Modern history


American Renaissance

A sermon could make big news in the young republic, as one did in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 5, 1819. William Ellery Channing, minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston (today the Arlington Street Church) had come to town for the ordination of his young protégé Jared Sparks as minister of a newly erected church dedicated to “Unitarian and anti-Calvinistic worship.” Working within a New England tradition of learned preaching and catering to the taste of the age for eloquence, Channing spoke for ninety minutes. He offered a distinctive synthesis of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment. Science and the Bible he declared perfectly compatible, for God “never contradicts in revelation what He teaches in his works.” Channing and his followers interpreted the Bible not literally but broadly, as a progressive revelation—much as lawyers interpreted the Constitution, he explained. Indeed, there was a parallel between Channing’s approach to the Bible and the broad interpretation Chief Justice Marshall had given the Constitution in the Baltimore case of McCulloch v. Maryland earlier the same year. While Marshall empowered the federal government to encourage economic development, Channing found in the Bible inspiration for the moral betterment of humanity. A generation later, Abraham Lincoln would synthesize their commitments to strong government, economic progress, and humanitarianism. For the time being, Channing’s and Marshall’s impulses proceeded on separate but parallel tracks, toward a goal then usually termed “improvement.”1

Channing’s sermon found no justification in either reason or revelation for the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, so he rejected it and called his own teaching “Unitarian Christianity.” The heart of his discourse consisted of his rejection of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The idea that God would actually intend the damnation of the wicked, as opposed to merely foreseeing it, Channing declared a contradiction of divine moral perfection. In a country where Calvinism represented the dominant cultural heritage and where theological logic carried conviction, this was strong meat. Channing’s sermon reflected long-simmering dissatisfaction

1. David Brion Davis called attention to the parallel between Channing and Marshall in Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), 49–52.

with traditional Calvinist theological formulations among the Congregational clergy and laity of eastern Massachusetts. His speech became what it was intended to be, a manifesto for his religious viewpoint. It provoked prolonged debate between “orthodox” Calvinists and “liberal” Unitarians, prompted considerable rethinking among theologians, and aroused popular interest. When printed, Channing’s sermon enjoyed the widest circulation of any American pamphlet between Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in 1776 and Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne in 1830.2

Although small of stature and plagued by illness, “the saintly Dr. Channing” exuded charisma and captured the imagination of a generation of religious liberals, reformers, and literary intellectuals. Channing inherited from his Puritan precursors an image of the clergyman as an intellectual and moral leader of the community; he lived up to it. As a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation (one of the university’s governing bodies) he led the founding of Harvard Divinity School in 1816 to train liberal ministers. His “Remarks on National Literature” (1830) inspired Americans to respond to the challenge of the Englishman Sydney Smith’s taunting question: “In all the world, who reads an American book?”3Channing’s social ideas derived from his religious ones. He supported “the education of the laboring classes” (the title of one of his most popular addresses) and famously opposed both slavery and imperialism. Although the women’s movement emerged only after his death in 1842, Channing admired Mary Wollstonecraft’s earlyVindication of the Rights of Woman and enjoyed the esteem of such antislavery feminists as Julia Ward Howe and Lydia Maria Child. Although he criticized revivals for what he thought a shallow emotionalism, Lyman Beecher and Charles Finney respected his personal Christianity, if not his theology.4

Channing’s philosophy is best characterized as a form of Christian humanism. Like the humanists of the European Renaissance, he affirmed the values of a classical education and believed in realizing the potential divinity in human nature. Channing proclaimed the “self-culture” of our human faculties and powers to be the truest form of worship and celebrated human dignity as what he called our “likeness to

2. Channing’s address, with many other documents of early Unitarianism, is contained in An American Reformation, ed. Sydney Ahlstrom and Jonathan Carey (Middletown, Conn., 1985), 90–117; the ensuing theological debate has been reprinted in two volumes: The Unitarian Controversy, ed. Bruce Kuklick (New York, 1987).

3. Edinburgh Review 33 (Jan. 1820), 78–80.

4. William Ellery Channing, “Remarks on National Literature,” in his Complete Works (London, 1872), 103–15; Charles G. Finney, Autobiography (Westwood, N.J., 1908; [orig. pub. as Memoirs, 1876]), 356–57.

God.” (Channing’s outlook differed from that of Hosea Ballou, the theologian of the Universalist denomination that would unite with Unitarianism in 1961; Ballou relied on God’s goodness, not humanity’s divinity, to guarantee universal salvation.) To his Christian humanism Channing added an Enlightenment faith in individual rights and in reasoning from empirical evidence similar to that of most other American Protestants.5

Channing and his Unitarian associates thought of themselves as leading New England away from Calvinism much as Renaissance humanists thought of themselves as leading Europe out of the Middle Ages. The humanistic spirit that they nurtured affected many aspects of American intellectual life and social reform. One sees it in Dorothea Dix’s campaign for insane asylums, in Horace Mann’s labors for public schools, in the abolitionism and feminism of Samuel J. May, and in Channing’s obstetrician brother Walter’s application of ether to mitigate the pain of childbirth. It figured in the antebellum debates over whether to abolish capital punishment (or, as more commonly resulted, to cease performing executions in public). Unitarian humanism also provoked a remarkable literary flowering that includes the unique outburst known as Transcendentalism. The widespread influence of this humanism, and particularly its manifestation in artistic expression, justifies the term made famous by the literary historian F. O. Matthiessen: “American Renaissance.”6

A striking example of the humanism of the American Renaissance is the education of Laura Bridgman. Born in 1829, Laura Bridgman had been rendered both blind and deaf by scarlet fever at the age of eighteen months. Nevertheless she had learned to sew and otherwise help her mother around the house by the age of seven, when she went to live at Boston’s Perkins School for the Blind, under the care of its director, Samuel Gridley Howe. Howe regarded young Laura’s education not only as a humanitarian undertaking but also as a scientific one, to research the nature of the human faculties. Laura Bridgman became the first blind-and-deaf person to learn language, anticipating the more famous achievement of Helen Keller. Her success satisfied Howe that the human mind was not a “blank sheet,” but contained innate capacities and conceptions, including morality, logic, and curiosity. He published scientific papers on her case, claiming to have refuted the psychology of John Locke and to

5. Channing, “Self-Culture” and “Likeness to God,” in his Complete Works, 10–29, 230–39; Daniel Howe, Making the American Self (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), 130–35.

6. Amelie Kass, Midwifery and Medicine in Boston (Boston, 2002); Stuart Banner, The Death Penalty (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), 124–31; Francis Otto Matthiessen, American Renaissance (New York, 1941).

confirm that of the Scottish philosophers of innate common sense. A Unitarian, Howe believed that Laura would also refute the Calvinist doctrine of human innate depravity. He particularly wished to discover what kind of “natural religion” the girl would manifest as she learned about the wonders of science. A nurse ruined this aspect of Howe’s experiment by telling Laura about the love of Jesus. Howe fired the nurse, but Laura Bridgman remained a devout Baptist for the rest of her life.7

Laura Bridgman’s triumph over what seemed insurmountable difficulties attracted widespread attention and made her famous. The spirit of self-improvement that she exemplified was widely shared in American society. Increasingly it focused, as in her case, on the acquisition and use of literacy. The spread of public schooling, originally justified as necessary to a Protestant laity and an informed citizenry, also encouraged economic productivity and equal opportunity in a market society where few people rested content with subsistence agriculture as a livelihood. Ambitious souls who did not have public education available, such as the young Abraham Lincoln, applied themselves to the task of self-improvement with whatever reading matter they found at hand—in his case, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Aesop’s Fables, Watts’s Hymns, and, of course, the King James Bible. They did so partly to enhance their vocational opportunities but also to develop their personal potential. In the industrializing cities, Mechanics’ Institutes offered workers and managers in manufacturing the common pursuit of self-improving knowledge.8 We have already seen how strongly the desire for self-improvement affected American social, economic, and political life; it also impacted literature and the arts. Even the resentment that the ethic of self-improvement provoked would find its own form of cultural expression in satire.

The Unitarian denomination that Channing promoted through theological debate and then helped organize never penetrated much beyond eastern New England and a few other outposts that included Baltimore, Lexington (Kentucky), New York City, and Charleston. Ballou’s Universalist denomination spread more widely, but also very thinly. Although the arguments that Unitarians and Universalists marshaled against Calvinist determinism and in favor of human free will won few converts

7. Ernest Freeberg, The Education of Laura Bridgman (Cambridge, Mass., 2001); Elisabeth Gitter, The Imprisoned Guest (New York, 2001).

8. M. L. Houser, The Books that Lincoln Read (Peoria, Ill., 1929). William Gilmore, Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life (Knoxville, Tenn., 1989), and Joseph Kett, The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties (Stanford, 1994), 81–83, discuss Channing’s ideal of self-culture.

to either denomination, they resonated broadly with the attitudes of the growing urban middle class and the ethos of self-improvement. They had a cumulative effect, across the course of the nineteenth century, in greatly diminishing the influence of Calvin’s theology within American Christianity. Their consequences may be observed in a variety of ways, beginning with the religious modernism that became dominant in the mainline Protestant denominations during the first half of the twentieth century.9Encouraging a view of education as a process of development rather than discipline, Unitarianism produced a disproportionate number of American educators as well as writers and reformers involved in the antislavery and women’s rights movements. The changes initiated at antebellum Harvard under Unitarian auspices would eventually culminate under President Charles William Eliot in its transformation into America’s preeminent university. In short, the Unitarianism of Channing’s time remains not only interesting for its own sake but, even more, important for the developments it prompted or portended.10


On Independence Day of 1837, the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, dedicated a monument to the “Fight” (as they usually termed the battle) between Minutemen and Redcoats that had occurred there on April 19, 1775. A local poet had written an ode for the occasion, and slips of paper with his poem were passed out to those assembled on the riverbank. A choir sang the new words to New England’s most familiar tune, the one used for Psalm 100 in sixteenth-century English rhymed meter, “Old Hundred.” The Minutemen themselves had sung psalms to keep up their spirits before the battle. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” went like this:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world


O Thou, that made these heroes dare

To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

The shaft we raise to them and thee.

9. See David Robinson, The Unitarians and the Universalists (Westport, Conn., 1985); Anne Bressler, The Universalist Movement in America (Oxford, 2001).

10. Channing, “The Moral Argument Against Calvinism,” Complete Works, 370–78; Conrad Wright, ed., A Stream of Light (Boston, 1975), 3–61; Paul Conkin, American Originals (Chapel Hill, 1997), 57–95.

Ten years later Emerson would change the words “O Thou” to “Spirit,” for he had by then distanced himself from traditional piety. But at Concord on that July Fourth, no one present would have doubted that the Christian God of the Minutemen was being invoked again. Either way, Emerson saw the monument as raised to more than the memory of Minutemen themselves: also to the spirit of liberty, or to God.11

Concord in the 1830s stood on the brink of its second wave of historical fame. The first one had derived from its role at the outbreak of the American Revolution. The second came from its role in the golden age of American literature. Emerson’s Concord neighbors included Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, and a host of other writers and sages. No description of the environment can fully explain an extraordinary outburst of genius. (Why did so much creativity appear in sixteenth-century Florence, or in Athens in the fifth century before Christ?) But Concord did combine several characteristics that facilitated its literary “flowering.” A village of about two thousand people, some of them still farmers, it preserved enough of a rural ambiance, and retained woodland close enough, that the Romantic school of writers could indulge their fondness for nature. At the same time, however, the town was also close enough to academic Cambridge and metropolitan Boston (particularly after the railroad connected them in 1844) that these writers could benefit from the intellectual stimulation and publishing opportunities on offer there.12 Concord represented the kind of mixed agricultural, commercial, manufacturing, and professional economy that, in antebellum America, often produced the most innovative activities; Oberlin, Ohio, and Seneca Falls, New York, serve as other examples.

Most of the Concord writers belonged to an informal “club” (their term) called the Transcendentalists. Their critics had fastened the name on them as a sign of contempt (the labels “Quaker,” “Shaker,” “Methodist,” and “Mormon” had originally been derogatory too), but the writers came to accept it, for it signified their desire to transcend appearances and perceive the underlying reality. Like so much else in

11. Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. E. W. Emerson (Boston, 1904), IX, 158; Robert A. Gross, “The Celestial Village,” in Transient and Permanent, ed. Charles Capper and Conrad E. Wright (Boston, 1999), 251–81, esp. 273–74. The usual statement that the ode was first performed on April 19, 1836, is erroneous; see Ralph Rusk,Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York, 1949), 274.

12. Mary Cayton, Emerson’s Emergence (Chapel Hill, 1989), 163–64; Gross, “Celestial Village,” 267.

pre–Civil War American culture, literary Transcendentalism derived from a religious impulse. Transcendentalism was one of the many forms of religious awakening characteristic of the period, and its members aspired to revive what they accounted true piety—a kind of personal spirituality they believed the organized churches and their creeds inhibited rather than nurtured. The Transcendentalists shared in the millennial mood of their times—not in a biblical or Christian way, but in the sense that they saw themselves initiating a new order of the ages, democratic and free, in harmony with the divine. Like the evangelist Charles Finney, they preached a form of perfectionism, though theirs meant not Christian deliverance from sin but realization of the divine potential in all human beings.

Except for James Marsh up in Vermont, all the Transcendentalists were either Unitarians or ex-Unitarians. Emerson’s career illustrates this derivation in his own gradual transition from Christian humanism to a non-sectarian spiritual humanism. In 1829, young Waldo (as his family called him) became the assistant pastor of a Unitarian church in Boston. It seemed a logical choice of vocation for a man whose forebears included a long line of New England ministers going back to Puritan times. But after three years Emerson resigned rather than continue to administer the Lord’s Supper, a rite he (like the Quakers) had come to consider an unnecessary ritual, meaningless in the modern world. He now pursued a new career as lecturer and writer, seeking to refashion for himself a role something like the one the minister had historically embodied in New England: an inspiring intellectual, spiritual, and moral leader. Instead of looking to Protestantism to define this role, he invoked the Romantic conception of the artist.13

After leaving the ministry, Emerson turned himself into what scholars have called a “public intellectual,” meaning he was a creative thinker not operating within an academic or church setting, who sold his ideas on a wide range of issues to a general audience in the open marketplace.14

Emerson came to earn a good living on the lecture circuit, delivering inspirational talks on many subjects including “Self-Reliance,” “Experience,” and “Fate,” which he would later work up into publishable essays. All over America, lyceums, Mechanics’ Institutes, and other voluntary associations eagerly awaited such addresses; by midcentury, in each week,

13. Lawrence Buell, Literary Transcendentalism (Ithaca, N.Y., 1973), 29–31, 45, 50–54.

14. Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals (New York, 2000); Lawrence Buell, Emerson (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), 39–43.

something like 400,000 Americans heard someone lecture at a lyceum.15

Emerson became so well known he could book lecture halls independently of any local host organization. His lectures rank as masterpieces of nineteenth-century American oratory alongside the sermons of Channing, the legal arguments of Webster, and the political speeches of Lincoln.

Emerson became a popular philosopher with his short book Nature (1836), which espoused what was essentially a new religion: idealistic, monistic, mystical, and intuitive, based on spiritual communion with nature. He summed it up (prosaically) this way: “1. Words are signs of natural facts. 2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts. 3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.”16 Emerson’s God (which he elsewhere named the Oversoul) was immanent in the universe. Through harmony with nature, a person achieved not merely “likeness to God” (Channing’s aspiration) but participation in divinity itself. Emerson’s message thus accorded self-improvement a spiritual dimension and sanction. Emerson won a hearing for these ideas because the American public felt concern about spiritual things and eagerly engaged in schemes of self-improvement. What he and his fellow Transcendentalists most valued about the their new form of spirituality was its individualism: It put every person directly in touch with the divine, without any need for tradition, a written scripture, or an institutional church. Emerson taught that all existing religious traditions represented partial visions of ultimate truth. He found Hinduism and Buddhism particularly attractive and evoked them in his poetry.

Emerson startled the American intellectual establishment of his day when he delivered an address to the graduating class at Harvard Divinity School in July 1838, challenging the harmony of reason with revelation as then understood. The prevailing orthodoxy in natural science and theology taught that both disciplines were empirical. John Locke had synthesized the Enlightenment with biblical religion in The Reasonableness of Christianity, where he argued that the truth of Christian theology rested on historical facts: The miracles recorded in Old and New Testaments proved Christ and the prophets indeed revealed divine truths. Emerson

15. Donald Scott, “The Popular Lecture and the Creation of a Public in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” JAH 66 (1980): 800. See further Angela Ray, The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States (East Lansing, Mich., 2005).

16. “Nature,” in Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. I, ed. Robert Spiller (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), 7–45, quotation from 17.

challenged this orthodoxy, not by questioning whether the miracles had really occurred, but by proclaiming that religious faith came before, not after, belief in the biblical miracles. “To aim to convert a man by miracles is a profanation of the soul.” People believed in the biblical miracles because they had faith, not the other way around. Faith came, according to Emerson, by immediate revelation from the divinity immanent in the universe, not “second hand,” from revelations made to others thousands of years ago. Perhaps not since the trial of Anne Hutchinson in the seventeenth century had New England faced so disturbing a claim for immediate revelation.17 Emerson not only substituted his Oversoul for the Judeo-Christian personal God, he challenged the received conception of the empirical unity of reason with revelation. Unitarian Harvard professors and Calvinist Princeton professors joined together in unusual alliance to denounce Emerson’s “latest form of infidelity.” Transcendentalists George Ripley, Theodore Parker, and Orestes Brownson (who would soon convert to Catholicism) rallied to defend the Emersonian position in one of the most profound intellectual debates of pre–Civil War America. In this “Miracles Controversy” the religion of the Romantic movement confronted the religion of the Protestant Enlightenment.18

From our standpoint in the twenty-first century, the Transcendentalist who looks the most “modern” is Margaret Fuller. Versatile and passionate, she made her impact felt on journalism, feminism, criticism (literary, music, and art), and revolution. Daughter of Timothy Fuller, a Massachusetts congressman allied with John Quincy Adams, as a precocious child Margaret had received an intensive education from her devoted father. As an adult she could draw upon a formidable fund of learning across a wide range of subjects and made herself a role model at a time when well-educated women were scarce. Aided by her friend Emerson, Fuller edited the Transcendentalists’ experimental literary magazine, the Dial, which introduced readers to European Romanticism, criticized American bourgeois culture, and all too often fell short of its editor’s grand expectations and pronouncements. Fuller, Emerson, and the other

17. “Divinity School Address,” in Collected Works, I, 76–93, quotation from 83; Brooks Holifield, Theology in America (New Haven, 2003), 190–96; David Holland, “Anne Hutchinson to Horace Bushnell,” New England Quarterly 8 (2005): 163–201.

18. Barbara Packer, “Transcendentalism,” in The Cambridge History of American Literature, ed. Sacvan Bercovitch (Cambridge, Eng., 1995), II, 329–604 (on miracles, see esp. 403–13); Herbert Hovenkamp, Science and Religion in America, 1800–1860 (Philadelphia, 1978), 79–96. For primary documents of the miracles debate, see Perry Miller, ed., The Transcendentalists (Cambridge, Mass., 1950), and Joel Myerson, ed., Transcendentalism (Oxford, 2001).

members of the Transcendentalist group sought to rescue their country from provincialism and put the American public in touch with transatlantic writers like Goethe, Coleridge, and Carlyle. America’s culture derived too exclusively from Calvinism and the Enlightenment, they believed. Even though the Transcendentalists shared a debt to this inheritance (in their emphasis on literacy, individualism, and a sense of the Divine, for example), they saw these traditions as limiting and wished to press harder to explore the full range of human feelings and potential.19

Fuller applied Channing’s humanist ideal, “self-culture,” to the nurture of the female self and developed a theory of human personality as androgynous, with every person having both masculine and feminine qualities. Between 1839 and 1844, she presided over a series of “conversations” (“discussion groups,” in today’s terminology) intended to help women think for themselves and about themselves, and to express their ideas clearly and with confidence. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century argues that women possess the full range of human capacities (“faculties”) and need to be allowed to develop their potential, rather than living only for the sake of their men. “A much greater range of occupations” must be opened to women “to rouse their latent powers,” she wrote. “Let them be sea-captains, if they will.”20

In 1844, Fuller left for New York City, where she went to work as book review editor on Horace Greeley’s crusading New York Tribune. There her ideas reached a far wider audience. Known as the “star” of the paper, Fuller’s columns typically appeared on page one, got reprinted in the Tribune Weekly (which had a nationwide circulation), and earned her ten dollars a week—worth about two hundred dollars after taxes in 2005 and then considered a good salary for a writer. When widespread revolution broke out in Europe in 1848, Fuller found herself defining the role of a newspaper foreign correspondent. From her vantage point in Rome, she covered such dramatic events as the first Italian efforts at democracy and national unification, and the overthrow and then the restoration of the papacy’s civil authority. Meanwhile, she fell in love with a dashing Italian nobleman younger than herself, married him secretly (since his family did not approve), and bore a child. On her way back to America in 1850, the ship bearing the new marchesa d’Ossoli, her husband, and their little

19. I have written on Margaret Fuller in Daniel Howe, Making the American Self (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), 212–34.

20. Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, intro. Madeleine Stern (Columbia, S.C., 1980; facsimile of the 1845 ed.), 159, 162; David Robinson, “Margaret Fuller and the Transcendental Ethos,” PMLA 97 (1982): 83–98.

boy ran aground in a storm off Long Island. Although within sight of land, all three perished, and Fuller’s unpublished manuscript on the Italian Revolution washed out to sea. At the end of Woman in the Nineteenth Century, she had written, “What concerns me now is, that my life be a beautiful, powerful, in a word, a complete life in its kind.” Though she was only forty when she died, the life of Margaret Fuller fulfilled her heroic aspiration.21

Any account of the Concord Transcendentalists must reckon with Henry David Thoreau (properly pronounced “Thaw-roe”). Thoreau has served as a patron saint for two movements in American life: environmentalism and civil disobedience. In actuality, Thoreau was neither a natural scientist nor a political philosopher. His genius lay in reflecting upon relatively modest experiences and turning them into great writing.

By Walden Pond, just a mile and a quarter from Concord town center, Thoreau built a one-room cabin on land owned by his friend Emerson. He stayed in it, off and on, from July 1845 to September 1847. Other Transcendentalists had experimented with living in a utopian commune called Brook Farm in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Thoreau constructed his own one-man utopia in search of a way of life that would bypass what he found to be the distractions of social convention and material clutter. Like the Shakers and the early Quakers, like the original Christian monastics, Thoreau opted for simplicity. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Practicing thrift as a form of spiritual discipline, Thoreau turned his back on the consumer products that his countrymen embraced so eagerly. Yet he did not scorn the industrial revolution; he felt in awe of the railroad trains that passed not far from his cabin, for they exemplified the human qualities of invention and adventure that he admired.

Why did Thoreau not go out to the frontier and build his cabin in an actual wilderness? Because he wanted to prove such a major undertaking not necessary; one could conduct a living experiment within easy reach, using few resources. If others who felt discontented with their lives wished to imitate his example, they could readily do so. The important

21. Charles Capper, Margaret Fuller, The Public Years (New York, 2007) treats the later part of her life. Fuller’s newspaper accounts of the Italian Revolution have been published as “These Sad but Glorious Days”: Dispatches from Europe, ed. Larry Reynolds and Susan Belasco Smith (New Haven, 1991).

thing was to explore one’s inner state of mind, not journey long distances. As Thoreau wryly put it, “I have traveled a good deal in Concord.”22

As for “civil disobedience,” there is no evidence that Thoreau ever used the expression in his life. He spent a night in Concord jail—either the twenty-third or twenty-fourth of July 1846 (we cannot tell which)—for refusing to pay the Massachusetts state poll tax of $1.50. News traveled fast in the village, and within a few hours someone had paid the tax for him— probably his aunt Maria Thoreau, a member of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society like a number of other women in the Thoreau and Emerson families, who closely monitored the political stands of their menfolk.23 So the local constable, Sam Staples, freed his friend Henry the next morning.

Henry Thoreau made this brief experience the basis of a lecture and later turned the lecture into an essay entitled “Resistance to Civil Government.” He there discusses his action as a moral protest against immoral government practices: the return of escaped slaves, the war against Mexico, and the treatment of the American Indians. The essay has often been invoked by subsequent generations of protesters, including Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, and opponents of South African apartheid. Those who have cited Thoreau in this way have generally been non-violent and willing to accept punishment for their lawbreaking, but his essay makes no mention of either of those principles (and Thoreau elsewhere had repudiated non-violence). Nor, of course, did he invoke the federal Constitution to sanction his violation of a state statute. The only “higher laws” Thoreau cared about were the eternal principles of morality. Linking his act of protest with the Concord of 1775, he asserted an individual right of revolution. On the whole, Thoreau seems less concerned with disobedience as a reform tactic than as a demonstration of the moral integrity of the protester. When human law conflicted with the dictates of conscience, he did not doubt which should prevail.24 Confident that the intuitions of conscience put everyone in touch with the same immutable moral law, neither Thoreau nor the other Transcendentalists worried about the possibility of conflicting moral principles.

22. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, ed. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton, 1971), quotations from 90, 4. Also see Robert D. Richardson, Thoreau (Berkeley, 1986), esp. 169–79.

23. See Sandra Petrulionis, “The Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society,” New England Quarterly 74 (2001): 385–418.

24. “Resistance to Civil Government,” in Henry David Thoreau, Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick (Princeton, 1973), 63–90. The commonly used title “Civil Disobedience” was invented after Thoreau’s death. I discuss the essay in some detail in Making the American Self, 235–55.

The Concord Transcendentalists addressed two kinds of questions about American liberty in their day. One of these was what we might term the quantitative issue: How many people did American freedom include? In particular, did it include women and people of color? The other kind of question was qualitative: What should a free person’s life be like? Would their freedom make Americans’ lives more meaningful? On the quantitative issue, the Transcendentalists certainly supported the inclusive side. Emerson, for example, publicly protested to President Van Buren against Cherokee Removal and delivered a great address affirming black dignity on August 1, 1844, commemorating the tenth anniversary of emancipation in the British West Indies (a date widely celebrated by African Americans).25 Margaret Fuller inspired the next generation of the women’s movement. In a Transcendentalist community called Fruit-lands, Bronson Alcott conducted experiments in greater equality between the sexes and respecting the autonomy of children. Theodore Parker, a Transcendentalist who unlike Emerson remained a Unitarian minister, preached a fiery blend of Transcendentalism and antislavery to overflow crowds at a converted theater in Boston; among his converts was Julia Ward Howe, future author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”26

However, the principal and uniquely profound contribution of the Transcendentalists lay in their serious exploration of the second kind of issue. What should Americans do with their freedom? The Transcendentalists endorsed Alexis de Tocqueville’s warning against the danger of the tyranny of the majority. They urged Americans to introspection and integrity, to the exercise of independent judgment, to rejection of competitive display, to the realization of their full human potential, to lives in harmony with nature. The Transcendentalists saw themselves as liberating individuals from convention, conformity, and unexamined habit. Thoreau commented, “It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself.”27

As a formal religious philosophy, Transcendentalism proved evanescent; its intellectual appeal barely lasted for a single generation after Emerson’s announcement of it in 1836. Yet as a literary movement, it has

25. “Letter to Martin Van Buren,” in The Political Emerson, ed. David Robinson (Boston, 2004), 27–32; “Emancipation in the British West Indies,” ibid., 91–119.

26. See Anne Rose, Transcendentalism as a Social Movement (New Haven, 1981); Dean Grodzins, American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism (Chapel Hill, 2002).

27. Walden, 8.

retained interest, and rightly so. The writings of the Transcendentalists affirm some of the best qualities characteristic of American civilization: self-reliance, a willingness to question authority, a quest for spiritual nourishment. Their writings, even today, urge us to independent reflection in the face of fads, conformity, blind partisanship, and mindless consumerism.


The Mercantile Library of Philadelphia was founded in 1821 by an association of the city’s leading businessmen. A private lending library, it testified to its members’ aspirations toward self-improvement and general culture while also catering to their tastes for recreational reading. In 1826, they incorporated their library and began to expand its membership; by 1844–45, they could raise enough money to construct a special building for it. Meanwhile, similar mercantile libraries had been organized in other American cities. From 1828 on, the Mercantile Library of Philadelphia sponsored lectures by prominent people.28 In May 1841, William Ellery Channing came to give one.

Suiting his topic to his practical, worldly audience, the clerical visitor spoke on “The Present Age”—and, more particularly, on its tendency “to expansion, to diffusion, to universality.” “This tendency is directly opposed to the spirit of exclusiveness, restriction, narrowness, monopoly, which has prevailed in past ages.” Channing began with comments on the sciences. What struck him was not so much the new discoveries as their popularization. “Lyceums spring up in almost every village for the purpose of mutual aid in the study of natural science,” he noted; “a lady gives us Conversations on Chemistry, revealing to the minds of our youth vast laws of the universe.” The democratization of science fostered its practical application, “bestowing on millions, not only comforts, but luxuries which were once the distinction of a few.”29

To Channing, the gradual democratization of politics in the United States and the rest of the world represented a consequence of the democratization of information and culture. “What is true of science is still more true of Literature. Books are now placed within reach of all.” To be sure, people sometimes read for amusement (indeed, two-thirds of the books checked out in the Mercantile Library itself were novels), but Channing rejoiced that the improved printing press also provided texts for schools and Sunday schools, tracts for missions, and publications promoting

28. Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia, Essay on the History of the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1867).

29. Channing, “The Present Age,” in Complete Works, 131–42, quotations from 132–33.

international benevolence and reform. All understood that the venue and auspices within which Channing spoke illustrated his points. The livelihood of the members of his audience manifested analogous tendencies, he commented. Commerce too was expanding in volume, overcoming traditional trade barriers, and (illustrating the tendency to universality) reaching to farther and farther points of the globe, integrating all into one economic system and facilitating the spread of Christianity. A fearful responsibility rested with the merchants in his audience, the speaker warned, to make sure that they conveyed the virtues of Western civilization rather than its vices (exemplified at their worst in the slave trade).

Channing’s observations on his age still provide useful categories for understanding it. The revolutions in communications and transportation clearly lay at the heart of his analysis, though he did not give them those modern names. Besides the transforming impact these revolutions had on political, economic, and academic life, they dramatically affected literature, the arts, and social reform as well. The improvements and economies in printing, papermaking, and distribution that multiplied newspapers, magazines, and books also had their effects on the substance of what was written. Books became not only more numerous and widely marketed but also longer, facilitating the rise of the novel as a new literary genre. Novels often appeared serialized in newspapers or magazines prior to their publication between hard covers—thus taking advantage of the low postal rates charged periodicals. Serialization especially helped rural people far from libraries or bookstores. By 1827, the North American Review could announce “the age of novel writing.” The rise of the novel responded not only to improved efficiency in supply but also to expansion in demand. The audience for reading matter grew as population increased and popular education promoted literacy. By the 1840s, perhaps sooner, the United States possessed the largest literate public of any nation in world history. The reading public extended well beyond the urban middle class: Many farmers and mechanics found time to read; even some factory operatives did. It helped that people spent more time indoors, where whale oil and gas lamps shed more light than candles had. The mass production of eyeglasses, beginning in the 1830s, certainly helped. Those riding the newly built trains loved to read. Families often read aloud to each other, sitting around the fireplace, so even family members who could not read for themselves gained exposure to the printed word.30

30. See Nina Baym, Novels, Readers, and Reviewers (Ithaca, N.Y., 1984); the North American Review is quoted on 16. Writing as well as reading was democratized, as explained in Ronald Zboray and Mary Zboray, Literary Dollars and Social Sense (New York, 2005).

Just as Christianity responded to modern popular taste with revivalism, literature responded with the novel. In each case a popular “awakening” or “renaissance” ensued. Novels addressed the newly literate mass audience very effectively. Although fictional, they told about people with whom readers could identify in situations at least purportedly realistic. Novels did not presuppose knowledge of classical languages, ancient traditions, or epic poetry. They ranged in content from serious art to pure recreation to titillating fantasy, thus appealing to just about everyone literate who could make a little time to read. During the decade of the 1820s, U.S. publishers brought out 109 books of fiction by Americans; by the 1840s, almost a thousand. Frequently written by women, these books often dealt with women’s lives and problems. Catharine Maria Sedgwick was followed by a whole school of “domestic” authors including Caroline Gilman, Susan Warner, Fanny Fern (pseudonym of Sarah Willis Farrington), and E.D.E.N. Southworth. Women wrote not only novels but history, biography, poetry, humor, drama, and melodrama. In these genres too they often dealt with domestic or moral themes, by no means necessarily accepting women’s subordination to men. Literature, like religion, expressed female energy and experience sooner than politics did.31

In the nineteenth century, many writers and tastemakers worried about the quality of the literature (especially novels) available for public consumption—just as they would worry in more recent times about the quality of television. The same print culture that produced books produced reviews of books. Then as now, reviewers tried to encourage what they considered “serious” writing; in those days this often meant explicit didacticism. Many in the audience too shared the view that their reading habits should make them better people, not simply more cultured but more earnest and hardworking, more highly skilled, better informed citizens. The popularization of science that Channing noticed reflected a widespread attitude that all reading, fiction or nonfiction, should be “elevating” or “improving.” Countless ordinary people, on farms as well as in the city, made reading a tool of self-construction. But of course, there always remained those who read for excitement, escape, and vicarious thrills.32

31. Michael Gilmore, American Romanticism and the Marketplace (Chicago, 1985), 4–7; Mary Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage (New York, 1984); Nina Baym, American Women Writers and the Work of History (New Brunswick, N.J., 1995).

32. Ian Watt’s classic The Rise of the Novel (London, 1957) treats England; for America, besides Baym, Novels, Readers, and Reviewers, see Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word, 2nd ed. (New York, 2004).

Homer Franklin ran a bookstore in New York City. In September 1840, he took an inventory that has survived. Of his 8,751 books in stock, 2,526 were Bibles or religious books, and 3,008 were educational or children’s books. Both categories reflect the importance of “self-improvement” as a motive to read. The remainder included 867 professional and scientific books, 287 reference books, and 2,063 classified as “belles lettres,” which included novels, poetry, and music.33

Channing’s denomination, the Unitarians, played a distinctive and important role in the development of American literature. They had been among the first to recognize the potential of print as a means to shape public taste and morals. For centuries, Protestants had read the Bible in hope of salvation. Now, the Unitarians encouraged the reading of other “elevating” literature to foster the development of a virtuous character, which they believed more important than the sudden, all-transforming conversion experience of traditional New England Calvinism. Eager to break out of what they saw as the tyranny of Calvinist theology over American cultural life, they had created a succession of Boston literary magazines of which the most important was the North American Review. Founded in 1815, it became the most influential intellectual periodical in the United States for most of the nineteenth century. The Unitarian denomination would contribute a remarkably large number of prominent American writers of the mid-nineteenth century, including—besides the Transcendentalists—the novelists Nathaniel Hawthorne, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Lydia Maria Child, the narrative historians George Bancroft, William H. Prescott, and John L. Motley, and the poets William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes the elder (also a distinguished professor of medicine). The Unitarian denomination remained small; along with Congregationalism it underwent disestablishment in Massachusetts in 1833. Meanwhile, the political power of New England waned with the growth of the Middle Atlantic states and the trans-Appalachian West. Nevertheless, New England Unitarians could take consolation in their importance for the world of print; through it, they had found a means to exert a more subtle influence across the broad republic.34

33. Ronald Zboray, A Fictive People (New York, 1993), 141.

34. See Lawrence Buell, “The Literary Significance of the Unitarian Movement,” in American Unitarianism, ed. Conrad E. Wright (Boston, 1989), 163–79; Marshall Foletta, Coming to Terms with Democracy (Charlottesville, Va., 2001), 61–70. A different interpretation is presented by Peter Field, “The Birth of Secular High Culture,” JER 17 (1997): 575–610.

American Calvinism had long remained suspicious of novels as a waste of time and worse, encouraging the wrong kind of fantasy life, particularly among the young. But beginning in the eighteenth century, moral philosophers called the Calvinist suppositions into question. This newer psychology of art, pioneered by the Scottish moralists Francis Hutcheson and Adam Smith (the same one who also wrote on economics), taught that art could stimulate sentiments that could then be applied to real life, making the reader or viewer of sentimental art into a more morally sensitive person. Novels could serve this function, as could other artistic genres.

Responding to these ideas as the nineteenth century went by, evangelicals, Calvinist and Arminian alike, not only exploited poetry, biography, and magazine articles, but also, more cautiously, enlisted novels in the service of Christian moral sensibility. A market developed for imaginative literature that affirmed religious and moral values and thereby rebutted traditional Calvinist disapproval. Such works, demonstrating social responsibility, helped both writers and publishers legitimate their activities in the public eye. As early as 1824 the Connecticut evangelical Lydia Sigourney could comment (with some misgiving) that novels had taken over “Sunday reading” from theological works.35 The Episcopalian Susanna Rowson and the Unitarian William Ware pioneered the biblical fiction that would reach a climax after the Civil War in Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur. Sigourney herself published fifty-six volumes of didactic and devout poetry and prose. Often she chose historical settings and wrote sympathetically about the American Indians. Her husband complained that she put her career ahead of her duty to him: “Were you less of a poet,” he told her bitterly, “how much more valuable you would be as a wife.” But when Charles’s hardware business went bankrupt in the depression that began in 1837, Lydia’s commercially successful writing supported the Sigourney family.36

Literature affirming the values of middle-class Christian morality reflected the aspirations of many, probably most, American readers. It provided the clearest route for a writer to combine a literary reputation with commercial success. A fine example is provided by the enormously popular poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow made it his task as a poet to remind people of cultural and moral values, to show that there

35. Candy Brown, The Word in the World (Chapel Hill, 2004), 95–99; David Reynolds, Faith in Fiction (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), 130–44, Sigourney quotation from p. 113.

36. Melissa Teed, “A Passion for Distinction,” New England Quarterly 77 (2004): 51–69, Charles to Lydia Sigourney (1827) quoted on 55; Baym, American Women Writers and the Work of History, 81–87.

was more to life than material pursuits. He sought to bring history to life with “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” He evoked sympathy for victims of injustice with his “Poems on Slavery,” “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” “The Song of Hiawatha” (which Longfellow pronounced “Hee-awatha”), and “Evangeline,” treating the eighteenth-century expulsion of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia. As professor of Romance languages at Harvard, he introduced Americans to Dante by translatingThe Divine Comedy. The values Longfellow celebrated resonated with his readership. To the Victorian middle classes of America and Britain, his poetic exhortations to self-improvement seemed both relevant and inspirational. His “Psalm of Life” (1838), after rejecting a pessimistic outlook, endorses conscientious striving:

Tell me not in mournful numbers,

“Life is but an empty dream,

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.”

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”

Was not spoken of the soul....

Lives of great men all remind us,

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time....

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

After the critical reevaluation of American literature that began in the 1920s, Longfellow fell out of favor. Most literary critics now deem his didacticism and sentimentalism quaint and trite, but one suspects his poetry could still serve its original purpose of inspiring the young, if once again it were taught in schools.37

Not all authors aimed at the market for uplift, however. Writers such as George Lippard achieved commercial success by targeting an audience of young working-class males with sensationalism, violence (mild by our standards), social criticism, and escapism. Like the domestic fiction

37. “A Psalm of Life,” in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poems and Other Writings, ed. J. D. McClatchy (New York, 2000), 3–4. For a fine reevaluation of the poet’s merits, see Christoph Irmscher, Longfellow Redux (Urbana, Ill., 2006).

aimed at women, working-class “dime novels” told about characters with whom their readers could identify. Starting in 1839, these novels would appear first serialized in weekly “story papers” and then in cheap paper-bound pamphlet editions. With their exciting adventures often set on the western frontier, such publications helped popularize imperialism, though not necessarily the expansion of slavery, among the northern working class. Dime novels confirmed the fears of Calvinists and gave cause for the concern of anxious reviewers who wanted literature to promote personal improvement.38

Middle-class readers throughout the Union also liked novels about frontier bloodshed, Indian wars, and the Revolution. South Carolina’s William Gilmore Simms hoped to duplicate the success of New York’s Fenimore Cooper in dealing with such themes. The ambitious son of a humble storekeeper, the prolific Simms worked hard at the literary profession, writing not only fiction but also poetry, history, geography, and literary criticism, lecturing on tour, and editing a series of magazines culminating in the Southern Quarterly Review. Nevertheless, Simms found his literary career a constant scramble and, in the end, died impoverished. Through his writing and addresses he helped create the romantic legend of the Old South (to which a number of northern writers also contributed), featuring paternal plantation owners and contented slaves. This proslavery perspective has contributed to his fall from popularity, leaving Simms in the status of a formerly famous writer.39

The antebellum southern author best remembered today is Edgar A. Poe (the form of his name that he preferred). Whereas both Transcendentalists and didactic Christian writers intended their art as moral and spiritual inspiration, Poe espoused the position—unusual in America at the time—that art did not need to serve some further function but was worthwhile for its own sake. He and Margaret Fuller were probably the finest American literary critics of their day. Orphaned at an early age, Poe quarreled with his guardian, developed a drinking problem, and never enjoyed a stable home life. Although he got several good jobs (notably as editor of the Southern Literary Messenger), he could not manage to keep

38. Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America (New York, 1987); David Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance (New York, 1988), 204–8; Shelly Streeby, American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture (Berkeley, 2002), 162–69.

39. Simms is placed in his context by Eric Sundquist, “The Literature of Slavery and African American Culture,” Cambridge History of American Literature, II, esp. 261–64; and Michael O’Brien, Conjectures of Order (Chapel Hill, 2004), passim.

them. His romantic relationships were tempestuous, and his young wife, Virginia, died tragically from tuberculosis. Poe’s poetry and fiction reflect both his sophisticated literary theory and the agonies of his personal life. His poem “The Raven” (1844), a meticulously crafted meditation upon inconsolable grief, became an instant success and has remained among the best-known poetry of all time. Although he wrote one novel, Poe more significantly pioneered the short story and within that genre essentially invented detective fiction, which the Scotsman Arthur Conan Doyle would take up in the next generation.40

The difficulties Simms and Poe found in earning a living as writers were not peculiar to southerners. Emerson’s Concord neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne encountered similar problems. Starting in 1830 Hawthorne sold stories to magazines, and in 1836 collected some for publication in book form. Although well received, Hawthorne’s writings generated only a modest income for him, his wife, the artist Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, and their children. He hoped that the commune started by some of his literary friends at Brook Farm would provide a way of life compatible with writing but learned otherwise and lost his financial investment in the enterprise. He got revenge by writing The Blithedale Romance, a thinly disguised satire on Brook Farm, Emerson, Fuller, and the Transcendentalist movement. From time to time, financial rescue came in the form of federal patronage: appointments in the Boston Custom House, the Salem Custom House, and finally as U.S. consul in Liverpool, England—all of which, however, cut into his writing time and energy. His two great novels, The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), were written between government jobs. Despite eventually achieving recognition, if not wealth, through his work, Hawthorne always resented the competition of those he called the “damned mob of scribbling women,” whose efforts sold better than his.41

Hawthorne tried many kinds of writing, including children’s books, but the works for which we chiefly remember him deal with New England’s Puritan past, combining the qualities of historical romance with psychological depth. Like Poe, Hawthorne appreciated the literary power of guilt and grief and, like him, moved away from realistic fiction into surrealism and symbolism. For this reason, he preferred to call his long works of fiction “romances” rather than “novels,” a distinction generally drawn at the

40. See Kenneth Silverman, Edgar A. Poe (New York, 1991).

41. Gilmore, Romanticism and the Marketplace, 147. Nathaniel Hawthorne to William D. Ticknor, Jan. 19, 1855, quoted in Brenda Wineapple, Hawthorne (New York, 2003), 282.

time. While a Unitarian in his own religion, Hawthorne retained much of his Puritan ancestors’ Calvinist sense of sin—a combination also found in John Quincy Adams, with whose politics Hawthorne disagreed.42

A friend and admirer of Hawthorne was the New Yorker Herman Melville. Although his parents came from distinguished families, Herman grew up in shabby gentility. A youthful rebel, he ran off to sea as a common sailor, first on a merchant ship to Liverpool in 1839, then on a whaler around Cape Horn in 1841. He jumped ship in the Pacific Islands and spent several adventurous years there before signing on with a U.S. naval vessel as a means of returning home in 1844. Back in New York, Melville turned his experiences into books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), presenting a romanticized view of his Polynesian escapades that made him a controversial celebrity. Though he had achieved enough financial success now to marry the daughter of Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, Melville’s next three books, Mardi, Redburn, and White Jacket, brought him little income. Moving to the Berkshire Mountains in order to live near Hawthorne, Melville composed his giant tragic masterpiece, Moby-Dick, the greatest of sea stories, published in 1850 and dedicated to Hawthorne, its rhetoric redolent of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Although it started out selling well, sales of Moby-Dick dried up after negative reviews appeared. Some of these, not surprisingly, objected to the book’s questioning attitude toward religion. Others resulted from a defective edition published in London that omitted the epilogue and so left readers wondering how Ishmael could narrate the story when he had perished (it seemed) in the wreck of thePequod. Melville’s next publication, his tormented semiautobiographical Pierre (1851), did nothing to reassure his readership. Attempts to salvage his finances by lecture tours failed. His writing career stumbled and went into decline, while his family’s security depended on his wife’s inheritance and his job as a customs officer in the Port of New York, awarded after prolonged lobbying on his behalf. Only in the 1920s did literary scholars begin to recover appreciation for Melville’s saga of the doomed Captain Ahab, who dares defy the incomprehensible power of the universe by his hunt for the white whale named Moby-Dick. Still more recently, readers have begun to notice the political dimension of Melville’s masterpiece: Ahab the demagogue leading his followers to destruction.43

42. See Lawrence Buell, New England Literary Culture (Cambridge, Eng., 1986), 269, 279, 470.

43. Andrew Delbanco, Melville (New York, 2005). On the scriptural echoes in Moby-Dick, see Buell, New England Literary Culture, 177–87.

The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed publishing flourish as an industry while creative writers struggled to establish an economically viable profession in the United States. Unfortunately the interests of publishers and writers collided in the area of copyright law. The Constitution authorized copyright laws, and Congress enacted one in 1790, protecting American but not foreign authors. This law effected a massive transfer of intellectual property from British to American publishers, but it proved a very mixed benefit to American authors. In the absence of international copyright, American publishers preferred to reprint free the works of established British writers like Thackeray, Scott, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters, rather than take a chance on American writers to whom they would have to pay royalties. By our standards such reprinting constituted literary piracy, but it was not then illegal. American writers lobbied for an international copyright law to save them from this unfair competition, and found a champion in Henry Clay. The publishers declared it contrary to American national interest to pay royalties to foreign authors. They also cleverly aligned their interest with that of the reading public, arguing that free reprints kept down the price of books, and the Jacksonian Democratic Party sided with them rather than with the authors. By such means, American publishers succeeded in fending off international copyright until 1891. Ironically, the United States today strongly protects intellectual property and insists that other countries observe international copyright rules.44

The absence of international copyright made it harder for Americans to earn a living by writing. This helps explain why male writers often supplemented their income in other ways—lecturing, editing magazines, or seeking political patronage jobs such as Irving, Hawthorne, Melville, and James Russell Lowell obtained. Women writers found these alternatives impossible or much more difficult; this helps explain why women who wrote for a living had to concentrate so hard on making sure their publications would be commercially successful.

The connections between politics and journalism gave rise to connections between politics and literature. New York’s Democratic Review mostly patronized Democratic authors. Whig writers more commonly appeared in the American Whig Review, Greeley’sTribune Weekly, both also originating in New York, and Boston’s North American Review. Only

44. Meredith McGill, American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting (Philadelphia, 2003), 76–108, presents the publishers’ arguments sympathetically; most other scholars sympathize with the writers. See also William St. Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge, Eng., 2004), 382–93.

occasionally did such journals run a piece by someone identified with the opposing major party, though the Tribune Weekly often ran pieces by radical reformers and socialists. Writers themselves sometimes befriended colleagues across party lines, as the Whig Longfellow did the Democrat Hawthorne. Margaret Fuller, active in the Whig Party despite her gender, made friends among Democratic writers of the “Young America” group in New York City. Washington Irving enjoyed good relations with both Democratic and Whig politicians; Walt Whitman started out as a Democrat but became bitterly disenchanted with the party’s proslavery stance.45

As postcolonial peoples often do, Americans in the young republic asked themselves whether they yet possessed a distinctive national literature. The question chiefly concerned American writers, since American readers clearly inhabited a transatlantic literary world, consuming large quantities of British literature made even larger by the absence of international copyright. Conversely, a few American writers sold well in Britain (without copyright protection); the favorite poet of the English people in the nineteenth century was not Wordsworth or Tennyson but Longfellow. By midcentury the United States was just on the verge of an unparalleled explosion of literary creativity. The decade of the 1850s would witness, in addition to the great novels of Hawthorne and Melville, Emerson’s Representative Men (1850), Thoreau’s Walden (1854), Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855), and the record-breaking best seller of the entire nineteenth century, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). When the Association of New York Publishers met in New York’s Crystal Palace (just erected in imitation of the one in London) on September 27, 1855, they could with perfect justification greet 153 of their most popular authors with the proud toast: “To American Literature!”46


Even more than novels, the theater remained under a moral cloud in the newly independent United States. Calvinist Protestantism had disapproved of dramatic productions ever since the English Puritans had closed the theaters during the seventeenth-century interregnum. The First Continental Congress, reflecting the kind of religious fervor that imbued many in the Patriot cause, had done likewise in 1774. The influential Calvinist John Witherspoon, president of Princeton and signer of the Declaration of Independence, famously denounced the theater as an aspect of that worldly gentility and emotional indulgence which a

45. See Gilman Ostrander, Republic of Letters (Madison, Wisc., 1999), 218–20.

46. Zboray, Fictive People, 3.

well-disciplined Christian should avoid.47 In the early decades of the nineteenth century, however, many theater owners undertook to free dramatic productions from their traditional stigma and to broaden their audiences. They presented plays with patriotic and moral themes as well as entertaining ones. Sometimes they went so far as to ban the prostitutes who had customarily plied their trade in theater galleries. And they produced lots of Shakespeare, whose plays were by no means confined to an elitist enclave. Tocqueville surely exaggerated when he wrote, “There is hardly a pioneer’s hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare,” but he had noticed something real: Americans usually read Shakespeare before seeing his plays performed. Already revered as cultural icons, the Bard’s plays could be defended by theatrical producers not only as rattling good stories but also as part of a spectator’s program of self-improvement. This in turn prompted many parodies of Shakespeare— not so much poking fun at the plays themselves, however, as at the use to which overly earnest playgoers put them. The parodies relied for their humor on the audience’s familiarity with the original.48

Early nineteenth-century American theatrical performances lasted a long time. Typically, the principal production was both preceded and followed by other presentations from singers, acrobats, dancers, and comedians. Sometimes these also appeared between acts of the main play. The appropriate analogy is to the typical motion picture theater during the golden age of Hollywood, where two feature films would be accompanied by short subjects like a travelogue, a newsreel, and cartoons. Acting companies, as in Shakespeare’s day, toured together, having a number of performances, major and minor, in their repertoire. By now the actors included women as well as men, and they often married each other; they were expected to sing or dance as well as act. Their productions frequently took liberties with the playwright’s text. The mixture of serious and light entertainment helped draw large numbers to performances. The rowdy audiences felt free to demand their favorite musical numbers from the theater orchestra (called the “band” although it included strings).49

47. Ann Withington, Toward a More Perfect Union (New York, 1991), 11, 20–37; John Witherspoon, A Serious Inquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Stage (1757; New York, 1812).

48. Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham (Oxford, 1999), 483–85; John Kasson, Rudeness and Civility (New York, 1990), 227; Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Phillips Bradley (New York, 1945), II, 55; Lawrence Levine, High-brow/Lowbrow (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 13–16.

49. See Susan Porter, With an Air Debonair (Washington, 1991).

The distinction between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” was not then characteristic of American culture, although people distinguished between that which was “improving” and that which was not. The future poet Walt Whitman contrived to straddle the two appeals in his 1842 novel, Franklin Evans. Selling for a “bit” (twelve and a half cents), Whitman’s story endorsed the temperance movement but included enough sensational details about urban life to attract some of the dime-novel audience.50 Like fiction, theatrical productions could be turned into vehicles for the promotion of reform causes. On the stage, the most famous reform advocates were the Hutchinson Family Singers, who began their celebrated tours in 1842. The Hutchinsons supported not only temperance but antislavery as well. Their well-publicized appearances at reform conventions helped boost attendance.51 After Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in print, it was quickly translated into innumerable traveling stage productions.

The struggle to legitimate the theater and redeem it from opprobrium provoked conflict between the upper and middle classes on the one hand, with their aspirations to polite culture, and the urban working class, which liked the traditional theater just as it was. Working-class patrons of the old-style, nonrespectable venues in New York, like the Park Theater, resented the elegant new Astor Place Opera House, with its rules against prostitutes and its dress code appealing to the affluent. When the Astor Place scheduled the touring British actor Charles Macready to play Macbeth in May 1849, the American actor Edwin Forrest performed the same role at the Broadway. Compared to the restrained performances of Macready, Forrest’s acting style was broader and his appeal more populist. The contrast between the two celebrities inflamed passions of national pride and class conflict. Forrest’s fans attacked the Astor Place, and somewhere between twenty-two and thirty-one people died in the riot that ensued. Surprisingly for us, one of the most horrific incidents of class conflict in antebellum America involved culture rather than material interest—specifically, rival visions of how to present Shakespeare.52

The most original, popular, and distinctively American form of stage entertainment in this period was the minstrel show. Originally the word “minstrel” meant simply a traveling musician, as it did in Thomas Moore’s Irish patriotic lyric “The Minstrel Boy,” a favorite with Irish Americans of

50. David Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America (New York, 1995), 94–97.

51. See Dale Cockrell, ed., Excelsior: Journals of the Hutchinson Family Singers (Stuyvesant, N.Y., 1989).

52. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility, 227–28; Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow, 63–69.

this era. Beginning in the late 1820s, white men like T. D. “Daddy” Rice applied the term to their performance of songs, dances, and comic routines with faces blackened by burnt cork. Sometimes they imitated or adapted actual African American music; sometimes they used material by white composers. Their skits and songs caricatured black people, occasionally with sympathy (as in “Old Black Joe”), more often with contempt or gross hostility. (When African Americans themselves opened a theater in New York in 1821, playing Shakespeare and other works to integrated audiences, white harassment shut it down.)53

The first audience for the new minstrel shows consisted of northern urban white working-class men, and that social group always remained central to defining the humor of blackface minstrel shows, even though their appeal gradually broadened. The songs that have survived from minstrel show days mostly deal with the South and plantation slavery (such as “Dixie” or “Old Folks at Home”), but in the 1840s, when minstrel shows took off in popularity, they often ridiculed the free black people of the North. Other objects of their raillery reflected other working-class male resentments: the learned professions and learning in general, the newly rich, European high culture, abolitionism, evangelical reform, and women’s rights. Performance in blackface provided a convenient license for satire, since assaults on respectability could be attributed to ignorant blacks and still get laughs.54

In terms of party politics, minstrel shows usually sided with the Jacksonian Democracy; the most famous minstrel composer, Stephen Foster, also wrote Democratic campaign songs. Taken all in all, what minstrel show satire ultimately targeted was the ethic of self-improvement. Lampooning black people provided a vehicle for expressing contempt for self-improvement efforts, since blacks were deemed incapable of self-improvement and yet persisted in attempting it. The pretentious free Negro (“Zip Coon”), misusing big words, served as a stock comic figure in minstrel shows.55 Blackface comedy thus provided a Jacksonian rebuttal to the contemporaneous theater of moral uplift, exemplified by Whig performers like the Hutchinson Family (although the Hutchinsons were also sometimes termed “minstrels” in the general sense of touring musicians).

53. Burrows and Wallace, Gotham, 487–88.

54. Robert Toll, Blacking Up (New York, 1974), is still useful. See also Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York, 1993); William Mahar, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask (Urbana, Ill., 1999).

55. On the minstrel show as a rejection of the ethic of self-improvement, see also Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (New York, 1971), 256.

Blackface minstrel shows generated such large profits that they could employ many of the most talented American composers of their age, including not only whites like Foster (“O Susannah,” “The Camptown Races,” “My Old Kentucky Home”) but also African Americans like James A. Bland (“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” and “Oh, Them Golden Slippers”). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the minstrel shows paid African American culture the compliment of stealing ideas from it even when subjecting it to ridicule. Foster, who worked for the most successful minstrel troupe of all, Christy’s Minstrels, believed that his songs promoted respect for African American music by recasting it in a form accessible to white audiences.56

To twenty-first-century Americans, minstrel shows constitute an awkward aspect of our national inheritance; their tunes remain catchy, but performing them can give offense. Historically, the shows’ cultural importance is undeniable. They represent the American counterpart to the English music hall. They embodied not only racism but much else of the America of their time, with references to steamboats, new inventions like telegraphy, and the newly popular African American instrument, the banjo. Soldiers marched off to Mexico to the tune of “The Girl I Left Behind Me”; the forty-niners who went to California sang “O Susannah” around their camp fires. Minstrel shows remained popular for more than half a century and constituted the ancestor of the mass popular entertainment that followed.

Of course, the minstrel show would have been impossible without the authentic African American music that preceded it. Virtually everybody in America, including foreign visitors, joined in acknowledging that the most original musicians in the country were the slaves. Antislavery advocates used this as evidence of black talent; defenders of slavery pointed to it as evidence of black contentment. African American folk music took a multitude of forms both secular and sacred, to which may be traced varieties of modern music including the blues, gospel, and jazz. Its diversity bespoke its origins in diverse parts of Africa and the various New World influences to which black creativity responded, in the Caribbean and on the mainland. Music nurtured a sense of African American community. Singing could accompany work, holidays, or tragic moments like the march of newly sold slaves away from family and friends toward an unknown destination, usually westward. The most famous of African American folk songs were the spirituals, songs of Christian faith amid suffering

56. Ken Emerson, Doo-dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture (New York, 1998), 183.

(“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”), often invoking the heroes of the Hebrew scriptures (“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,/And the walls came tumbling down”), multilayered in meaning, like all great art (“My Lord, what a morning [mourning],/When the stars begin to fall”), sometimes expressing coded longings for freedom (“When Israel was in Egypt’s land,/O let my people go!”). Although contemporary descriptions of the music of American slaves exist, we are heavily indebted to postemancipation efforts to reconstitute and preserve it, such as those of the abolitionists Lucy and Wendell Garrison, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the poet James Weldon Johnson.57

In antebellum America, white people as well as black encountered music most often not in observing performances by professionals but when they themselves sang, played, and danced. Free people too sang at social events and to soothe the children. Some of their folk music we still recognize: “The Arkansas Traveler,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” “O Shenandoah.” From the American folk music of this period, often Celtic in origin, evolved what came to be called country-western. Church worship provided one of the most common occasions for participation in music-making. By 1815, American Protestants had long since supplemented psalm-singing with hymns as well, though organs, being expensive, appeared only very gradually. Improvements in printing and transportation fostered the distribution of hymnals along with other books; thanks to increased literacy, congregations no longer had to learn their songs by rote. Like benevolent associations, hymns were interdenominational. Their lyrics dignified the trials of everyday life with metaphors of Christian pilgrimage and taking up the cross.58

On July 4, 1831, the Sunday school children of Park Street Church in Boston sang a new hymn with words by twenty-three-year-old Samuel Francis Smith: “My country, ’tis of thee,/Sweet land of liberty,/Of thee I sing.” The conjunction of patriotism and religion seemed natural. Entitled simply “America,” it was sung to the tune of “God Save the King”— originally written in reaction against the Stuart uprising of 1745 and once popular in the British colonies. “America” became the unofficial national anthem, and good citizens stood up upon hearing it. (During the First World War, Americans felt the need for a national anthem with a tune

57. Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans, 2nd ed. (New York, 1983); Dena Epstein, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals (Urbana, Ill., 1977); James Weldon Johnson, The Books of American Negro Spirituals (1925–26; New York, 1944).

58. Henry Wilder Foote, Three Centuries of American Hymnody (Cambridge, Mass., 1940). See also Brown, The World in the World, 190–242.

different from that of the British. “The Star-Spangled Banner” then replaced “America”; Congress made this official in 1931.) Lowell Mason, the choirmaster who conducted the first performance of “America” and a collaborator with Lyman Beecher, went on to become the most influential figure in the development of choirs and hymnody in antebellum U.S. Protestantism.59

The industrial and communications revolutions encouraged and transformed the performance of music at home. The former provided the piano, originally called the pianoforte (“soft-loud” in Italian) because unlike a harpsichord it could produce music of varied dynamic levels. Jonas Chickering, a Yankee artisan-turned-manufacturer, invented a cast-iron frame for the piano strings that withstood powerful tension. His firm pioneered the American piano industry and the mass marketing of its product. The printing press complemented the factory-made piano by providing published sheet music. Once reserved to the wealthy elite, access to keyboards now spread as part of that polite culture to which middle-class Americans aspired. In many middle-class households, the piano replaced the fireplace as the center of home life. Family and friends gathered around the piano to sing sentimental songs like Thomas Moore’s “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms” or perhaps a simple aria from a light opera like Michael Balfe’s “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls.” Learning to play the piano took hard work, which made it a prized accomplishment in a society that valued work highly. It was also a form of self-improvement considered especially suitable for women and girls.60

Classical music (“art music” as it is sometimes called) came slowly to the United States, since in the beginning the churches did not foster it, and no aristocracy existed to patronize it. Thomas Jefferson, who loved European classical music and played it on his violin, deplored its scarcity on the American scene. Its expansion in the nineteenth century responded to the humanistic aspirations of the middle class. The cultivated bourgeoisie of Boston enjoyed singing oratorios and accordingly founded the Handel and Haydn Society in 1815 as an amateur choral group. The spread of piano-playing as a form of self-improvement greatly broadened interest in classical music, and this in turn eventually stimulated a desire to hear the best music performed by the best artists. The oldest symphony orchestra in the United States still in continuous existence, the New York

59. Ralph Branham and Stephen Hartnett, Sweet Freedom’s Song (Oxford, 2002).

60. James Parakilas, Piano Roles (New Haven, 1999), 11–19; Gary Kornblith, The Industrial Revolution in America (Boston, 1998), 71–77; Craig Roell, The Piano in America (Chapel Hill, 1989), 1–17.

Philharmonic, was founded in 1842—the same year that P. T. Barnum took over Peale’s Museum in New York and began charging admission to it. The increasing ease and frequency of transatlantic crossings put Americans in touch with European music and the musical criticism of the Romantic movement. Tours by European virtuosi, like that of the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull in 1843, proved crucial to providing classical music a foothold in the United States. Barnum, who understood how to cash in on celebrity, sponsored the wildly successful tour of Jenny Lind, “the Swedish nightingale,” in 1850.

Early proponents of classical music in the United States included the Transcendentalists, especially John Sullivan Dwight and Margaret Fuller. Fuller felt a particularly powerful affinity with Beethoven’s genius. In her private journal of 1843, she addressed the composer (who had died in 1827) thus: “No heavenly sweetness of Jesus, no many-leaved Raphael, no golden Plato, is anything to me, compared with thee.” Her burst of Romantic feeling manifested the new attitude toward music among the nineteenth-century middle class: from music as recreation to music as spiritual uplift. For devotees like Margaret Fuller, high-quality secular music was sacred music.61


No body of literature exemplified or propagated the faith of the American Renaissance in human potential more than the writings of the men and women who had escaped from slavery. The Transcendentalist Theodore Parker called them the “one series of literary productions that could be written by none but Americans,” adding that “all the original romance of America is in them.”62 While the autobiographical accounts of Henry Bibb, William Wells Brown, Sojourner Truth, and others make fascinating reading, the greatest of these accounts appeared in 1845: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. A brief 125 pages, it cost 50 cents and sold a successful thirty thousand copies, emboldening its author to write two longer autobiographies later in his life. The book fell into obscurity during the first half of the twentieth century, from which it has been rescued by an outburst of attention from scholars in recent decades. They have enabled us to perceive in Douglass’s narrative a paradigm of many aspects of American experience.

61. Mark Grant, Maestros of the Pen (Boston, 1998), 35–52; Margaret Fuller, Nov. 25, 1843, quoted in Bell Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth (New York, 1976), 61–62.

62. Theodore Parker, “The American Scholar” (1849), in his Collected Works, ed. Frances Cobbe (London, 1864), VII, 245.

The eight-year-old Maryland slave boy had been separated from his mother almost all his life and never knew his father’s identity (but suspected his master). When his owner died in 1826 and the estate needed to be parceled out among three heirs, this virtual orphan had been allocated to Thomas Auld, the late master’s son-in-law. The new owner left little Freddy with his brother and sister-in-law, Hugh and Sophia Auld of Baltimore, to serve as a companion for their young son in return for his keep. Sophia, a kindly woman and a devout Methodist, began to teach both children their ABC’s and to show them how to read from the Bible (specifically, the Book of Job). Her husband put a stop to this. “If you teach that nigger how to read there would be no keeping him,” he warned. “It would forever unfit him to be a slave.” Frederick Bailey (as he was originally named) remembered these words uttered in his presence, and they “sank deep into my heart.” Resolving to unfit himself for slavery, he determined to continue the quest for literacy in secret. He earned small change and paid it to neighbor boys to teach him; he studied discarded newspapers. Eventually he learned about the movement to abolish slavery. In 1838, at the age of twenty, Frederick Bailey escaped and made his way North. Changing his name to Frederick Douglass as a precaution against recapture, he became the most famous of many self-liberated slaves, a leader of the abolitionist movement, and a powerful voice for African American rights during and after the Civil War.63

Douglass’s realization of the critical importance of literacy to the winning and exercise of freedom was common among members of both races. Hugh Auld’s belief in the incompatibility of literacy and slavery, shared by most whites, provoked many laws throughout the southern states designed to prevent the kind of unauthorized literacy represented by Denmark Vesey, David Walker, and Nat Turner. Even in the North, the laws of several states restricted the opportunities for free Negroes to get an education, for literacy was associated with citizenship, a status that few states accorded their black residents. The published narratives of other escaped slaves besides Douglass tell of going to heroic lengths to learn how to read. After emancipation, many of the newly freed people eagerly embraced opportunities for adult education.64

As in Douglass’s case, the first inklings of literacy often came from religious sources. In after years a former slave recalled how she picked out

63. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself, ed. David Blight (1845; Boston, 2003), 63–67.

64. Heather Williams, Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom (Chapel Hill, 2005), 7–29.

from a hymn book the words “When I can read my title clear/To mansions in the sky,” by Isaac Watts. “I was so happy when I saw that I could really read, that I ran around telling all the other slaves.” Among its many functions, literacy undergirded the religion that provided African Americans, whether enslaved or free, their most important sense of community. Douglass remembered his people’s evocative spirituals and cautioned whites against the facile interpretation of them as signs of contentment. “Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds.”65 At the age of fourteen he underwent a classic conversion experience in Bethel Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore. After achieving his freedom he joined the AME Church, Zion, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and became a lay exhorter.

In 1833 Thomas Auld had attempted to set his adolescent slave to plantation labor under an overseer with a reputation as “negro-breaker.” But when this brute tried to whip him, young Frederick prevailed in a dramatic contest of physical strength and willpower. The overseer gave up rather than admit to others his embarrassing failure. This victory, Douglass recalled with satisfaction, “revived within me a sense of my own manhood.” He had brought the principles of human dignity and equality from the pages where he had read about them into real life. In his autobiography Douglass returned these principles to print as an inspiration to others, an example of the triumph of human nature over animal force, a paradigm of the American Renaissance.66

Eventually Douglass’s owner sent him back to Baltimore to learn the trade of a ship-caulker and turn over his wages. But slavery had long been declining in Baltimore, where the mixed economy and urban mobility left slaves who “hired their own time” with a measure of personal independence. The young man took full advantage of his opportunities to make friends among the city’s large community of free Negroes. He joined one of their self-improvement societies, in which he met a free black woman named Anna Murray, whom he later married. Douglass’s eventual escape from slavery was made possible when a free black sailor (risking severe punishment) lent him his identification papers. Like so many other talented young Americans, white as well as black, Frederick Douglass found liberation in the city, and he praised the advantages of urban life over rural in his autobiography. “Going to live in Baltimore laid

65. Janet Cornelius, “When I Can Read My Title Clear”: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South (Columbia, S.C., 1991), vii; Douglass, Narrative, 51–52.

66. Ibid., 79–89.

the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity,” he wrote; “I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me.”67

Not long after assuming his new life as a free man in Massachusetts, Douglass began attending antislavery meetings in local black churches. In August 1841, he delivered an antislavery speech on Nantucket Island that brought him to the attention of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist movement. The testimony of escaped slaves had proven powerful in arousing moral indignation. The American Anti-Slavery Society hired Douglass and sent him on speaking tours of northern states. Douglass’s interest in oratory went back a long way. During his boyhood years in Baltimore, he had managed to get fifty cents to buy a copy of a schoolbook called The Columbian Orator, compiled by the antislavery editor Caleb Bingham. From it the youth imbibed stirring ideals of equal rights as well as the prevailing concepts of how to exert power through elocution, together with sample speeches from masters like Cicero, Demosthenes, Daniel Webster, and Edward Everett. It was one of the few possessions he took with him on his flight to freedom. Once free, Douglass rose to his occasion. In an age of great American oratory, Frederick Douglass made himself one of the greatest orators of all. “Speech!” he declared: “The live, calm, grave, clear, pointed, warm, sweet, melodious and powerful human voice is the chosen instrumentality” of heroic reform.68 In his crusade against slavery, Douglass voiced the urgent concern of the American Renaissance with the dignity of human nature.

Douglass’s career as author and traveling lecturer illustrates how the revolutions in communications and transportation facilitated nationwide reform movements such as antislavery. Historians have remarked on how the antislavery movement became both more insistent and more broadly based in the 1830s. This transformation was no accident. The same technological developments that permitted the formation of the new mass political parties likewise empowered other agencies for influencing public opinion. The abolitionist movement could not have flourished without the mass production of periodicals, tracts, and inexpensive books (including antislavery books for children), the circulation of petitions to Congress, the ability to gather national conferences, and convenient travel for its agents. The determination of southern postmasters to block abolitionist

67. Ibid., 62; Barbara Fields, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground (New Haven, 1985), 47–57; Elizabeth McHenry, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (Durham, N.C., 2002), 13.

68. Frederick Douglass in North Star, November 23, 1849.

mailings recognized the importance of the distribution of information to the cause of antislavery. In a world where people communicated and traveled, the continued existence of slavery in the United States when many other countries had abolished it came to seem anomalous and embarrassing. Suddenly, there was much more reason than ever before to pay attention to the formation of public opinion on this sensitive subject. “In November 1831, the Georgia legislature offered five thousand dollars for the apprehension of William Lloyd Garrison,” notes the historian Daniel Feller. “Who in Georgia, only a few years before, would have known or cared about the fulminations of an obscure Boston editor?”69

Meanwhile, the success that Frederick Douglass enjoyed on the lecture circuit brought its own problems. The better known Douglass became, the greater the danger that his owner would identify him and track him down. Furthermore, some incredulous hearers began to question whether he could possibly be an authentic former slave. An anxious white abolitionist advised Douglass not to seem too literate and articulate, but to “have a little of the plantation manner” in his speech. Douglass refused to let his well-meaning but irritating white friends control him; he insisted on being (as the historian Nathan Huggins put it) “his own man.”70

As a solution to the problems posed by his oratory and published Narrative, Douglass left the United States for an extended speaking tour of the British Isles in 1845–47. There he would not be liable to recapture as a fugitive; there audiences welcomed his eloquence. After the emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies in 1833, the British abolitionist movement had turned its attention to other countries, and especially the United States. Social reform, like literature, transcended boundaries in the English-speaking world of improved communication and transportation. Antislavery became one of many transatlantic reforms that included temperance, Sunday schools, missions to the heathen, the distribution of Bibles, and rights for women. Nineteenth-century reformers, their faith strengthened by the expectation that they worked to hasten the millennium and the Second Advent of Christ, were far more hopeful than reformers in our own chastened world. Douglass shared their confidence

69. Daniel Feller, “Rediscovering Jacksonian America,” in The State of U.S. History, ed. Melvyn Stokes (Oxford, 2002), 79. See further Jeannine DeLombard, Slavery on Trial: Law, Abolitionism, and Print Culture (Chapel Hill, 2007), esp. 101–27.

70. Parker Pillsbury, quoted in James B. Stewart, Holy Warriors, rev. ed. (New York, 1997), 142; Nathan Huggins, Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass (Boston, 1980), 38.

that right would triumph. He got along well with British reformers and intellectuals; he reached out to the working-class Chartists and Irish nationalists; he encouraged the Calvinist Free Church of Scotland to break relations with slaveholding Calvinists in the American South. His friends raised 150 pounds sterling (then $1,250) to buy out Thomas Auld’s legal claim to Frederick Bailey, so Frederick Douglass could return to the United States in safety.71

Welcomed back to America by his wife and children, Douglass found the abolition movement badly factionalized. Censorship of the mails had essentially frustrated the movement’s attempt to convert moderate southerners; within the slave states, only Kentucky managed to sustain its own abolition movement. As a result, abolitionist efforts had more and more come to focus on a northern audience. But the abolitionists disagreed among themselves about how best to influence this audience. A serious split developed among them over questions of tactics that stemmed from different attitudes toward American society as a whole.

Those who sided with William Lloyd Garrison found American government and society thoroughly corrupt. Besides the abolition of slavery, they also supported pacifism (nonresistance to evil), anarchism, and equal rights for women—causes so unpopular that they tainted opposition to slavery with the brush of ludicrous impracticality. (The Garrisonians’ professed pacifism, significantly, did nothing to reassure slaveholders, since Garrisonians were more likely, in practice, to condemn the violent suppression of slave escapes and revolts than the actions of the slaves themselves.)72 Garrisonians also usually embraced religious views outside the evangelical mainstream. They tended to be Unitarians, Transcendentalists, Hicksite Quakers, or “come-outers” who had seceded from their original denominations. (The expression referenced the biblical injunction, “Come out of her, my people, that ye not be partakers of her sins”— Revelation 18:4.) When an international antislavery convention meeting in London in 1840 refused to accept American women as delegates and relegated them to the visitors’ gallery, Garrison dramatically took a seat alongside the women instead of on the convention floor.73

71. David Turley, The Culture of English Antislavery (London, 1991); Alan Rice and Martin Crawford, eds., Liberating Sojourn: Frederick Douglass and Transatlantic Reform (Athens, Ga., 1999); William McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York, 1991), 119–45.

72. See John McKivigan and Stanley Harrold, eds., Antislavery Violence (Knoxville, Tenn., 1999).

73. Kathryn Sklar, Women’s Rights Emerges within the Anti-Slavery Movement (Boston, 2000); Henry Mayer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery (New York, 1998), 288–90.

Reacting against Garrison’s broad and radical agenda, in 1840 about half of the abolitionists seceded from the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) that he controlled; they organized the rival American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS), under Lewis Tappan’s leadership. Members of the AFASS considered slavery a grotesque anomaly in an otherwise relatively wholesome American society. They wanted abolitionism to function as one of the reforms within the evangelical “benevolent empire,” as had the colonization movement. While supporting temperance and the evangelical religious agenda of Bibles and missions, they stayed away from Garrison’s most radical “isms.” Instead of “coming out” from the churches, they hoped to work within and transform them.74But the Garrisonians’ religious beliefs generally alienated them from the Evangelical United Front that the Tappanites found congenial. In their stance toward the world, Garrisonians had more in common with members of utopian communities than with the international evangelical reform enterprise. Indeed, some utopian communities, such as those at Hopedale and Northampton, Massachusetts, had close explicit ties with Garrisonian abolitionism.75

The evangelical followers of Tappan were not necessarily any less bold than Garrisonians in their condemnation of slavery. Unlike the AASS, the AFASS never gave up all hope of influencing southern public opinion. In the 1840s the Tappanites sent courageous abolitionist missionaries into border and Upper South slave states, where they tried to reach blacks as well as whites, and got around postal censorship by distributing antislavery tracts in person. Although limited, their activity horrified southern politicians. (Into the Deep South, colonizationists might venture, but not abolitionists.)76

Perhaps surprisingly to us, not all abolitionist women joined the wing of their movement that took the strongest stand for women’s rights. Women were accustomed to benevolent activity within their acknowledged “sphere” and did not necessarily rush to expand it. Some abolitionist women thought opposition to slavery a higher priority than the pursuit of their own rights and felt Garrison needlessly tactless. As a result, some local women’s abolition societies affiliated with the evangelical AFASS,

74. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Lewis Tappan and the Evangelical War Against Slavery (Cleveland, 1969), 185–204; John McKivigan, The War Against Proslavery Religion (Ithaca, N.Y., 1984).

75. Christopher Clark, The Communitarian Moment (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995), 34–49.

76. Stanley Harrold, The Abolitionists and the South (Lexington, Ky., 1995), 85–95, 105–6. On colonizationists, see Victor Howard, Conscience and Slavery (Kent, Ohio, 1990).

and some tried to mediate between the old and the new organizations. Women provided the abolitionist movement with a “great silent army” of volunteers and fund-raisers. But factionalism within the abolition movement did hamper and discourage many of the local women’s societies.77

Actually, a number of abolitionists remained independent of both factions, notably Theodore Dwight Weld and his wife, the feminist-abolitionist Angelina Grimké. Their wedding in May 1838 brought together Garrison, Tappan, and an impressive guest list, including six former slaves of the Grimké family and representatives of all branches of reform.78 Weld, descended from distinguished evangelical forebears including Jonathan Edwards, had agitated for black rights while a student at Lyman Beecher’s Lane Seminary in Cincinnati. Converted by Charles Finney, he applied the evangelical itinerant preaching model to antislavery, recruiting a “holy band” of missionaries, who traveled, as he did, preaching immediate nationwide abolition. With the help of his wife and her sister Sarah, Weld compiled American Slavery as It Is (1839), a devastating documentation of the cruelties inflicted by the “peculiar institution” assembled from the testimony of eyewitnesses (sometimes former slaveholders), state legal codes, and the South’s own newspaper accounts and advertisements. Although abolitionists deplored slavery as a denial of human rights, natural and Christian, even when masters behaved decently, they seized opportunities to publicize examples of brutality. Corroborating the narratives of escaped slaves, Weld’s collection fed the growing public revulsion against the infliction of physical pain that manifested itself in the abolition of flogging in the armed forces and the criminal law. Within the year, the book sold one hundred thousand copies at thirty-seven cents.79

By adhering to the healthy diet prescribed by Sylvester Graham, Theodore Weld lived to the age of ninety-two, though his voice, over-taxed by too much public speaking, had given out many years before. In middle age, this man who had been such a firebrand in youth turned his attention away from agitation and toward another of the concerns typical of the American Renaissance, the development of children’s potential. He and his wife founded an academy in 1848, devoted to

77. Amy Swerdlow, “Abolition’s Conservative Sisters,” in The Abolitionist Sisterhood, ed. Jean Yellin and John Van Horn (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994), 31–44; Julie Jeffrey, The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism (Chapel Hill, 1998), 105–6, 139–44. See also Carolyn Lawes, Women and Reform in a New England Community (Lexington, Ky., 2000).

78. Stewart, Holy Warriors, 88–94; Robert Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling (New York, 1994), 226.

79. The book was republished in 1972, abridged and edited by Richard Curry and Joanna Cowden.

cultivating the pupils’ “inward unity” and preparing them for lives of service to others.80

Theodore Weld’s collaborators, his wife, Angelina Grimké Weld, and her older sister Sarah Grimké, came from an aristocratic slaveholding family in Charleston. They moved north to join the evangelical orthodox branch of the Philadelphia Society of Friends (Quakers). Later, they embraced postmillennial abolitionism. In 1837, Angelina began to address antislavery audiences of both sexes. She did not actually set out to defy conventional gender roles thus, but men kept showing up to hear her lectures.81 Still, American public opinion was unaccustomed to women speaking in public to “promiscuous” gatherings, the provocative term then used for groups that included both men and women. (Dorothea Dix’s lecture tours yet lay in the future.) The Grimké sisters took considerable criticism for allowing women’s rights to distract them from concentration on antislavery, even from people like Lydia Maria Child who agreed with their feminist principles. But other antislavery women also began to defy public opinion and speak out in public around the same time, among them Abigail Kelley and Lucretia Mott. Even when not pressing for women’s rights per se, their conspicuous activity in the public sphere made an implicit feminist statement. As Angelina wrote to the black abolitionist Sarah Douglass (no relation to Frederick), “We Abolition Women are turning the world upside down.”82

Garrison, who supported linking the causes of women and the slave, focused exclusively on moral and religious agitation and shunned politics. Moral principle took precedence over constitutional law for him, as it did for Henry David Thoreau. The constitutional guarantees for the protection of southern slavery, such as the clause mandating the return of fugitives, he called “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” applying the terms for an unholy alliance between ancient Israel and evil Assyria (Isaiah 28:15). In the existing state of American politics, voting seemed to him not only useless but a degrading participation in an immoral system. Garrison believed women should participate fully in the crusade against slavery. (In 1833 he went so far as to declare that “the destiny of the slaves is in the hands of the American women, and complete emancipation can never take place without their co-operation.”) He

80. Robert Abzug, Passionate Liberator (New York, 1980), 255; Norman Risjord, Representative Americans: The Romantics (New York, 2001), 243, 248.

81. Anna Speicher, The Religious World of Antislavery Women (Syracuse, N.Y., 2000), 110.

82. Quoted in Blanche Hersh, The Slavery of Sex: Feminist Abolitionists in America (Urbana, Ill., 1978), 29; Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling, 204–29.

feared that to engage in electoral politics would shunt women to the margins, since they did not have the vote.83

But some abolitionists came to believe that it would help their cause to organize a new political party and compete with the major parties in elections. They formed the Liberty Party. As their candidate in 1840 and 1844 they ran James G. Birney, a former Alabama plantation owner who converted to abolitionism in 1833, emancipated his slaves, and endured considerable persecution as well as financial hardship for his views. The Liberty Party’s slogan was “vote as you pray and pray as you vote.” Its program called for emancipation in the territories and the District of Columbia, and termination of the interstate slave trade, all of them measures that the Constitution permitted. Despite his honorable intentions, Birney secured a microscopic percentage of the popular vote in 1840 and but 2.3 percent in 1844. Historical analysis of the Liberty Party indicates that its little band of supporters came from among “middling people,” such as mechanics, shopkeepers, and petty professionals, who had left the semi-subsistence farming of their parents and embraced a new way of life in the emerging commercial areas of the North, usually small towns. These people rejected not only slavery but also patriarchal family relations and valued the autonomy of the individual.84

The Tappanites had no objection to political activity and often enjoyed mutually supportive relations with the Liberty Party. Garrisonians, on the other hand, pointed to the party’s meager achievements as confirming their own view that electoral politics did not constitute a promising arena for abolitionist activity; they also feared lest the Liberty Party be tempted to moderate its stand on slavery in the hope of picking up more votes. Probably most abolitionists drew the conclusion that it made sense to support antislavery candidates from the major parties. These were more often Whigs such as Joshua Giddings of Ohio, though there was the occasional exception like John P. Hale of New Hampshire, expelled from the state’s Democratic Party in 1845 for his antislavery stands.85

Frederick Douglass, along with other black abolitionists, found himself in a difficult position between the quarreling groups of white abolitionists.

83. Mayer, All on Fire, 263–84; Garrison is quoted by Debra Gold Hansen in “The Boston Female Antislavery Society,” in Yellin and Van Horn, Abolitionist Sisterhood, 59.

84. Bruce Laurie, Beyond Garrison: Antislavery and Social Reform (Cambridge, Eng., 2005), 7, 61; Michael Pierson, Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics (Chapel Hill, 2003), 7.

85. Jeffrey, Great Silent Army, p. 163; see further in Richard Sewell, Ballots for Freedom (New York, 1976), 3–79.

The African American leadership included former slaves like William Wells Brown, Sojourner Truth, and Douglass himself alongside others born free like James Forten and Robert Purvis. Some had been educated at Finney’s Oberlin, like John Mercer Langston. More came from the clergy than any other profession, Henry Highland Garnet and Samuel Cornish among them. A few prominent African Americans like Alexander Crummell and Martin Delaney continued to consider emigration a serious option. The black abolitionists regretted the division of the antislavery movement. They admired Garrison’s courage. Douglass paid tribute to the contribution of women to abolitionism: “When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written,” he declared, “women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman’s cause.”86 Nevertheless, the black abolitionists had an agenda of their own, and it included getting involved in politics whenever possible. Most states, even in the North, prohibited them from voting. While black abolitionists continued to endorse self-improvement within their own community, they also turned increasingly to opposing racial discrimination in the free states. White abolitionists joined with them in protests and boycotts that sometimes succeeded in desegregating northern public facilities. The civil rights demonstrators of the 1960s could invoke the example of their antebellum precursors and called themselves “the new abolitionists.”87

The “underground railroad”—a network of safe houses that sheltered escaped slaves—operated mostly through African Americans like William Still, though some white abolitionists participated too. One of the reasons southern members of Congress opposed emancipation in the District of Columbia so strongly was their fear that it would become a hive of rescue activity for the underground railroad—as, to some extent, it became anyway. In 1848, a well-financed mass escape of seventy-six slaves from Washington, all of whom got aboard the steamship Pearl bound for Philadelphia, was thwarted and most of the people sent to New Orleans for sale. The ship’s white operators were sentenced to long prison terms but pardoned by Whig president Millard Fillmore in 1852.88As this episode indicates, slave rescue efforts became bolder as the 1840s went by. At the same time, masters found the recovery of their escapees more

86. Quoted in Jeffrey, Great Silent Army, xiii.

87. James B. Stewart, “Modernizing ‘Difference’: The Political Meanings of Color in the Free States,” JER 19 (1999): 691–712.

88. Stanley Harrold, Subversives: Antislavery Community in Washington, DC (Baton Rouge, 2003); Josephine Pacheco, The Pearl (Chapel Hill, 2005).

difficult. A complicated decision written by Justice Story of the Supreme Court in 1842 (Prigg v. Pennsylvania) left northern state officials free to wash their hands of responsibility for returning fugitive slaves, and increasingly northern state legislatures instructed them to do so. Runaways found their safest asylum in Canada, though until 1850 they could feel reasonably secure in the free Negro neighborhoods of northern cities. According to one estimate, about thirty thousand escaped slaves settled in Ontario, the province where most went.89

Southern resentment of this situation led to passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, establishing a federal bureaucracy to enforce rendition. Abolitionists responded to the new legislation with ever more drastic rescue measures. Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the underground railroad and a refugee from slavery herself, began her rescue work in the 1850s. The Transcendentalist intellectuals encouraged and endorsed resistance to the hated law. Thoreau succored an escaped slave at Walden Pond and fervently denounced the power of “Slavery in Massachusetts”; Emerson inspired Yankee abolitionists to try to free the fugitive Anthony Burns from custody in 1854; later in the 1850s, Theodore Parker even conspired with the revolutionary antislavery plot of John Brown.90 Slavery was unpopular enough in some parts of the North (such as rural Quaker Pennsylvania and the “burned-over district” of New York) that mobs could be formed to release fugitives whom the authorities had apprehended, although only a handful of people (twenty-six, to be precise) were saved in this manner.91

In 1847 Frederick Douglass moved from New England to the burned-over district, where he edited a newspaper in Rochester called the North Star, borrowing its title from the fleeing slave’s nighttime guide. Financial backing for starting up the paper came from the white philanthropist Gerrit Smith, who also donated land in upstate New York for poor black families to form the utopian community called Timbucto. Douglass and Smith associated themselves with the political wing of abolitionism, the Liberty Party.92

89. Robin Winks, Blacks in Canada, 2nd ed. (Montreal, 1997), 233–41. The latest account of the underground railroad is Fergus Bordewich, Bound for Canaan (New York, 2005).

90. See Albert von Frank, The Trials of Anthony Burns: Liberty and Antislavery in Emerson’s Boston (Cambridge, Mass., 1998).

91. David Grimsted, American Mobbing (New York, 1998), 74–82.

92. On Timbucto, New York, see John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), 141–58.

Douglass participated forcefully in the severe critique that abolitionists of all factions leveled at the churches for not dissociating themselves unequivocally from slavery. “I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ,” he wrote in his autobiographical Narrative; “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” Likening the American churches to the Pharisees whom Jesus denounced for hypocrisy, he quoted, “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4).93 As time went by, Douglass’s estrangement from the mainstream churches only increased, and his personal religion came to approximate that of the Transcendentalists, a celebration of the spiritual and moral potential inherent in the human individual. But his unquenchable optimism about the future continued to manifest a kind of millennialism, such as he had heard from African American preachers. And, to the end of his life, he remained supportive of the black churches “because upon the whole, I think they contribute to the improvement and moral elevation of those who come within the reach of their influence” and advance the cause of “truth.”94

Margaret Fuller admired Frederick Douglass as an exemplar of “the powers of the Black Race.”95 Douglass wished to see himself as a man who transcended racial differences, a “Representative Man” in the Emersonian sense of one who demonstrated the potentialities of human nature. He shared the Transcendentalists’ celebration of a human nature common to all races and nationalities and, like them, hoped America would be the place where this common nature would achieve its fullest expression. As Emerson put it:

In this continent,—asylum of all nations,—the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European tribes,—of the Africans, and of the Polynesians will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature.96

Douglass, like Emerson, put his faith in an American melting pot, out of which would spring a new humanity. Strong advocate of racial integration

93. Douglass, Narrative, 120–21.

94. David Blight, Frederick Douglass’s Civil War (Baton Rouge, 1989), 1–25; FD to Theophilous Gould Steward, July 27, 1886, in The Oxford Frederick Douglass Reader, ed. William Andrews (New York, 1996), 312.

95. New York Tribune, June 10, 1845.

96. Quoted in Waldo Martin Jr., The Mind of Frederick Douglass (Chapel Hill, 1984), 223.

and equal opportunity, he scorned to take refuge in any form of black separatism. One of his reasons for speaking and writing in standard nineteenth-century literary English, rather than an African American dialect, was to underscore his message of cosmopolitan universalism.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass was a self-made man in a century that cherished the ideal of self-making. When the two met for the first time in the White House during the Civil War, Douglass sensed that the president treated him with no taint of condescension and regarded him as a kindred spirit—a man who had dedicated himself, as Lincoln had, to self-improvement. Having often doubted Lincoln in the past, Douglass came away from their encounter profoundly reassured. Two more meetings later confirmed this favorable impression.97


Southerners since the time of Jefferson had frequently apologized that slavery was not a system of their own making, but one they had inherited and of which they could only make the best. Abolitionists regarded this line of defense as an evasion; in response, they insisted upon the moral responsibility of each individual under every circumstance to do right. The abolitionists strongly affirmed one of the basic premises of the American Renaissance: the power and trustworthiness of the human conscience. No more forceful statement of their moral stance exists than a poem published in December 1845 by the abolitionist James Russell Lowell, husband of Margaret Fuller’s disciple Maria White Lowell. In it the poet affirms millennial confidence in the long-term providence of God, while declaring that the ultimate victory of the right depends for now upon the courageous witness of a prophetic few.

Once to every man and nation

Comes the moment to decide

In the strife of truth with falsehood,

For the good or evil side....

Then it is the brave man chooses,

While the coward stands aside

Till the multitude make virtue

Of the faith they have denied....

Though the cause of evil prosper,

Yet ’tis truth alone is strong,

Though her portion be the scaffold

97. Frederick Douglass, Autobiographies, ed. Henry Louis Gates (New York, 1994), 798; James Oakes, The Radical and the Republican (New York, 2007), 211, 216, 232, 242.

And upon the throne be wrong,

Yet that scaffold sways the future,

And behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow

Keeping watch above his own.98

Lowell’s verses, like Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” and Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life,” evoke the heroic moral striving of the American Renaissance. Lowell entitled his poem “The Present Crisis,” by which he meant the pending action by Congress to make the Republic of Texas one of the states in the American Union. Why an abolitionist believed Texas annexation presented a moral crisis requires explanation.

98. Excerpted from James Russell Lowell, Poems, Second Series (Cambridge, Mass., 1848), 53–62; orig. pub. in the Boston Courier, Dec. 11, 1845. The words were subsequently adapted as a hymn. For dating, I rely on Leon Howard, Victorian Knight Errant: James Russell Lowell (Berkeley, 1952), 214–15.

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