Social and Political Reform

Social Reform: Abolition

Although Transcendentalists generally asserted that reforms of society must begin within the individual conscience, they also realized that the entrenched institution of slavery called for immediate action, especially when it directly affected Massachusetts. Their actions were varied and in the form of words. Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government" was energized by the Mexican war as an effort to add more slave states; Thoreau was radicalized by the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act and his encounter with John Brown.

Web Site Paradise [To Be] Regained

Thoreau, 1843. Although not about communities, this is a critique of one scheme of social reform.

Social Reform: Communities

Transcendentalists called for the moral reform of the individual. While the major transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, strongly believed in individuality, some of the less known transcendentalists came together in groups that varied from eight to over a hundred members and formed communities in which they tried to live and work cooperatively. It is interesting that the most well known transcendentalists never showed interest in the communities. Thoreau did not speak of Brook Farm, and Emerson wished the Brook Farmers well but declined membership.

Transcendental Ideas--Social and Political Reform

"In the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as the present hour," Emerson in the Dial.

Readings of Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government"

Criticism of Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government" changed dramatically from the 1920s to the 1970s. Michael Meyer's Several More Lives to Live: Thoreau's Political Reputation In America shows the progression of opinion surrounding Thoreau and his politics.

Notes on Frederick Douglass and abolition

Frederick Douglass is one of the most inspiring and well-known abolitionists of his age. He was exceedingly intelligent, a moving and motivating speaker regarding self-freedom, and certainly most importantly, an ex-slave himself. In many ways he can be regarded as a traditional Transcendentalist in the likes of Thoreau and Emerson in his adamant beliefs in Self-Reliance, Reason, and the Oversoul.

Thoreau's Stance on Abolition

Thoreau says in Walden, "It is never too late to give up your prejudices." Athough he is advocating that man in society should relinquish his prejudices through revelation from nature, it can also be interpreted as advocating anti-slavery beliefs. Indeed, this social reformer spent a good portion of his life trying to encourage others to relinquish their own prejudices regarding the issues of abolition.

The Duties and Influence of Women


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P.v: There are two kinds of workers in the historical field, and the labor of both is needed before we can reap the whole harvest. These are the Seekers and the Observers.

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and the Antislavery Movement

Although Elizabeth admitted that she became involved in the antislavery movement late, she claimed her "heart and judgment were always on the Antislavery side. . ." She also conceded that she was not very knowledgeable on the subject and that her school in Boston kept her from the Grimke sisters' addresses in Concord in the mid-1830's (Ronda 263).


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