“America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race,”-
wrote poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Born MAY 25, 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was friends with writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.
Ralph Waldo Emerson commented on John Quincy Adams:
“No man could read the Bible with such powerful effect, even with the cracked and winded voice of old age.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson composed some of the best loved poems in American literature, including The Concord Hymn, written in 1837 for the dedication of the monument where the Revolutionary War began at Concord’s North Bridge, April 19, 1775.
His most recognizable stanza is inscribed on the base of Daniel Chester French’s Minute Man Statue:
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept,
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
O Thou who made those heroes dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
-Bid Time and Nature gently spare,
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.”
When abolitionist publisher, Elijah Lovejoy was murdered and his printing press destroyed in 1838, Emerson said:
“It is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast to the bullets of a mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion.”
In 1848, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloody June Days, a sort of Occupy Wall Street demonstration. When he saw near the Champ de Mars, that mobs had cut down trees to form barricades across downtown city streets, he wrote in his journal:
“At the end of the year we shall take account, & see if the Revolution was worth the trees.”
During the Civil War, Emerson lectured at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., stating:
“Emancipation is the demand of civilization.”
Charles Sumner took him to the White House to meet Lincoln.
“I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.”
In 1865, Emerson spoke at a memorial service for Lincoln:
“I doubt if any death has caused so much pain as this has caused.”
On September 12, 2001, the day after the fundamentalist Muslim terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr., quoted Emerson:
“Politics has taken the day off. Today Congress remembers and recognizes the afflicted and the sorrowing and those who come to the aid of their fellow man. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1842, captured what we are thinking as a nation today:
‘Sorrow makes us all children again,
destroys all differences of intellect.
The wisest knows nothing.’
I thank my colleagues for their service and leadership during this national tragedy.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson acknowledged:
“All I have seen has taught me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more visit William Federer
Featured image: Stephen Alonzo Schoff (1818–1904) from an original drawing by Samuel W. Rouse (1822–1901)