Page 1

JK

1763 F7

1880


1


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE OLD SOUTH CHURCH, March

30, 1878.

BY

RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

BOSTON: HOUGHTON, OSGOOD AND COMPANY. (Pe

Htoermfce Ipreacf, (JDarabnUff* .

1880.


Copyright, 1878,

BT RALPH

WALDO

All rights reserved.

RIVERSIDE, CAMBRIDGE:

STEREOTYPED AND FEINTED BY H- 0.

HOUOHTON AND COMPANT.


JK 7

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

IT

is

a rule that holds in economy as well

you must have a source

as in hydraulics, that

higher than your tap.

The

mills, the shops,

the theatre and the caucus, the college and

the church, have

The lose

sailors sail

all

two or three seconds

Newton explained

way

found out

to

this secret.

by chronometers that do not to

in

a year, ever since

Parliament that the

improve navigation was to get good

watches, and to offer public premiums for a better

time-keeper than

any then in

use.

The manufacturers

rely on turbines of hy-

draulic

the carpet-mill, on mor-

perfection

;

iants and dyes which exhaust the skill of the chemist

;

the calico print, on designers


2

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

of genius

who draw

the wages of artists, not

Wedgewood, the eminent potbravely took the sculptor Flaxman to

of artisans. ter,

counsel,

who

museums

" Send to Italy, search the

said,

for the forms of old

sels of all kinds."

called

their

They

Etruscan vases,

and

urns, water-pots, domestic

sacrificial ves-

built great

works and

manufacturing village Etruria.

Greek

Flaxman, with

his

combined the

loveliest

executed in English clay

taste, selected

sent boxes of these

;

as gifts to every court of Europe,

the taste of the world. of the breakfast table

It

and

and

which were

forms,

and formed

was a renaissance china-closet.

The

brave manufacturers made their fortune. The jewellers imitated the revived models in

sil-

ver and gold.

The

theatre avails itself of the best talent

of poet, of painter,

make

and

of

amateur

the ensemble of dramatic

marine insurance

office

has

counsellor to settle averages

its ;

of taste, to

effect.

The

mathematical

the life-assur-


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

The wine mer-

ance, its table of annuities.

chant has his analyst and

He

quisite the better.

3

taster,

the more ex-

has also, I fear, his

debts to the chemist as well as to the vineyard.

Our modern wealth

stands on a few staples,

and the interest nations took in our war was exasperated by the importance of the cotton trade. of

And what

is

cotton

One

?

plant out

some two hundred thousand known to the

botanist, vastly the larger part of

And what

reckoned weeds.

is

which are

a weed

?

A

plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered, every one of the two hundred thousand probably yet to be of utility in the arts.

As Bacchus

wheat, as

of the vine,

Ceres of the

Arkwright and Whitney were the

demi-gods of cotton, so bring an inventor

to

prolific

Time

every plant.

not a property in nature but a mind to

seek and find

it.

For

it

is

will yet

There is

is

born

not the plants

or the animals, innumerable as they are, nor


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

4

the whole magazine of material nature that

sum

can give the

of power,

but the

new

thinking man, every equivalent to a

new

infinite

hands of

applicability of these things in the

application being

material.

Our sleepy civilization, ever since Roger and Monk Schwartz invented gun-

Bacon

powder, has built fortification

its

whole art

by land and

sea,

of

all

all

war, drill

and

military education, on that one compound,

an extension of a gun-barrel,

all is

and

is

very scornful about bows and arrows, and reckons

Ages

Greeks and

little

Romans and Middle

better than Indians

arrow times.

As

if

and bow-and-

the earth, water, gases,

lightning and caloric had not a million energies,

the discovery of any one of which could

change the art of war again, and put an end to

wai by the exterminating forces man can

apply.

Now,

if

this is true in all the useful

in the fine arts, that the direction

and

must be


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

drawn from a superior source be no good work, does social

and

or there will

hold

less in

our

civil life ?

In our popular

politics

who

each aspirant

however

it

5

at first

rises

making

ticeship in party tactics,

you may note that above the crowd,

his obedient apprenif

he have sagacity,

by no means by obeythe of his party, the weathercock ing vulgar of it, that the and whims resentments, fears, soon learns that

is

it

power is gained, but that he must often and resist the party, and abide by his that the resistance, and put them in fear real

face

;

title to

only

their

a larger following, is

permanent respect, and to is to see for himself what

the real public interest, and to stand for

that

;

that

is

a principle, and

all

the cheer-

ing and hissing of the crowd must by and

accommodate afford

itself

to

it.

Our times

you very good examples. of water and all fluids

The law wit.

Prince Metternich

said,

is

by

easily

true of

" Revolutiona


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

6

begin in the best heads and run steadily to the populace."

It

down

a very old observa-

is

tion; not truer because Metternich said

and not

it,

less true.

There have been revolutions which were not in the interest of feudalism and barba-

And

rism, but in that of society.

these are

distinguished not by the numbers of the com-

batants nor the numbers of the slain, but

No

the motive.

interest

now

by

attaches to the

wars of York and Lancaster, to the wars of

German,

French,

and

emperors,

Spanish

which were only dynastic wars, but to those These in which a principle was involved. are read with passionate interest and never lose their pathos is

aimed by

by time.

ideas,

convictions are behind

what they

live for,

When

the cannon

when men with it,

die for

and the mainspring that

works daily urges them to hazard the cannon articulates voice of a

religious

when men

its

man, then the

all,

then

explosions with the

rifle

seconds the can-


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

7

non and the fowling-piece the rifle, and the women make the cartridges, and all shoot at one mark

;

then gods join in the

combat

;

then poets are born, and the better code of laws at last records the victory.

Now

the culmination of these triumphs of

humanity

and which did

the extinction of slavery

virtually include is

the planting of

America.

At

every

moment some one country more

than any other represents the sentiment and the

future of

mankind.

None

will

doubt

that America occupies this place in the opinion of nations, as

is

proved by the fact

of the

vast immigration into this country from all the nations of Western and Central Europe.

And when the selves

the

adventurers have planted them-

and looked about, they send back

money they can

all

spare to bring their

friends.

Meantime they

find this country just pass-

ing through a great

crisis

in its history, as


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

8

necessary as lactation or dentition or puberty to

the

days

human

We

individual.

settling for ourselves

are in these

and our descend-

ants questions which, as they shall be deter-

mined

in one

or the other, will

way

make

the peace and prosperity or the calamity of

The

the next ages.

questions of Education,

of Society, of Labor, the direction of talent, of

and habits

character, the nature

American,

may

of the

well occupy us, and more the

question of Religion.

The new

conditions of

mankind in America

are really favorable to progress, the removal of

absurd restrictions and antique inequali-

ties. is

The mind

used, and here

humblest

is

is

always better the more

it is

daily challenged to give his opin-

ion on practical questions, social

freedom

sense.

trance -mediums,

and while

civil

and

exists, nonsense even has a

favorable effect.

common

it

The

kept in practice.

Cant

The

is

good to provoke Church, the

Catholic

the rebel paradoxes,

exas-


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

common

perate the

The

sense.

paradox, the more sure

is

Punch

9

wilder the

to put it in

the pillory.

The lodging

the power in the people, as in

republican forms, has the

common

things closer to

effect of

holding

sense; for a court

or an aristocracy, which must always be a

more

run into

small

minority,

follies

than a republic, which has too

to allow its :

easily

many

each with a vote in his hand,

observers,

nonsense

can

head

to

be turned by any kind of

since hunger, thirst, cold, the cries

of children,

and debt, are always holding the

masses hard to the essential duties.

One hundred

years ago the American peo-

ple attempted to carry out the bill of political rights to

have since.

an almost ideal perfection.

made great

They

are

by their success, to

strides

now

bill of

human

duties.

They

direction

proceeding, instructed

and by

carry out not the

in that

their

bill of

many

failures,

rights,

but the


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

10

And

look what revolution that attempt

of

in-

Hitherto government has been that

volves.

the single

person or of the aristocracy.

In this country the attempt to it is

elements,

resist these

must throw us into

asserted,

the government not quite of mobs, but in practice

of

politicians,

an inferior

class of

who by means

of

professional

newspapers and

caucuses really thrust their unworthy minority into the place of the old aristocracy

one

side,

and

taught but unambitious other,

win the posts

direction to affairs.

and

on the

of the good, industrious, well-

legislatures

of

population on the

power, and give their

Hence

ordain,

liberal congresses

to

the surprise of

the people, equivocal, interested, and vicious

measures.

The men themselves

are suspected

and charged with lobbying and being lobbied. No measure is attempted for itself, but the opinion of the people place,

and the

is

measures

Carried through as

courted in the are

secondary.

first

perfun.ctorily

We

do not


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. choose our

own

man's

choice,

first

candidate,

11

candidate, no, nor any other

whom,

but only the available

perhaps, no

man

We

loves.

do not speak what we think, but grope after the practicable and available. Instead of there

character,

tered.

mind

are

They

country

is

is

a studious exclusion of

The people

character.

not

are feared

and

flat-

The

reprimanded.

governed in bar-rooms, and in the

of bar-rooms.

The low can

best

win

the low, and each aspirant for power vies

with his rival which can stoop lowest, and depart widest from himself.

The

partisan on moral, even on religious

questions, will choose a proven

can answer the tionate, noble

ing to be a

The

tests,

gentleman ; the partisan ceasthat he may be a sectarian.

man

spirit of

and degrading.

our political economy

The

own

is

low

precious metals are not

so precious as they are esteemed. for his

who

rogue

over an honest, affec-

sake, and not to

Man

exists

add a laborer


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

12

to the state.

The

spirit of

our political ac-

most part, considers nothing less than the sacredness of man. Party sacrifices tion, for the

man

to the measure.

We have seen

the great party of property

and education in the country

drivelling

and

Huckstering away, for views of party fear or

advantage, every principle of humanity and the dearest hopes of mankind; the trustees of

power only energetic when mischief could evil was to

be done, imbecile as corpses when be prevented.

Our great men succumb of the

day

so far to the forms

as to peril their integrity for the

sake of adding to the weight of their personal character the authority of

ing a real government are full of adventurers, cation

and

social

the state, break

office,

titular.

or

mak-

politics

who having by edu-

innocence a good repute in

away from

the law of hon-

esty and think they can afford devil's party.

Our

to join the

'Tis odious, these offenders in


13

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. high

life.

You

rally to the support of old

charities

and the cause

there, to

be sure, are these brazen

of

literature, faces.

and In

you are puzzled how to meet them; must shake hands with them, under this innocence

We

protest. ister

feel

toward them as the min-

about the Cape Cod farm,

time when the minister was

still

make a prayer

the spring, to

ing of a piece of land, to

in the old

invited, in

for the bless-

the good pastor

the spot, stopped short

being brought " No, this land does not want a prayer, this :

land wants manure." " 'T

is

virtue which they want,

Honor no garment

and wanting

it,

to their backs can fit."

Parties keep the old names, but exhibit a surprising fugacity in

creeping out of one

snake-skin into another of equal ignominy

and

and the grasshopper on the

lubricity,

turret of Faneuil Hall gives a proper hint of

the

men

below.

Everything

yields.

The very

glaciers are


14

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

viscous or regelate into conformity,

and the

and compromise; so patriots that will cannot be depended on to save us. falter

Btiffest

How

rare are acts of will to custom

living according

people do,

all

;

and shrink from an act

Every such act makes a can

We

!

we do

man

count the few cases,

when a

our time,

are all as

of our

other

own.

famous, and we half a dozen in

public

man

ventured to

act as he thought, without waiting for orders or for public opinion.

was a man

John Quincy Adams

of an audacious independence that

always kept the public curiosity alive in regard to what he might do. dict his word,

not gainsay

it

None

could pre-

and a whole congress could when it was spoken. General

man of will, and his phrase on one memorable occasion, " I will take the Jackson was a

responsibility,"

is

a proverb ever

since.

The American marches with a swagger to the height less of his

own

of

careless

power, very heed-

liberty, or of other peoples',


FORTUNE OF THE EEPUBLIC. in his reckless confidence that all

he wants, risking

human

of the

revolutions

race,

and

all

15

he can have

the prized charters

bought with battles and

religion,

gambling them

all

for a paltry selfish gain.

away

He

sits

secure in the possession of his vast

domain, rich beyond

all

experience in re-

sources, sees its inevitable force unlocking itself in

year

;

elemental order day by day, year by looks from his coal-fields, his wheat-

bearing prairie, his gold-mines, to his two oceans on either side, and feels

.the security

no famine in a country reaching through so many latitudes, no want that cannot be supplied, no danger from any that

there can be

excess of importation of art or learning into

a country of such native strength, such im-

mense digestive power. In proportion to the personal ability

of

each man, he feels the invitation and career

which the country opens to him. fed with

He

is

easily

wheat and game, with Ohio wine, but


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

16

his brain is also

by

political

pampered by finer draughts, power and by the power in the

railroad board, in

This elevates his

the mills, or the banks.

spirits

and

gives, of course,

an easy self-reliance that makes him willed and unscrupulous. I think this levity

is

self-

a reaction on the peo-

ple from the extraordinary advantages and invitations of their condition.

When we

are

most disturbed by their rash and immoral voting,

They

it is

not malignity, but recklessness.

are careless of politics, because they do

not entertain the possibility of being seriously

caught in meshes of

legislation.

strong and irresistible.

They

They

feel

believe that

what they have enacted they can repeal if it. But one may run a risk once too often. They stay away from the

they do not like

polls,

saying that one vote can do no good

!

Or they take another step, and say one vote can do no harm and vote for something !

which they do not approve, because

their


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

17

Of course

this puts

party or set votes for

them in the power

it.

any party having a which does not

of

steady interest to promote, conflict manifestly

of the voters.

with the pecuniary interest

But

if

they should come to be

interested in themselves

and in

their career,

they would no more stay away from the election than

from their own counting-room or

the house of their friend.

The people

are right-minded

enough on

but they must pay their debts, and must have the means of living ethical

well,

questions,

and not pinching. So it is useless to them to go to a meeting, or to give a

rely on vote,

if

money

any check from

side arises.

If a

at their newspaper, or of

this must-have-the-

customer looks grave

damns

their

member

Congress, they take another newspaper,

and vote for another man.

They must have

a certain style of living fast bemoney, comes necessary ; they must take wine at the for

hotel, first, for the look of

it,

and second,

for


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

18

the purpose of sending the bottle to

two

or

and presently, because they have got the taste, and do not feel that they have dined without it. three gentlemen at the table

The

record of the election

alarms

people by the

choice of a rogue

was

it

;

done

?

now and

but

all

and brawler.

What

lawless

mob

then

unanimous

But how burst into

the polls and threw in these hundreds of bal-

the magistrates?

This

was done by the very men you know,

the

lots

defiance

in

most

mildest,

The

of

sensible,

best-natured people.

only account of this

is,

that they have

been scared or warped into some association in their

mind

of the candidate

with the in-

terest of their trade or of their property.

Whilst each cabal urges at last brings, with cheers strations,

men whose names

in

candidate,

and

are a knell to

all

good and wise are hidtheir active retirements, and are quite

.lope of progress, the

den

its

and street-demon-

out of question.


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. '

These we must join

That

to wake, for these are of the strain

justice dare defend,

Yet we know, integrity,

all

and

will the

age maintain."

over this country,

the public, mortified

disgrace,

men

of

capable of action and of affairs,

with the deepest sympathy in 2erns

19

and quite capable

all

that con-

by the of

any

national sacrifice

except of their honor.

Faults in the working appear in our system, as in edies.

all,

but they suggest their own rem-

After every practical mistake, out of

which any disaster grows, the people wake and correct it with energy. And any disturbances in

politics, in civil or

foreign wars,

sober them, and instantly show more virtue

and conviction in the popular

new

vote.

In each

threat of faction the ballot has been,

beyond expectation, right and decisive. 'Tis ever an inspiration, God only knows whence; a sudden, undated perception of eternal right coming into and correcting


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

20

that were wrong; a perception that

things

thousands

through

passes

as

readily

as

through one.

The

gracious lesson taught

this country

from less tion,

first

is,

by

science to

that the history of nature

to last

incessant advance from

is

more, from rude to finer organiza-

to

the globe of

matter thus conspiring

with the principle of undying hope in man.

Nature works in immense time, and spends individuals

new

and races prodigally to prepare

individuals and races.

The lower kinds

are one after one extinguished

forms come

in.

The

;

the higher

history of civilization,

or the refining of certain races to wonderful

power

of performance,

best civilization yet

is

is

analogous

;

but the

only valuable as a

ground of hope. Ours is the country

Here of poor men. here is the human democracy; practical race pouredout over the continent to do itself

is

'ustice

;

all

mankind

in its shirt-sleeves

;

not


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

men

grimacing like poor rich

21

in cities, pre-

tending to be rich, but unmistakably taking off its coat

really, it

when

labor

though you see wealth in the

and

at sparse points

population is

twelfth

is

;

sure

For

capitals,

men

in the

the bulk of the

In Maine, nearly every In Massachusetts, every

poor.

a lumberer.

man

is

the country.

all

only a sprinkling of rich

is

cities

man

to hard work,

This through

to pay.

a shoemaker, and the rest,

is

millers, farmers, sailors, fishermen.

Well, the result

instead of the doleful

is,

experience of the European economist, who " In almost all countries the conditells us,

tion of the great

body

of the people is

poor

and miserable," here that same great body has arrived at a sloven plenty,

;

ham and

enough have an unbuttoned comfort, not

corn-cakes, tight roof,

been attained

and

coals

clean, not thoughtful, far

from polished, with-

out dignity in his repose

;

and

restless

if

the

man awkward

he have not something to do,


22

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

but honest and kind, for the most part, understanding his

own

rights

and

stiff

to

main-

and disposed to give his children a better education than he received. tain them,

The

steady

improvement of the public and the country enables

schools in the cities

the farmer or laborer to secure a precious

primary education. It is rare to find a born American who cannot read and write. The with which

facility

young men and

are

clubs

formed

by

for discussion of social, political,

intellectual topics secures the notoriety

of the questions.

Our

institutions, of

unit, are

all

educates

fast.

which the town

educational,

The town meeting

the high school, a higher school. islature,

once on

The tion,,

to

is

the

for responsibility is,

The

after leg-

which every good farmer goes

trial, is

a superior academy.

result appears in the

power

of inven-

the freedom of thinking, in the readi-

ness for reforms, eagerness for novelty, even


23

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. for

all

the follies of false science

antipathy to secret societies, in the

in the

;

predom-

inance of the Democratic party in the politics of the Union,

and in the voice

of the public

even when irregular and vicious,

the voice

because

of

mobs, the voice of lynch law,

is

thought to be, on the whole, the verdict,

it

though badly spoken, of the greatest number. All this forwardness and self-reliance cover self-government; proceed on the belief that as the people have

can

make another

are not in their

and condition. can easily ster's

made

;

memory, but in their blood they unmake a law, they

If

make a new

In Mr.

one.

Web-

imagination the American Union was Rupert's drop, which will

a huge Prince

snap into atoms,

if

end be shivered

off.

different

from

law-abiding. xio

a government they

that their union and law

so

much

Now

as the smallest

the fact

is

quite

this.

The people

are loyal,

They

prefer order,

and have

taste for misrule

and uproar.


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

24

America was opened after the feudal miswas spent, and so the people made a

chief

start.

good

We

No inquisibegan well. no nobles, no dominant

tion here, no kings,

Here heresy has

church.

lost

its

terrors.

We

have eight or ten religions in every large town, and the most that comes of it a degree or two on the thermometer of

is

-

fashion

an

a

;

pew

in a particular church gives

easier entrance to the

We

subscription

ball.

began with freedom, and are defended

from shocks now for a century by the facility with which through popular assemblies every necessary measure of reform can instantly be carried. tion,

A

is

congress

a standing insurrec-

and escapes the violence

grievance.

As

of

the globe keeps

by perpetual change,

accumulated its

identity

so our civil system,

by

perpetual appeal to the people and accept-

ance of

its

reforms.

The government opinions

of

all

is

classes,

acquainted with

the

knows the leading


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

men

in the middle

knows the

class,

leaders

The President comes

of the humblest class.

near enough to these

25

;

he does not, the

if

the primary ward and town

caucus does,

meeting, and what

is

important does reach

him.

The men, shrill

the women,

indignation at

becoming of

all

over this land

their exclamations of impatience

what

in the

is

short-coming or at the

government,

humanity, of morality,

grounds of general

justice,

is

and un-

want

ever on broad

and not on the

which narrows the perception German people at home.

class-feeling

of English, French,

In this

we are a' nation of inwe have a highly intellectual that we can see and feel moral

fact, that

dividuals, that

organization, distinctions,

and that on such an organizamust tell,

tion sooner or later the moral laws to

such ears must speak,

hope.

For

if

in this

is

our

the prosperity of this country

has been merely the obedience

of

man

to


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

26

the guiding of nature, prairies,

is

yet

choose to speak this language; is

and

fate in corn

and

of great rivers

there fate above fate,

cotton, so

if

is

we

there

or, if

there fate

this, namely, that the largest

in thought,

thought and the widest love are born to victory,

and must

The

prevail.

revolution

the work of no man, but

is

the eternal effervescence of nature.

And we

did not work.

It

never

say that revolutions

beat all the insurgents, be they never so de-

termined and

politic

;

that the great interests

mankind, being at every moment through ages in favor of justice and the largest liber-

of

ty, will always,

from time to time, gain on Never

the adversary and at last win the day.

country had such a fortune, as tune, as this, in

and

its

men

call for-

its

history,

geography,

in its majestic possibilities.

We

have much to learn, much to correct,

a great deal of lying vanity. eagle must

fold his foolish wings

The spread and be

less


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. of a peacock

must keep

;

the thunderbolt

must

Our

realize

when he

it

is

wings to carry

commanded.

our rhetoric

national flag

be, because

his

is

27

and our

not affecting, as

We

rituals.

it

should

does not represent the popula-

some Balti-

tion of the United States, but

more or Chicago or Cincinnati

or Philadelphia

caucus; not union or justice, but selfishness

denial,

If we never put on the libertywe were freemen by love and selfthe liberty-cap would mean some-

thing.

I wish to see

and cunning. cap until

America not

like the

old powers of the earth, grasping, exclusive,

and narrow, but a benefactor such country ever was, hospitable to legislating for all nationalities.

made were

to help each other as ;

and

all

advancement

no

Nations were

much is

as

all nations,

by

as families ideas,

and

not by brute force or mechanic force.

In this country, with our practical understanding, there

is,

at present, a great sensual-

Ism, a headlong devotion to trade

and to the


28

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

conquest of the continent,

to each

man

as

large a share of the same as he can carve

an extravagant confidence in

for himself,

our talent and activity, which becomes, whilst successful,

a scornful materialism,

the fault, of course, that

it

reserved force whereon to

but with

has no depth, no fall

back when a

reverse comes.

That repose which ripeness of

man

is

is

the ornament and

That

not American.

re-

pose which indicates a faith in the laws of the universe, selves,

a faith that they will

gressed, or accelerated. slight

fulfil

and

vain.

easily depressed.

Our people

They See how

too

fast they extend

not at

considering the remote reaction and bank-

ruptcy, but with the same the

are

are easily elated and

the fleeting fabric of their trade, all

them-

and are not to be impeded, trans-

moment and

Esquimaux who

Our people

abandonment

to

the facts of the hour as the sells his

act on the

bed in the morning.

moment, and from

ex-


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. ternal impulse.

and

They

of his merit.

low

They

other,

and not from insight

follow a fact

and not

success,

some

lean on

all

this superstitiously,

29

skill.

fol-

they

;

as

Therefore,

soon as the success stops and the admirable

man

him

blunders, they quit

;

already they

remember that they long ago suspected judgment, and they transfer the repute judgment

to the next prosperous person

Of course

has not yet blundered.

makes them

as easily despond.

his

of

who

this levity

It

seems as

history gave no account of any society in which despondency came so readily to heart if

as

we

see

it

and

and even

vivacity,

and

prise

if

Young men

feel it in ours.

at thirty

earlier lose all spring

they

fail in their first

and

enter-

throw up the game.

The ficulty

source of mischief

with which

men

torpor of every day. tates the mass, breaks

gins motion.

is

the extreme dif-

are roused from the

Blessed

is all

this torpor,

up Corpora non agunt

that agi-

and be-

nisi soluta

,


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

30

the chemical rule

is

true in mind.

Contrast

change, interruption, are necessary to tivity

If

new

ac-

and new combinations.

a temperate wise

man

should look over

our American society, I think the

first

dan-

ger that would excite his alarm would be the

European buy much

men

better

which

is

:

country.

We

Europe that does not make us and mainly the expensiveness

ruining that country.

We

import

dancers, singers, laces, books of pat-

trifles,

terns,

influences on this of

modes, gloves, and cologne, manuals of

Gothic architecture, steam-made ornaments.

America

is

It

provincial.

is

an immense

Halifax.

See the secondariness and aping

of foreign

and English

life,

that runs through

this country, in building, in dress, in eating,

in books.

Every

village,

every city has

its

architecture, its costume, its hotel, its private

house, its church from England.

Our

politics

threaten her.

Her manners


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. threaten us.

Life

costly, that

it

31

grown and growing

is

threatens to kill us.

A

so

man

coming here as there to value himself on what he can buy. Worst of all, his ex-

is

not his own, but a far

is

pense

Osborne House or the of this is to

make

Elyse*e.

all

men

channels of inspiration from

We

lose

our

own

life.

bread

book of

It is

makes

tailor ;

man no

up

God

all

in

and descend

invention

A

copy of

alike; to extin-

guish individualism and choke

imitation.

off

The tendency the

man. into

longer conducts his

manufactured for him.

your dress

;

The

the baker your

from an imported your furniture; the Bishop

the upholsterer

of patterns

London your

faith.

In the planters of this country, in

the

seventeenth century, the conditions of the

country combined with the impatience of arbitrary

power which they brought from Engthem to a wonderful personal in-

!and, forced

dependence and to a certain heroic planting

.


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

32

and trading.

Later this strength appeared

in the solitudes of the

made

a hero

by

West, where a

man

is

the varied emergencies of his

and neighborhoods must combine

lonely farm,

against the Indians, or the horse-thieves, or

the river rowdies, by organizing themselves into committees of vigilance.

Thus the land

and sea educate the people, and bring out presence of mind, self-reliance, and hundred-

handed

These are the people

activity.

for

an emergency. They are not to be surprised, and can find a way out of any peril. This rough and ready force becomes them, and

makes them if

fit

citizens

we found them

tions,

and

civilizers.

But

clinging to English tradi-

which are graceful enough at home, as

the English Church, and entailed estates, and distrust of popular election,

we should

feel

this reactionary, and absurdly out of place. Let the passion for America cast out the

passion for Europe. the

earth

waits

Here for,

let there

exalted

be what

manhood,


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

What

country longs for

this

33

is personalities,

grand persons, to counteract its materialities. For it is the rule of the universe that corn shall serve

man, and not man corn.

They who

America

find

whom London and own homes,

can be spared to return to those

I not only see a career at

cities.

more genius than we have, but there

is

The

which

play whist

;

in

They

cities,

for

make themselves sit

in decorated

and burn tobacco and

the country they

sit idle in

and bar-rooms, and burn tobacco, and

gossip and sleep.

American

ness of sions,

I speak

duties.

club-houses in the

stores

home

more than

for

in the world.

class of

merry without

They complain life

;

no romance."

tion oi its destiny.

The

felon

is

of

of the flat-

" America has no

They have no They

illu-

percep-

are not Americans.

the logical extreme of the

epicure and coxcomb.

end

they for

insipid,

Paris have spoiled their

both, though

Selfish luxury

in one it

is

is

the

decorated


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

34

with refinements, and in the other brutal.

But

my

point

now

is,

that this spirit

not

is

American.

Our young men lack idealism. A man for must not be pure idealist, then he

success

will practically fail

must obey

;

but he must have ideas,

ideas, or

the horse he rides on.

he might

A man

be

as well

does not want

to be sun-dazzled, sun-blind; but every

man

must have glimmer enough to keep him from knocking his head against the walls. And and good and friendship, that I dread to hear well-born, gifted and amiable men, that

it is

in the interest of civilization

society of

they have this indifference, disposing them to this despair.

Of no use

men who study to do who can never is a new There to-day day.

are the

exactly as was done before,

understand that

never was such a combination as this of ours,

and the

any

rules to

history.

meet

We

it

are not set

want men

down

in

of original per-


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. ception and original action,

eyes wider

their

35

who can open

than to a nationality,

namely, to considerations of benefit to the can act in the interest of race,

human

civilization;

mind,

men

who can

a step forward.

of

elastic,

live in the

men

of

moral

moment and

take

Columbus was no backward-

creeping crab, nor was Martin Luther, nor

John Adams, nor Patrick Henry, nor Thomas and the Genius or Destiny of Jefferson ;

no log or sluggard, but a man incessantly advancing, as the shadow on the dial's face, or the heavenly body by whose

America

light it

The

is

is

marked.

flowering of civilization

man, the

man

is

the finished

of sense, of grace, of accom-

plishment, of social power,

the gentleman.

What hinders that he be born here? The new times need a new man, the complemental man,

whom plainly

this

Freer swing his arms

;

country must furnish.

farther pierce his eyes

more forward and forthright

his

;

whole build


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

36

and is

than the Englishman's, who, we

rig

much imprisoned 'T

is

certain that it

incomplete,

our civilization

is

yet

has not ended, nor given sign

ending, in a hero.

of

see,

in his backbone.

'Tis a wild democ-

racy; the riot of mediocrities and dishonesties

and fudges.

Ours

is

the age of the om-

nibus, of the third person plural, of

Tammany

Hall. Is it that nature has only so force,

and must

dilute

tiplied into millions ?

Then

it

if it is

The

much

vital

to be

mul-

beautiful

is

never

loins,

and Indiana, with must needs be ordi-

It is not a question

whether we shall be

plentiful.

their

spawning

Illinois

nary.

a multitude of people.

No, that has been,

conspicuously decided already

we

shall

;

but whether

be the new nation, the guide and

lawgiver of

all

nations,

as

having clearly

chosen and firmly held the simplest and best rule of political society.


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

Now, this

if

37

the spirit which years ago armed

country against rebellion, and put forth

such gigantic energy in the charity of the Sanitary

be waked to the

Commission, could

conserving and creating duty of making the laws just and humane, it were to enroll a great constituency of religious, self-respecting, brave, tender, faithful obeyers of duty, lovers of

men,

filled

with loyalty to each other, and

with the simple and sublime purpose of carrying out in private and in public action the desire

and need

Here

is

of

mankind.

the post where the patriot should

plant himself ; here the altar where vii'tuous

young men, those

to

whom

friendship

the

is

dearest covenant, should bind each other to loyalty,

where genius should kindle

and bring forgotten truth men.

to

the

its

fires

eyes

of

Let the good citizen perform the duties ^ut on him here and now. It is not possible to extricate yourself

from the questions


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

38 in

which your age

is

involved.

It is not

by

heads reverted to the dying Demosthenes, or to Luther, or to Wallace, or to

George Fox, com-

or to George Washington, that you can

bat the dangers and dragons that beset the

United States at this time.

I believe this

cannot be accomplished by dunces or idlers, but requires docility, sympathy, and religious receiving from higher principles like religion, is a short like all

power

;

for liberty,

and hasty

subsists only

fruit,

by new

and

rallyings

on the source of inspiration. Power can be generous. The very grandeur of the means which offer themselves to us should suggest grandeur in the direction of

our expenditure.

If our

mechanic

unsurpassed in usefulness, the river

to'

make

and the bolt

of

if

arts are

we have taught

shoes and nails and carpets,

heaven to write our

like a Gillott pen, let these

letters

wonders work

for

honest humanity, for the poor, for justice, genius, and the public good.

Let us

realize


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. that this country, the last found,

charity of

God

to the

America should

human

affirm

is

39 the great

race.

and establish that

in no instance shall the guns go in advance of

We

the present right.

shall not

make

and afterwards explain and pay, proceed like William Penn, or what-

coups d'etat

but shall

ever other Christian or treats

humane person who

with the Indian or the foreigner, on

principles of honest trade tage.

We can

and mutual advan-

see that? the Constitution

and

the law in America must be written on ethical principles, so that

spiritual

the entire power of the

world shall hold the citizen

loyal,

and repel the enemy as by force of nature. It should be mankind's bill of rights, or Royal Proclamation of the Intellect ascending the throne, announcing its good pleasure, that

now, once for

by common The end

all,

the world shall be governed

sense and law of morals. of all political struggle

is

to

es-

tablish morality as the basis of all legislation.


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

40

'T is not free institutions, racy that

means.

is

Morality

We

ment.

want a

't is

not a democ-

no, but only the

the end,

is

the object of govern-

state of things in

which

crime will not pay, a state of things which allows every ible

man

the largest liberty compat-

with the liberty

Humanity

of

every other man.

asks that government shall not

be ashamed to be tender and paternal, but that democratic institutions shall be more thoughtful for the interests of women, for the training of children, and for the welfare

and unable persons, and serious care was ever any the best gov-

of sick

of criminals, than

ernment

The

of the old world.

genius of the country has marked out

our true policy,

opportunity.

Opportunity

of civil rights, of education, of personal power,

and not

less of

could have

without

If I

free trade with all the world

it,

toll

wealth ; doors wide open.

or custom-houses, invitation as

we now make

to every nation, to every race


FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC. and

skin, white

black

men

laws to

41

men, red men, yellow men, and equal

hospitality of fair field

;

Let them compete, and success

all.

to the strongest, the wisest,

and the

The

soil

for

land

wide enough, the

is

best.

has bread

all.

I

hope America will come to have its pride and not of the

in being a nation of servants,

How can men have any other ambiwhere the reason has not suffered a dis-

served. tion

astrous eclipse ? to the

I serve,

I apply in

my

my

Whilst every whole extent

man of

faculty to the service of

can say

my

being

mankind

he therein sees and

especial place,

shows a reason for his being in the world, and is not a moth or incumbrance in it.

The

distinction

stituted

man

is

and end

on

all his faculties.

he

exists.

a

man

As

for his

of a

Use

soundly con-

Use

his labor. is

the tree exists for

work.

A

is

inscribed

the end to which its fruit, so

fruitless plant,

an

idle animal, does not stand in the universs.


FORTUNE OF JHE REPUBLIC.

42

They

are

all

toiling,

however secretly or and

slowly, in the province assigned them, to a use in the

of the world

economy

;

the

higher and more complex organizations, to

higher and more catholic service.

seems to play, by

his instincts

a certain part that even

tells

And man

and

activity,

on the general

face of the planet, drains swamps, leads rivers

dry countries for their

into

perforates forests

irrigation?

and stony mountain-chains

with roads, hinders the inroads of the sea on the continent, as

if

dressing the globe for

happier races.

On

the whole, I

know

that the cosmic re-

be the same, whatever the daily events may be. Happily we are under better sults will

guidance than of statesmen. coal mines, labor,

and

though not

Pennsylvania

shipping, and free

idealists, gravitate

in the

less large

than jus-

can keep them in good temper.

Justice

ideal direction. tice

New York

satisfies

Nothing

everybody, and justice alone.

No


43

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

monopoly must be

foisted in,

no weak party

or nationality sacrificed, no coward compro-

mise conceded to a strong partner.

one of these ,

national

is

Every

the seed of vice, war, and It

disorganization.

is

our part to

carry out to the last the ends of liberty and justice.

We

shall stand, then, for vast in-

and south, east and west,

terests; north

will

be present to our minds, and our vote will

be as

if

they voted, and

we

shall

know

our vote secures the foundations of the

that

state,

good-will, liberty and security of traffic

and mutual increase

of production,

and

of good-

will in the great interests.

Our helm

is

than our own

given

up

to a better guidance

the course of events

is

quite

too strong for any helmsman, and our

little

;

wherry is taken in tow by the ship of the great Admiral which knows the way, and has the force to draw

men and

states

and planets

to their good.

Such and so potent

is

this

high method by


44

FORTUNE OF THE REPUBLIC.

which the Divine Providence sends the est benefits

under the mask

I do not think

we

shall

chief-

of calamities, that

by any perverse

in-

genuity prevent the blessing.

In seeing this guidance of events, in seeing example that has rested

this felicity without

on the Union thus

will

far, I find

new

and endeavor were more

to the work.

confidence

I could heartily wish that our

for the future.

But

light breaking.

active parties

I see in all directions the

Trade and government

will

not alone be the" favored aims of mankind,

but every useful, every elegant

art,

every

exercise of imagination, the height of reason,

the noblest affection, the purest religion will find their

home

in our institutions,

our laws for the benefit of men.

%/Ti

and write


UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY Los Angeles This book

is

DUE on

SEP 2 3

the last date stamped below.

1988

REC'D LD-URL FEB o 7

JAN 16

OCT082


Ralph Waldo Emerson - Fortune of the Republic, Lecture delivered at the Old South Church, 1880  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Fortune of the Republic, Lecture delivered at the Old South Church, 1880  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

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