism. Emerson had read Clarkson’s statement of that idea: “This great God has written his law in our hearts.” [18]

Later Emerson echoed Fox’s statement that “people ought to come to the Spirit and grace of God in themselves, and to the light of Jesus in their own hearts”, [19] when he said

“My own mind is the direct revelation which I have from God and far least liable to mistake in telling his will of any revelation.” [20]

Moreover Emerson was attracted by the idea of sacrific­ing the form to the spirit. Compensation would care for him, and more. He remembered again his conversation with Stabler. The spirituality of the real world, and the payment in kind for noble deeds had been one topic. Stabler had told Emerson that “if a man sacrificed his impurity, purity should be the

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price with which, it would be paid; if a man gave up his hatred, he should be rewarded with love.” [21]

With independence of mind and a firm belief in the justice of his own actions, Emerson made his proposal. The church referred the proposal to a committee, and the committee rejected it. Emerson then came face to face with a turning-point in his life. [22] To find his own solution to whether or not he would apply his ideas in practice, Emerson went to the White Mountains. [25] He took with him to serve as companions during the eight weeks of seclusion, Sewel's History of the Quakers, A Life of Fox, and Clarkson’s Life of Penn. [24] During the days when he struggled to choose the course which would be right for him, Emerson referred fre­quently to these records of others who had faced spiritual crises. He probably read again in Sewel the history of the persecutions of Mary Dyer, William Robinson, and Marmaduke Stephenson. [25]

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No doubt Emerson remembered his own endorsement of “the ultra principle of non-resistance and returning good for evil” which William Penn had so nobly championed. [26] Emerson went into the mountains with all these memories of Quaker beliefs and martyr-like actions; he chose a place close to nature, one which encouraged spiritual thinking. There he reconsidered his life. [27] He had to choose between a course which might mean the martyrdom of his spiritual life and one which involved a servile bending to convention. The struggle was difficult. To him the communion seemed a slight thing; he wished to disregard it. He did not want to “stick at gnats.” Yet others looked on the communion as the “holiest” sacrament. He could not consider as an insigni­ficant detail a rite which others regarded as very important. [28] It was in this manner that the problem took shape in his mind. He was face to face with what he considered an unimportant form which in the eyes of others had assumed the proportions of divinity.

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As soon as Emerson defined the issue in his own mind, he set about solving it. Perhaps he already had solved it and wanted only to reinforce his argument for himself and others. Immediately after writing down the analysis of the problem in his Journal, Emerson made a brief outline of the life of Fox. [29] Emerson noted that Fox “taught that the Scriptures could not be understood but by the same spirit that gave them forth.” Moreover Fox and his followers built rails “about the communion table in churches;” they denied the Lord’s Supper and emphasized the spirituality of reli­gion. And finally Fox exhibited a martyr's courage. When Col. — threatened to kill the Quakers, Fox replied, “Here’s my hair, here’s my cheek, and here’s my shoulder.” Emerson admired Fox; he found the Quaker to be “thoroughly consis­tent.” He found a worthy example in this first Friend who put “ever a thing for a form”.

In making his own decision, Emerson chose to emulate Fox. He himself resolved ever to put “a thing for a form”. Emerson, had always been inclined to emphasize the spiritual, individual aspect of religion; now he cast his lot with those like Fox who were men of morals above material, of spirit and soul above form and dogma. He never faltered on his course: the loss of position and income did not deter him;

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a consideration of them never enters the journals. He chose the path which led away from security, from dogmatic restraint, and on to self-reliance and the over-soul, the superiority of the spiritual.

After making his decision and while preparing his ser­mon on “The Lord’s Supper,” Emerson continued to study George Fox. In the journals, mention is made of Fox on or near July 15th, August 11, August 18th; and on August 19th. Emerson states his belief that “the soul [is]...the uni­verse, living from God within,” that the soul’s purpose is to seek “the truth”, and that when the soul in touch with the truth speaks, it speaks “like the lightning from its cloud, and with an effect as prodigious”. [30] Emerson has here summed up a large share of the Quaker doctrines which he had been reading. He must have seen that Quaker ideas ran parallel to his. He took up his stand with Sewel who believed in an “inward supernatural sense...” [31] and with Fox who found God dwelling “in people’s hearts”. [32] Emerson too would ask: “Art thou a child of the light...”, do you seek the truth? Finally Emerson employs the Quaker figure

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Of “light” in describing his mystical experiences. For him, the “inner God” speaks like “lightning”.  [34]

The editors of the Journals have pointed out that Emer­son found help “in the Quaker’s history in his time of need” and that “the simplicity of the Society of Friends, their aversion to forms and trust in the inward light, always appealed to him.” [35] We have seen that the Quakers provided examples of thought and action to aid Emerson in reaching his decision to follow the purely spiritual path. Emerson said in his journal: “Hypocrisy is the attendant of false-religion.” [36] His decision meant driving hypocrisy and false-religion from his heart. He set about to do so.

The last part of his sojourn in the White Mountains must have been spent composing and organizing his arguments and beliefs on the subject of the communion. Emerson de­livered the sermon on “The Lord’s Supper” before the Second Church in Boston on September 9, 1832. [37] Emerson maintained that the rite had no Biblical basis, that the performance of the rite was neither expedient nor beneficial, and that its performance confused the position of God.

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In a quick recitation of the history of the rite, Emer­son remarks in the first paragraph that “it is now near two hundred years since the Society of Quakers denied the auth­ority of the rite altogether, and gave good reasons for disusing it.” [38] Emerson insisted on spirit above form:

“ exalt particular forms, to adhere to one form a moment after it is outgrown, is unreasonable, and it is alien to the spirit of Christ.” [39] The Scriptures must be “interpreted”. [40] They must be approached by those who “first come to the Spirit of God in Themselves.” Otherwise there is no complete understanding. [41] The “reality” is buried, when the “life and suitableness” are gone; the form becomes “as the dead leaves.” [42] Just as Fox cried out: “...leave all... superstitious ceremonies... come

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to the Spirit and grace of God...”, [43] so did Emerson argue that the Christian religion was based on “Freedom”, that the sending of Christ freed men from the Jewish “religion of forms” and that God’s religion consisted of “not forms, but duties; not names, but righteousness and love...” As Robert Barclay maintained, the knowledge of the facts of Jesus’ life and of the forms of the Christian religion are not essential, for “God can most easily, clearly, and cer­tainly manifest to our minds the historical truths of Christ's birth, etc. when it so pleaseth him, even without the Scripture, or any other outward means”. [44] In these concluding passages of the sermon Emerson, giving his personal, non-Scriptural objections, came closest to Quaker doctrine and followed the language of the Quaker leaders whom he had been reading. [45]

Emerson did not escape severe criticism for his choice. He himself felt rather downcast, and his congregation, though parting with him in all kindness, [46] felt somewhat like a spurned woman. Twenty years later, Chandler Robbins wrote: “Of the Ministry of the living I may not speak without re­serve. Ralph Waldo Emerson... was dismissed at his own re-

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Quest...” Even Emerson himself was “pained” and “disappointed.” [48] But from the point of view of future genera­tions, Emerson’s decision and its ultimate results can only be looked on with approval.

Emerson did not forget the influence of the Quakers. Their example and perhaps the impact of their well-formed spiritual religion on his own nebulous tendencies in that direction were ever after to be found in his thought. The Quaker books he had with him in the mountains had been of immeasurable aid and comfort to him. The prime lesson he had learned from them, the one which gave him the solution to his problem. Emerson wrote in his journal for future refer­ences in time of need: “A man should learn to detect and foster that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within far sooner than the lustre of [the] whole firm­ament without.... If anybody will tell me who... Fox... imitated... I will tell him who else can teach him than him­self.” [49]

He thought the ideal exemplification of the Quaker Inner Light was to be found in the life of George Fox. Further showing his realization of what the Quaker example and principle had done for him, Emerson in his last sermon

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as pastor of the Old North Church made a plea for “The Genuine Man”. [50] He characterized the genuine man as one who “speaks in the spirit of truth”, who “recognizes his right to examine for himself every opinion, every practice that is received in society and who accents or rejects it for him­self.” Emerson found that Fox was a genuine man, that “it was well said by George Fox the Quaker, ‘That which I am in words, I am the same in life.’ “ With these thoughts Emer­son left the profession of the ministry to live a new life.

The year following his resignation was one of adjustment. Emerson spent over half the time in Europe. Readjustment did not come easily to one of his slow and thought­ful nature. Again Emerson turned to Fox for some share of spiritual guidance. Immediately upon returning from Europe, Emerson noted that Fox “wanted but little, or, if you please... exceeded but little, of being” a true prophet. [51] In the following years Fox finds his way frequently into Emerson’s thoughts. [52]

Although Emerson had had earlier doubts both as to his ability or fitness as a minister and as to his belief in

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the Lord’s Supper, and in spite of Mr. H. H. Clark’s state­ment that “the contemporary Journals seem to suggest that the immediate influence which encouraged Emerson’s withdrawal from the Unitarian Old Worth Church... was that of writers on astronomy such as Mary Somerville... and especially J. F. V. Herschel,” it is safe to say that the de­ciding factor in Emerson’s action was the spiritual, anti-formal emphasis found in Quaker writings and the brilliant example of Quaker faith in action.

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3. Liberal Quaker Thought and Emerson’s Final Theology

After leaving the ministry of the Old North Church, Emerson, as we have seen, travelled to Europe for his health. He was rather too busy moving to write down many of his philosophic thoughts; but returning on the boat, he wrote: “The highest revelation is that God is in every man.” [1]

Shortly after his return, however, Emerson came in contact with a group of American Quakers in New Bedford whose influence on him — though not so specific as that of Historical Quakerism, was even more broad and lasting. Beginning in the fall of 1833, and on into the spring of 1834, Emerson preached quite regularly in the pulpit of his distant relative, Dr. Orville Dewey, in the Unitarian Church of New Bedford, Massachusetts. [2]

The background of the New Bedford Friends, as general­ized in the development of American Quakerism, had a long

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and complicated history. Before gaining security, the Quakers suffered persecutions from other religious groups who had fled to America to escape persecution. [3] By 1660 the first monthly meeting had been established at Sandwich, Massachusetts. [4] Yet when George Fox visited America in 1671-73, he found that persecutions of the Quakers made the Indians afraid to join the Quakers, even though of all sects the Indians preferred them. [5] Slowly the Quakers did gain security and position; by the end of the Seventeenth Century, they were accepted by nearly all governments in America.

At the outset, American Quakers held the same beliefs as Fox and Penn. But, although they adopted the English manner of worship and method of appointing ministers, they could not transplant the English environment. Of course, they insisted on practical application of what they learned from the “commands of Christ;” [6] but the need for action, the fight for existence in America left little time to re­ceive such “commands”. The American Quakers were always “truly philanthropic”. [7] They advocated the cause of the Indian, the slave, and the criminal. [8] But on the other

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hand the squandering of energy left them with a scarcity of ideas. Rather than develop more new and progressive ones, the American Quakers fell back on the ideas of the original Quakers. In doing so, they of course merely repeated what Fox held to be the fundamental error of all religions: the substitution of form for spirit. Moreover the American Quakers applied these forms so strictly as to halt the num­erical growth of the Society. “Disownings” for trifling reasons depleted the ranks. The vital spirit had dried up. They carried on no aggressive missionary work. American Quakerism had originated many of the ideas which led up to the American Revolution; [9] but the decline in originality produced what has best been termed the “Middle Ages of American Quakerism.” [10]

            The Quaker renascence was two-fold. A large number of the Quakers, by applying themselves to the exigencies of

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this world, did accumulate a large store of the world’s goods. Original Quaker doctrine provided certain propositions which aided the protection of this new wealth. Fox’s pacifism got a new twist during the Revolutionary War. “Resistance to taxes for war purposes’’ [11] was staunchly maintained. They continued to believe in reform, but the emphasis had changed. The tendency was a little more to consider the immediate aspects of reform. Quakers carried on some slum clearing in order to wipe out criminal hide-outs. All in all, the Quakers by 1800 began to show the effects of their new prosperity. Their increased wealth gave them increased position. In many towns all leading citizens, were Quakers. This, of course, aided the Quaker prestige greatly.

The second aspect of the renascence consisted of a rejuvenated emphasis upon spirit and freedom. Perhaps the new wealth made the Quakers dissatisfied with the old, strict rules of simplicity. At any rate, there came about a definite demand for more individual freedom. The more liberal elements demanded that the original ideas of Fox be resuscitated, that the Society of Friends be again a body devoted to ideals of spirituality, mystical guidance, and individual judgments on life. Elias Hicks led this movement

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on a national scale. It culminated, in a split between Orthodox and Hicksite Quakers in 1827-28. The Hicksite Quakers exemplified more exactly the second, spiritual aspect of the Quaker renascence.

In particular towns, the renascence of course involved different emphases. The Quakers in New Bedford, who interested and influenced Emerson, provide an example in their history of the development both of worldliness and of the desire for freedom.

The first religious meting in New Bedford was held by Friends on June 11, 1685. [12] Quakers had founded Bedford village after being driven from settled parts of New England. [13] The Quakers of New Bedford were the first to succeed in obtaining freedom from persecution through the Courts of Massachusetts. After several cases, they gained the right to follow their own consciences in religion. [14]

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During the Revolutionary War the Quakers suffered financial reverses; but they continued to increase so rapidly that when the New Bedford Monthly Meeting was established in 1792, there were over four hundred members. This number increased during the early years of the nineteenth century when all the merchants gave their time and money to furthering Quakerism. [15] But the new ideas, the New Light, broke in on the settled Orthodox Quakers. On January 20, 1823, Mary Newhall (or Newell), a Hicksite follower, appeared at the New Bedford Quaker Meeting and preached. She appeared several times in February “in a manner... that must have been acceptable to most.” [16] What she said exists only in a transcription from a manuscript Emerson himself made eleven years later. [17] Her preaching emphasized the spirituality of religion and the evolutionary progress of the spirit leading to “that state of humility when self would be totally abandoned...” [18] “But a friend on a high seat” denounced her

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conduct as contrary to the “usages of the society” and “embracing doctrines which they did not acknowledge”. [19] In consequence, the elders disowned her. In June of the same year, Hull Barton, one of her colleagues, was “kept down” from speaking. [20]

The conservatives in the Society however had not acted quickly enough. The ideas planted by Mary Newhall did not die easily. The wealthier, more independent Quakers received the "New Light” gladly. They continued to listen to Mary Newhall on the occasions when she held her own meetings in New Bedford. [21] The violation by several of the older members of the elders’ decision that Mary Newhall be disregarded brought the issue to a head. In November, 1823, the elders formally charged that Mary Rotch and Elizabeth Rodman “had so far given their support to certain persons who were disowned by friends as to attend meetings... and to manifest their unity in joining with them in vocal prayer.” [22]

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During several months of factious arguing, the Orthodox Quakers gained their end, and “by a perservance and disre­gard to the views and unanswered arguments, as well as the feelings of those who saw the subject in a very different light, removed Mary Rotch and Elizabeth Rodman from their place as elders.”

Mary Rotch held too high a position to be thrust aside. She led a group of her friends away from any connection with the Quaker Church; and attracted by the personality of Orville Dewey, she drew them with her into connection with the Uni­tarian Church. That they became Unitarians in any strict sense of the word could not be claimed. But just as the “sources of American Unitarianism are to be found in the spirit of individualism...the tendency to free inquiry,... and the general movement... toward toleration and rationalism,” [24] so did the Quaker faith emerge from the humanistic emphasis upon individual worth, from the critical attitude of the Reformation, and from the tolerant, spiritual religions of Boehme, Hans Denck, and others. With similar ancestries,

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Quakerism and Unitarianism came to be congenial relatives.

Unitarian doctrine emphasized “The right of every man to think for himself”. In arriving at his own religion, the individual man must employ “Reason... as his light and guide”. The true religion can not be formalized into one creed; therefore there can be “no uniformity of religious faith”, but instead sincerity in one’s own beliefs constitutes “the only true faith”. [25] These generalities fit the “New Light” Quakers as well. However certain radical doubts in the “New Light” doctrine could not be reconciled with basic Unitarianism. Mary Rotch and probably Elias Hicks doubted the personality of God. They assuredly demoted Christ from his divine position, and even went so far as to call him no different from other men. Yet these beliefs, though not Unitarian, could be and were tolerated by the Unitarians.

The Doctrine of Man finds Quakers and Unitarians to­gether on the democratic, universal possibility of all men sharing “spiritual dignity”. But the Quakers are not so pessimistic as the Unitarians who find that “All men are sinners”. [26] On the nature and being of Jesus, the “New Lights” were more extreme. While some Unitarians thought “he was different by constitution from all other men” and others that he was “the son of Joseph, the carpenter”, the

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New Lights followed Elias Hicks who “taught that God placed Jesus on an equality with men”. [27] The essential similari­ties stand; we show below [28] what differentiated the two. Whether the “New Light” Quakers manifested “undue zeal” [29] or not, they held with the Unitarians that faith was personal, that “there should be the fullest liberty” in man’s “coming to his saving belief”. [30]

At the time Emerson went to New Bedford to preach dur­ing November, 1827, he apparently took little notice of the Quakers. But six years later, he eagerly renewed the slight acquaintanceships he previously had made. Perhaps his interest in Quaker thought had first been aroused during the years 1830-1832, when he faced the crisis of his career. As we have seen, he read “with interest” the reports of the schism. No doubt he talked earnestly with the “Quaker lady” at whose home he stayed while in New Bedford. [31] He soon discovered that with the Quaker faith "he felt much sym­pathy”. Of course, having got a more definite grasp on some of his own ideas through the Historical Quakers, he was

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interested to discover how the Quaker movement developed.

In particular, Emerson enjoyed meeting and knowing Miss Mary Rotch, one of the principals in the “New Light” schism. She was a particularly independent old lady, daughter of the leading merchant of New Bedford. At the time Emerson knew her (1833), she was already 55 years old; yet she retained the outlook of youth. Many accounts of her survive. We get a picture of her defiance as it blasted against the Orthodox Quakers. They had “labored” with her to convince her of the “inconsistency” of her conduct; but “Aunt Mary” was “disposed to justify the cause she has pur­sued and to persist in it....” [32]

Margaret Fuller noted how different Aunty Mary's experi­ence was from hers. “No rapture, no subtle process, no slow fermentation in the unknown depths, but a rill struck out from the rock, clear and cool in all its course, the still, small voice.” To Aunty Mary the “Inner Light” served “rather as a restraining, than an impelling principle.” Her life was “dignified and true.” [33]

Orville Dewey, the Unitarian minister, recorded that she possessed “a perfect simplicity and kindliness” which took him “by storm”. She carried the idea of the “Inner

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Light” to the extreme; with her it had become “coincident with the idea of the Author of all light”. She referred to God only as “that Influence”; but “that Influence” was her constant companion and guide; it “prompted her daily action” and “decided for her every question of duty.” [34]

And Emerson in one of his earlier conversations with her discovered that she possessed an “assurance of high direc­tion” which was not “an impression, or an intimation, or an oracle” but something “so simple it could hardly be spoken of”. “That Influence” guided her every action. This doctrine seemed a little extreme for the down-to-earth Yankee in Emerson, but on contemplation he finds “there has been pretty quiet obedience in the main, but much recusancy in the particular”. [55] Many years later, Emerson remembered this particular conversation with Mary Rotch. He used much of it as his own in a talk with Charles J. Woodbury. [56] In fact, Emerson always acknowledged “his great indebtedness” to the “New Light” Quakers and Mary Rotch. [57] At one time, in 1858, Emerson expressed it to another Quaker this way: “1 got some leaves out of your book... from your New Bedford friends.” [58]

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His interest in Fox and Penn stimulated his interest in the “New Light”; and they in turn encouraged him to look again for inspiration into Historical Quakerism as personi­fied in the published lives of these two men. No less than a dozen times from August 22, 1834 through 1836 did Emer­son refer to Fox and the Quakers in his journal. He praised Fox for being “most thoughtful for the humblest”. He likened Fox to Milton and Luther, whose names are “seeds”. He found that Fox succeeded through “deeper convictions” and “spiritual power”; he was “a commissioned man” who spoke because the message was “in his heart”. Fox “owes all to the dis­covery that God must be sought within". And the reading lists compiled by the editors list George Fox as appearing year after year.

Emerson’s renewed interest in George Fox prompted him to satisfy what he had always felt was a great need. In the White Mountains, he had written: “The British Plutarch and the modern Plutarch is yet to be written... what would operate such gracious motions upon the spirit as... a picture of George Fox... and a true portrait of Sir Harry Vane... I

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would draw characters, not write lives.” [40]

During the fall of 1834, Emerson did prepare a  lecture on “George Fox” [41] which was presented before the Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, at Masonic Temple, Boston, probably on February 26, 1835. In this lecture, Emerson explained that Fox suffered greatly before discovering that the “Inner Light” was trying to give him counsel. Although the New Englander found Fox and his disciples exaggerating the importance of “some trifles”, on the whole he sympathized with this “realist” whose mind was opened by “religious enthusiasm”. [42]

Emerson continued throughout his life to read from the Quakers, and noted with interest the chapter in Ban­croft’s History of the United States on “The Quakers”. “A very pleasant book, for here, lo! the huge world has at last come round to Roger Williams, George Fox, and William Penn”. [43] Bancroft defined the Quaker faith as premising “a spiritual unity” among all men. This “unity” shared by all is the “incorruptible seed” in every heart, which can

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grow to produce “all that man can know of God, and duty, and the soul”. The “inward voice” leads unlettered as well as scholars “into the enfranchisements of immortal truth”. [44] Emerson probably had in mind the passage: “Was there not progress from Melendez to Roger Williams? from Cortez and Pezarro to William Penn?” (p. 385) and Bancroft's remarks on Penn: “He came too soon for success, and he was aware of it. After more than a century, the laws which he re­proved [concerning freedom of conscience] began gradually to be repealed.” (p. 399) [45]

Emerson could not escape being influenced to some ex­tent by his interest in Quaker thought. Even though many of the ideas he found in Quaker writings were ones he him­self held, nevertheless the repetition of such ideas could only serve to reinforce their hold on him.

During the years 1830 to 1838, when Quaker ideas most interested Emerson, his theology was undergoing important revisions. It has been pointed out that Emerson began to doubt his own beliefs in the truth of Church doctrine as early as 1827. But he retained an Orthodox Christian posi-

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tion, completely in accord with his congregation until the spring of 1832. Only then did liners on begin to express in his sermons the ideas which developed in his journals. Be­cause the time of Emerson’s resignation coincided with his reading of the Quaker histories, and because his ideas re­sembled Quaker ideas, we have been able to claim, some Quaker influence. The development of his theology, to its presenta­tion in completed form as the Divinity School Address in July, 1838, also coincided in time with many Quaker contacts. We must now examine that development to see what, if any, influence Quaker doctrine may have had on that theology.

Emerson’s position on theological matters as expressed in his sermons to 1832 and in his journals to 1830 was quite orthodox and conservative. In the sermons Emerson’s theology veered away from the established only in its quest for free­dom. “But let us cleave... to an independence of part”. [46]

He believed firmly in the fundamentals of established religion. He held strictly to a personal God. His notions of the relationship between God and man remained traditional.

Men could know God through the intellect, through mystical, inner experience, or through revelation to intermediaries. Although he does discuss three means of religious knowledge,

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Emerson emphasized the mystical, the way of the “oracle within”. This he tied up with conscience, the "moral faculty”, or the "moral sense”. The soul of conscience holds the balance. True, the Bible has the historical position of being a special revelation of God’s mind; but some admixture of human understanding as against pure Reason has entered into its authorship. “In listening more intently to our own soul we are not becoming In the ordinary sense more selfish, but are departing farther from what is low and falling back upon truth and upon God.” [49] Therefore when the Bible clearly conflicts with a man’s own opinion, that individual opinion, the direct inner evidence has priority.

On the other hand Emerson warned, “It is not our soul that is God but God is In our soul.” [50] Salvation depends upon advancing “in goodness”, in resisting “appetites” and “indolence”. “The pure in heart shall see God” [52] In other words the religious spirit is a moral one. Emerson’s early theology showed a few traits which can be called Quaker.

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They resulted probably from his natural inclination to em­phasize individuality and the primacy of morals. His early theology was conservative and orthodox. It lagged behind the liberal thought of the late eighteen-twenties in its recognition of God as a person, the Bible as his word re­vealed, and the church as the best means of teaching truth. [53]

But by 1838, Emerson’s thought had passed through a number of changes. His resignation of an important and established position along with the attendant circumstances had left its mark on all his thinking. In his journals, before the Divinity School Address in 1838, he noted with frequency the “errors of traditional Christianity”. He felt himself “pledged... to demonstrate that all necessary truth is its own evidence”. [54] He deplored the “fatal tendency” which emphasized “the letter over the spirit”; and he urged that the new religion be preached to “man’s moral nature”. “Historical Christianity” should be for­gotten. Man must realize that he is in the presence of a God living now. The “God who was”, the God of dogma and remembered ceremonies, has been superseded by the “God who is”, the living spirit. [56]

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The “Revival”, the “religion of this day” was clearly and forcefully put forth on that “refulgent”' July 15th. The “new religion” repudiated the “unnecessary traditions”, including “the noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus.” The pulpit “usurped by a formalist” must be restored to him who will speak “out of the soul”. God must be loved “without mediator or veil”. This direct approach is possi­ble because man “is an infinite soul”, which drinks “forever the soul of God.” [57] The Bible should not be regarded as the fount of truth; it is only inspirational writing, just as Jesus was an inspirational man. Jesus serves man as a good example; the Bible teaches him how to begin to know God; but more than example and an approach are needed; some­how, the “very truth” must be taught.

Throughout the Address, the Quaker influence can be found. Both Historical Quakerism and New Light Quakerism contributed important points to this new theology. Stabler’s great influence in showing Emerson the unity of divine law, and its emphasis on morality continued. In recalling his

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conversation with Stabler, Emerson wrote: “Old Stabler... said to me, that, if a man sacrificed his impurity, purity, should be the price with which it would be paid...” Seven years after writing this, and eleven after this conversation took place, Emerson said that the “moral sentiment” is a translation to the mind of “the laws of the soul”, that the laws of the soul regardless of any exterior, material con­ditions execute themselves. “He who puts off impurity, thereby puts on purity”. [59]

Emerson and the Quakers shared the emphasis on the positive qualities as contrasted with the negative character of evil. “All things proceed out of the same spirit,” [60] that is, out of the supreme spirit of the universe. Knowledge of that spirit leads to truth. Didn't Clarkson, writing on Penn, describe the Quaker belief in the “Power, which hath made the world and all things...[ which] has written his law in our hearts....” the obeying of which brings “good to one another”? [61] Finally the Historical Quakers while giving

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example, aid, and advice to Emerson during the 1832 crisis firmly implanted in him the undeniable supremacy of “the sentiment of virtue” as the guide of man. The Law of the universe is open to all men; but “it cannot be received at second hand”. [62] Therefore the Bible loses its authority. The Quakers also found that when men did not go to the source, to the true “Spirit of God”, they “did pervert the Scriptures, by putting their own imaginations and conceiv­ings on it”. Such were “men of corrupt minds”. [63] Even when denied, the living spirit does not perish. Always a possibility of salvation through acquiescence remains. The “indwelling Supreme Spirit” [64] lives on in man. The laws it gives are conscience, "It is an intuition”.

The Quakers could not see the necessity for forms or material symbols. They asked in scorn: ”Dost thou call this place [‘the steeple house’] a church.” [65] To them it

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was only a building; the church is the individual’s spirit.

It is “the pillar and ground of truth”, it is a “spiritual household” in which individual members find “peace and eternal rest,” [66] through “the manifestation of truth” in the conscience. [67] When Emerson contrasted the “Church with the Soul”, he found that one’s own soul is “Wiser than the whole world”. The Inner Spirit is supreme; Man must “dare to love God without mediator or veil”. [68]

Two hundred years later, Quaker doctrine had changed considerably. But in its insistence on the inner guidance it remained essentially the same. Mary Rotch told Emerson that “she was much disciplined... and driven home to find an anchor, until she learned to have no choice, to acquiesce without understanding the reason when she found an obstruction to any particular course of acting. She objected to having this spiritual direction called an impression, or an intima­tion, or an oracle. It was none of them. It was so simple it could hardly be spoken of”. Emerson then asked himself: “Can you believe, Waldo Emerson, that you may relieve your­self of this perpetual perplexity of choosing, and by putting your ear close to the soul, learn always the true

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Way?” [69] He found he could; and in the Divinity School Ad­dress he advised the young religionist to seek “the fountain of all good in himself”, to be “warned from on high”, to receive in his soul “deep melodies... from Supreme Wisdom.” [70]

The “New Light” Quakers did more than reinforce Emerson’s position on the inner quality of moral religion; they sup­ported him in his greatest, most shocking doctrinal revolt. Emerson had early been certain of the personality of God and of a personal immortality. But on July 15, 1838, he flatly declares: “The soul knows no persons.” [71] In lead­ing up to this liberal conception, Emerson followed the New Light Quakers in successively denying the divinity of Christ, the immortality of the human soul, and the personality of God. The very Unitarianism which Emerson had preached until 1832 had progressed only through the first step.

Emerson paralleled Elias Hicks , the original source of the “New Light” movement, in his contention that Christ was “on an equality with man.” Emerson disliked the “noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus” Jesus serves, not by his divinity, but by being a great example of what man can be

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when he listens to the inner voice, when he thinks “holy thoughts.” [75]

Mary Rotch more directly influenced Emerson’s change from a belief in personal immortality to a faith that sees individual men as but momentary exemplifications of the Universal Soul. On December 20, 1834, Emerson wrote in his journals [76] that his Reason knew itself to be immortal; but his Understanding fears its own death and thus pleads against any severance from Reason. [77] He goes on to say: “Miss Rotch affirms undoubtedly, ‘I shall live forever,’ and, on the other hand, does not much believe in her retain­ing Personality.” By May 26, 1837, Emerson had reached Mary Rotch’s position. He then said: “Who shall define to me an Individual? I behold with awe and delight many illus­trations of the One Universal Mind. I see my being im­bedded in it; as a plant in the earth so I grow in God. I am only a form of him. He is the soul of me. I can even with a mountainous aspiring say, I am God, by transferring me out of the flimsy and unclean precinct of my body, my for­tunes, my private will.” [78] He found himself to be in fact but a segment of real experience. His knowledge or conscious­ness of himself would disappear upon the body’s death;

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but the soul would live on. Individuality is but a temporary state: “I believe I shall some time cease to be an individ­ual, that the eternal tendency of the soul is to become Universal.” [79] Emerson’s admission of his strong belief in an impersonal immortality contains also his new position on the personality of God. He did not see man as emanating from God on a Throne; but as a part of the “Universal”; God is earth, — Emerson, all. “The universe needs no outer cause, but exists by its own perfection, and the sum of it all is this, God is.” [80]

We have seen that Emerson on leaving the Old North Church assumed the personality of God “without question”. It is not likely that he made any change in his position during his trip abroad. Certainly his journals contain no references to God’s personality. On returning, Emerson preached at New Bedford, and one of his Journal entries made there states that the “Reason is not to be distinguished from the divine Essence.” [81] This implication of a new doctrine became more thoroughly developed as Emerson came more into contact with Mary Rotch. She, it is to be remembered, was one who believed in the divinity of the “Inner Light”. “That Influence” guided her through all of life’s decisions; and

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“that influence” was specialized with respect to her per­sonality, but general as to the unity of the whole.

Emerson questioned: “What is God?... we cannot say, because He is the unspeakable, the immeasurable, the per­fect.” [82] God is the Spirit of Love, Freedom, Power. What­ever of love, freedom, and power resides in the individual will last; in their immortality these elements are God.

They are “all in all”. The residual, inner quality of divinity became by far the most important. "But when it [the soul] sees the Great God far within its own nature,

then it sees that always itself is a party to all that can be.” The idea of an inner light which is divine and universal quite generally implies a denial of Divine person­ality. In taking the optimism and mysticism of the older Quakers and deriving from those elements a more philosophically idea], non-personal religion, the “New Light” Quakers did valuable service for Emerson. It is probably true that be­cause of their efforts, he arrived at his “radical” unortho­dox position much sooner, and with his thoughts more clearly organized.

Finally on March 5, 1838, Emerson reached what was to be his lifelong position. “I cannot find, when I explore

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my own consciousness, any truth in saying that God is a person, but the reverse. I feel that there is some profana­tion in saying, He is personal. To represent him as an in­dividual is to shut him out of my consciousness.” [84] God is all spirit. He comprises the whole of existence. His essence is discernible within all men. “That Influence,” the “Inner Light”, “the indwelling Supreme Spirit”, are God. For “God is our name for the last generalization to which we can arrive.”

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4. Quakerism and Transcendentalism

Emerson last recorded his delivering a sermon in 1839. [1] Although he may actually have preached as late as 1846, [2] his interest in institutional religion was entirely dead by 1840. His fundamental belief in individual religion — a concept which he came to emphasize as the central point in his theology — was at the bottom of his refusing the New Bedford pastorate in 1834 and the East Lexington ministry in 1838. Because he so firmly held to the inner, spiritual religion, Emerson found that public prayer, which he once had said was one of the two public duties of the minister, had become impossible for him.

Emerson’s new ideas, the rise to the superior hold on him of his purely spiritual attitude, created in fact a new Emerson. No longer interested in forms or direct teachings,

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the new Emerson turned away from Sunday gatherings, from audiences who came not because of the sermon but because of the “singing, or a new pelisse, or Cousin William, or the Sunday School, or a proprietors’ meeting after church.” [6] He turned to those who came during the week, while their lives were going on, to hear the message he expressed in “lay sermons”.

Emerson’s lectures grew in popularity, perhaps slowly; but their earnest, intense search for principle attracted all who had serious moments. Emerson in these lectures expounded the fundamental concepts which had appeared embryonically in Nature. Emerson lectured in fact on Emerson­ian Transcendentalism. But to attempt to define here in a sentence or two what was the product of the best years of a long, thoughtful life would be both foolish and inefficient. Before a detailed discussion, all that should be said is that Emerson never achieved a tightly integrated philosophy. Whatever generalization that can be made must be in the terms of attitude rather than of metaphysics. [7]

Let us turn first to the history of the antecedents of the Transcendental movement. The Puritan and Calvinistic sects, which had been the great leaders of seventeenth and

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eighteenth century religious thought, were by 1830 without vigor. As Woodberry wrote of the ministerial Emerson: “A religious decadence, such as occurs periodically in history, had taken place in New England; he [Emerson] became a writer of this decadence and its chief example; that is his true position. The decadence was already fully accomplished in the bones of his spirit before he began to think; the theological blood had run out in him.” [8] Just as the Quaker faith had become bound by forms, so did the other churches suffer in the same manner. In speaking of the religious decline, James Freeman Clarke said: “In theology a certain literalism prevailed, and the doctrines of Christianity were inferred from counting and weighing texts on either side... There was more of culture than of intellectual life... Religion had become very much of an external institution.” [9]

Throughout Europe and especially in Germany during the latter part of the Eighteenth Century new ideas and new approaches to the problem of man’s relation to the universe were being discovered. These were carried over into England to become a part of the Romantic Movement in literature. Yet somehow they failed to reach America. Again it was probably the necessity for dealing with the here and now which pre-

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vented Americans from giving their own interpretation to these new ideas. Then “suddenly — so at least it seemed — ... the new ideas and ideals found their way” [10] to the young New England generation of the early eighteen thirties.

The startling rapidity of the rise of the new thought is somewhat illusory. Stagnation of thought may have been an aspect of Boston before 1830; yet the Unitarian movement did provide a fitting soil for the growth of Transcendentalism. In fact, “Transcendentalism grew out of the Unitarian move­ment. It did, not, however, grow out of the Unitarian theology.” [11] The truth of this statement can best be shown in a twofold manner.

“The sources of American Unitarianism are to be found in the spirit of individualism developed by the Renaissance, the tendency to inquiry that manifested itself in the Pro­testant Reformation, and the general movement of the English Churches of the seventeenth century toward toleration and rationalism.” [12] In other words, Unitarianism, like the Quaker Movement, resulted from the very background which produced the Romantic Movement. In a way such a statement is a truism, for all things of “now” are products of the same “then”. Yet the development of the three movements is much

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the same. The differences are products of the people af­fected. Romanticism was a cry for intellectual liberty and license of feeling, it thrived in an educated atmosphere.

The Quaker movement was a surge for equality of opportunity in intellectual and spiritual matters by an untutored mass of common people. And Unitarianism was a reasoned denial by middle-class thinkers of restricting religious forms.

On the whole, Unitarianism was the weakest result. As Woodberry pointed out, Emerson, as a minister in the Uni­tarian Church, was a leading example of Bostonian theological decadence.

Transcendentalism, however, could not grow out of a dead faith. Unitarianism was somewhat re-vitalized by the vigor of William Ellery Channing (1780-1841). [13] His attractive personality helped make convincing “his insistence upon the right of private judgment in matters of religion.” He appreciated the changing needs of the time and applied the political belief in democracy to religion. “Channing is the bridge between Unitarianism and Transcendentalism.” [15] The spiritual revival he encouraged did not center in any one church. The mood of the time was not sympathetic to monopolies or closed shops. Some Unitarian ideas and ideals

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became part of the Transcendental movement. But more espec­ially Transcendental concepts “were all reflections of the larger spirit of the time, all aspects of a single tendency, and all idealistic in the sense of seeking a more nearly perfect condition of society and humanity.” [16]

There may have been more, but there certainly was one vital distinction between Transcendentalism and Unitarianism enthusiasm. The Unitarian creed had been formed in the spirit of the Age of Reason. It was a dry faith, based on premises and conclusions; it lacked fire and vibrant life; Channing had a flash of enthusiasm, [17] and that flash served to light the way for Transcendentalism. Throughout the works of Emerson there runs a constant insistence on, and admiration of enthusiasm: “The church is not large enough for the man; it cannot inspire enthusiasm.... For that enthusiasm you must have something greater than yourselves, and not less.” [18] Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm." [19] By the necessity of our constitution a certain enthusiasm at­tends the individual’s consciousness of that divine pre­sence,” the Over-Soul. [20] Enthusiasm became the elixir that

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gave life to the Transcendental movement.

It may have been “a late and local manifestation of that great manifestation for the liberation of humanity,” [21] but Trans­cendentalism had other aspects, wider-reaching effects. Professor Gray points out that the term “Transcendental” had to Emerson’s contemporaries three distinct meanings: (l) Various phases of idealism applied to religion and con­duct; (2) “A protest against usage and a search for principles;”

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and (3) Transcendental nonsense. [22] The term “came to be ap­plied in New England, to whatever in man’s mental and spirit­ual nature is conceived of as above experience and inde­pendent of it.” [23] It was essentially an attitude, a method, which in its mood was religious and in its practical application was humanistic. [24] Socially it meant democracy; politically and religiously it brought the overthrow of feudalism and formalism; philosophically it implied that man’s spiritual nature must “play a part in his apprehen­sion of the truth; and in literature and art it encouraged the shattering of pseudo-classic rules and forms in favour of a spirit of freedom.” [25] New England Transcendentalism be­sides being all these things: “a philosophy, a gospel, a wave of sentiment and a challenge,” [26] was to its most im­portant exponent, Emerson, an “excess of Faith; the presenti­ment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders” the gratification of his desires. It is faith in “the dignity of life.” That faith exhibits itself whenever man deserts “private ends”, forsakes “Condescension to circumstances;” and strives to “fling himself into this enchanted circle” of life by spiritual law. Emerson found that such a “way of thinking,

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falling on Roman times made Stoic philosophers... on prelatical times, made Puritans and Quakers; and falling on Unitarian and commercial times, makes the peculiar shades of Idealism which we know.” [27]

As an extreme faith, an enthusiasm fostered by “the individual’s consciousness of that divine presence,” Trans­cendentalism differed sharply from Unitarianism; and by the same manner it closely resembled Quakerism. Before examin­ing the specific parallels in doctrine, let us see why a resemblance is possible. It is true, of course, that Quakerism had become an integral part of American life. “The seed of the Quakers was sowed as widely if less deeply than the mental habits of the Puritans.... rapid expansion, became part of every community, influencing it by example which is always stronger than doctrine.” [28] Channing, the “bridge” between Unitarianism and Quakerism gained at least a little spiritual influence from the Quakers. [29] And A. Bronson Alcott, who “doubtless had the most influence on Emerson,” [30] was greatly benefited by his contact with the Quakers of North Carolina. Of what he gained, Odell She­phard says:

“It was not a detailed theology that Alcott took from the Quakers but the

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innermost quintessence of their teach­ing.... They told him, they taught him, or at least they reinforced in him, a basic belief which he was never to forget or for one moment to doubt: that the sole and un­supported spirit of a man may come into an immediate relation with its Maker. They said, and he agreed, that all true religious experience is inward, personal, essentially and exclusively spiritual. They held, and he also held from that time on, that God speaks directly to the soul of a man, tell­ing that soul what to be and do and say.

For them, and thenceforth for Bronson Alcott, creed, ritual, priesthood, and tradition were of no worth in comparison with the ‘inner light’ and when these things tended — as, for the most part, they thought such things do always tend — to dim or hide that inner light, they must be brushed aside.

Under this tuition Bronson Alcott did not become a Quaker, any more than he had become a Puritan under that of John Bunyan....[ but] he singled out as the central teaching of the Friends their doctrine of the ‘inner light,’ their belief that the individual soul may be so illumined by the divine spirit as to speak its word to men. This belief and doctrine he made his own — or perhaps one might better say that it made him. It helped him, or forced him, to take his first long step toward Transcendentalism.” [31]

Emerson and Alcott along with Channing received, at the least, great aid from the Quakers. It is possible even that they “taught” Emerson in much the same manner as Mr. Shepard feels they “taught”  Alcott. Emerson perhaps learned

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from then that the spirit within was the transmitter of God’s ideas. Speaking the very idiom of the Quakers, he felt that men should be “the children of the light”; he said: “Let us worship the mighty and transcendent Soul.” [32]

The Quaker faith paralleled the Transcendental on one general issue: the way of knowing God. Of course, the liberal, “New Light” Quakers, as we have seen, also shared the concept of an impersonal God, an Over-Soul. But through­out the entire range of Quaker history the Inner Light had been the central principle of its doctrine.

The mysticism of the transcendental movement in general, came from the Quakers. In some instances, Quakers may have been no more than catalytic agents; but “at least they rein­forced” the belief of these leading transcendentalists — Emerson and Alcott — in the “inner light”. These two leaders in turn handed down the tradition: “Not only does the con­tent of the transcendental philosophy readily permit a mystical inference; its very method brings it even more closely in touch with states of rapture. All the transcen­dentalists adopted — in whatever varying degrees and kinds — the intuitional method of philosophizing; in other words they all accepted as authoritative, individual insights into

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spiritual truths.” [33]

Transcendentalism, then, relied upon a mystical intui­tion which so closely resembled the Quaker doctrine that it could easily have sprung from Quaker example. Both were beliefs relying upon spiritual faith. Transcendentalism found that man needed to live a moral life based upon his own conception as an individual; so too did the Quakers. However the Quaker “inner light” with respect both to Historical Quakers and “New Light” Quakers was essentially a light shining from above through man. George Fox spoke of himself as being “led” by the Lord to travel here or there; he was “moved” to speak; God “opened” in Fox the di­vine truths; the Quaker “travelled on in God’s service, as the Lord led” him. [34]

Emerson relied upon the same kind of guidance by the divine. Even though personality had faded for him, he maintained a distinction between the individual and the

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Spiritual Law. [35] He said: “The growth of the intellect as strictly analogous in all individuals. It is larger reception.” [36] “Every word of truth that is spoken by men’s lips is from God. Every thought that is true is from God. Every right act is from God.” [37] “Man is but the poor organ through which the breath of him is blown.” For man to discover truth he must “FIND THE SUN!” [39] Truth, Beauty, Goodness are achieved “in proportion as a man comes into conformity with God.” [40]

Emerson claimed: “I proceed from God now and ever shall proceed.” [41] All leaders “are but the wider channels through which the streams of his (God's) goodness flow.” [42] And “The greatest man is he that is not man at all, but merges his human will in the divine and is merely an image of God.” [43] The soul achieves its growth through “the full­ness of its reception.” [44] “By faithful receiving, omnipotence is for men.” [45] “Not thanks, not prayer seem quite

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 the highest or truest name for our communication with the infinite, — but glad and conspiring reception, — reception that becomes giving in its turn, as the receiver is only the All-Giver in part and in infancy.” [46]

Man as receiver of divine teachings is opposed by man as receiver of divine checks. Sin is ignorance and is to be prevented by contact with divinity. On this point the inner-check, Quaker and Transcendentalist also see alike.

Mr. Carpenter, however, attributes Emerson’s concept of the “inner check” to the neo-Platonists. [47] However the Quaker revelation was often negative and restraining. For Mary Rotch the Inner Light was nearly always of this kind. [48] Emerson assuredly remembered this, for besides writing down Miss Rotch’s explanation in his journals, he used her very phrases in a talk with Charles J. Woodbury. Woodbury ex­plained: “As to the intuitions as a conduit of the spirit or over-soul, Mr. Emerson had never a doubt. He trusted his completely, and ever gave them a feminine credence in his relations with persons. If he had any superstition it was this. In a Quaker-talk he said:

“I do not pretend to any commandment or large revelation. But if at any time I form a plan, propose a journey or a course of conduct, I find, perhaps, a silent obstacle in my mind-that I cannot account

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for. Very well; I let it lie, think it my pass away; if it does not pass away, I yield to it, obey it. You ask me to describe it. I cannot describe it. It is not an oracle, not an angel, not a dream, not a law; it is too simple to be described; it is but a grain of mustard seed. But such as it is, it is some­thing which the contradiction of all mankind could not shake.” [50]

“The action of the instinct is for the most part negative, regulative, rather than initiative or impulsive.” The “inner check” or “inner light” in its regulative aspect acts as the moral guide of man. Knowledge of the “inner check” and obedience to it are necessary for a good life.

In other words, “sin is ignorance”. Man must get in con­tact with the divine in order to receive knowledge of what is right. “The natural man discerned not the things of God.” [53] That is, the man who depends upon his natural faculties, his understanding can not see. The Inner Light is “The Principle

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of God, in Man”, and God’s word, this Light manifests and reproves sin. “This Light...led to salvation.” [54] Emerson also felt that “the aim of a true teacher now would be to bring men back to a trust in God... to teach the doctrine of perpetual revelation.” [55] Only “disease in the Soul” makes man evil. Conquer the disease and the beauty of this “life within life”, the principle of God within us becomes im­mediately apparent. [56]

Quaker and Transcendentalist, then, were both mystics. And their mysticism, although at times positive and force­ful, was in general educational and negative. The Inner Light showed to man the way of escape from sin. It also taught man that as a material thing, he was nothing; as universal spirit, all. Emerson said: “The soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison... is not a faculty, but a light... From within or from behind, a light shines through as upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.” [57]

To receive the Inner Light man must be sensitive to the spirit. He must listen not to the voice of the world but to the inner voice, which is the word of the divine. There-

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fore both Quaker and Transcendental doctrine emphasize in­dividuality and self-reliance: the person in contact with truth is the only judge of that truth. The Historical Quakers did not emphasize this point to the extent that the re-liber­alizing elements did in the 1820’s and 1830’s. [58] But Emer­son carried his concept of individualism almost as far as the most progressive Quaker. “In all my lectures, I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man.” [59] Woodberry can truly say of Emerson: “The edge of his attack lay in the bold advocacy of the rights of the individual.... Authority was eliminated from life; for the soul alone is master, and being in direct union with God upon one side and Nature upon the other, needs neither mediator nor teacher.” [60] The same relationship between individuality and liberty guided the Quakers in forming their own doctrine of toler­ance. [61]

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In order to be a true individual man must seek solitude; for only in solitude could man escape his understanding and gain full powers for his reason; only in communication with

his soul was a man fully individual. “It is not the solitude of place, but the solitude of soul which is so inestimable to us.” This “Awful solitude of soul” permits the divine mind to “be unswaddled, unchained”. [62] Penn praised solitude as the “school few care to learn in though none instructs us better.” Only in solitude does a man achieve the insight into truth, “the flashing of lucid Intervals”. [63] The greater the man, the more the solitude, the separation from other men. “The true and finished man is ever alone. Men cannot satisfy him; he needs God, and his intercourse with his brother is ever condescending, and in a degree hypocritical.” [64]

Perhaps Emerson’s natural interest in spiritual issues and his discomfort under restraint were the bases of his doctrine of self-reliance. But it must be remembered that... he first acted upon his belief in the individual as suf­ficient and solitude as the fitting mood for gaining insight into truth at a time when he leaned heavily on Quaker example

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and doctrine. Leading up to that crucial summer of 1832, Emerson declared: “Internal evidence outweighs all other to the inner man”. [65]

In the essay, “Self-Reliance”, Emerson put forth his firmly-formed belief in the necessity for listening to the words of the soul. The inner-self through mystical experi­ence gains truth which is also beauty and power. “The rela­tions of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure that it is profane to seek to interpose helps.” [66] And again he used the figure “light”: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.” [67] It perhaps is significant that Emerson in group­ing together those who were original enough to follow the — soul in its commands, named Fox among them. [68] Emerson com­bined the concepts of individuality, receptivity through

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solitude, and the inspiration of divine guidance when he said: “Not insulation of place, but independence of spirit is essential.... Inspiration makes solitude anywhere.” [69]

This doctrine of God-reliance and independence from worldy affairs found specific application in an attitude anti-traditional, anti-ecclesiastical, and anti-intellectual. This specific attitude was also shared by Quakers and Transcendentalists. As we have seen, the Historical Quakers reinforced Emerson in his earliest anti-ecclesiasticism. He resigned his ministry when he did largely because of their influence. As the ideas of spiritual religion and of direct, intuitional knowledge grew in him, he became more and more displeased with all organized churches. We have seen his disgust with the reasons for church-going. [70] As time went on he became discouraged with the ministers. “All or almost all that I hear at church is mythological; and of the few books or preachers or talkers who pretend to have made some progress, the most are in a transition state, Janus­faced, and speak alternately to the old and the new.” [71] ”At church all day, but almost tempted to say I would go no

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more,” [72] “the minister in these days, — how little he says.” [73] The trouble is the lack of living spirit. “The material is so much that the spiritual is overlaid and lost.” Most of the commonplaces spoken in churches to­ day respecting the Bible and the life of Christ are grossly superstitious.” [75] The new religion must stress moral truth and the ability to learn that truth without a book. “It repudiates the unnecessary traditions and says, What have I to do with them? Give me truth. The unbelief of the day pro­ceeds out of the deepest belief. It is because men see the personalities of Christendom and its ecclesiastical history are a pile of draff and jackstraws beside the inimitable laws of moral nature”. [76] If there is to be any church at all, Emerson would prefer the Quaker type. “Isolation should pre­cede society. I like the silent church before the service begins.” [77] And “The best sermon would be a quiet conversa­tional analysis of these felt difficulties, discords... to show the true, within the supposed advantage of Christian



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institutions. [78]


 “The teacher of the coming age must occupy himself in the study and explanation of the moral constitution of man more than in the elucidation of difficult texts. He must work in the conviction that the scriptures can only he interpreted by the same spirit that uttered them. And that as long as the heart and the mind are illumined by a spiritual light, there is no dead letter, but a perpetual scripture.” [79] Logically, an intuitional or mystical epistemology denies any vital intellectual life. The Quakers assuredly were not scholarly before or during Emerson’s time. In fact, Mr. Rufus Jones contends that the Quaker neglect of culture and higher education lost for them the opportunity of being the dominating influence on American life. [80] Emer­son never could have denied the intellect, he was too much its product. But essentially his attitude was the Quaker one. He did not read or study to learn; what he wanted to find was inspiration; some phrase that would light his way to the proper mood for receiving mystical knowledge.

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Professor Foerster explains that Emerson’s “antithesis between genius and talent” is an expression of the same attitude. “ ‘Genius is but a large infusion of Deity’. It is inspiration working through the intellect, rather than through will or affection. When on the other hand, the intellect would be something of itself instead of being the agent of the divine, that is talent..,. Genius is growth, talent carpentry.” [82]

Although Emerson’s attitude was opposed to intellectualism, opposed to believing “young men in libraries”, he could not escape the period in which he lived. Books and know­ledge, industry, science, politics, filled the world. Mr. Harry H. Clark has pointed out that Emerson was greatly interested in science. [83] Nevertheless his chief interest in science was not scientific, but moral; it rested upon the support science gave to his doctrine of correspondence. [84]

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Emerson was by no means a research scholar. The tremendous amount of reading he did contributed, he felt, very little to his own thinking. Like Barclay, Emerson used texts to support conclusions made without use of the texts. As Woodberry said:

“He was no more rich in critical facility than in scientific intellect and the historical sense. He was, in fact, singularly independent of books.... His reading was wide, but not deep, desultory but not Catholic.” [85]

Finally, the mystical way of knowledge with its great realm of possibility for all creates an optimistic mood. In the spiritual realm, Emerson was always highly optimis­tic. The “beneficent tendency” so runs through his works that many fail to see that he had a realistic view of the present-day world. However on the ultimate issues he was with the Quakers in being optimistic. “We have vastly more kindness than is ever spoken... Maugre all the selfish­ness, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether.... The Heart knoweth.” [86] If man lets the goodness from the Over-Soul flow through him, then is he all-comprehending. [87] Historical Quakers had basically the same optimism. All could be saved, if only all chose

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correctly. When the Inner Light is accepted, “he Body of Death and Sin comes to he Crucified and Removed, and their Hearts united and subjected to the Truth.” [88]

Because the Quakers were known to Alcott and Emerson, and because the Transcendental philosophy paralleled Quaker doctrine on the way of knowledge, on specific application to life, and on the ultimate mood of its devotees, it would be foolish to deny that the Quakers to a considerable de­gree influenced, taught, and supported the Transcendentalists in many of their fundamental ideas.

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5. Progressive Quakers an Example for Emerson’s Reform Activities

We have seen that during the period of crucial develop­ment, Emerson changed his theology so that on basic points it closely resembled New Light Quakerism. The comparison between Emersonian Transcendentalism and the central ideas of Quakerism has shown that there were fundamental similari­ties between the two. Let us now turn our attention to Emerson’s attitude toward practical reform. This is revealed in what he said and did about the issues of abolition and women’s rights. In examining his attitude, let us examine the Quaker contacts he made after 1840. Let us see if the contacts he made were in any way connected with his writings on reform; or his activities in any particular reform move­ment.

The basis of Emerson’s early conception of charity is indicated in this journal entry:

“I am not to help my neighbour because he is importunate, nor because he wants; (that does not express his claim on me) but because he is God's creature, as I am; and I have received all, and only hold all I have as occasion of exercising

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affections: His claim on one is through God, but this claim is nearest of any, for the Bible teaches us that God is in us, and in all, and there is therefore something in him which is another and the same as myself, find myself in my neighbour, and the ob­ject of charity is not to relieve want as an end, but by means of relieving that want, to justify myself to himself, or to fill both of us with God’s approbation.


He only is a perfect man through whom God’s spirit blows unobstructed, who seeks with all his powers God’s ends, seeks usefulness with every muscle, seeks truth in every thought.


Herein may be seen all the evil of the great controversy about faith and works. Works done as unto the Lord, and not unto men, contain faith; and he would be beside himself who should lift a finger against such.” [1]

Such a speech reminds one of what James Nayler said: “There is a spirit which I feel, that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty... As it bears no evil itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other... In God alone can it re­joice, though none else regard, or can own its life... It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for which the world's jot it is murdered.” [2] The essential quality for both

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is spiritual. The spirit of reform must be maintained; God’s will be done; but particularity of reform, application to specific, material ends defeats the universal spirit in man. [3] Emerson feared that preoccupation with detail would keep the individual from true spiritual advance. “The soul can be appeased not by a deed but by a tendency.” [4] When Emerson applauded Penn’s work with the Indians, it was be­cause Penn treated the Indians as equals in reverence to the universal spirit of man. He believed, as did Emerson,

that God let his light equally “shine among the Indians, the blacks, and the whites.” [5] Penn and Emerson felt that the most reform could do was to permit the light to shine through all. They realized that the tendency to reform was the great fact; such a tendency perhaps does most for the reformer by placing him in contact with divine will; but in that contact lies salvation. “The origin of all reform is that mysterious fountain of the moral sentiment in man, which, amidst the natural, ever contains the supernatural for men.” [6] All con­duct must be regulated by morality and re-

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Ligion. [7] The reformers must beware of “the fatal fault” of becoming en­tangled in gross means and ends, of losing sight of the one ultimate end, the enlargement of soul. Emerson warned that the doctrine of reformers is generally spiritual, but in practice “they always end with saying Give us much land and money.” [8] Just as “this stirring in the philanthropic mud” [9] gave Emerson no satisfaction; so George Fox “entered no fellowship with any society of people, because he saw nothing but corruptions everywhere.” [10]

The Quakers’ aversion to external compulsion and its attendant disregard for spirit is exhibited again in their common dislike for taking oaths. When asked to swear alle­giance to the King, Fox replied: “I have never taken an oath in all my life; and my allegiance doth not lie in swearing, but in truth and faithfulness: for I honour all men, much more the king.” [11] And Emerson, when requested to sign a teetotaler’s pledge, answered: “If you ask me whether will be so good as to abstain from all use of ardent spirits for the sake of diminishing by my pint per annum the demand, and so stopping the distillers’ pernicious pump, I answer, Yes, with all my heart. But will I signify the same

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 by putting my name to your paper? No.” [12] Both men insist on the guidance of the conscience as prior and sufficient in all matters.

Emerson also recognized that Fox shared with him a belief in the moral nature of man. [13] Neither cared about the reform of society; yet both were vitally interested in the reform of the individual, which they were sure, would come about through the sufficiency of man’s moral nature, once it was released. For if all men possess moral natures, then particular, external reform becomes unnecessary. Lib­erate- man’s spirit, and all the reforming that can be done is consummated.

Of course Emerson, along with Fox, did not carry their theory so far as to do nothing. Fox was born of a poor fam­ily and suffered much from hunger, thirst, and want of lodg­ing. He took care of particular sufferers whenever he could. The common people who made up the original Society of Friends believed in equality and democracy. They helped one another. Emerson, too, was raised in relative poverty. He was accus­tomed to cooperative aid among friendly neighbors. No doubt the similarity in childhood background permitted both Fox and Emerson to make certain exceptions on specific points. That is, they both thought children should be well taken care of.

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Emerson said: “Every child that is born must have a just chance for his bread.” [14] At the same time, he took notice of the many abuses, predominantly economic, which existed in this world. [15] Such wrongs as prevented the individual from developing had to be eliminated somehow. Just as Fox fought a formally organized religion which, bound the individual to deny the Inner Light, so Emerson wanted to find remedies for economic ills which gave the individual no liberty. He said: “We must not cease to tend to the correction of flagrant wrongs, by laying one stone aright every day.” [16]

Emerson’s position on reform consisted of an emphasis on the spiritual tendency, on the individual as the proper subject for reform, and on the necessity of faith in the work before the work itself. Outward, material reforms could easily become disadvantageous because often the em­phasis on the particular vitiated the spiritual aspects of the reform tendency. In this position, Emerson paralleled that of Historical Quakerism as exemplified by George Fox.

But there have been more Quakers than George Fox and more types of Quakerism than his. William Penn emphasized the spirit, yet sacrificed his time and fortune that others could live better. [17] He commanded that “no man should by any

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ways or means, in word or deed, affront or wrong any Indian, but he should incur the same penalty of the law as if he had committed it against his fellow planter.” [18] Strangely enough Emerson’s first '“stirring in the philanthropic mud” con­cerned Indians. The removal of the Cherokees during the administration of President Van Buren so aroused his inherent attachment to Moral Law that it boiled over into action. He first heard of the wrong with a sad heart. “Then is this disaster of the Cherokee brought to me by a sad friend to blacken my days and nights.” [19] He disliked having to take a part; yet others refused; and the moral compulsion was strong enough to move him.” [20] He wrote a dignified but firm letter of protest to President Van Buren. His argument rests entirely upon moral issues. There is no discussion of “policy”; he asked only for recognition of divine law. [21] It can be pointed out for what it is worth that at the time, Emerson, as we have seen, was at the end of an eight-year period of intimate mental communication with Quakers of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. In fact, he had just

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completed reading Bancroft's account of William Penn’s treatment of the Indians. [22]  Too much must not here be claimed, however; it is more than likely that Emerson’s naturally intense interest in moral issues compelled him to act; the Quakers may have added a slight reinforcement.

During the following decade, from 1838 to 1848, Emer­son read George Fox occasionally, but he was chiefly interested in exploring the literature of the Orient. [23] He made a few new friends among the Quakers, but their influence did not show itself until a little later. By 1850 however, Emerson changed his outlook on reform. His theoretical description of reform as a tendency may have regained the same, but in his actions, he could not escape the great movements that survived the period of the early eighteen- forties when nearly everyone had a “reform”' to favor.

Several Quakers were among the friends who helped him to change his outlook, to substitute in the great causes of abolition, education, and women’s rights, complete action for a theoretical tendency which entirely neglected material ends.

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William Logan Fisher (1781-1862) was among those who so served Emerson. A life-long liberal, he was an anti-Sabbatarian, an individualist in all respects, a believer in man’s fundamental goodness, and a true Quaker in the finest sense of that word. He early saw the influence of environment as a negative force in drying up the flowing springs of the spirit. [24] He was an abolitionist, yet he held that the use of too violent means in destroying slavery would defeat the moral ends of mankind. [25] He established and led a separate branch of Quakers who called themselves “Progressive Friends.” [26] This group set as its aim “the highest degree of individual liberty consistent with an organized body.” They rejected all confessions of faith. In their general mode of thought they closely approached the Historical Quakers. They felt that “the seeds of the present divisions in the Society were laid more than a hundred and fifty years ago, when, after attempting to establish a system essentially of individualism,

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they [the early Quakers] began to interfere with private rights.” The great secret of the Progressive Friends revival rested on “the doctrine of individualism of progression, and of the knowledge of ourselves.” Each member could develop and discuss his own belief. Any published account of pro­ceedings, however, could be made only as the expression of the opinions of the author. Their aim was to “awaken man to his individualism and self respect.”

William L. Fisher as the leader of the group expressed his ideas most forcibly. Yet he did not argue, but relied on convincing through “the moral power of ideas”. Emerson called him “The Good Old Quaker” [27]  and knew that they shared many opinions. “At Harrisburg (last April), I met W. J. Fisher....[he].... believes in Individualism still: so do I. Fourierism seemed to him boys’ play; and so indeed did money; though he frankly admitted how much time he had spent about it; but a vital power in man, identified with that which makes the grass grow, and the sweet breeze blow, and which should abolish slavery, and raise the pauper, – that he believes in against all experience – so we held sweet counsel together.”

Whatever Fisher’s influence may have been will become apparent as we discuss separate problems of slavery and free

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religion. ‘The most vital issue that Emerson faced throughout his life was slavery. In 1822 he first showed a concern over the moral and religious grounds for slavery. He felt that there was a difference between white and black; but slavery was not the ethical solution. [28] “Throughout society there Is therefore not only the direct and acknowledged relation of King and subjects, master and servant, but a secret depen­dence quite as universal, of one man upon another, which sways habits, opinions, and conduct.” [29] The slave stands in the relation of lower species to the higher, his master. But at the same time he also described slavery as among “the worst institutions on earth”. [30] In 1830 he was reading about William Penn’s treatment of slaves and of the general Quaker attitude. [31] In the same year, he made this cryptic notation in his Journals; “Population of U.S.A. 12,821,181 souls, Slaves 2,000,000.” [32] During the succeeding five years, he read more about the Quakers and probably learned in New Bedford of the early anti-slavery character of the Friends there. “By 1835 his opposition to slavery had become much more pronounced.” [33] He maintained: “Though the voice of society should demand a defense of slavery, from all its organs, that service can never be expected from me. My

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opinion is of no worth, but I hare not a syllable of all the language I have learned, to utter for the planter. Yes­terday, had I been born and bred a Quaker, I should have risen and protested against the preacher’s words. I would have said that in the light of Chrisitianity is no such thing as slavery. The only bondage it recognizes is that of sin.” [34]

Emerson did not jump to his feet that Sunday when a Christian minister defended slavery; nor did he come to act during the next decade and more. His reticence was due to a belief that the tendency to reform, the idea of reform, was raore valuable than any soiling of the hands in working for a material end. Yet as the decade of the 1840’s passed, he began, to show more and more respect for the anti-slavery reformers.

It is best to interrupt the narrative here to describe two other prominent Quakers, Lucretia Mott and Daniel Ricketson, whose influence in spurring Emerson to act can not be discounted.

Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) [35] was one of the nineteenth century’s foremost advocates of religious and social reforms. She held her views with such fierceness that

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many conservatives looked fearfully on her. At the time of one of her rampant speeches against slavery she was called by her opponents this “bad woman, whose infamous calling is a war against the Constitution of the United States. A sacreligious condemnation of the Holy Bible, (who preaches) disobedience and rebellion to our slaves.” [36] Others termed her a “female fanatic” and a “brazen infidel”. Of this same woman Emerson remarked: “Lucretia Mott is the flower of Quakerism. That woman has a unity of sense, virtue, and good meaning perfectly impressed on her countenance which are a guarantee of victory in all the fights to which her Quaker faith and connection lead her.” [37] An Orthodox Quaker gave this description of her un-Orthodox, radical Quakerism:

“Lucretia Mott was probably the ablest representative of the extreme radical school of thought in the Society (of Friends). She worked in connection with the Free Religious Association, was a member of the Anti-Sabbath Associa­tion and appeared to have grave doubts on the subject of the future life. Her statements concerning Jesus Christ are most radical, and she took the ground that the Bible was a dangerous book. She had, however, great faith in righteous­ness, and labored with persistent zeal and untiring perserverance on behalf of the slave.” [38]

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To such a man as Emerson, the philosophy of Lucretia Mott immediately appealed. He heard many echoes of his own thought, an occurrence which always pleased him. Here was a woman who could say: “The more my attention is dir­ected to a studied theology, and systematized Divinity, the more deeply do I deplore its unhappy effect on the mind and character; the tendency is to lower the estimate of practical righteousness, and rational Christian duties.” [39]

Lucretia Mott may have held the same idea on divinity as Emerson did after 1838, but she drew conclusions for the conduct of life different from Emerson’s conclusions up to 1850. She emphasized “practical righteousness”. The specific problems of this world were very real to her, and conversely she was not very much interested in the far-off, super-natural realm. “I have nothing to do with preaching to you about what we shall be hereafter. We even now, by our obedience come onto that kingdom which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [40] She had come far enough away from Puritan ancestry to enjoy the leisure of the new commerce. She regarded “dancing as a very harmless amusement.” [41]

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Her position in certain respects was so close to Emerson’s that she was correct in saying that Emerson had; a great influence on her. Note that she found “obedience” neces­sary, that she believed compensation awards benefits and penalities at the very time of an act and that the spirit is supreme. We are to rely not upon books, but upon “the higher revelation within us.” [43]

Lucretia Mott was too individualistic to be classified as a member of any one group. Like Emerson she is claimed by many sects. Originally an Orthodox Quaker, she early followed Hicks. His Unitarian doctrines attracted her; and in later speeches, she said of him that he was “unitarian in sentiment...and so were William Penn, and some others of our early Friends.” [44] Some writers even have called her a Unitarian. Perhaps her attachment to these words of W. E. Channing, which she said expressed her creed explicitly, had something to do with the confusion:

“There is one principle of the soul which makes all men essentially equal. I refer to the sense of duty, to the power of dis­cerning and doing right, to the moral and religious principle, to the inward monitor which speaks in the name of God. This is the great gift of God, — we can conceive of no greater.” [45]

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However, in general she did not insist upon “hair-breadth” distinctions, but rather urged “obedience to manifested duty, as the means of acceptance with the Searcher of Hearts. This is the old-fashioned Quaker doctrine.” [46] She was in most respects a female Emerson.

Her distinction, “between mere forms and rituals of the church, and practical goodness; between the consecration of man, and the consecration of days, the dedication of the Church, and the dedication of our lives to God” was a signi­ficant variation from Emerson’s belief. She applied the spirit to the particular work; Emerson retained it as spirit and tendency. And when he did take part in reforms, he shifted from his distinction to Lucretia Mott’s.

It is of course difficult to ascertain the exact in­fluence of Lucretia Mott on Emerson’s actions. In 1850, however, he began, actively to resist the slavery movement as exemplified in the Fugitive Slave Law. On May 3, 1851 at a public meeting in Concord he protested against the law. “The last year has forced us all into politics. There is an infamy in the air... I have lived all my life in this state, and never had any experience of personal inconvenience from the laws until now.” But the Fugitive Slave Law was so odious that he urged everyone to break it on the “earliest occasion.” [47]

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“Emerson was now drawn definitely and actively into the struggle against slavery.” [48] In 1854 and 1855 he was active in the movement. He delivered speeches in New York and Boston. [49] In 1855 he became more intimate with an old recluse Quaker, Daniel Ricketson. Ricketson was described by F. R. Sanborn as being much like Emerson. Yet “there was an unsatisfied element in him [Ricketson] which made the serenity of Emerson possible only at intervals; but these grew more frequent as the shadows fell longer from the sum­mit of fourscore years. They marked the presence, if they darkened the radiance, of that Inward Light by which Friends are guided on their pilgrimage through the world.”  [50] This man first made Emerson’s acquaintance during the years when Emerson preached in the New Bedford Unitarian Church. Their friendship became more real during the trying years of 1855 and 1856. At that time Emerson lectured frequently in New Bedford. He was invited to stay at Ricketson’s secluded home, Brooklawn; and in turn Ricketson visited Emerson in Concord. The frequent contacts between the two liberals gave each a sympathetic audience for his own views on slavery and morals. [51] Emerson always complained of the scarcity of

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friends to whom he could unburden himself. In Ricketson he found one who was as intensely interested as he in the abolition question. The support of a friend is worth more than any majority in a public opinion poll.

During the ensuing years when slavery and anti-slavery forces became more strictly opposed, Emerson played an active and crusading role on behalf of the slave. At Concord, he had spoken to a sympathetic audience; but at Cambridge his same speech on the Fugitive Slave Law was disturbed by hissing and catcalls. He “seemed absolutely to enjoy it. This would argue a temperament more alive than Emerson’s to the joys of conflict.” [52] This new urge in Emerson to battle carried on until the early years of the Civil War. All his lectures of that time contain references to the coming con­flict. In January 1861, he attempted to speak at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. From the balcony hisses, groans, and calls of ‘throw him out’ “interrupted his address, but did not succeed in embarrassing or stopping him.” [53] He maintained his active and positive

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assertion of the negro cause until war eased the need for action and decided the course events would take. Only when the issue had come into the open, when the forces of right could work unobstructed, did Emerson return to his old habits of life. Only then did he begin to clean from his feet and hands the “philanthropic mud” of the reformer’s life. [54]

A campaign once conducted with success, the moral warrior finds it irksome to sit by. Slavery abolished, the reformer forces turned their attention to other issues which, if not so important, are just as vital as the one concluded. Temperance, free religion, women’s rights became the new fields of battle. Emerson found it hard not to take part again in the “extravaganza” of a “partial reform”. [55] He may still have believed in the need for general inner reform; but his actions did not rave, as once his words had, against the dangers of partial reforms. He became especially interested in free religion and the rights of women. In a

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lecture before the Woman’s Rights Convention in Boston, 1855, he said: “The Quakers have the honor of having first established, in their discipline, the equality in the sexes.” [56] After the nervous strain of the Civil War, Emerson’s powers began to fail. Yet he appeared twice at the annual, conventions of the Free Religious Association. [57] In 1867 he appeared on the same platform with his old friend, Lucretia Mott. There Emerson again emphasized his belief in enthusiasm, “which is the parent of everything good in history”, and gave expression to the changed emphasis in his opinion of material reform: "It is only by good works, it is only on the basis of active duty, that worship finds expression."58 Two years later, in his last original

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address, before the burning of his home shocked his powers, Emerson called for a tolerant attitude, for a re-emphasis on spirit and a disregard for forms. “I believe that not only Christianity is as old as the Creation.... but more, that a man of religious susceptibility, and one at the same time conversant with many men, — say a much travelled man, — can find the same idea in numberless conversations.” Only from within can recognition of the divine come. “George Fox, the Quaker, said that, though he read of Christ and God, he knew them only from the like spirit in his own soul.” [59]

Emerson retained the spirituality of the Historical Quakers, which had always been a part of him; he took over their disregard for form and particularity; and yet from the progressive, liberal, and radical Quakers he received encouragement and models for activity in particular reforms. It is interesting to see that when Emerson approached the problem of reform, he showed the same attitudes and ideals as his Quaker friends. Wherever and whenever he did stir in the “philanthropic mud”, Quaker acquaintances and ideas were not far away.

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6. Conclusion

An examination of Emerson’s life and writings has shown that at certain times and on certain issues a close relation­ship existed between him and the Quakers. During the three and a half years that he was minister of the Old North Church in Boston, Emerson read several volumes of Quaker history; the same books he took with him into seclusion at the time he made his decision to resign the ministry. His reasons for resigning were based on the Quaker principle of spirit over form; his explanatory sermon contained references both to the Quaker example and to Quaker ideals. There is little doubt but that Historical Quakerism played an important assisting role, at the very least, in Emerson’s far-reaching decision.

After leaving the ministry, Emerson went into a period of flux. His ideas, always based upon a vigorous notion of Moral Law, had come loose from his usual surroundings. No longer did he preach every Sunday; no longer did he expect a material reward for sermons. He looked around him to find new symbols for his thought. His reading in astronomy fur­nished one type; but his living friendship with Mary Rotch.

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supplied another, more vital language. The New Light Quakers, so close to Emerson’s fundamental cast of mind, had developed a liberal religion based upon extreme, though not extravangant, application of the Inner Light principle. Mary Rotch, in particular, had progressed beyond any idea of personality. For her, God was merely “That Influence”. At the time of his connection in New Bedford, and while he was continuing to read Quaker history, Emerson, too, moved away from the old, traditional view of God as a king on high. In many ways he seemed to follow the New Light theology; the denial of personal immortality, an almost extreme insistence on in­dividual liberty in matters of religion, and the conception of an Immanence rather than a God as the divine being. All these changes Emerson summed up in his Divinity School Address.

During the years from 1830-1840, when Emerson came in contact both with contemporary New Light Quakers, and, through books, with Historical Quakerism, he was formulating his type of Transcendentalism. As expressed in Nature, and later in the Essays, that Transcendentalism paralleled the Quaker thought he had been becoming acquainted with. Both Quaker though and Transcendental theory were based upon a mystical way of knowledge. More than this, both drew very similar corollaries from their central issue: acquiescence as neces­sary for moral conduct, the negative quality of conscience, insight, or Inner Light in preventing sin, the concept of sin as a lack of knowledge, the faith in the individual's worth which expressed itself in an attitude anti-ecclesiastical, anti-traditional, and in part anti-intellectual, and finally the entire mood of optimism and spirituality.

If, as has been held, Emerson’s formative years ended in 1838 or 1840, little influence on his thinking can be expected to have taken place after that date. But the great national problem of abolition did arise. Emerson’s early position on reform was much like that of George Fox. As the slavery problem more and more attracted his atten­tion and outraged his conscience, he came closer and closer to the Progressive or Radical Quaker’s attitude: that cer­tain reforms must be undertaken in spite of some loss of spirituality involved therein. Emerson during the time he changed from believing in reform as a tendency for individual consumption, to having faith in the necessity of particular outward reforms to relieve the sufferings of others was much in contact with the crusading Quakers of the time. Lucretia Mott, W. L. Fisher, and Daniel Ricketson were all abolitionists and advocates of many other types of reform. Emerson, once he shifted the emphasis on reform just a little off the purely personal and subjective aspects, took part in other movements. He spoke at least twice in favor of woman’s rights; and after the war he appeared at two conventions of the Free Religious Association, a body which advocated a purification

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of all religions and a renewed emphasis upon bettering the daily life of man with respect to both physical and spiritual aspects. Wherever and whenever Emerson took part in an active, particular reform, one that denied his early dislike for “stirring in the philanthropic mud”, he was preceded and accompanied by at least one Quaker.

The undeniable influence of the Quakers on the decisive moment in Emerson’s life, their continued association throughout his life with the major issues of his intellectual and spiritual career gives fair grounds for saying that of all purely religious sects, the Quakers had the greatest in­fluence on him. But as has been noted, there were three types of Quakerism. Each had its particular sphere of influence in Emerson’s life. Which he thought himself to be when he said, “I am more of a Quaker than anything else”, is now not too difficult to determine.

It is very probable that Emerson never distinguished be­tween the Quakers with whom he came in contact. The term Quaker, would for him, immediately bring to his mind “Inner Light”. But Emerson lived in the time of great developments in Quaker history. Most likely he thought of himself as a contemporary Quaker, as one like William Logan Fisher, or the quiet, dignified Daniel Ricketson. Yet it was of Historical Quakerism that Emerson said:

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“I have sometimes thought, and indeed I always do think, that the sect of the Quakers in their best representatives appear to me to have come nearer to the sublime history and genius of Christ than any other of the sects. They have kept the traditions perhaps for a longer time; and I think I see this cause, I think I find in the language of that sect, in all the history and all the ancedotes of its leaders and teachers, a certain fidelity to the Scriptural character.” [1]

But it was of the New Light and more especially the Pro­gressive Quakers that Emerson spoke when he said:

“It is very interesting to me to see, as I do all around me here, the essential doctrines of Quakerism revived, modified, stripped of all that puritanism and sectarianism had heaped upon them, and made the foundation of an Intellectual philosophy, that is ‘illuminating’ the finest minds and reaches the wants of the least cultivated.” [2]


Progressive Quakerism was a great support to Emerson. He may not have thought of the Progressive Quakers as Teach­ing him when he claimed to be a Quaker; but he assuredly was aware of the close affinity between his own beliefs and those of the modern Quakers. Of Emerson’s spirituality, which he shared with the Quakers, Mr. James Truslow Adams says: “His insistence upon values in life, culminating in the spiritual,

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is one sorely needed in the America of our day as of his.” [3] To such a proposition, Hr. Henry Seidel Canby adds the Quaker spirituality as equal in importance when he asks:

"Can we revive essential Quakerism with its spirited fire, its passionate belief in the possible goodness of every man, its willing­ness to forego privilege if the community can become friends in the sight of God, its insistence upon the reality of the inner life? — can all this be revived in pros­perity, with the conquest of nature held forth as the greatest good, and a cynical will to power tacitly accepted? Can suc­cess be given to the Quaker's idea in en­vironments richer, subtler, more powerful than his? That has been for a century, and still is, the vital theme of American literature, from Emerson and Cooper (who were both half Quaker) , Thoreau, Whitman, down to Willa Gather, Robert Frost, and Sherwood Anderson.” [4]

Emerson fought all his life for the spiritual world; he made alliances and learned lessons from others in the same fight. Quakers, from Fox through Ricketson, were fighting the same battle. Emerson learned much from them, and taught them too; and his acknowledgement of being more a Quaker than anything else was an acknowledgment that of all those engaged on the spiritual vs. material front, the Quakers had fought and were fighting the fight closest to his heart.

Bibliography i ==================


I. Emerson’s Writings

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Complete Works, Centenary Edi­tion, 12 vols. (Boston and' New York, 1903).

Journals, ed. Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes, 10 vols. (Boston and New York, 1909).

Two Unpublished Essays, introduction by Edward Everett Hale (Boston and Hew York, 1896).

Uncollected Lectures, ed. Clarence Gohdes (New York, 1932).

Uncollected Writings, ed. Charles C. Bigelow, 2 vols. (New York, 1912).

"Emerson as Abolitionist” New England Quarterly, VI, 154-158. An extract of Emerson’s Address made Jan. 24, 1861 as taken from the files of the Liberator of Feb. 1, 1861 by R. G. Silver.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Uncollected Writings, collected and annotated by W. T. Newton. 2 vols. Unpub­lished (available at the Concord Free Public Library).

Young Emerson Speaks. Unpublished Discourses on Many Subjects, ed. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Jr., (Boston, 1938).

II. Other Books and Articles Consulted

Adams, James Truslow. "Emerson Re-read", The Tempo of Modern Life (New York, 1931), pp. 127-47.

Anthony, Joseph R. Life in New Bedford A Hundred Years Ago. Diary Kept by Joseph R. Anthony, ed. Zephaniah W. Pease, (New Bedford, Mass. , 1925).

Bibliography ii ==================

Bancroft, George. History of the United States , Vol. II (Boston, 1837). The copy consulted belonged to R. W. Emerson and is now deposited in the Antiquarian Society's Emerson Room at Concord, Mass.

Barclay, Robert. Apology £or the True Christian Divinity... (the sixth edition in English, London, 1736).

Braithwaite, W. C. The Beginnings of Quakerism (London, 1912).

Braithwaite, W. C. and Hodgkin, H. T. The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, 19l2).

Brigham, Charles Henry. Memoir and Papers (Boston, 1881).

Brittin, N. A. "Emerson and the Metaphysical Poets", American Literature, VIII, 1-21 (March, 1936).

Brooks, Van Wyck. The Flowering of New England (New York, 1936).

         – The Life of Emerson (New York, 1932).

Cabot, James Elliot. A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2 vols. (Boston, 1888).

Canby, Henry Seidel. American Estimates (New York, 1929).

         – "Emerson”, in Classic Americans (New York, 1931), pp. 143-183.

Carpenter, F. I. "Introduction" to Emerson (American Writers Series, 1934).

         – Emerson and Asia (Cambridge, Mass., 1930).

Christy, Arthur. The Orient in American Transcendentalism: A Study of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott (New York, 1932).

Clark, H. HI. "Emerson and Science", Philological Quarterly, X, 225-260 (July, 1931).

Clarke, James Freeman. Nineteenth Century Questions (Boston and New York, 1898).

Bibliography iii ==================

Clarkson, Thomas. Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 18l6). The copy consulted belonged to R. W. Emerson and is now deposited in the old Emerson home in Concord, Mass.

Congdon, Charles T. Reminiscences of a Journalist (Boston, 1880).

Cooke, G. W. Ralph Waldo Emerson: his life, writings, and philosophy (Boston, 1882).

         – Unitarianism in America (Boston, 1902).

Dewey, Orville. Autobiography and Letters, ed. Mary E. Dewey (Boston, 1883).

Dugard, Marie. Ralph Waldo Emerson, sa vie et son ouevre (Paris, 1907).

Ellis, L. B. A History of New Bedford (Syracuse, N.Y., 1892).

Emerson, R. W., Charming, W. H., and Clarke, J. J. Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 2 vols. (Boston, 1881).

Fisher, William Logan. Pauperism and Crime (Philadelphia, 1831).

Progressive Friends. An Account of the Fourth' Annual Meeting (Wakefield, 6th mo. 1st 1856).

Foerster, Woman. "Emerson” in American Criticism (Boston, 1928), pp. 52-110.

Fox, George. Journal of George Fox, Everyman Edition, ed. Norman Penney (London, 1904).

Frothingham, O. B. Transcendentalism in New England: A History (New York, 1876).

Goddard, K. C. Studies in New England Transcendentalism (New York, 1908).

"Transcendentalism" in The Cambridge History of American Literature, I, 326 -348.

Bibliography iv ==================

Gray, H. D. Emerson: A Statement of Hew England Transcendentalism as Expressed in the Philosophy of Its Chief Exponent (Stanford, California', 19l7).

Hallowell, R. P. The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts (Boston, 1883).     ’

Harrison, J. B. The Teachers of Emerson (New York, 1910).

Haskins, David Greene. Ralph Waldo Emerson: His Maternal Ancestors with Some Reminiscences of Him (Boston, 1886').

Jones, Rufus. The Quakers in the American Colonies (London, 1911).

         – The Story of George Fox (New York, 1919).

         – Spiritual Reformers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London, 1914).

McQuiston, Raymer. "The Relation of Ralph Waldo Emerson to Public Affairs,” Bulletin of the University of Kansas, XXXV, Ho. 8, Humanistic Studies, III, No. L (April, 1923), PP. 1-63.

Maulsby, David Lee. Emerson, His Contribution to Literature (Tufts College, Mass., l9l).

More, P. E. "Emerson” in The Cambridge History of American Literature (New York, 1917), I, 349-362.

James and Lucretia Mott. Life and Letters, ed. Anna Davis Hallowell (Boston, 1864).

“New Bedford Men’s Meeting. 6 mo. 1808- 6 mo. 1828. #401”. This record of the Hew Bedford Men’s Meeting, like the Women’s listed below, is deposited in the archives vault at the Mose Brown School in Providence, R.I.

“New Bedford Monthly Meeting (Record). Women. #431, 4 mo. 1821- 7 mo. 1850.”

“New Bedford Monthly Meeting. Centennial Exercises, 12 mo. 22nd. 1892,” Printed by E. Anthony & Sons, Inc. New Bedford,Mass., 1892.

Peabody, Elizabeth. Reminiscences of Rev. William Ellery Channing, D.D. (Boston, 1880).

Bibliography v ==================

Potter, William J. The Free Religious Association: Its Twenty-five Years and Their Meaning (Boston, 1892 ).

Ricketson, Daniel. History of New Bedford (New Bedford, Mass., 1858).

Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, ed. Anna and Walton Ricketson (Boston and New York, 1902).

Robbins, Chandler. History of the Second Church, or Old North (Boston, 1852).

Rodman, Samuel. Diary of Samuel Rodman, ed. Zephaniah W. Pease (New Bedford, Mass., 1927).

Salter, William M. “Emerson’s Views on Reform”, New England Magazine, Vol. 4 (New Series), pp. 656-64.

Sewel, William. History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian ^People Called Quakers, 2 vols., (Philadelphia, 1823). The copy consulted belonged to R. W. Emerson and is now deposited in the Antiquarian Society’s Emerson Room in Concord, Mass.

Shepard, Odell. Pedlar’s Progress (Boston, 1937).

Stabler, William. A Memoir of the Life of Edward Stabler (Philadelphia, 1846).

Strong, A. H. “Emerson” in American Poets and Their Theology (Philadelphia, 1916), pp. 51-103.

Thomas, Allen C. and Richard H. A History of the Friends in America (Philadelphia,11 1905.

Tolles, F. B. "Emerson and Quakerism”, American Literature, X, 142-165 (Hay, 1938).

Townsend, H. G. Philosophical Ideas in the United States (New York, 1934).

Woodberry, G. E. Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Men of Letters Series (New York, 1926).

Woodbury, C. J. Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York, 1890).

ENDNOTES ========================

1. Introduction - Notes

1. David Greene Haskins, Ralph Waldo Emerson: His Maternal Ancestors with Some Reminiscences of Him (Boston, 1886), p. 48.

2. George Edward Woodberry, Ralph Waldo Emerson (London, 1926), pp. 86-87, 90.

3. Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (Boston and New York, 1909), I, 162-64 (July 13, 1822). Hereafter these will be cited as Journals.

4. Journals, VI, 26 (Aug. 22, 1841).

5. This distinction was also a fundamental with Kant and the English antecedents of the Transcendental movement. Cf. H. G. Townsend, Philosophical Ideas in the United States (New York, 1934), pp. 87-88.

6. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Centenary Edition (Boston and New York, 1903), I, 50. Hereafter these will be referred to as Works, Cf. also I, 36, 102, 125, 129, 172, 182, 295.

7. Augustus Hopkins Strong, American Poets and Their Theology (Philadelphia, 1916 ), p. 63.

8. Frederick B. Tolles, ”Emerson and Quakerism”, American Literature, X, 142-165. In the footnote on p. 142, Mr. TolLes says: "We find Daniel Ricketson, the New Bedford historian and poet [and Quaker. See below Chapter V, p. 96], writing to a friend in 1895, thirteen years after Emerson’s death, "I can say in the words of my friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'If I am anything, I am a Quaker.’” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, ed. Anna Ricketson and Walton Ricketson, Boston, 1902, p. 261). Of course Ricketson may here be quoting, consciously or unconsciously, from Haskins’ book or from E. W. Emerson’s, Emerson in Concord (Boston, 1899), p. 48. "There is however additional evidence that Emerson’s contemporaries were in the habit of thinking of him as a Quaker. Miss Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury of Manchester, England, wrote to Jane Carlyle in 1848: ’Emerson has taken his departure.... I don’t fancy he took to me. I am too tumultuous for him... I had far rather the Quaker liked me.’ (Selections from the Letters of Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury to Jane Welsh Carlyle, ed. Mrs. Alexander Ireland, London, 1892, pp. 235-236.) It is possible, to be sure, that, Miss Jewsbury may have used the term ’Quaker’ in a general sense with reference merely to Emerson’s quiet demeanor, and that she meant no religious connotation. I give the evidence for what it is worth.”

9. Van Wyck Brooks, The Life of Emerson (New York, 1932), p. 45; Van Wyck Brooks, The Flowering of New England (New York, 1936), p. 199.

10. Henry Seidel Canby, American Estimates (New York, 1938), p. 280.

11. Henry Seidel Canby, Classic Americans (New York, 1932), p. 155.

12. Rufus M. Jones, Spiritual Reformers of the 16th and 17th Centuries (London, 1914).

13. Allen C. Thomas and Richard H. Thomas, A History of the Friends in America (Philadelphia, 1905), pp. 55-60.

14. Ibid., p. 160.

15. James Elliot Cabot, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston and New York, 1867), I, 57.

16 Ibid., 62.

17. Cabot, op. cit., I, 70.

18. Ibid., I, 138.

19. Harry Hayden Clark, "Emerson and Science," Philological Q. , 10:225.

20. John Beattie Crozier, The Religion of the Future (London, 1880), pp. 105-106.

21. Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Writers Series, ed. F. I. Carpenter (New York, 1934), p. 448.

22. F. I. Carpenter, Emerson and Asia (Cambridge, Mass.,1930), p. xii.

23. Woodberry, op. cit., p. 173.

24. Journals, II, 116 (September 10, 1826).


2. Quakers as the Motivating Influence - Notes

1. Journals, II, 296 (May 12, 1830). The date of the meeting is set in May, 1827 because that is apparently the only time when both men could have been together on Delaware Bay. In May, 1827, Emerson was returning from his Florida vacation and Stabler "in the spring of 1827 ...was again drawn by the power of gospel love to attend the Yearly Meeting of New York, and to appoint some meetings in... Delaware,.and Maryland."  William Stabler, A Memoir of the Life of Edward Stabler (Philadelphia, 1846), p. 112. The spelling in the Journals is "Stubler", but records examined by Mr. Frederick B. Tolles seem to prove that the editors of the Journals mis-read Emerson’s "a" for a "u". See "Emerson and Quakerism,” Frederick B. Tolles, Am. Lit. x, 142-165. The Stabler of the Memoir of Edward Stabler it will be seen could only be the "Stubler" recorded in the Journals.

2. Journals, II, 296-297 (May 12, 1830). The mere fact that Emerson remembered three years later attests to Stabler's impression on him.

3. Ibid., III, 51 (May 19, 1836). See also Ibid., VI, 240-241.

4. Stabler, op. cit., p. 125. The letter is dated Alexandria, 1st mo. 19th 1828.

5. Stabler, op. cit., p. 149.

6. Ibid., p. 148.

7. Young Emerson Speaks., ed. Arthur Cushman, McGiffert, Jr. (Boston, 1936), p. 255. "Emerson had preached in the New Bedford Church on three Sundays in Noveraber, 1827, after his return from his trip to the south. Orville Dewey, a relative of his, the minister at the time, had been given leave of absence on account of his health.”

8. See below, Chapter III.

9. George Edward Woodbury, Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York, 1926), p. 11. For the Emerson boys "it was a boyhood of study... They read, of course, good authors and improving works; but what most attracted them was the form of good writing. The first awakening of their minds was to a perception of rhetoric."

10. Journals, II, 328; Thomas Clarkson, M.A., Memoirs of the Private-and Public Life of William Penn, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1816).

11. William Sewell, History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers 2 vols., (Philadelphia, 1823). (See the Reading list for 1832. Journals, II, 541.) The inscription in the first volume of ’Sewel" reads: "Chas. G. Emerson from his friend Mrs. J. Wigglesworth 1832." Ralph Waldo Emerson frequently admitted the superior ability of Charles and acknowledged his debt to him. Just what Charles' views were and the extent of his influence on Waldo is an interesting but unsolved problem.

12. Journals, II, 479 (May 7, 1832) refers to William Penn; Journals, II, 497 (July 15, 1832) refers to George Eox.

13. Cabot, op. cit., p. 77.

14. Journals, II, 448 (January 10, 1832).

15. See, for example, Journals, II, 18: "It is perilous for Religion to be a fashion, as it is apt to lead men to errors both in the nature and in the degree of their virtue. (1824). Emerson had come to believe that "there was much truth in the beautiful theory" that "the human mind was a portion of divinity". (Journals, II, 217, October, 1827). "He felt that when a truth is presented, it always brings its own authority." (Journals, II, 325, December 21, 1830). His sermons however remained orthodox.

16. Works, XI, editor’s note, p. 547.

17. Journals, II, 323 (December 10, 1830).

18. Clarkson, op. cit. , I, 227.

19. Sewel, op. cit., I, 100.

20. Journals, II, 438 (December 19, 1831).

21. See below, Chapter III.

22. P. E. More agreed that Emerson’s "most decisive act was the surrender of his pulpit in 1832," "Emerson” in The Cambridge History of American Literature, I, 355.

23. Cabot, op. cit., I, 155.

24. Emerson's Journals for the time he was in the mountains cover II, 495-509. Of those pages, pp. 497-500, 504, 507 have reference to George Fox. "Mr. Emerson’s journal during the period of trial and decision, in the mountains, shows that he was reading with great interest the life of George Fox." Works, XI, 551.

25. After the two men named had been hanged, Mary Dyer scorned the reprieve granted her. "I rather choose to die than to live, as from you, as guilty of their innocent blood." Sewel, op. cit., I, 402-416 and 347-358.

26. Journals, II, 418 (October 3, 1831). GCf. Sewel, op. cit., I, footnote pp. 360-364. "To the Counsel and Senate of The City of Embden from W. Penn. London, December 14, 1674.” In it Penn pleaded that the magestrates be "propitious to all..." For Penn's kindness and humanity to the Indians see Clarkson, op. cit., II, 338.

27. Journals, II, 494-95 (July 14, 1832). "He who believes in inspiration will come” to the mountains. A year later, just after returning from Europe, Emerson was perhaps comparing his experience with that of Fox when he said: "Such revelations as were made to George Fox or Emanuel Swedenborg are only made in the woods or in the closet." Journals, III, 222 (October 21, 1833).

28. Journals, II, 497 (July 15, 1832).

29. Journals, II, 497-500 (Between. July 15 and August 11, 1832). All quotations in the paragraph are from this entry.

30. Journals, II, 507 (August 19, 1832); p. 504 (August 12, 1832); pp. 508-509 (late August, 1832).

31. Sewel, op. cit. , I, 349-66.

32. Ibid, I, 38. In Emerson’s copy this passage is marked.

33. Ibid., I, 115. This passage, which continues “...dost thou walk in the light; and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”, is also pencilled in Emerson’s copy.

34. For example: Cf. Sewel, op. cit., I, 56. Fox comments: "We have also a most sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that take heed, as unto a light that shined in a dark place" and also: "I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love." (Journal of George Fox, Everyman Edition, ed.. Norman Penney, p. 1).

35 Works, XI, 551. Notes.

36. Journals, II, 509 (September 5, 1832).

37. Works, Xl, 1-25.

38. Works, XI, 4. For the ”good reasons” see Apology. Robert Barclay. Proposition Vll. Sewel gives an instance of Fox's arguing the point with a Jesuit priest. Fox triumphed by proposing that a loaf of bread and a flask of wine be divided into two equal parts. The Jesuit was to bless half the bread and half the wine, to. retain.;, the other. If the blest half of Bread dried up and the wine soured, Fox would claim a victory). (Sewel, op. cit., I, 321-22).

39. Works, XI, 20.

40. Sewel, op. cit., I, 322.

41. Ibid., I, 126.

42. Works, XI, 21. Fox was very insistent on this point, that the soul must be in touch with God to live and to learn. "But when these [men out of contact with God] had no more to declare but went to seek forms without life, that made themselves dry and barren.” (Journal of George Fox, p. 45). In a similar discussion in the sermon on "The Lord’s Supper”, Emerson applied John vi, 63: ”It is the spirit that quickeneth...”

43. Sewel, op. cit., I, 100.

44. Ibid., II, 328-48. The quotation is from a letter by R. Barclay to Adrian Paets and is dated, "The Prison of Aberdeen in Scotland, November 24, 1676”.

45. Other ministers of the day considered the sermon "Quakerish” and Emerson deranged. Cabot, op. cit., I, 158.

46. Works XI, 548.

47. Chandler Robbins, History of the Second Church, an Old North (Boston, 1852), p. 142.

48. Cabot, op. cit., I. 158-59.

49. Journals, II, 521 (October 14, 1832).

50. McGiffert, op. cit., pp. 180-190. Annotated pp. 253-255. The sermon is #164 in Emerson’s preaching record and was first preached on Oct. 21, 1832. In writing this farewell sermon, Emerson of course had in mind that Fox also was one "who had faith in man's moral nature." (Journals, II, 514 (September 17, 1832)).

51. Journals, III, 222 (October 21, 1833).

52. For example: Ibid. , III 337-38 (September 14, 1834); p. 351 (October 14, 18340; p. 362 (November 15, 1834).

53. Clark, op. cit., p. 234.


3. Liberal Quaker Thought and Emerson - Notes

1. Journals, III, 201 (September 8, 1833).

2. Ibid. , p. 24.

3. The persecutions of Mary Dyer and her friends have already been referred to. See above II, 18. Other persecutions are recorded in Sewel, op. cit. , I, 347-358. Among the names of these early Quaker martyrs are Sarah Gibbons, Dorothy Waugh, Hored Gardner, W. Brend, and W. Seddra. For Sewel’s original source, see A Call from death to life...., Edinburgh, privately printed 1886 (Aungervgh Society Reprints, iii, 3).

4. Thomas, op. cit. , p. 69.

5. Journal of George Fox, XXI, 271-315, esp. 286-309.

6. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 55-60.

7. Ibid., p. 167.

8. T. B. Ellis, A History of New Bedford (Syracuse, New York, 1892), p. 42. In 1716, the early Quakers made this testimony against slavery: "The matter relating to the purchasing of slaves being is concluded... to forbear for time to come, to be in any way concerned in purchasing any slaves."

9. American ideals of democracy were essentially Quaker. The spirit of equality had been given a reinterpretation by the Quakers. It was the first such expression in English. Gf. Canby, American Estimates, pp. 277-78. "...the fundamental qualities of what can properly be called the American brand of idealism are essentially Quaker in character, and very largely Quaker in origin. Tolerance, respect of man as man, spiritual equality, impatience with outward forms, dislike of violence as a means of settling disputes, beliefs in the essential goodness of human nature...self-dependence on religion, humanitarianism...."

10. Thomas, op. cit., p. 107.

11. Ellis, op. cit., pp. 184-185.

12. Daniel Ricketson, The History of New Bedford (New Bedford , 1858) , p. 314.

13. Ellis, op. cit. , pp. 31-34.

14. Ibid., pp. 37-40. For citation of cases of, p. 35. A rhymed history of the New Bedford Quaker movement can be found in the Centennial Exercixes 1792-1892. New Bedford Monthly Meeting, pp. 19-28. The poem by Ruth. S. Murray bears the title "A Retrospective Glance.” One stanza will give the flavor:

"The Massachusetts Colony

Would drive them far away;

But spite of whippings, hangings, too,

The Quaker fain would stay.

And so it chanced the Dartmouth fields

They came to till and sow,

And settled in New Bedford, too,

One hundred years ago.”

15. Ellis, op. c it. , p. 569. Ricketson, History, p. 325. The Friend’s Academy, founded in 1810 through subscription, was the cultural center of New Bedford "for many years".

16. The Diary of Samuel Rodman 1821-59. ed. Zephaniah W. Pease, (New Bedford, 1927), pp. 22 et seq. Cf. also for the entire course of the schism Life in New Bedford a Hundred Years Ago, Diary kept by Joseph R. Anthony, ed. Zephaniah W. Pease. 3rd ed. (New Bedford, 1925), esp. pp. 19-94.

17. That manuscript, "The Record of the Debates of the New Bedford Monthly Meeting”, is now apparently lost.

18. Quoted by Emerson. Journals, III, 265-66. (March 21, 1834). The record of the!Debates of the Quaker Monthly Meetings, from which Emerson made this transcription, seems to have been lost.

19. Diary of Rodman, p. 22.

20. Ibid. , p. 24.

21. "Not long after his return from Europe he [Emerson] began preaching in the Unitarian Church in New Bedford....He became greatly attached to that Congregation, however, and especially to the Quaker portion of it. During the controversy among the Friends, in 1825 and later, growing out of the preaching of Elias Hicks, those who separated themselves from the Orthodox body connected themselves with the Unitarian Church. They felt that the Friends had fallen away from their early simplicity and spirituality, and had made forms and dogmas out of their own methods, instead of following the spirit in the life of each new day. They were at first known as 'New Lights' , and attracted the deeply interested attention of Dr. Charming.” Cooke, Emerson, pp. 35-36.

22. "New Bedford Monthly Meeting Record, Women”, Vol. II, 431.

mo. 1821 - 7 mo. 1850. pp. 21-22 (11 mo. 9th, 1823). Elizabeth Rotch Rodman, Dec. 9, 1757-Aug. 2, 1856.

Mary Rotch, c. 1778- Sept. 4, 1847.

23. Diary of Rodman, p. 25 (March 25, 1824). "New Bedford Monthly Meeting (Men's).” 6 mo. 1808-7 mo. 1828 #401. pp. 275-6, 278, and 290. "New Bedford Monthly Meeting (Women’s)” #431, p. 24. (3rd month 25, 1824). The entire affair was carried on in bad feeling and with a "want of Christian Charity”.

24. George Willis Cooke, Unitarianism in America, (Boston, 1902), p. 1.

25. Charles Henry Brighman, Memoirs and Papers (Boston, 1881), pp. 39-97 et seq..

26. Ibid, p. 402.

27. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 122-27. The "New Light" movement was like the ^contemporary schism in the Congregational Church, a controversy between the liberal element and the less liberal...." In other communities the Quaker disputes produced true factions such as the Gurneyites and Wilburites. Diary of Anthony, p. 10. The Hicksite Quakers were "Unitarian and reformatory." Cooke, op. cit., pp. 88-89.

28. See below, Chapter IV, pp. 60-61.

29. Ellis, op. cit., p. 569.

30. Thomas, op. cl't., p. 160.

31. Charles T. Congdon, Reminiscences of a Journalist, (Boston, 1880), p. 33.

32. "New Bedford Monthly Meeting (Record), Women #431. 4 mo. 1821 - 7 mo. 1850". p. 25. 3rd mo. 25th, 1824.

33. R. W. Emerson, W. H. Channing, and J. J. Clarke, Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (Boston, 1881), II, 63-64. The quotation is from a letter dated June, 1842.

34. Autobiography and Letters of Orville Dewey, D.D. ed. his daughter, Mary E. Dewey (Boston, 1383}, pp. 67-68.

35. Journals, III, 258-60 (February 12, 1834).

36. See Chapter IV, pp. 68-69.

37. Cooke, Emerson, p. 36.

38. Quotation contained in a letter by Lucretia Mott, dated 12th mo. 27th, 1858. James and Lucretia Mott, Life and Letters, ed. by their Granddaughter, Anna Davis Hallowell (Boston, 1884), p. 385. Lucretia Mott adds this commentary on what Emerson said, "I remembered that his mind was enlightened beyond his pulpit and ordinances about the time of the enlightened Mary Newhall’s coming out, and I doubt not she had some influence on him."

39. Journals, III, 351. (Oct. 29, 1834). Seven months later Emerson wrote: "George Fox’s chosen expression for the God manifest in the mind is the seed. He means that seed of which the Beauty of the world is the Flower, and Goodness is the Fruit". (Journals. Ill, 497, June 29, 1835).

40. Journals, II, 503-504. (August 12. 1832}.

41. Journals, III, 351 note.

42. Cabot, op. cit. , II, 712-14.

43. Journals, 17, 304 (Oct. 2, 1837). The book referred to is: George Bancroft, History of the United States, Vol. II (Boston, 1837), Chap. XlTI, pp. 326-404. Emerson's copy, with his autograph, can now be found in the Emerson room of the Antiquarian Society Building in Concord, Massachusetts. It is interesting to note that Bancroft contrasted both Transcendentalism and Quakerism with Locke (II, pp. 378-381).

44. Bancroft, op. cit. , II, 326 et seq.

45. Emerson made one other important contact with "Spiritual Reformers" before publishing his first work, Nature. On August.1, 1835, he copied several passages from the Aurora of Jacob Boehme.. Cf. Journals, III, 524-25, III, 574, and the reading lists, from year to year. Emerson owned these books by Jacob Boehme. Works, 4 vols. (London, 1764) and Theosophick Philosophy Unfolded...also the principal treaties "of the said author; abridged by Edward Taylor (London, 1691).

46. McGiffert, op. cit. , pp. 88-9, Sermon §75. First preached May 16, 1830.

47. Ibid., xxiii. For examples, see pp. 19, 155; and p. 11, Emerson spoke of ”conscience, God’s viceregent”.

48. McGiffert, op. oit., xxiv-v.

49. Ibid., p. 110 Sermon #90 (First delivered Dec. 3, 1830.) After reading Clarkson, meeting Stabler, and preaching thrice in New Bedford.

50. Ibid. , xxv. Sermon #92 (First preached Oct. 24, 1930.) "Let it be supposed that in any case a man is clearly of the opinion that St. Peter or St. Paul is mistaken, and positively lays down a false doctrine, the faith he follows has educated him, I say reject that doctrine."

51. Ibid., xxv. Sermon #109 (First preached March 6, 1831.)

52. Ibid., xxv-vi. Quoting Emerson, Sermon #106 (First preached Jan. 30, 1831.)

53. McGiffert, op. cit., Sermons #28 and 29. (March 15, 1829). Cf. Journals, p. 290 "Every man makes his own religion” (Feb. 11, 1830).

54. Journals, III, 159-60 (July 11, 1833).

55. Ibid., p. 303 (June 5, 1834).

56. Ibid., IV, 15-16 (Feb. 28, 1836).

57. For a statement preparatory to the position in the Divinity School Address, see Journals, IV, 95-96. "Give me truth. The unbelief of the day proceeds out of the deepest belief. It is because men see the personalities of Christendom and its ecclesiastical history are a pile of draff and jackstraws beside the immutable laws of moral nature, --a doctrine about Baptism, for example, compared with the obligation to veracity.” Also Journals, III, 159-60. "All necessary truth is its own evidence, no doctrine of God need appeal to a book”.

58. Journals, II, 389 (June 29, 1831).

59. Works, I, 122 (122 (Divinity School Address).

60. Ibid., XI, 124.

61. Clarkson, op. cit., I, 227. Of. also Sewel, op. cit., I, 73-74. "But as the Lord... doth open you, by his invisible Power and Spirit, and brings down the carnal mind in you; so the invisible and immortal things are brought to light in you". And Ibid., I, 326. Quotation from a letter G. Fox to Lady Claypole, 1658: "The same light which lets you see sin and transgression, will let you see the covenant of God, which blots out sin and transgression... and brings into covenant with God."

62. Works, I, 127 ("Divinity School Address").

63. Sewel, op. cit., I, 208. As Barbara Blangdon put it in 1655. The passage is marked in Emerson's copy of Sewel.

64. Works, I, 127. ("Divinity School Address”) This passage recapitulates much of what Emerson had said in the beginning of his biographical lecture on George Fox. "'George Fox'. Religious enthusiasm opens his mind... The inward light cannot be confined or transmitted; so the stricken soul wanders away from churches, and finds himself at first alone". (Summarized in Cabot, op. cit., II, 713). So here Emerson said: "The indwelling Supreme Spirit cannot wholly be got rid of, the doctrine of it suffers this perversion... the base doctrine of the majority of voices usurps the place of the doctrine of the soul." Emerson did not mean that Fox's doctrine became perverted. Fox saved himself, just as Enerson did, by leaving the church and finding individuality.

65. Sewel, op. cit. , I, 48.

66. Sewel, op. cit., I, 214. Quotation from a letter by Miles Halshead, dated: 7th of the Third Month, 1655.

67. Ibid. I, 330. As, G. Fox stated it in an 1658 paper.

68. Works, I, 145 ("Divinity School Address").

69. Journals, III, 258-260 (February 12, 1834).

70. Works, I, 125.

71. Ibid., I, 130. Gf. also Woodberry, op. cit. , p. 56.

72. Later many of the more liberal ideas of Emerson and others were accepted by the Unitarians.

73. Thomas, op. cit. , p. 126. For the general doctrines of Hicks, see pp. 122-27.

74. Works, I, 130.

75. Works X, 132.

76. Journals, III, 398-99 (December 20, 1834).

               77. For Emerson’s distinction between Reason and Understanding, see above Chapter I, pp. 3-4.

78. Journals, IV, 247 (May 26, 1837).

79. Journals, 17, 287 (August 21, 1837).

80. Ibid., IV, 55 (May 22, 1836).

81. Ibid. , II, 235 (December 19, 1833).

82. Journals, IV, 127-129 (October 25, 1836).

83. Ibid., IV, 121 (October 19, 1836).

84. Journals, IV, 403-4. This bald and outright statement is logically deduced from his position nearly two years earlier. Cf. Journals, IV. 54-55 (Mav 22. 1836).

85. Ibid., V, 5 (July 1, 1838).

4. Quakerism and Transcendentalism - Notes

1. McGiffert, op. cit., p. 261.

2. Cabot, op. cit., I, 301-302.

3. Ibid., I, 215 and Cooke, Emerson, p. 59.

4. McGiffert, op. cit., pp. 24-25. Sermon #28 (Preached March 15, 1329).

5. Cabot, op. cit., I, 215. See Journals, II, 92-94 (April 12, 1826) for an earlier discussion of the "unsuitableness to our feelings" of public prayers.

6. Journals, III, 475 (May 11, 1835).

7. Cf. Canby, Classic Americans, p. 154. "Transcendentalism for him was only a definition of his method.”

8. Woodberry, op. cit., p. 30.

9. James Freeman Clarke, Nineteenth Century Questions (Boston and New York, 1898], p. 272.

10. Harold Clarke Goddard, ’‘Transcendentalism", in The Cambridge History of American Literature, (New York, 1933), 328.

11. Quoted by H. D. Gray, Emerson: A Statement of Hew England Transcendentalism (Stanford, California, 1917), p. 10, from the Dial, I, 421.

12. Cooke, Unitarianism in America, (Boston, 1902), p. 1.

13. Goddard, "Transcendentalism”, pp. 330-332.

14. Gray, op. cit., p. 19.

15. Goddard, "Transcendentalism," p. 330.

16. H. C. Goddard, Studies in New England Transcendentalism, (New York, 1908), p. 194.

17. Ibid., pp. 27-28.

18. Works, XI, 478. (Address before the Free Religious Association, 1867).

19. Works, I, 251 ("Man, the Reformer").

20. Ibid., II, 281 (“The Over-Soul"). It is interesting to compare these statements with one Emerson made in 1830, at the time his contact with Quaker thought was just beginning. He wrote: "A great deal may be learned from studying the history of Enthusiasts. They are they who have attained in different ways to this cultivation of their moral powers, and so to the perception of God. The reason why they are enthusiasts is that they have cultivated these powers alone; if they had, with them, trained all their intellectual powers, they would have been wise, devout men, Newtons, Fenelons, Channings.... The Swedenborgian thinks himself wholly different and infinitely more favored than the Quaker or the Methodist." (Journals, 318 November, 1830). Emerson probably kept this distinction between enthusiasm and enthusiasts. His later zest for enthusiasm may have resulted from his own lack of it. He surely did not fail later to distinguish between the Swedenborgian and the Quaker. In fact, the enthusiasm of the Quakers became for him one of their most attractive elements. He wrote: "Bitter cold days, yet I read of that inward fervor which ran as fire from heart to heart through England in George Fox’s time. How precisely parallel are the biographies of religious enthusiasts — Swedenborg,

Guyon, Fox, Luther, and perhaps Boehmen. Each owes all to the discovery that God must be sought within, not without. That is the discovery of Jesus. Each perceives the worthlessness of all instruction, and the infinity of wisdom that issues from meditation. Each perceives the nullity of all conditions but one, innocence; the absolute submission which attends it. ill becomes simple, plain, in word and act... The Quaker casts himself down a passive instrument of The Supreme Reason, and will not risque silencing it by venturing the cooperation of his understanding.” (Journals, III, 432-33 Jan. 7, 1835).

21. Goddard, '’Transcendentalism”, I, 326.

22. Gray , op. cit. , p. 7.

23. Goddard, "Transcendentalism", I, 334.

24. "Humanistic" here used as meaning having regard to the interests of mankind at large.

25. Goddard, "Transcendentalism", I, 327.

26. Gray, op. cit., p. 9.

27. Works, I, 338-359. ("The Transcenaentalist").

28. Canby, American Estimates, p. 277.

29. Goddard, Studies, p. 51.

30. Ibid., p. 66.

31. Odell Shepard, Pedlar's Progress (Boston, 1937), pp. 69-71. Professor Goddard asks how great the Quaker influence might really be, "since the Quaker doctrine of Inner Light is essentially transcendental.” (Goddard, Studies, p. 54, footnote).

32. Works, I, 221 ("The Method of Nature").

33. Goddard, Studies, p. 122. So far-reaching was the ultimate effect' of this doctrine that James Truslow Adams remarked in sorrow: "The preaching that we do not have to think, the doctrine of what I may term, in Emerson’s phrase, ’the spontaneous glance,’ is at the bottom of that appalling refusal to criticize, analyze, ponder, which is one of the chief characteristics of the American people today in all its social, political, and international affairs." (James Truslow Adams, The Tempo of Modern Life, pp. 132-33.)

34. Journal of George Fox, p. 17.

35. For Emerson's admission that the transcendental and advanced Unitarian thought, because of its mysticism and individual liberty, tended to ego-theism, see Peabody, op. cit. , 372-3.

36. Works, 1, 164 ("Literary Ethics").

37. Journals, II, 358 (March 13, 1831).

38. Journals, II, 53-54 (February 6, 1825). Note that Emerson early had some grasp of this idea. How much specific Quaker doctrine he might have known in 1825 can not even be surmised.

39. Journals, II, 239 (1833).

40. Ibid., II, 431-43 (November 23, 1831).

41. Ibid., IV, 454 (May 14, 1838).

42. Ibid., II, 8 (1824).

43. Ibid., II, 354 (Jan. 10, 1831).

44. Works, I, 210 ("The Method of Nature”).

45. Journals, V, 273 (September 29, 1839).

46. Works, I, 194. Cf. Maulsby, op. cit., 65. ("The Method of Nature”).

47. Carpenter, Emerson and Asia, p. 145.

48. See above Chapter III, pp. 38-39.

49. Journals, III, 258-260 (Feb. 12, 1834).

Charles J. Woodbury, Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson (London, 1890), pp. 1X’4-1S.

51. Works, XII ("Natural History of the Intellect"), 36. Cf. Norman Foerster, American Criticism (Boston and New York, 1928), pp. 71-72.

52. Journals, II, 75. Carpenter says: “In his theory that evil is merely the absence of good Emerson gave expression to still another doctrine of Neoplatonism, a doctrine which has usually been considered peculiar to that philosophy." (p. 82)  But Carpenter has to admit that "Nature has been said to contain most of Emerson’s philosophy 'in miniature' and that "most of Emerson’s reading in the Neoplatonists was of a later date." (p. 67) Since the quoted journal entry was made in 1826, the years before the publication of Nature. Neoplatonic influence on this point must be discounted.

53. Robert Barclay, Apology, p. 100.

54. Clarkson, op. cit., I, 194.

55. Journals, V, 93 (October 19, 1838).

56. Ibid., II, 224 (December 17, 1827).

57. Works, II, 270 (”The Over-Soul”).

58. See below Chapter V. William Logan Fisher was the leader of one group of Quakers who called themselves "Progressive Friends." In the "Account of the Fourth Annual Meeting", he set forth the aims and ideals of the members: "the highest degree of individual liberty consistent with an organized body". The organization was loose, and the views published were always over only the author’s name.

59. Journals, V, 380 (April 7, 1840).

60. Woodberry, op. cit., p. 54. Emerson in the lecture "On the Times" asked how we were to answer the ever-present problems concerning life. He answered his own question: "Where then but in ourselves, where but in that Thought through which we communicate with absolute nature.... where but in the intuitions which are vouchsafed us from within, shall we learn the truth?" (Works, I, 288.)

61. See Sewel, op. cit., I, 379-80. (footnote): "God forbid, that we Quakers] should deny liberty to anyone that acknowledged God...." and also Clarkson, op. cit., I, 260. "All persons,...who held themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in society, were in no ways to be molested for their religious persuasion and practice, nor to be compelled at any time to frequent any religious place or ministry whatsoever.”

62. Journals, II, 31-52 (January 29, 1825).

63. Clarkson, op. cit. , II, 78.

64. Journals, III, 322 (August 9, 1834).

65. Journals, II, 325 (December 11, 1830).

66. Works, II, 65. ("Self Reliance"). In the passage just preceding this, Emerson remarked on the ultimate existence of perceptions gained in idle hours. That is, the eye or mind let loose from the will of the understanding reverts to the command of the soul and sees that which it must see. The editors remarked: (p. 39 3) "He went alone to the woods to listen. Perhaps his early friends among the Quakers at New Bedford had confirmed this tendency in him to wait until the Spirit spoke. He felt himself the mere ambassador charged to faithfully deliver the message committed to him. This must be its own evidence and it was not for him to argue about it."

67. Works, II, 45 ("Self-Reliance").

68. Ibid., II, 61 ("Self-Reliance").

69. Works, I, 174 ("Literary Ethics”).

70. Above , I, 56. Cf. also Journals, III, 479. Two passages in Emerson’s copy of Sewel on the spiritual aspect of religion contrasted with the journal side are closely marked. (Sewel, op. cit., 97, 99-100).


71. Journals, V, 197-98 (May I2, 1839).

72. Journals, IV, 412 (March 18, 1838).

73. Ibid., III, 549 (Oct. 10,. 1835). Cf. also Ibid., V, 172.

74. Ibid., III, 2 75 (April 13, 1834).

75. Ibid., V, 4 (July 1, 1838).

76. Journals, II, 159-60 (July 11, 1833), IV, 95-96; III, 199. “ — They do not know the extent or the harmony or the depth of their moral nature; they are clinging to little, positive, verbal, formal versions of the moral law....” Barclay’s letter to Adrian Paets (Sewel, op. cit., II, 328-48) quoted on p. 24. should again be noted.

77. Journals, V, 173.

78. Journals, III, 302 (June 2, 1834).

79. Journals, III, 225 (October 24, 1833). Compare this with Sewel, op. cit., p. 126: "Now that which G. Fox declared, was that ' the holy Scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God; and that all people must first come to the Spirit of God in themselves, by which they might know God and Christ.... For as the Spirit of God was in them that gave forth the Scripture; so the same Spirit of God must also be in those that come to know and understand the Scriptures.... ' "

80. Jones, The Quakers in the American Colonies, xxv-xxvi.

81. Works, I, 91 ("The American Scholar"). Norman Foerster observes that Emerson thought books, "proper only for the feeble and lame." Foerster, op. cit. , p. 106.

82. Foerster, op. cit., p. 74.

83. Clark, op. cit., p. 260.

84. Ibid., p. 255.

85. Woodberry, op. cit., p. 86.

86. Journals, IV, 305 (October 2, 1837).

87. Cf. Ibid, V, 539 (April 24, 1841).

88. Barclay, op. cit., p. 241. Canby warns: "Beware of Emerson’s own fallacy, which George Fox shared, flat potentiality and possibility are the same." Classic Americans, p. 182.

5. Progressive Quakers an Example - Notes

1. Journals, II, 353-54 (January 10, 1831). Note the doctrines of mystic reception, sin as ignorance, and universal divinity contained in this passage.

2. Quoted by Sewel, op. cit., I, 289. Emerson marked this passage and wrote the page number in the back of the volume.

3. See Woodberry, op. cit., p. 71. Emerson "exercised...a constant inhibition of the particular part of life with the aim thereby to reconcentrate force in the unconfined soul which is the source and master of all life; the increase of its native energy was more important than any of its works.”

4. Works, I, 215 ("The Method of Nature").

5. Bancroft, op. cit., II, 403 and Journals, IV, 304 (October 2, 1837).

6. Works, I, 272 ("Lecture on the Times").

7. Cf. Clarkson, op. cit., Introduction.

8. Journals, VI, 309 (November 19, 1842).

9. Ibid., IV, 430-431 (April 26, 1838).

10. Sewel, op. cit., I, 41.

11. Ibid., II, 100.        

12. Journals, III, 385 (December 8, 1834).

13. Ibid., II, 514 (September 17, 1832).

14. Works, I, 253 (’”Man the Reformer”).

15. Ibid., I, 230-31 (“Man the Reformer”).

16. Ibid., I, 247 ("Man the Reformer”).

17. It is interesting that both Penn and Emerson proposed international leagues to prevent the slave trade. Cf. Clarkson, op. cit., II, 82-83 and Journals, II, 80.

18. Clarkson, op. cit., I, 222.

19. Journals, IV, 424 (April 19, 1838).

20. Raymer McQuiston, “The Relation of Ralph Waldo Emerson to Public Affairs”, Bulletin of the University of Kansas, XXIV, No. 8, (April, 1923), pp. 36-37.

21. Works, XI, 89-96. Leading up to his later vigorous support of the abolition movement, Emerson in 1844 commenorated the West Indian Emancipation. He praised the Quakers’ early advocacy of the slave. "The Quakers got the story. In their plain meeting-houses and prim dwellings this dismal agitation got entrance. They were rich: they owned, for debt or by inheritance, island property; they were religious, tender-hearted men and women." He went to describe the part the Quakers played. Particularly, of course, he payed attention to Clarkson — the author of The Life of Penn — and Clarkson's role (Works, XI, 107-109, 141-42).

22. See Bancroft, op. cit., II, 385-95.

23. Cf. Carpenter, Emerson and Asia, p. 14. Emerson read occasionally in Oriental literature until he became vitally interested in Oriental thought during the early 1840’s.

By 1845, "he may be said to have gained the ability to use Oriental ideas in his own thought processes."

24. William Logan Fisher, Pauperism and Crime (Philadelphia, 1831).

25. Emerson’s original position on war was pacifistic. He said: "Men in our day consent to war because the antagonists are strangers." (Journals, II, 529, November 13, 1832). He strongly felt the "inhumanity or unmanlike character of war." (Journals, III, 574, December 12, 1835). "How foolish is war. Let the injured party speak to the injurer until their minds meet." (Journals, IV, 275, August 12, 1837). He thought "the principles of the Peace party sublime." (Journals, IV, 297, September 21, 1837); and held that "a company of soldiers is an offensive spectacle.'' (Journals, IV, November 25, 1837). "How abherent to all right reason is war." (Journals, IV, 325, October 18, 1837).

26. See William Logan Fisher, Progressive Friends. An Account of the Fourth Annual Meeting (Wakefield, 6th mo. 1st 1856).

27. Journals, VIII, 141 (Fall, 1850).

28. McQuiston, op. cit., p. 37.

29. Journals, I, 181 (November 8, 1822).

30. Ibid., I, 185 (November 14, 1822).

31. See Clarkson, op. cit., II, 169, 359-64.

32. Journals, II, 313 (October 1830).

33. McQuiston, op. cit., p. 39.

34. Journals. Ill 446-447 (February 2, 1835). It seems that here Emerson is sorry he lacks the Quaker's enthusiasm.


35. For Biographical information, see Dictionary of American Biography ed. Dumas Malone (New York, 1934), Vol. XIII, 288-90; Ednah O. Cheney, Prophets of Liberalism.

"Lucretia Mott’' (Boston, 1900); James and Lucretia Mott: Life and Letters, ed. A. D. Hallowell, 1884.

36. J. and L. Mott, p. 341.

37. Journals, VlII, 110 (April, 1850).

38. Thomas, op. cit., p. 163. For the Free Religious Association see above, p. 89.

39. J. and L. Mott, p. 120. The statement is from a letter by Lucretia Mott to her sister, Martha C. Wright.

40. J. and L. Mott, p. 51. (From the text of a semion delivered at Yardleyville, Pa. Ninth mo. 26th, 1858).

41. Ibid., p. 187.

42. J. and L. Mott, p. 385.

43. Ibid., pp. 479-487. Address at Anti-Sabbatical Convention, Boston, Mass. , March 23, 1848. It is interesting to note that in a letter dated 12 mo. 15th, 1819, Lucretia Mott writes of meeting Edward Stabler at the Quarterly meeting at Hopewell, Virginia.

44. Ibid., pp. 98-99, 209.

45. Ibid. , pp. 108-9.

46. J. and L. Mott, p. 235.

47. Cabot, op. cit. , II, 578. McQuiston, op. cit., pp. 43-44. See also Journals, XIV, 197, 711, 186-8.

48. McQuiston, op. cit., p. 45.

49. Works, XI, 235, Cabot, op. cit., II, 558-93.

50. Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, ed. Anna and Walton Ricketson (Boston and New York, 1902), p. 6.

51. In June 1856, Emerson and Ricketson "talked of Channing and the Kansas affairs." (Ricketson and His Friends, p. 286). Emerson lectured in New Bedford on December 22, 1856 and he then returned to Concord accompanied by Ricketson (Ibid., p. 298). Throughout the following year Emerson and Ricketson saw much of each other. On December 20, 1857, Ricketson spent the "evening alone with him by his parlor wood fire." (Ibid. , p. 306). After Emerson became entangled in active "reform, his opportunities for visits with Ricketson disappeared. However Ricketson continued to show his friendship for Emerson by inquiring after him in letters to Alcott (Ibid., pp. 189, 194).

52. Cabot, op. cit., II, 586.

53. Liberator Feb. 1, 1861. See H. G. Silver, "Emerson as Abolitionist," New England Quarterly, VI, 154-58.

54. Cabot, op. cit., II, 603-613.

55. In an unpublished address on "Women’s Rights", Emerson found that two objections to women’s participation in daily affairs were objections to just the two traits most needed for a betterment of the world: women’s lack of practical wisdom and their too purely idealistic view. He admitted that there was danger woman might become worldly and contaminated; but that their influence would probably be beneficial. He concluded: "Let them enter a school as freely as a Church. Let them have and hold and give their property as men do theirs." (Uncollected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, collected and annotated by W. T. Newton, unpublished, I, 351-57).

56 Works, XI, 415 ("Woman"). Emerson objected to "Mahomet's opinion that women have not a sufficient moral or intellectual force to control the perturbations of their physical structure." (p. 417) Emerson felt as did Lucretia Mott who claimed that manmade "disabilities and disadvantages" handicapped woman. (See J. and L. Mott, "Discourse on Woman", pp. 487-504).

57. For an interesting account of this liberal society, see William J. Potter, The Free Religious Association. Its Twenty-Five Years and Their Meaning (Boston, 1892). Much like W. L. Fischer’s "Progressive Friends, The Free Religious Association was a loose organization dedicated to the liberation of man from traditional faiths and injustices." W. J. Potter uses varied phrases in describing it: “A Voice Without a Hand," "A Parliament of Religions", and "A New Religion". It was each of these, but largely the first and second rather than the third.

58. Report of Addresses at a Meeting Held in Boston, May 30, 1867 to consider . . . Free Religion in America (Boston, 1867) pp. 52-53. The address is also printed in Works, XI, 477-481. For Lucretia Mott’s address, see Report, pp. 11-15.

59. Works, XI, 485-491 (May 28, 1869).

6. Conclusion - Notes

1. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Uncollected Lectures, ed. Clarence Gohdes (New York, 193 2), p. 57.

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Uncollected Writings, ed. Charles C. Bigelow (New York, 19l2), p. 62.

3. Adams, op. cit., p. 135.

4. Canby, American Estimates, pp. 279-80.