Chapter IV


Transcendental Minister


Theodore Parker was described by one of his biographers as "the best working-plan of an American yet produced," and by a fellow minister as "a conscience since Luther unsurpassed." he two comments suggest still another, that he was completely and adequately New England. Yankee and Puritan contributed equally to his making. His rich and plastic mind was two-sided: one-half was wholly English, practical, logical, concrete, lucid; loving fact and tireless in its acquisition; master of everyday affairs and competent in dealing with this world; the other was emotional, mystical, idealistic, deeply and spontaneously religious, living daily with God as a son with the Father, carrying the sorrows of men in his heart and the wrongs of the world on his conscience. One of the greatest of New England ministers, he was shepherd as well as counselor, pastor as well as teacher. "I wish to stand on the earth," he said with true critical insight, "though I would look beyond the stars. I would live with men, but think with philosophers" (Weiss, Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, Vol. I, p. 115). The generous amplitude of his nature was too large for the narrow walls of a church; he took all Boston for his parish, all New England for his congregation. Amazingly active and vital, he consumed whole libraries in his pursuit of knowledge. "His mind," says Weiss, "was like the republican idea itself; it could afford to be hospitable, but could not afford to be exclusive" (ibid., Vol. I, p. 178). Conversant with many fields of knowledge, with a memory extraordinarily retentive, he was master of many languages-nineteen or twenty, according to Thomas Wentworth Higginson - and at home in the most abstruse subjects. He spent his vast energy with the prodigality of Cotton Mather, and he achieved what Cotton Mather with his inbred parochialism could not achieve, an intellectual cosmopolitanism that judged Boston by broader standards than it could gauge.

A first-class fighting-man was this child of yeoman New England - none braver, not even Garrison, none more effective; and yet tender-hearted, sympathetic, with the shrewd common sense of his homespun forebears. The son of a Lexington farmer and mechanic, self-trained, endowed with indomitable will, he came of the soundest stock in Massachusetts. His grandfather was captain of the Minute Men who faced the British troops on Lexington Common in April, 1775; and a conscious pride of ancestry broke out frequently in his speech. The words uttered before the Ministerial Conference in May, 1851, in justification of his repudiation of the Fugitive Slave Law, were characteristic: "I am not afraid of men, I can offend them. I care nothing for their hate, or their esteem. I am not very careful of my reputation." He then goes on:

I have had to arm myself. I have written my sermons with a pistol in my desk, - loaded, a cap on the nipple, and ready for action. Yea, with a drawn sword within reach of my right hand. This I have done in Boston; in the midst of the nineteenth century; been obliged to do it to defend the (innocent) members of my church, women as well as men! You know that I do not like fighting. . . . But what could I do? I was born in the little town where the first bloodshed of the Revolution began. The bones of men who first fell in that war are covered by the monument at Lexington, it is "sacred to Liberty and the Rights of Mankind"; those men fell "in the sacred cause of God and their country." This is the first inscription that I ever read. These men were my kindred. My grandfather drew the first sword in the Revolution; my fathers fired the first shot; the blood which flowed there was kindred to this which courses in my veins today. Besides that, when I write in my library at home, on the one side of me is the Bible which my fathers prayed over, their morning and evening prayer, for nearly a hundred years. On the other side there hangs the firelock my grandfather fought with in the old French war, which he carried at the taking of Quebec, which he zealously used at the battle of Lexington, and beside it is another, a trophy of that war, the first gun taken in the Revolution, taken also by my grandfather. With these things before me, these symbols; with these memories in me, when a parishioner, a fugitive from slavery, a woman, pursued by the kidnappers, came to my house, what could I do less than take her in and defend her to the last? (Additional Speeches, Vol. I, pp. 13-15.)

With his sensitive conscience visited by such memories - a child of '76 living in the evil days of the Fugitive Slave Law, a devout freethinker borne on the crest of transcendental thought Theodore Parker became the embodiment and epitome of the New England renaissance. More completely perhaps than any other representative, he gathered up and expressed the major revolutionary impulses of his time and world: the idealistic theism implicit in the Unitarian reaction from Calvinism; the transcendental individualism latent in the doctrine of divine immanence; and the passion for righteousness, to make the will of God prevail in a world where the devil quite openly kept his ledgers. He was an eager and thorough iconoclast, impatient to break the false images - the God of John Calvin with its slanders of human nature, and the god of State Street with its contempt for justice - which New England, he believed, had worshiped too long, forgetting the ideals of the Revolutionary fathers. The mind and conscience of Boston seemed to him stifled by the strait-jacket of respectability. Righteousness like a fugitive slave, was driven into hiding, or must walk the open streets with a Derringer in its pocket. As a free soul loving freedom, and a righteous man loving righteousness, he believed a duty was laid on him to cut away the straitjacket, to shame the Boston that sold the poor in the gates for a pair of shoes. He must labor to set free the mind and conscience of Boston that they might go forth purified to work a beneficent work in a world that is God's and not the devil's. His attack was keen and unsparing; he laid on with gusto; he used homely words; he was just rather than polite. Impatient of humbug and self seeking he dealt in searching criticism rather than conventional eulogy. At his touch distinguished reputations shrank to the mean and commonplace, and inflated dignitaries collapsed like a pricked balloon. Intellectually honest, he spoke the truth he had been at immense pains to gather, and in consequence those who suffered the sting of his attack-ministers and lawyers and merchants and politicians, men in high position, distinguished leaders of Boston society-were not slack in crying out against him as a demagogue and agitator. Next to Garrison he became the most hated man in New England; and something of that contemporary hatred, fierce and unforgiving, clings to his name still, coloring later estimates of his worth, hinting that his manners were not on a level with his morals.1 An extraordinarily vital and interesting person, in short, was this Yankee preacher with his Puritan conscience - this transcendental critic with his quiver full of facts; one not to be ignored in casting up the accounts of the New England renaissance.

With his memorable sermon On the Transient and Permanent in Christianity, preached in May, 1841-a sermon that ranks in the history of Unitarianism with Channing's Baltimore sermon - the Unitarian movement entered upon its second broad phase. It abandoned supernaturalism established on the sufficient authority of the Scriptures, and adopted the conception of an evolutionary theism, of God progressively revealing himself to the developing faculties of men and speaking through the conscience. Under Channing's guidance Unitarianism had abandoned the major dogmas of Calvinism - total depravity, predestination, a God of wrath; it had shifted the emphasis from stable will to boundless love; and by such teachings it had captured the greater churches of Boston. By 1830 it had become securely established as the religion of Boston respectability, with implied bounds set to its intellectual liberalism. As the first ardor abated it fell to defining the new orthodoxy, resting content with what already had been won. It was against this new orthodoxy that held fast to the old supernaturalism that Theodore Parker protested. "The defect of the Unitarians was a profound one," he pointed out; "ceasing to fear `the great and dreadful God' of the Old Testament, they had not quite learned to love the all-beautiful and altogether lovely [God] of the universe."2 He would have no pausing of the movement of adventurous thought, no settling back into the ruts of dogmatism; and so he threw himself with immense energy into the work of liberating Unitarianism from a premature orthodoxy.

For this work he was admirably equipped. The greatest scholar of his generation of New England ministers, deep in German theology and philosophy, with the latest results of higher criticism on his study table, he was critically trained to separate historical fact from ecclesiastical tradition, and establish his theology on a basis of naturalism. He was at once scientific and transcendental. He had translated De Wette's Introduction to the Old Testament and was intimately acquainted with Strauss's Leben Jesu. He knew the oriental backgrounds of Hebraic thought, had studied comparative religion with its suggestive record of taboos and fetishism, and was gathering materials for a comprehensive history of religion from primitive times. Intellectually acquisitive and curious, he far outran the less informed and courageous of his Unitarian brethren. But he was far more than a critic, he may well be accounted a religious genius. A convinced intuitionist, he tested every authority by appeal to transcendental experience. He frankly abandoned faith in the supernatural, with its corollaries of miracles and its "fetishism of the Bible," and was far advanced in a theism that compensated for the supernatural by a passionate love of God. Thus established in personal experience his religion issued in conduct. Love of God was more to him than historical faith embodied in an historical church; love to his fellow men was more appealing than dogma. Hence the profoundly ethical quality of his religion, warm, palpitating, generous, that set it apart from the colder and austerer ethicism of the conventional Unitarians. The spirituality of Charming was enriched in Parker by the ardency of his loving nature.

The three major doctrines of his theism, as elaborated in his "Letter to the Members of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society," were the infinite perfection of God, the adequacy of man to all his functions, and the sufficiency of absolute, natural religion. In his elaboration of these doctrines the controlling influence of transcendental thought is everywhere apparent. A metaphysical optimism throws a golden light on all his thinking. The trinitarian Godhead, equally with the devil, vanishes in "the infinitely perfect God," "immanent in the world of matter, and in the world of spirit, the two hemispheres which to us make up the universe"-a universe created "from a perfect motive, for a perfect purpose, of perfect substance, and as a perfect means." Hence it follows in Parker's logic, that there must be a complete solidarity between God and the two-fold universe which He creates. The perfect Creator is thus also a perfect providence; indeed, creation and providence are not objective accidents of Deity, nor subjective caprices, but the development of the perfect motive to its perfect purpose, love becoming a universe of perfect welfare. I have called God Father, but also Mother . . . to express more sensibility, the quality of tender and unselfish love, which mankind associates with Mother more than aught else beside. ("Letter," etc., in Weiss, Vol. II, pp. 470 - 471.)

The doctrine of the adequacy of man flows logically from the doctrine of the immanence of God, but Parker was not content to rest it on such basis alone. The conception of human perfectibility, as it filtered down to him through different strata of thought, romantic and idealistic, found a high sanction in his transcendentalism; but his practical nature demanded that it be established if possible on a scientific foundation. Anthropology must substantiate philosophy. Parker was not convinced that it could be thus adequately established; nevertheless he would travel the objective path as far as it might lead. Darwin's Origin of Species was published after Parker was seized with his fatal illness, yet in much of the latter's thinking he was groping his way toward some similar conception of "the unity of life of the human race, " with its "progressive development" from "the state of ignorance, poverty, and utter nakedness of soul and sense, the necessary primitive conditions of the race, up to the present civilization." In the deep-buried scattered records of the past, slowly being gathered together and interpreted by science, he found "proof of time immense, wherein man, this spiritual Cosmos, has been assuming his present condition, individual, domestic, social, and national, and accumulating that wealth of things and thoughts which is the mark of civilization." The doctrine of human perfectibility might not be capable of scientific proof, but it was more than a reasonable hope; it was implicit in all the past.

But this progressive development does not end with us; we have seen only the beginning; the future triumphs of the race must be vastly greater than all accomplished yet. In the primal instincts and automatic desires of man, I have found a prophecy that what he wants is possible, and shall one day be actual. . . . What good is not with us is before, to be attained by toil and thought, and religious life. (Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 471-472.)

Of this slowly and painfully evolving man with his expanding ideals, religion Parker believed to be the highest ultimate expression; and religion, as the eyes of men slowly open to larger truths, will be seen to be answerable to the needs of daily life, to embody the highest ideal of social excellence. The noblest religion he believed was not supernatural, but natural. "The absolute religion which belongs to man's nature, and is gradually unfolded thence," "is the idea of humanity, dimly seen but clearly felt, which has flitted before the pious eyes of men in all lands and many an age, and been prayed for as the `Kingdom of Heaven.'" It is forever refashioning its ideal, re-embodying its vision, in every devout soul, in every creative age. "The religious history of the race is the record of man's continual but unconscious efforts to attain this `desire of all nations"' (ibid., Vol. II, p. 473). But unhappily every new advance soon crystallizes in dogmas and institutions; taboos and fetishisms are quick to re-imprison the mind that struggles to be free. Old forms, therefore, must be daily broken to make room for evolving experience. Religion must be free; it must rise spontaneously from the depths of life. Christianity has suffered grievously from a fetishism of the Bible, from its worship of the supernatural, from an ungenerous sectarianism beloved of "ecclesiastic skeptics," who believe "there is no place for the Christian Church or the Bible till they have nullified the faculties which created both, and rendered Bible-makers and Church-founders impossible." Every age must write a new Bible out of its God-given instincts, permeated with the divine love that is slowly shaping society to the divine purpose.

No more is the atheistic mocker or the ecclesiastic bigot commissioned to stop the human race with his cry, "Cease there, mankind, thy religious search! for, thousand-million-headed as thou art, thou canst know nought directly of thy God, thy duty, or thyself. Pause, and accept my authenticated word; stop, and despair! " (Ibid., Vol. II, p. 475.) It was this ethical quality of his religion that kept Theodore Parker so sensitive to wrongs and so generous in response to the call of social justice. His religion quickened his social conscience and summoned him to serve the plentiful reform movements of the day. With Garrison and Wendell Phillips he organized the militants of Boston radicalism. His political principles were simple and uncompromising, woven from the strands of English and French libertarianism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries-from Sidney, Locke, Rousseau, the great leaders of the natural-rights school. One who accepted as axiomatic the nobility of human nature and the perfectibility of man, might be a political romantic, but he was certain to be a liberal. Parker was a primitive democrat, whose democracy was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. But the democracy that answered the needs of his dream of the kingdom was, like Emerson's and Channing's, ethical rather than political or economic-it was "the enactment of God's justice into human laws" ("The Nebraska Question," in Additional Speeches, Vol. I, p. 327). "The democratic idea has had but a slow and gradual growth even in New England," he pointed out; nevertheless he was convinced that it was spreading, and "government becomes more and more of all, by all and for all"3 (ibid., p. 33). He hated Federalism with an intensity equaling Jefferson's, and ecclesiastical Federalism that twisted the authority of the church to the side of wealthy pewholders, using Scripture as a sanction for exploitation, he denounced as scathingly as Garrison. The power of the political state he feared, because he discovered the political state to be the friend of the rich rather than the poor, of selfish advantage rather than of God's justice. With other Abolitionists he distrusted the machinery of centralization that was being skillfully erected at Washington. "Opposition to centralization of authority is very old in America," he remarked; "I hope it will be always young" (ibid., Vol. II, p. 29). But he was no partisan to the rule of the majority, if it determined contrary to his conscience. A transcendental individualist, he went for the nullification of an immoral statute in the name of the Higher Law.4

Parker was never blind to the economic basis of politics. He saw so clearly, indeed, the close alliance between group interests and governmental statutes, that his political activities were almost wholly determined by that recognition. As a political critic he was the shrewdest realist of his generation. He was one constituent whom politicians talking for Buncombe could not befuddle. He was too deeply read in American history, gifted with too keen historical insight, to be impressed by the glittering rhetoric of the Rufus Choates. He had his own views of the American government, and majestic appeals to the Constitution left him cold. The Constitution, he asserted, "is a provisional compromise between the ideal political principles of the Declaration, and the actual selfishness of the people North and South." America was not a democracy. It had thrown off theocracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, only to set in their places the "institution of money - the master of all the rest." The economic basis of society in America he considered to be open and patent. In church and state, money "is this day the strongest power of the nation." He declined to be deceived by party cries and platforms, either Whig or Democratic; both parties served economics rather than justice.

So there is a party organization about the dollar as its central nucleus and idea. The dollar is the germinal dot of the Whig party; its motive is pecuniary. . . . It sneers at the poor; at the many; has a. contempt for the people. It legislates against the poor, and for the rich . . . the few who are born with the desire, the talent, and the conventional position to become rich. "Take care of the rich, and they will take care of the poor," is its secret maxim. Everything must yield to money. . . . With this party there is no Absolute Right, no Absolute Wrong. . . . There is Expediency and Inexpediency. . . . Accordingly a millionaire is reckoned by this party as the highest production of Society. He is the Whig ideal; he alone has attained "the measure of the stature of a perfect man."

The Democratic party appeals to the brute will of the majority, right or wrong; it knows no Higher Law. . . . There is . . . no vital difference between the Whig party and the Democratic party; no difference in moral principle. The Whig inaugurates the Money got; the Democrat inaugurates the Desire to get money. That is all the odds. . . . There is only a hand rail between the two, which breaks down if you lean on it, and the parties mix . . . a Democrat is but a Whig on time; a Whig is a Democrat arrived at maturity; his time has come. A Democrat is a young Whig who will legislate for money as soon as he has got it; the Whig is an old Democrat who once hurrahed for the majority-"Down with money! there is a despot! and up with the desire for it! Down with the rich, and up with the poor!" The young man, poor, obscure, and covetous, in 1812 was a Democrat, went a-privateering against England; rich, and accordingly "one of our eminent citizens," in 1851 he was a Whig, and went a-kidnapping against Ellen Crafts and Thomas Sims. ("The Nebraska Question," in Additional Speeches, Vol. I, pp. 331-335) The America of Parker's day was fast becoming middle class and Parker knew it, and like Lincoln he did not disapprove. Honest thrift he found wholly desirable, and wealth if it were honestly got. But speculation dissociated from creative work he regarded with old-fashioned distrust. "If a man fully pay in efficient, productive toil and thought, he is entitled to all he gets, one dollar or many million dollars . . . and if his estate be but what he has thus actually and honestly paid for with service given, equivalent to the service received, what he can virtuously keep or humanely apply and expend, then it will never be too large."5 But he believed there were other gods, and greater, than the god of getting on; social justice was more desirable than unearned increment; and he set his face like flint against the common materialism of America. "I come to build up piety and morality; to pull down only what cumbers the ground," he said; but he had learned that the temples of State Street were not easily leveled; that they would not fall without a mighty crash. A less courageous man would have hesitated, but Parker was utterly fearless. Boston he knew "was a Tory town." "The Mother city of the Puritans is now the metropolis of the Hunkers" (Additional Speeches, Vol. I, p. 111). But the spirit of '76 was strong in him and he would "appeal from Boston drunk with gold, and briefly mad with hate, to sober Boston in her hour to come." He would appeal from Whiggish Boston to Revolutionary Boston; from State Street to Lexington common; from the Faneuil Hall of Rufus Choate to the Faneuil Hall of Sam Adams. He would awaken the ancestral idealism of Boston that slept uneasily under the spell of middle-class ambitions-that had sold its Puritan heritage for southern trade profits. Such an appeal Boston had never before listened to, ardent, unsparing, the Hebraic and the Yankee vernacular curiously mingled; and Boston writhed uncomfortably and pronounced the prophet ill-mannered.

When the Fugitive Slave Bill passed, the six New England states lay fast asleep: Massachusetts slept soundly, her head pillowed on her unsold bales of Cotton and of woolen goods, dreaming of "orders from the South." Justice came to waken her . . . and she started in her sleep, and being frightened, swore a prayer or two, then slept again. But Boston woke, sleeping, in her shop, with ears open, and her eye on the market, her hand on her purse, dreaming of goods for sale, - Boston woke broadly up, and fired a hundred guns for joy. O Boston, Boston! if thou couldst have known, in that thine hour, the things which belong unto thy peace! But no: they were hidden from her eyes. She had prayed to her god, to Money; he granted her the request, but sent leanness into her soul. ("The Boston Kidnapping," in Additional Speeches, Vol. I, p. 89.)

But he offended the Boston code of good breeding even more seriously. He became personal. He named names. Before vast congregations, in printed books, he pronounced judgment on Bostonians respected in the Back Bay, mighty in State Street. Boston gentlemen had never before suffered such tongue-lashings. How mercilessly he excoriated Commissioner Loring, judge of probate and Harvard professor, for soiling his hands in the Anthony Burns case! How neatly he pricked the empty culture of Edward Everett for his pro-slavery ardor-" a Cambridge professor of Greek, he studied the original tongue of the Bible to learn that the Scripture says `slaves,' where the English Bible says only `servants'!" (Additional Speeches, Vol. II, p. 115.) What an utterly devastating attack he made on the great Webster for the latter's subserviency to local economic interests! Much honest realism underlies that criticism, and much honest American history. The "Nebraska Address" and the "Webster Address" are notable historical documents, incisive analyses-rare in those romantic days-done by one who has kept a shrewd eye on current politics, and understands the hidden springs of party policy. Into the Webster address he put his vast knowledge, his power of analysis, his frank idealism. It was "a sad and dreadful day" when duty bade Theodore Parker speak on the man whose uncommon powers he had long admired; but he did his work thoroughly, refusing to shut his eyes to ugly fact, refusing to indulge in commonplace eulogy. It was the eighteenth-century economic realism of Webster that stirred the wrath of the transcendentalist - that and the lapses from integrity. Parker's text was found in Webster's dictum that "the great object of government is the protection of property at home, and respect and renown abroad"; and how starkly it runs counter to his own ideal of government, "the enactment of God's justice into human laws," is laid bare in page after page of scathing commentary. To the exacting ethics of Parker, Webster was wanting in principles; he followed expediency rather than justice; and how surely expediency digs pitfalls for its own undoing he discovered tragic illustration of in the career of the great senator. It is a hard fate for a politician, accustomed to the cheap praise of the gullible public, to fall into the hands of a critic who is honest and searching; and Webster had too many weak points to emerge from such an analysis with credit. It is probably the most critical examination of Webster's career that has ever been made, and withal just.

Surprisingly modern, far more so than Charming, was this brilliant preacher-impulsive, colloquial, natural, whose every arrow was pointed with a fact and feathered to fly true; concerned more with righteousness than with policy; hating the dull commonplace and empty dignity of Tory ways; careless of convention, somewhat spectacular, with a keen relish for combat - a vital, vivid man, the apostle of conscience, the advocate of every unpopular cause. He possessed an amazing gift of words, yet he was too impatient, too practical, to become an artist; preferring immediate ends to more lasting reputation, and spending himself with a free prodigality. He was always the speaker rather than the writer and his printed pages bear the unmistakable marks of impetuous oral discourse. Emerson accounted him one of the four great men of the age. Whether or not that judgment holds, whether he was too eager a militant to become a great transcendental philosopher, the historian sees in Theodore Parker one of the greatest, if not the last, of the excellent line of Puritan preachers.

1 See Wendell, Literary History of America, p. 348.
2 See "Letter to the Members of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society of Boston," in Weiss, Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, Vol. II, Appendix II, p. 482. This account of his "Experience as a Minister" constitutes a brief intellectual autobiography, of first importance to the student of Parker.

Chapter V:

Margaret Fuller: Rebel

The fame of Margaret Fuller has waned greatly since her vivid personality was blotted out in the prime of her intellectual development. Misunderstood in her own time, caricatured by unfriendly critics, and with significant facts of her life suppressed by her friends out of a chivalrous sense of loyalty, the real woman has been lost in a Margaret Fuller myth and later generations have come to underestimate her powers and undervalue her work. Yet no other woman of her generation in America is so well worth recalling. She was the compeetent embodiment of the inchoate rebellions and grandiose aspirations of the age of transcendental ferment; for to the many grievances charged against the times by other New England liberals, she added the special grievance of the stupid inhibitions laid upon women. Transcendental radical and critic, like Emerson and Thoreau and Parker, she was feminist also; and to the difficult business of freeing her mind from the Cambridge orthodoxies, she added the greater difficulty of freeing her sex.
The written record that Margaret Fuller left is quite inadequate to explain her contemporary reputation. In no sense an artist, scarcely a competent craftsman, she wrote nothing that bears the mark of high distinction either in thought or style. Impatient of organization and inadequately disciplined, she threw off her work impulsively, not pausing to shape it to enduring form. Yet she was vastly talked about, and common report makes her out to have been an extraordinary woman who creatively influenced those with whom she came in contact. Like Alcott, her power lay in brilliant talk. Her quick mind seems to have been an electric current that stimulated other minds to activity, and created a vortex of speculation wherever she passed. Hungry for ideas, intellectually and emotionally vibrant, she caught her inspirations from obscure impulses of a nature thwarted and inhibited from normal unfolding; and in her sensitive oscillations she was often drawn away from polar principles to which she would later swing back. There was quite evidently a fundamental unrest within her, a conflict of im-pulses, that issued in dissatisfaction; and this contradiction was aggravated by intense emotions, which both quickened her mind and distorted it.
A product of Cambridge bookishness, Margaret Fuller was both a wonder and a riddle to a generation that made little account of the psychology of sex. She was commonly looked upon as an intellectual monstrosity, the most fearful of Yankee bluestockings, and a later Bostonian has gone so far as to suggest that she was "an unsexed version of Plato's Socrates" (Wendell, Literary History o f America, p. 300) . But to present-day psychology her character is an extraordinarily suggestive document, and a recent critic has read her seeming contradictions like an open book.' Before Miss Anthony's penetrating analysis the Margaret Fuller myth vanishes, and a very real, natural, and unfortunate woman takes its place. She came of vigorous stock, independent, outspoken, opinionated. Her grandfather was a clergyman who was unfrocked by his church for being lukewarm in the Revolutionary War. Her father, Timothy Fuller, and her four uncles, worked their way through Harvard. In Timothy Fuller there was a large measure of Puritan grimness and severity that locked the door on the passions of his heart, that none might know of them; yet there seems to have been a volcano in the man who held off the world so brusquely. The rebel was strong in him. The Fullers were not of Brahmin stock and had no wish to please their social superiors. While a Harvard undergraduate, Timothy Fuller turned Jeffersonian republican and lost his place as first honor man by joining in an undergraduate protest against certain hated regulations. As a lawyer and politician he repudiated respectable Federalism, and although he was representative in Congress for four terms and enjoyed certain other offices, his non-conformity in the end cost him dear. No doubt he had counted on that, for he was stubborn oak that might break but would not bend. The tragedy of Margaret Fuller's life seems to have been sketched before in the life of Timothy Fuller.
         To an extraordinary degree the daughter was the child of the father, in ideas and sympathies as well as blood. Like him she was a rebel, but for the daughter to turn rebel involved greater hazards than for the father. Her sex was a heavy handicap, for the experience of Fanny Wright and Lucretia Mott had revealed that American chivalry had definite bounds; it did not shield the woman who ventured beyond the pale. Yet considering her blood and training, how could she help thus venturing into freer fields without? From her earliest years her father treated her as a comrade and gave her the training of a boy. In her studies he dealt with her as James Mill dealt with his brilliant son. Perhaps it was a mistake to force her into the rigid groove of classical learning when she should have been playing with her dolls. From it she got very unusual acquisitions, but overstimulation broke her health, and isolation turned her mind in upon itself and made her the victim of somnambulism and freaks of imagination. The result was the development, on one side of her nature, of a female counterpart of Cotton Mather-precocious, domineering, moody, visionary, given to long hours of greedy reading, gorging herself on books and well-nigh ruining her intellectual digestion as well as her health. Against this unfortunate overstimulation her vigorous nature struggled for years, and never quite successfully. Her emotions were forever embroiling her intellect. To conceive of her as sexless is curiously to miss the point of her emotionalism. She was rather the victim of sex. Her ardent friendships with other women, her flashes of mystical experience, her fondness for children, her love of luxury and creature comforts, her eager love affair with James Nathan who unchivalrously found safety in flight, her friendship with Mazzini and her more intimate friendship with Count Ossoli, that ended in an unconventional marriage after her situation rendered it necessary-such reactions can be explained on no other hypothesis. Her ardent nature was the victim of disastrous frustrations, rendered the more acute by premature development. If she had married early, as Harriet Beecher did, and her excessive energy had been turned into domestic channels, her life must have been less tragic, whatever the effect might have been on her intellectual development.
The acutest contemporary analysis of her contradictory character is that given by her friend William Henry Channing, who found his clue in the clash between endowment and environment:

Here was one fond as a child of joy, eager as a native of the tropics for swift transition from luxurious rest to passionate ex
citement, prodigal to pour her mingled force of will, thought, sentiment, into the life of the moment, all radiant with imagination, longing for communion with artists of every age in their inspired hours, fitted by genius and culture to mingle as an equal in the most refined circles of Europe, and yet her youth and early womanhood had passed away amid the very decent, yet drudging, descendants of prim Puritans. Trained among those who could have discerned her peculiar power, and early fed with the fruits of beauty for which her spirits pined, she would have developed into one of the finest lyrists, romancers and critics, that the modern literary world has seen. This she knew; and this tantalization of her fate she keenly felt. (Memoirs o f Margaret Fuller Ossoli, by R. W. Emerson, W. H. Charming, and J. F. Clarke, Vol. 11, pp. 36-37.)
This disastrous clash between endowment and environment is strikingly exemplified in her delight in Europe when at thirty-four she found herself therein her admiration for George Sand, and in particular the extravagance of her love for Rome, where her starved heart found satisfactions she had long dreamed of. "Italy receives me as a long-lost child, and I feel myself at home here," she wrote in 1847; and a few weeks later, "I find how true was the lure that always drew me towards Europe. It was no false instinct that said I might here find an atmosphere to develop me in ways I need. Had I only come ten years earlier! Now my life must be a failure, so much strength has been wasted on abstractions, which only came because I grew not in the right soil" (ibid., Vol. II, p. 225). She was too eagerly pagan to be satisfied with either Puritan or Yankee Cambridge. The pale ethicism of New England was thin gruel for such an appetite for life. Even Emerson she found cold, and her stomach rebelled at the food he throve on. But this was only half the story; the other half was this:

But the tragedy of Margaret's history was deeper yet. Behind the poet was the woman,-fond and relying, the heroic and disinterested woman. The very glow of her poetic enthusiasm was but an outflush of trustful affection; the very restlessness of her intellect was the confession that her heart had found no home. A "book-worm," a "dilettante," a "pedant," I had heard her sneeringly called; but now it was evident that her seeming insensibility was virgin pride, and her absorption in studying the natural vent of emotions, which met no object of life-long attachment. At once, many of her peculiarities became intelligible. Fitfulness, unlooked-for changes of mood, misconceptions of words and actions, substitutions of fancy for fact . . . were now ,eferred to the morbid influence of affections pent up to prey upon themselves. And, what was still more interesting, the clue was given to a singular credulousness, by which, in spite of her unusual penetration, Margaret might be led away blindfold. As this revelation of her ardent nature burst upon me, and . . . I saw how faithful she had kept to her life purposes,-how patient, gentle, and thoughtful of others, how active in self-improvement and usefulness, how wisely dignified she had been,-I could not but bow to her in reverence. (Ibid., Vol. II, p. 37.)
The inchoate rebellions in her heart were stimulated and given form by her reading. From the English, French, and German romantics she drew much of her intellectual food. The long hours spent with her father over Jefferson's letters were the best of preparation for Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft, and French romanticism provided an excellent introduction to the German. Her emotions were in high ferment when she came upon the German school, and she yielded her heart to it without reserve. Novalis, Richter, above all Goethe, became a passion and swept her along the path that Hedge and James Freeman Clarke were following. For years she gathered materials for a life of Goethe, but a feeling of self-distrust held back the project. Her love for him was the great literary enthusiasm of her life. "It seems to me," she wrote in 1.832, "as if the mind of Goethe had embraced the universe. . . . I am enchanted while I read. He comprehends every feeling I have ever had so perfectly, expresses it so beautifully; but when I shut the book, it seems as if I had lost my personal identity; all my feelings linked with such an immense variety that belongs to things I had thought so different" (ibid., Vol. I, p. 1.1.g). Later, with more critical analysis of Goethe, she found her enthusiasm modifying; she was repelled by his calm, aloof intellectuality;2 but she never wavered in loyal recognition of his commanding powers.
Her romantic idealism was in full career when the transcendental movement caught her up and put its stamp upon her. It came as an emotional appeal to the vague aspirations of a life inadequately motivated, and she threw herself eagerly into the new philosophy and became the most hectic of its expounders. The intellectual foundations of her transcendentalism were so slight in comparison with the equipment of Hedge and Parker as scarcely to justify her pretentions to their fellowship. But what she lacked in knowledge of Kant and Fichte she made up in enthusiasm, and none questioned her right to speak for the group. The editorship of the Dial provided a convenient safety valve for her energy, but it neither absorbed her nor sufficed to satisfy her limitless desires. She needed to espouse a cause more concrete and dramatic, personal in its demands, calling for high sacrifice. Abolitionism was at hand, but it repelled her by its narrow dogmatisms. Garrison was never a hero of hers. She regarded him with "high respect" for his "noble and, generous" course; but "he has indulged in violent invective and denunciation till he has spoiled the temper of his mind" ("Frederick Douglass," in Life Without and Life Within, p. 1.22). Later, when she was in Europe, she looked back half regretfully at her indifference to the movement.
How it pleases me here to think of the Abolitionists! I could never endure to be with them at home; they were so tedious, often so narrow, always so rabid and exaggerated in their tone. But, after all, they had a high motive, something eternal in their desire and life. (Memoirs, Vol. II, p. 229.)
Even Brook Farm repelled her as much as it attracted her. Though she loved many of the members, bore her share in the discussions preliminary to its establishment, and often visited there, shi; would not join the venture. She had had enough of farm life at Groton. To open a road to Utopia with a common plow was, perhaps, too prosaic a business for her romantic nature, and when the Fourier Phalanx was introduced she grew skeptical. Fourierism seemed to her too mechanical a conception, in spite of her sympathy for the humanitarian spirit that lay behind it. As she looked back upon it from the vantage point of her French experience, she modified her judgment somewhat, although the old transcendental bias that Emerson had voiced still colored her views.
The more I see of the terrible ills which infest the body politic of Europe, the more indignation I feel at the selfishness or stupidity of those in my own country who oppose an examination of these subjects,-such as is animated by the hope of prevention. Educated in an age of gross materialism, Fourier is tainted by its faults; in attempts to reorganise society, he commits the error of making soul the result of health of body, instead of body the clothing of the soul; but his heart was that of a genuine lover of his kind, of a philanthropist in the sense of Jesus; his views are large and noble; his life was one of devout study on these subjects, and I should pity the person who, after the briefest sojourn in Manchester and Lyons, the most superficial acquaintance with the population of London or Paris, could seek to hinder a study of his thoughts, or be wanting in reverence for his purposes. (Ibid., Vol. II, p. 2o6.)
It was in part from Fourier, certainly from the collectivistic theories discussed so generally by the transcendental group, that she received her equipment for the cause which, more than any other except the dramatic Roman revolution, appealed to the deeper rebellions of her soul. She had dealt much with the woman question in her "Conversations," and in 1844 she published Woman in the Nineteenth Century, a work that made a great stir in America. The "little book was the first considered statement of feminism in this country" (Katharine Anthony, Margaret Fuller, p. 8o), and its novelty was emphasized by its boldness. The question of woman's place had emerged sharply from the Abolition movement, when the appearance of women on the platform had aroused opposition even from radical reformers, and Angelina Grimke had encountered insults when she spoke at Abolition meetings. But Margaret Fuller was the first since Mary Wollstonecraft, fifty years before, to undertake a reasoned defense of the claims of woman to emancipation from man-made custom. It was a somewhat shocking book to fling at respectable Boston bluestockings-male as well as female-for not only did she discuss equality of economic opportunity and equality of political rights for women, but she went further and spoke frankly about sex equality, marriage, prostitution, physical passions-pretty much everything that was taboo in Boston society. It was a bold thing to do, needing more courage even than to engage in a Fourieristic onslaught upon the conventions of private property. Only a first-class rebel would have had the temerity to offer such morsels to wagging tongues.
This was her parting shot at a world that had done its best to stifle her. Thenceforth her field was to broaden out immensely. In 1844 she went to New York to live in the family of Horace Greeley and write critical reviews for The Tribunea shift that marked the beginning of her intellectual maturity, the end of her mystical sentimentalism. She was thirty-four years of age, and she plunged vigorously into the work of criticism, never perhaps very successfully, certainly never with high distinction. Her judgments were penetrating and individual, she awakened some Cambridge animosities by her comment on certain Cambridge poets, but she was not a notable critic A fine craftsmanship she never attained. A light touch she could never command. Nevertheless the experience was sobering. Honest, practical Horace Greeley, with his pugnacious fondness for social reform, was an excellent antidote to Concord transcendentalism; and an awakening sociological interest discovered ample opportunities in New York for the expression of her mother-instinct. She took to her stormy bosom the inmates of Sing Sing prison, the poor and outcast of the city. At last she went to Europe, fell in with Mazzini, and found a cause dramatic enough and real enough to satisfy her rebellious instincts. She was profoundly stirred by the Roman revolution, took charge of one of the hospitals, and spent her strength freely. On the tragic failure of the revolt she started home with her husband and child, only to perish on the sandy shores of Fire Islanda. fate she did not turn her finger to escape. Perhaps it was well. She had only too good reason to be fearful of her reception and of the future. Tongues that bad wagged before would certainly have risen to a virtuous gabble over her misadventure in Italy. On the whole one must be glad that her friends refused to permit her good name to be thrown to the gossips. Why shouldn't gentlemen lie stoutly if by so doing they can cheat the salacious?
A sensitive emotional nature offers the best of social barometers, and Margaret Fuller's tragic life, despite its lack of solid accomplishment, was an epitome of the great revolt of the New England mind against Puritan asceticism and Yankee materialism. She was the emotional expression of a rebellious generation that had done with the past and was questioning the future. Not a scholar like Theodore Parker, not a thinker like Thoreau, not an artist like Emerson, she was a ferment of troubled aspiration, an enthusiasm for a more generous culture than New England had known the logical outcome of the romantic revolution which, beginning with Charming's discovery of humanitarian France, and leading thence to idealistic Germany, was to break the indurated shell of life in New England, and release its conscience and its mind. She was the spiritual child of Jean Jacques even more than of Goethe - a fact that she eventually came to realize. Writing from Paris in 1847, she said:

To the . . . Chamber of Deputies, I was indebted for a sight of the manuscripts of Rousseau, treasured in their library. I saw them and touched theni,-those manuscripts just as he has celebrated them, written on fine white paper, tied with ribbon. Yellow and faded age has made them, yet at their touch I seemed tc feel the fire of youth, immortally glowing, more and more expansive, with which his soul has pervaded this century. He was the precursor of all we most prize. True, his blood was mixed with madness, and the course of his actual life made some detours through villainous places; but his spirit was intimate with the fundamental truths of human nature, and fraught with prophecy. There is none who has given birth to more life for this age; his gifts are yet untold; they are too present with us; but he who thinks really must often think with Rousseau, and learn him ever more and more. Such is the method of genius,-to ripen fruit for the crowd by those rays of whose heat they complain. (Memoirs, Vol. II, pp. 2o6-207.)
The rebel pays a heavy price for his rebellions, as Margaret learned to her cost. She suffered much in her daily life, but it was her art that suffered most. She was evidently a far richer nature than her printed works reveal. Intense evidently her extravagant demands upon life, a radical humanitarian in all her sympathies and instincts, generous in response to whatever was fine and high, living unduly an inner life as became a daughter of Puritanism. Margaret Fuller was too vivid a personality, too complete an embodiment of the rich ferment of the forties, to be carelessly forgotten. The deeper failure of her career, its vague aspirations and inadequate accomplishment was a failure that may be justly charged against the narrow world that bred her. Perhaps no sharper criticism could be leveled at New England than that it could do no better with such material, lent it by the gods.

3This phrase of Parker's was probably the source of Lincoln's phrase.
4See "The Law of God and the Statutes of Men," in .Additional Speeches, Vol. II, p. 181.
5Quoted in Weiss, Vol. II, p. 488.