BECK index

US Peacemakers & Women Reformers 1845-65

by Sanderson Beck

American Peacemakers & Abolitionists
Burritt and Ballou on Peace
Thoreau’s Walden & “Civil Disobedience”
Emerson on War, Great Men & Conduct
Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the 19th Century
Mrs. Stanton, Lucretia Mott & Lucy Stone
Susan B. Anthony
Lydia Child, Dorothea Dix & Oneida

American Peacemakers & Abolitionists

Slavery and Abolitionists 1817-44
Women Reforming America 1817-44

      On 4 July 1845 Boston lawyer Charles Sumner gave “The True Grandeur of the Nations” oration, and his speech was published as a pamphlet in Boston. He declared, “In our age there can be no peace that is not honorable: there can be no war that is not dishonorable.” He warned against “a selfish and exaggerated love of country” perpetuated by a martial spirit. He counseled that following one’s country right or wrong was “a sentiment dethroning God and enthroning the Devil.” He noted that the US government was spending seven times as much on “peaceful preparations for war” as for all other purposes. Instead of “trial by battle” he advised arbitration and a congress of nations, and he called international conflict unchristian. To the surprise of his audience of patriots, he called for disbanding the standing army, the regular navy, and state militias, though he would retain some armed naval forces to suppress piracy and slave trading. Sumner suggested that the true grandeur of nations is not in war but “in moral elevation enlightened and decorated by the intellect” which would bring about a golden age.
      Lewis Tappan got 400 New Yorkers to sign a petition against going to war over Oregon in 1846. During the Mexican War the southern Episcopalian minister Philip Berry wrote “An Essay on the Means to Preventing War” and suggested sending peacemakers from different countries to risk their lives as “soldiers of peace.” Such unarmed world-police might perish as martyrs or they might “arrest the collision of the two armies.”1
      The first International Congress was hosted by the London Peace Society in 1843, and they met again at Brussels in 1848, at Paris in 1849, at Frankfort in 1850, at London again in 1851, at Manchester in 1852, and at Edinburgh in 1853. Two fugitive slaves joined the American Peace Society delegation to the World Peace Congress in Paris in 1849, and 12 of the 23 delegates were from Massachusetts. In his address at Paris the great novelist Victor Hugo urged organizing peace by using arbitration, proportionate and simultaneous disarmament, and a Congress of Nations. Hugo prophetically believed that cooperation between the United States and a union of European nations could lead the world to peace. Between 1842 and 1854 efforts to get nations to stipulate with each other that they would use arbitration instead of war to settle disagreements were led by Richard Cobden and Henry Richard in England and by Judge William Jay in the United States. In 1849 Cobden proposed in the House of Commons that the British government pursue this, but it was defeated 176-79. In 1842 the English Peace Society had published Jay’s pamphlet War and Peace: the Evils of the First with a Plan for Securing the Last.
      In February 1847 the American Peace Society decided that a review of the war between the United States and Mexico should be written to appeal to the good sense of the fair-minded for the purpose of using “the Mexican War as an argument for the cause of peace.” In 1850 Ariel Abbot Livermore published The War with Mexico Reviewed to show the folly and evils of war and to suggest peaceful alternatives to violent conflicts. As a leading cause of the war he noted that Robert Peel in the British Parliament observed the “development of military ambition in the United States” which was a cause and an effect of the war with Mexico. The lust for territory pushed forward unjustifiable invasion. Many in the South wanted to extend slavery. From this war Livermore drew the lesson not to trust political institutions alone to maintain peaceful relations.
      On 28 May 1849 Charles Sumner gave a long speech to the American Peace Society on “The War System of the Commonwealth of Nations.” He supported the ideas of substituting “a Congress of Nations with a High Court of Judicature” and arbitration treaties between nations in order overthrow the war system so that the nations could be disarmed. Yet later Sumner would accept the possibility of a defensive war, and the Peace Society criticized him for that. He would also support the military methods of the Union government in 1861.

      On 5 August 1856 George William Curtis gave a lecture on “The Duty of the American Scholar” saying,

The object of human government is human liberty.
Laws restrain the encroachment of the individual
upon society in order that all individuals
may be secured the freest play of their powers.
This is because the end of society is the improvement
of the individual and the development of the race.
Liberty is, therefore, the condition of human progress,
and consequently that is the best government
which gives to men the largest liberty,
and constantly modifies itself in the interest of freedom.
   The laws of society, indeed, deprive men of liberty,
and even of life, but only when by crime
they have become injurious to society.
The deprivation of the life or liberty of the individual
under other circumstances is the outrage of those rights
which are instinctively perceived by every man,
but are beyond argument or proof.
   Human slavery annihilates
the conditions of human progress.
Its necessary result is the destruction of humanity;
and this not only directly by its effect upon the slave,
but indirectly by its effect upon the master.
In the one it destroys the self-respect
which is the basis of manhood,
and is thus a capital crime against humanity.
In the other it fosters pride,
indolence, luxury, and licentiousness,
which equally imbrute the human being.2

      After John Brown’s raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal in 1859, Charles K. Whipple praised his heroism but once again deprecated his violent methods. He repeated that Christ’s spirit of love is the way to win over enemies; otherwise one is using Satan to cast out Satan. Whipple also urged slaves to peacefully resist by refusing to work for a master. Whipple’s main approach was to encourage the free to help the oppressed escape by the Underground Railroad.
      Abolitionists also boycotted products of slavery, particularly cotton, following the example of the British who ended slavery in the West Indies after boycotting sugar. Lucretia Mott carried her own free-labor sugar to sweeten her tea, and many wore linen clothing instead of cotton. Abolitionists promoted the planting of sugar beets. Stephen S. Foster and Parker Pillsbury gained attention by attending churches and speaking out against slavery. Ministers were encouraged to get everyone in their denomination to renounce slave-holding. Quakers and the other peace churches (United Brethren, Mennonites, River Brethren, and Shakers) accomplished this, and by 1864 Wesleyan Methodists, German Methodists, African Methodist Episcopal, United Presbyterians, and Reformed Presbyterians had joined them in excluding slaveholders from membership. Courageous missionaries sponsored by the American Missionary Association took the abolitionist message into the southern states. Not cooperating with the government’s laws that promoted slavery meant helping fugitive slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. Evidence indicates that violence or weapons were rarely used in these escapes.

Burritt and Ballou on Peace

      Elihu Burritt (1810-79) was from a poor family and became a blacksmith, but studying on his own he learned many languages. In 1843 he realized the oneness of life and joined the American Peace Society. He perceived that the law of love is for the spiritual universe what the law of gravity is in the physical world. In 1845 Burritt became editor of the Society’s publication Advocate of Peace and added to its name and Universal Brotherhood. However, when George Beckwith gained control of the American Peace Society the next year, the pacifists including Burritt resigned from the executive committee. Burritt and Amasa Walker had started the Worcester County Peace Society and wanted to oppose all wars, and in June 1846 Burritt went to England. There he lectured and got thousands of people to sign a pledge not to support war nor prevent peaceful brotherhood in any way. He was strongly supported by Quakers. This is the pledge statement:

Believing all war to be inconsistent
with the spirit of Christianity,
and destructive of the best interests of mankind,
I do hereby pledge myself never to enlist
or enter into any army or navy,
or to yield any voluntary support or sanction
to the preparation for or prosecution of any war,
by whomsoever, or for whatsoever proposed,
declared, or waged.
And I do hereby associate myself with all persons,
of whatever country, condition, or color,
who have signed, or shall hereafter sign this pledge,
in a “League of Universal Brotherhood;
whose object shall be to employ all legitimate
and moral means for the abolition of all war,
and all the spirit and all the manifestations of war,
throughout the world; for the abolition of all restrictions
upon international correspondence and friendly intercourse,
and of whatever else tends to make enemies of nations,
or prevents their fusion into one peaceful brotherhood;
for the abolition of all institutions and customs
which do not recognize and respect the image of God
and a human brother in every man,
of whatever clime, color, or condition of humanity.2

      William Lloyd Garrison, Elihu Burritt, and Frederick Douglass attended the World’s Temperance Convention at London in 1846, and that year the state of Maine prohibited alcohol. Between 1852 and 1855 twelve more states would enact prohibition.
      As a laborer himself Burritt appealed to the working class. By 1847 some 30,000 people had signed the pledge in England and the United States as the League of Universal Brotherhood was officially formed. He participated in the International Peace Congress at Brussels, Belgium in September 1848, and they supported an international court of arbitration. For a decade Burritt spent most of his time in Britain working for the League with the London Peace Society. League activities declined in the 1850s in America and in England with Burritt’s departure and the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1855 with the result that in 1857 the League dissolved into the American Peace Society and the London Peace Society.
      Elihu Burritt wrote essays on “Passive Resistance” that were published in his Thoughts and Things at Home and Abroad in 1854. He believed that the full power of the Gospel precept to “overcome evil with good” had never been fully tested by a community to subdue evils and overcome oppression; but he found a few recent examples of passive resistance successfully withstanding oppressive force. When the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) imposed a tax on liquor to reduce drunkenness, the French navy threatened to use cannons if they did not repeal the tax on French brandy; but the people did not give in nor resist with force, and the French marines were powerless. A community at the Cape of Good Hope refused to cooperate with the British attempt to make the country a penal settlement. Passive resistance uses the power of the will by holding to what is good. Burritt argued it can raise the smallest nation to the equal of the great powers on Earth, but resistance using brute force weakens the will of a nation and subordinates it to the precarious contingencies of the battlefield. Conquering by moral will is to be like a God, but conquering by brute force is to be like a beast. Burritt found greater patriotism in being courageously peaceful. He wrote,

Peace has its patriotism,
deep, earnest, unselfish, self-sacrificing, and sensitive,—
a love of country that would bleed to the last vein,
but never wound, for its rights, honor, and prosperity.3

He described how William Penn courageously faced Indians and made peace with them after they had been scarred by previous conflicts with European colonists. Burritt argued that passive resistance is most economical and moral. In a battle right has no advantage over wrong, and oppressed people lose the moral force they had before fighting.
      Burritt asked what force can a despotic government use to overcome the will of people who oppose it without fighting. Every act of violence puts it more in the wrong; thus it has no moral force, and its soldiers become powerless. Women and children can also become heroes in this struggle by enduring patiently wrongs without doing wrong in return. The generals can hang a few leaders; they can put hundreds in prison; they can spoil the goods of thousands. Yet the total destruction is always less when only one side is fighting instead of two, and those enduring peacefully are not subjected to the despotism of military rule. This bravery of the human heart can face down gigantic despotism as people establish democracy by their wills. This is the way to realize fully liberty, equality, and fraternity. He wrote that alien armies of despots

may encamp around such a nation,
but they can no more withhold from it
the freedom it has won by its capacity to enjoy it,
than they can withhold the communion
and friendship of the Holy Spirit from the individual soul.4

In “Passive Resistance” he also wrote,

Peace has its battle-fields; bloodless, but brave
to a degree of heroic endurance of wrong and outrage
to which martial courage could never attain.
The patriotism of peace, like the first grace of Christianity,
is first pure, then peaceable;
pure from those intense emotions of selfishness
which are generally the heart and soul
of the patriotism of the warrior.5

In 1867 Burritt hoped that someday working Christians would form one big trade union and go on a world-wide strike against the whole war system. The next year at the Social Science Congress he proposed that a congress of nations be called to codify international law.

      Adin Ballou (1803-90) became the American Anti-Slavery Society’s president in 1843 and tried to revive the Non-Resistant in 1845 and 1848. In the latter year Henry Wright managed to arouse interest in Ohio; but after that, Ballou’s Practical Christian absorbed this cause. Ballou founded the Hopedale community in January 1841, and it lasted until 1856, longest of the five socialist communities in that era. Hopedale was nonresistant, religious, racially integrated, and allowed some wage differences. In addition to Garrison’s work the cause of nonresistance was promoted by the speeches and writings of Ballou, Wright, and Whipple (1808-1900). Wright gave thirty reasons why the armed forces were incompatible with the teachings of Christ. They were criticized for many as “no-government” men; but Ballou was certainly not for anarchy, and even Garrison believed that to abrogate existing laws and government regulations that punish wrong-doers would be calamitous if the people were not morally and spiritually regenerated. Usually the non-resistants complied with government in paying their taxes.
      Ballou had lectured on non-resistance in 1839, and in 1846 he published his first book on Christian Non-Resistance. He did not recommend passivity but moral resistance to evil without injuring any person. Ballou developed the concept of “uninjurious physical force” that can be used to restrain the insane, the delirious, disruptive children, the intoxicated, and the violently passionate. One may actively put oneself between the helpless victim and the destroyer and even use physical force as long as no personal injury is inflicted. Ballou delineated seven things a nonresistant will not do. These are: not killing or injuring any human even in self-defense; not participating in any lawless conspiracy or mob that would cause personal injury; not being a member of any voluntary association that practices war, capital punishment, or personal injury; not being an officer or a chaplain for the military; not being an officer or agent of a government which authorizes war, slavery, capital punishment, or injury; not being a member of a corporation that supports government violence; and not promoting or encouraging any act that injures a person.
      Ballou argued that nonresistance is the best way to preserve oneself in safety as well as others, and he gave numerous examples. Quakers like Robert Barclay and Leonard Fell had each escaped unscathed after being attacked by highwaymen. In 1798 Quakers in Ireland refused to fight for the Catholics or the Protestants and were criticized by both sides; but during two years of war their houses were the safest as eventually both sides realized that they should be spared because they had done good to all and harm to none. Essentially Ballou argued simply that evil cannot be overcome by evil but only by good. He explained that non-resistants cannot work within a corrupt government because they cannot be for war, capital punishment, and slavery. Such governments are anti-Christian, and any Christian swearing to support them would be committing perjury. He observed that those considered “political good men” tend to be used as tools for mischief but that “non-political good men” are more likely to influence the government to be decent. He thought it an absurd assertion to say that no one could live in the world without actually fighting, threatening to fight, or being armed to fight.
      Ballou suggested that if they could get two-thirds of the people to support non-resistance as true Christians, then government could dispense with the military and violent punishments. Such a government would save 80% of its expenditures and could greatly improve society by spending half of that savings on education and reformation. Non-injurious force could be used to prevent personal outrage in extreme cases. Such a government of superior justice, forgiveness, and charity would be a tremendous blessing.

Thoreau’s Walden & “Civil Disobedience”

      Henry David Thoreau was born on 12 July 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, and he died there peacefully on 6 May 1862. He was educated at Harvard (1833-37) where he developed his love for Greek and Roman poetry, Oriental philosophy, and botany. He earned his living doing odd jobs, teaching school, and making lead pencils. He spent little time working at these though; having few wants, he made free time his greatest wealth. He loved nature, and his preoccupation four hours each day was exploring the woods and ponds making detailed observations of plants and creatures. Emerson was his close friend, and he lived in Emerson’s house for a time. Thoreau led a singular life, never marrying, and marching to his own drummer.
      From 4 July 1845 to 6 September 1847 he lived alone in a small cabin he built by Walden Pond near Concord. He left to take care of Emerson’s house while his friend was on a trip to Europe. He described this unique experiment in natural living in his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods and published it in 1854. Despite all the superfluities of customary society, he believed, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”7 Thoreau lectured occasionally and struggled to get his writings published. His personal independence and straightforward manner was abrasive to some people, and he gained little recognition during his lifetime. He lectured and wrote against slavery, particularly when the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, compelling northern law enforcement officials to capture and return runaway slaves. Thoreau was known to have helped some runaways, and he thought it absurd for a court to try to decide whether a person ought to be free. He defended the radical abolitionist John Brown, and Thoreau gained his most fame by his eulogy after the radical abolitionist’s death in 1859.
      By his personal example Thoreau put into practice the Transcendentalist principles of self-reliance, personal integrity, and spontaneous intuition. About the uplifting spiritual energy within he wrote,

I know of no more encouraging fact
than the unquestionable ability of man
to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.8

He stated, “Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep.”9 For Thoreau philosophy was not clever logic or formulating a doctrine, but loving wisdom by living according to its dictates in simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. He exhorted people to explore themselves and love life. We must learn to obey the laws of our own being which will never be in opposition to a just government. Thoreau’s great innovation was in the ways he suggested for opposing an unjust government in order to be true to the higher laws of one’s own being.
      On 23 July 1846 Thoreau walked into Concord to get his shoe repaired. He was met by his friend Sam Staples, who was the local tax collector, constable, and jailer. Thoreau since 1842 had not paid his poll tax of $1.50. Staples offered to pay Henry’s tax for him or get it reduced; but Thoreau declared that he did not intend to pay it as a matter of principle. When Staples asked what he should do about it, Thoreau suggested that he resign his office. However, Staples replied, “Henry, if you don’t pay, I shall have to lock you up pretty soon.”
      Thoreau answered him, “As well now as any time, Sam.” So Staples took him to jail. The tax was paid by someone, probably Thoreau’s Aunt Maria, and Henry was released the next morning. According to Staples, Thoreau was “as mad as the devil” and did not want to leave jail, but Staples made him. He wanted to stay so that he could call attention to the abolitionist cause and the Mexican War. People in Concord wanted to know the reasons for his going to jail, and Thoreau wrote out an explanation and gave it as a lecture twice in 1848. It was published in 1849 as “Resistance to Civil Government” and posthumously in 1866 as “Civil Disobedience.”
      Thoreau began his essay with the well-known motto—“That government is best which governs least.”10 This carried to its natural conclusion is no government at all, which he said will happen when people are prepared. He objected particularly to a standing army and the current “Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool.”11 Yet Thoreau realized that the immediate need is not for no government but for better government.

Let every man make known
what kind of government would command his respect,
and that will be one step toward obtaining it.12

Majorities usually rule because they are the strongest physically; but their policies are based upon expediency. Thoreau asked whether it is not better to decide right and wrong by conscience, which everyone has.

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law,
so much as for the right.
The only obligation which I have a right to assume,
is to do at any time what I think right.13

A corporation has no conscience, though conscientious people may be a corporation with a conscience. Undue respect for law leads to soldiers marching to wars against their wills, common sense, and consciences. Such men have let themselves become machines, serving the state with their bodies. Others, like lawyers and politicians, serve the state with their heads. A few, reformers and martyrs, serve the state with their consciences also, but they are usually treated as enemies.
      Thoreau declared that he could not associate with the American government because it was a slave’s government. He appealed to the right of revolution and the case of 1775. He wrote,

All men recognize the right of revolution;
that is, the right to refuse allegiance to
and to resist the government, when its tyranny
or its inefficiency are great and unendurable….
But when the friction comes to have its machine,
and oppression and robbery are organized,
I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.
In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation
which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves,
and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered
by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that
it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize.
What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact,
that the country so overrun is not our own,
but ours is the invading army.14

It has become a military state, and honest men ought to rebel. He criticized not only southern slave-owners but northern merchants and farmers, who care more about commerce and agriculture than they do about humanity. Thousands are against slavery and the war, but they do nothing about it. Voting, he said, is like playing a game with right and wrong. Voting for the right does nothing for it if the majority passes the expedient instead. Thoreau predicted that by the time the majority abolished slavery there would be no slavery left to abolish. Although it is not necessarily a person’s duty to work to eradicate a wrong, it is one’s duty not to support practically a wrong. We must not only refuse to fight in an unjust war but also refuse to support the unjust government which conducts the war. Thoreau suggested that individuals refuse to pay their quota into the treasury.

Action from principle, the perception
and the performance of right, changes things and relations;
it is essentially revolutionary,
and does not consist wholly with any thing which was.
It not only divides states and churches, it divides families;
aye, it divides the individual,
separating the diabolical in him from the divine.15

      When unjust laws exist, there are three choices: 1) obey them, 2) obey them while working to change them, or 3) transgress them at once. Yet the evil resulting from breaking an unjust law is the fault of the government. Thoreau wondered why government resists reform, asking “Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?”16 Thoreau advised letting minor injustices pass if the remedy is worse than the evil.

But if it is of such a nature that
it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another,
then, I say, break the law.
Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.
What I have to do is to see, at any rate,
that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.17

      If a person is truly in the right, one has God on one’s side and constitutes a majority of one. His contact with the tax collector was Thoreau’s only association with the government and therefore his best means of protest. The action of one honest man can do more for reform than all the words in the world. “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”18 The person who has experienced a little injustice for the sake of justice is more effective, as truth is stronger than error. Thoreau exhorted us:

Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely,
but your whole influence.
A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority;
it is not even a minority then;
but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.
If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison,
or give up war and slavery,
the State will not hesitate which to choose.
If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure,
as it would be to pay them, and enable the State
to commit violence and shed innocent blood.
This is in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution,
if any such is possible.19

      Thoreau treated of imprisonment instead of the seizure of property because he believed that people of principle are usually poor; the rich have sold themselves to an institution, and they enjoy Caesar’s government and neglect God. It is not necessary to rely on the protection of the state. When the state is corrupt, it is no shame to be poor; then disobedience is more worthy than obeying.
      In prison Thoreau thought of the absurdity of confining his body when his mind and spirit are free. He pitied the state for trying to punish his body because they could not get at him. They used superior physical strength against his body, but moral force comes from a higher law. When a government says, “Your money or your life,” it is playing the thief. Why should one give in to that?
      Thoreau described his stay in prison and the changed attitude of the townspeople to him when he came out. He also mentioned that he never refused to pay the highway tax or support the schools, but he must refuse allegiance to the state. Those whose taxes support the state at war are helping injustice. Thoreau expressed an eagerness to conform to the laws of the land so long as there is no moral principle to be violated. He was willing to obey those who know more than he; yet the authority of the government depends upon the consent of the governed.

There will never be a really free and enlightened State,
until the State comes to recognize the individual
as a higher and independent power,
from which all its own power and authority are derived,
and treats him accordingly.20

      Thoreau’s essay had little impact in the nineteenth century, but in the twentieth it became a manual for social protest. Leo Tolstoy noticed it and asked Americans why they did not pay more attention to Thoreau’s ideas instead of their financial and industrial millionaires and their generals and admirals. Mahatma Gandhi put civil disobedience into practice on a mass scale in South Africa and India. Dr. Martin Luther King used the techniques in the civil rights movement, and anti-war and anti-nuclear activists and many other protestors have also applied these principles.
      Less than two weeks after John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Thoreau gave his speech at Concord on 30 October 1859 and then several times after Brown was hanged on December 2. He published it as “A Plea for Captain John Brown” in Echoes of Harper’s Ferry in 1860. He wrote,

The slave-ship is on her way,
crowded with its dying victims;
new cargoes are being added in mid-ocean;
a small crew of slaveholders,
countenanced by a large body of passengers,
is smothering four millions under the hatches,
and yet the politician asserts that the only proper way
by which deliverance is to be obtained,
is by “the quiet diffusion of the sentiments of humanity,”
without any “outbreak.” …
Prominent and influential editors, accustomed
to deal with politicians, men of an infinitely lower grade,
say, in their ignorance,
that he acted “on the principle of revenge.”
They do not know the man.
They must enlarge themselves to conceive of him.
I have no doubt that the time will come
when they will begin to see him as he was.
They have got to conceive of a man of faith
and of religious principle, and not a politician or an Indian;
of a man who did not wait till he was personally
interfered with or thwarted in some harmless business
before he gave his life to the cause of the oppressed….
It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right
to interfere by force with the slaveholder,
in order to rescue the slave.
I agree with him.

Emerson on War, Great Men & Conduct

Emerson’s Transcendentalism

      After his friend Thoreau went to jail for failing to pay his poll tax, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal that the abolitionists give much time to denouncing the Mexican War but pay their tax; he suggested they “ought to resist & go to prison in multitudes on their known & described disagreements from the state.”21 He also noted that the state tax does not pay for the war but that imported goods such as coats, sugar, foreign books, and watches do. Later in his life Emerson proposed boycotting all goods produced by slave labor.
      When the United States Army was invading Mexico in 1846, the Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist Theodore Parker made the following statement against war:

War is an utter violation of Christianity.
If war be right, then Christianity is wrong, false, a lie.
Every man who understands Christianity
knows that war is wrong….
War is treason to the people, to mankind, to God.22

      Emerson criticized the Mexican War, which he felt was caused chiefly by the interests of the slave states, and he prophesied that there would be retribution for the nation just as there is for any private felon. He went to Britain again in 1847 and was in Paris during the revolution of 1848. In a discussion with Thomas Carlyle at Stonehenge in July, Emerson put forward as an indigenous American conviction the pacifist philosophy of non-resistance and non-cooperation with governments which institutionalize violence; this idea was championed by the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and others who would not compromise on this point as Channing had. Emerson gave one or two anecdotes, which made an impression on Carlyle, and concluded, “’Tis certain as God liveth, the gun that does not need another gun, the law of love and justice alone, can effect a clean revolution.”23 For Emerson the soul transcends all conflict and has no enemies; soldiers he considered to be ridiculous. He believed that war is “abhorrent to all right reason” and against human progress. From the perspective of spiritual oneness he wrote, “The poet shall bring out the blazing truth that he who kills his brother commits suicide.”24 In his essay “War” published in 1849 he wrote,

Whenever we see the doctrine of peace
embraced by a nation,
we may be assured it will not be one that invites injury;
but one, on the contrary, which has a friend
in the bottom of the heart of every man,
even of the violent and the base;
one against which no weapon can prosper;
one which is looked upon as the asylum of the human race
and has the tears and the blessings of mankind….
The proposition of the Congress of Nations is undoubtedly
that at which the present fabric of our society
and the present course of events do point.
But the mind, once prepared for the reign of principles,
will easily find modes of expressing its will.25

      Emerson gave a lecture series in 1845-46 and published it as Representative Men in 1850. He discussed Plato as the philosopher, Swedenborg as the mystic, Montaigne as the skeptic, Shakespeare as the poet, Napoleon as the man of the world, and Goethe as the writer. They are introduced by the essay “Uses of Great Men” in which he wrote,

I count him a great man
who inhabits a higher sphere of thought,
into which other men rise with labor and difficulty;
he has but to open his eyes
to see things in a true light and in large relations,
whilst they must make painful corrections
and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error.26

He ended Representative Men with this:

The world is young;
the former great men call to us affectionately.
We too must write Bibles,
to unite again the heavens and the earthly world.
The secret of genius is to suffer no fiction to exist for us;
to realize all that we know;
in the high refinement of modern life, in arts, in sciences,
in books, in men, to exact good faith, reality and a purpose;
and first, last, midst and without end,
to honor every truth by use.27

      On 3 May 1851 Emerson in an address at Concord criticized the Fugitive Slave Act as “a law which no man can obey, or abet the obeying, without loss of self-respect.” He was concerned that America’s fairest fame was ending in “this filthy law” that enacted the crime of kidnapping. In July 1850 Margaret Fuller had died in a shipwreck, and in February 1852 Emerson helped put together The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli. In 1855 Walt Whitman sent Emerson a copy of his Leaves of Grass, and Emerson commended and promoted the poetic work. In 1856 Emerson published English Traits. He went on a wilderness camping trip in the Adirondacks with James Russell Lowell and William Stillman in August 1858.
      In 1860 Emerson published more essays in The Conduct of Life. In “Wealth” he wrote,

Poverty demoralizes.
A man in debt is so far a slave;
and Wall-street thinks it easy for a millionaire
to be a man of his word, a man of honor,
but, that, in failing circumstances,
no man can be relied on to keep his integrity.28

He is the rich man
who can avail himself of all men’s faculties.
He is the richest man who knows how to draw a benefit
from the labors of the greatest number of men,
of men in distant countries, and in past times….
For he is the rich man in whom the people are rich,
and he is the poor man in whom the people are poor:
and how to give all access to the masterpieces
of art and nature, is the problem of civilization.
The socialism of our day has done good service
in setting men on thinking how certain civilizing benefits,
now only enjoyed by the opulent, can be enjoyed by all.29

      In his essay “Culture” he described how culture uses our love of beauty to civilize us. In “Behavior” he wrote,

There is always a best way of doing everything,
if it be to boil an egg.
Manners are the happy way of doing things;
each, once a stroke of genius or of love,
now repeated and hardened into usage….
Manners are very communicable;
men catch them from each other.30

Wise men read very sharply all your private history
in your look and gait and behavior.
The whole economy of nature is bent on expression.31

Nature forever puts a premium on reality.
What is done for effect, is seen to be done for effect;
what is done for love, is felt to be done for love.32

In “Worship” he noted,

The fatal trait is the divorce between religion and morality.
Here are know-nothing religions,
or churches that proscribe intellect; scortatory religions;
slave-holding and slave-trading religions;
and, even in the decent populations, idolatries wherein
the whiteness of the ritual covers scarlet indulgence.33

Higher than the question of our duration
is the question of our deserving.
Immortality will come to such as are fit for it,
and he who would be a great soul in future,
must be a great soul now.
It is a doctrine too great to rest on any legend,
that is, on any man’s experience but our own.
It must be proved, if at all,
from our own activity and designs,
which imply an interminable future for their play.34

      In the essay “Beauty” he wrote,

Beauty is the form under which
the intellect prefers to study the world.
All privilege is that of beauty; for there are many beauties;
as, of general nature, of the human face and form,
of manners, of brain, or method,
moral beauty, or beauty of the soul.35

In “Illusions” he wrote,

Whatever games are played with us,
we must play no games with ourselves,
but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.
I look upon the simple and childish virtues of veracity
and honesty as the root of all that is sublime in character.
Speak as you think, be what you are,
pay your debts of all kinds.36

      Emerson looked at the Civil War as a retribution to purge the nation of the evil of slavery, and he detested the lack of freedom during the war. In his lecture “The Fortune of the Republic” in December 1863 Emerson predicted that scientific advances in energy would create weapons of mass destruction which must be renounced by ending war. He said,

As if 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 war
by the exterminating forces man can apply.37

In 1865 he vowed that if martial law came to Concord,
he would disobey it or move elsewhere.

Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the 19th Century

Margaret Fuller
Fuller and The Dial

      Margaret Fuller had published in The Dial in 1843 “The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men. Women versus Women,” and in 1845 she greatly expanded that effort in Woman in the Nineteenth Century that sold out 1,000 copies in one week. During that year and 1846 she published about 250 essays in the New York Tribune. She went to Europe, visited Harriet Martineau and in London talked with Thomas Carlyle and Giuseppe Mazzini. Then she went to Paris and in 1847 met with George Sand, Frédéric Chopin, and other intellectuals. In Italy she had a son by Angelo Ossoli in September 1848. On the voyage back to America the married couple and their baby died in a shipwreck near Fire Island on 19 July 1850. In February 1852 Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, and William Henry Channing helped put together and edit The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli which was the bestselling biography for a decade.
      In the preface to her Woman in the Nineteenth Century Fuller wrote,

While it is the destiny of Man, in the course of the ages,
to ascertain and fulfill the law of his being,
so that his life shall be seen, as a whole,
to be that of an angel or messenger,
the action of prejudices and passions which attend,
in the day, the growth of the individual,
is continually obstructing the holy work
that is to make the earth a part of heaven.
By Man I mean both man and woman;
these are the two halves of one thought.
I lay no especial stress on the welfare of either.
I believe that the development of the one
cannot be effected without that of the other.
My highest wish is that this truth
should be distinctly and rationally apprehended,
and the condition of life and freedom recognized
as the same for the daughter and the sons of time;
twin exponents of a divine thought.38

Fuller had a spiritual or transcendental philosophy, and she believed that the soul could attain whatever it knows how to seek. She argued that as men become aware that few men have had a fair chance, they understand that no women have had one either. Men can see that women are the weaker party, and to end their oppression they must have legal protection. Yet women privately influence all men. She asked that women have as free a path as men have, and this increases the divine energy that pervades nature and brings about harmony. She urged men and women to use intelligent freedom “with God alone as their guide and their judge.” She wrote,

In our country, the woman looks for
a “smart but kind” husband;
the man for a “capable, sweet- tempered” wife.
The man furnishes the house; the woman regulates it.39

Fuller believed this is a good start but not adequate. When women are better educated, they will become better companions and mothers. She observed that Quakers established equality for women and men, and she praised the efforts and ideas of Goethe, Swedenborg, and Fourier. She believed that the power women have is moral power. She wrote that women are asking “men to remove arbitrary barriers.” She wrote,

I wish Woman to live, first for God’s sake.
Then she will not make an imperfect man her god,
and thus sink to idolatry.
Then she will not take what is not fit for her
from a sense of weakness and poverty.
Then, if she finds what she needs in Man embodied,
she will know how to love, and be worthy of being loved.
By being more a soul, she will not be less Woman,
for nature is perfected through spirit.40

Mrs. Stanton, Lucretia Mott & Lucy Stone

      The Quaker Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) had met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1840 at the World Antislavery Convention in London, and in 1848 they organized the Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights. Mott spoke always for the equal and balanced empowerment of women and men harmoniously blended so that “there would be less war, injustice, and intolerance in the world than now.” She remained an active Non-Resistant and pacifist even during the Civil War, supporting conscientious objectors and recommending only moral force.
      Elizabeth Cady was born in 1815, and her father was a judge. She attended the Troy Female Seminary and married abolitionist speaker Henry B. Stanton in 1840. Lucretia Mott and Mrs. Stanton, after meeting with three other Quaker women, placed a notice in the Seneca County Courier announcing a Woman’s Rights Conference at the Wesleyan Methodist Church on July 19 and 20 in 1848. Using the “Declaration of Independence” as a model, they added the keywords “and women” before “are created equal.” The first two paragraphs were very similar, but the rest of the “Declaration of Sentiments” outlined the major grievances of women against men instead of King George III. Here they are:

  The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations on the part of man toward woman,
having in direct object
the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
  He has never permitted her to exercise
her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
  He has compelled her to submit to laws,
in the formation of which she had no voice.
  He has withheld from her rights
which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—
both natives and foreigners.
  Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen,
the elective franchise, thereby leaving her
without representation in the halls of legislation,
he has oppressed her on all sides.
  He has made her, if married,
in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
  He has taken from her all right in property,
even to the wages she earns.
  He has made her, morally, as an irresponsible being,
as she can commit many crimes with impunity,
provided they be done in the presence of her husband.
In the covenant of marriage,
she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband,
he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—
the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty,
and to administer chastisement.
  He has so framed the laws of divorce,
as to what shall be the proper causes,
and in case of separation,
to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given,
as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—
the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition
of the supremacy of man,
and giving all power into his hands.
  After depriving her of all rights as a married woman,
if single, and the owner of property,
he has taxed her to support a government
which recognizes her only
when her property can be made profitable to it.
  He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments,
and from those she is permitted to follow,
she receives but a scanty remuneration.
He closes against her
all the avenues of wealth and distinction
which he considers most honorable to himself.
As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law,
she is not known.
  He has denied her the facilities
for obtaining a thorough education,
all colleges being closed against her.
  He allows her in Church, as well as State,
but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority
for her exclusion from the ministry,
and, with some exceptions,
from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
  He has created a false public sentiment
by giving to the world
a different code of morals for men and women,
by which moral delinquencies
which exclude women from society,
are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.
  He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself,
claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action,
when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
  He has endeavored, in every way that he could,
to destroy her confidence in her own powers,
to lessen her self-respect,
and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.
  Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement
of one-half the people of this country,
their social and religious degradation—
in view of the unjust laws above mentioned,
and because women do feel themselves
aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived
of their most sacred rights,
we insist that they have immediate admission
to all the rights and privileges
which belong to them as citizens of the United States.
  In entering upon the great work before us,
we anticipate no small amount of misconception,
misrepresentation, and ridicule;
but we shall use every instrumentality within our power
to effect our object.
We shall employ agents, circulate tracts,
petition the State and National legislatures,
and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf.
We hope this Convention will be followed
by a series of Conventions
embracing every part of the country.41

      At the Seneca Falls convention eleven of twelve resolutions were passed unanimously. The only one that was passed by a mere majority was for the elective franchise, and that was because some believed it would make the whole movement seem ridiculous and so harm the other more rational objectives; but Mrs. Stanton and Frederick Douglass argued that the power to choose rulers and make laws to secure all the others depended on the right to vote. The Declaration of Principles was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Another convention was held at Rochester two weeks later, and conventions were organized in Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. In a speech that Stanton gave in upstate New York twice she summarized what they did at Seneca Falls and Rochester this way:

We did assemble to protest against a form of government
existing without the consent of the governed,
to declare our right to be free as man is free—
to be represented in the government
which we are taxed to support—
to have such disgraceful laws as give to man
the right to chastise and imprison his wife—
to take the wages which she earns,—
the property which she inherits
and in case of separation the children of her love—
laws which make her the mere dependent on his bounty—
it was to protest against such unjust laws as these
and to have them if possible
forever erased from our statute books,
deeming them a standing shame and disgrace
to a professedly republican, christian people
in the nineteenth century.42

      Lucretia Mott presented her “Discourse on Women” in Philadelphia on 17 December 1849 and then published it as a pamphlet. She described the condition of many women this way:

She has so long been subject
to the disabilities and restrictions,
with which her progress has been embarrassed,
that she has become enervated,
her mind to some extent paralyzed;
and, like those still more degraded by personal bondage,
she hugs her chains.
Liberty is often presented in its true light,
but it is liberty for man.

      The 1850 convention at Worcester, Massachusetts was supported by William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, William H. Channing, Bronson Alcott, Gerrit Smith, Thomas Wentworth Higgins, and Theodore Parker. At that convention Lucretia Mott met the Oberlin College graduate Lucy Stone who had been recruited by Abby Kelley Foster. Abby had an equal partnership with her husband, Stephen S. Foster; they alternated going on speaking tours and taking care of their child and the farm. Once when they were both arrested in Ohio for handing out antislavery literature on the Sabbath, Abby refused to cooperate and was carried to jail.
      Gerrit Smith supported women’s rights, and he urged women to abandon the clothes that imprisoned them. His daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller designed the first trousers for herself in 1850, and she wore them under a skirt that came down only to the knees. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was her cousin and adopted the innovation. Then her friend Amelia Bloomer invented the “bloomers” that were named after her. Mrs. Stanton defended bloomers because they enabled women to work more easily. Smith urged women to give up their corsets, hoops, and long skirts so that men would stop treating them like “playthings, idols, or dolls.”
      In the 1851 convention at Akron, Ohio, few women were willing to speak against the men’s views in the meeting as Frances Dana Gage presided; but the ex-slave Sojourner Truth took the floor and won over her audience with a speech that began,

Well, children, where there is so much racket
there must be something out of kilter.
I think that ‘twixt Negroes of the South
and the women of the North, all talking about rights,
the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be
helped into carriages and lifted over ditches,
and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helps me into carriages or over mud-puddles,
or gives me the best place—and ain’t I a woman?43

National woman’s rights conventions were held every year in the 1850s except in 1857. The new states California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Kansas adopted liberal laws for women, and all the other states joining later followed them in that.
      Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke on “Temperance and Women’s Rights” at Rochester New York on 1 June 1853, and on 14 February 1854 she was the first woman to testify before a Joint Judiciary Committee of both legislatures in New York. She demanded that women have the equal rights to vote, hold property in her own name, be on juries, attend colleges, be government officials, have equal employment opportunities, and the same rights as one’s husband, etc. Lucretia Mott also spoke and told women that the pulpit had been “prostituted,” and the Bible had been “ill-used.”
      In 1860 she reminded the New York legislature that the legal authority Blackstone considered the husband and wife one; but later commentators decided that that one was the husband. She argued that the prejudice against sex was as strong as that against color. Many legislators resisted, but in 1860 they passed laws which enabled women not only to own property but to collect their own wages, sue in court, and have similar property rights as men after the death of a spouse. The Polish immigrant Ernestine Rose had worked for twelve years to gain these reforms, and she said,

Freedom, my friends,
does not come from the clouds, like a meteor;
it does not bloom in one night;
it does not come without great efforts and great sacrifices;
all who love liberty, have to labor for it.44

      Lucy Stone attended Mount Holyoke Seminary, graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, and became an outstanding orator against slavery and for woman’s rights. When abolitionists complained that she ignored their cause for the latter, she agreed to speak against slavery on weekends and for women during the week. Her three main lectures discussed women’s disabilities—social and industrial, legal and political, and moral and religious. At the national convention held at Syracuse in 1852 she argued, “It is the  duty of woman to resist taxation as long as she is not represented” even though “it may involve the loss of friends as it surely will the loss of property.”45 When she married Henry B. Blackwell in 1855, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higgins approved and publicized their protest statement acknowledging their mutual independence despite any laws to the contrary, and Lucy Stone kept her name. In 1858 she sent a letter to a New Jersey tax collector explaining that she was returning her tax bill without payment because women were denied the right of suffrage. Her household goods were sold to pay the taxes. She believed that when men became aware that this was contrary to their theory of government, then they would correct it.
      No woman's rights conventions were held in the United States during the Civil War. In 1861 the abolitionist Wendell Phillips gave a lecture making “A Plea for Woman Suffrage,” saying,

What proves the clearest woman’s need of the ballot?
Why, the very inertness and ignorance
which the lack of it has caused her.
Like all other injustice and slavery, its worst effect is that
it weakens, degrades, and darkens its victims,
till they no longer realize the harm done them….
Those whom circumstances have lifted to broader views
must not wait for her request before they open to woman
the advantages by which they have profited so much.
Besides, we love half our resources
when we shut women out
from beneath the influence of these elements of growth.
God gives us the whole race with its varied endowments,
man and woman, one the complement of the other,
on which to base civilization.
We starve ourselves by using in civil affairs only half—
only one sex….
   I mean to get the ballot for women—why?
Because Republicanism demands it;
because the theory of our institutions demands it.46

Susan B. Anthony

      Susan B. Anthony was born on 15 February 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Her father was a Quaker who became an abolitionist and an advocate for temperance. Her family moved to Battenville, New York when she was six. At the age of 17 Susan began attending a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia until her family became bankrupt during the Panic of 1837. Susan left home and started teaching at a Quaker boarding school. In 1845 her mother inherited money, and the Anthony family bought a farm near Rochester, New York. There Susan became friends with Frederick Douglass. In 1846 she was put in charge of teaching females at the Canajoharie Academy until it closed in 1849. After running the family farm for two years, her parents helped Susan work for reforms. She became an excellent speaker for temperance and earned her living advocating that as well as public education, the abolition of slavery, and women’s rights for the rest of her long life.
      Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, and they started the Woman’s State Temperance Society. In 1852 Anthony was elected a delegate to the state temperance convention in New York; but when women were told not to speak, she and others walked out and formed their own meeting and a committee. She helped organize a convention for 500 women that formed the Women’s State Temperance Society. Stanton was elected president, and Anthony became the state agent. They collected 28,000 signatures on petitions to prohibit selling alcohol in the state of New York. Anthony attended a women’s rights convention for the first time at Syracuse in 1852.
      In 1853 she went to the World’s Temperance Convention in New York City, but arguments over whether women could speak led her to direct her efforts to the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. That year she worked with the Unitarian minister William Henry Channing to plan a convention in Rochester to improve married women’s right to own property. She lectured and circulated petitions for this in most counties of New York, and in 1860 the New York legislature improved the Married Women’s Property Act.
      Anthony tried to speak at the New York State Teachers’ Association convention in 1853. This is how she replied to the men:

It seems to me, gentlemen, that none of you
quite comprehend the cause of the disrespect
of which you complain.
Do you not see that so long as society says
a woman is incompetent to be a lawyer, minister, or doctor,
but has ample ability to be a teacher,
that every man of you who chooses this profession
tacitly acknowledges that
he has no more brains than a woman.
And this too is the reason that
teaching is less a lucrative profession,
as here men must compete with the cheap labor of women.
Would you exalt your profession,
exalt those who labor with you.
Would you make it more lucrative,
increase the salaries of the women
engaged in the novel work of educating
our future Presidents, Senators, and Congressmen.47

In her speech she also said,

In this State there are eleven thousand teachers,
and of these four-fifths are women.
By the reports it will be seen that,
of the annual State fund of $800,000,
two-thirds are paid to men, and one-third to women;
that is to say, two-thirds are paid
to one-fifth of the laborers in the cause of education,
while four-fifths of these laborers
are paid with one-third of the fund!48

Anthony worked in New York for women’s control of their earnings, guardianship of their children after divorce, and to vote. She found a woman to be captain in all sixty counties of New York, and in ten weeks they collected six thousand signatures. In 1855 Susan Anthony traveled to 54 counties of New York.
      Anthony attended the state teachers’ conventions every year for the next nine years. In her speech at the convention in 1856 she said,

Both sexes eat, sleep, hate, love and desire alike.
Everything which relates to the operations of the mind
is common to both sexes….
If they are allowed to attend picnics together,
and balls, and dancing schools, and the opera,
it certainly will not injure them
to use chalk at the same blackboard.49

At the teachers’ convention in 1857 she supported the following motion for coeducation:

   Resolved, That since the true and harmonious
development of the race demands that the sexes
be associated together in every department of life; therefore
   Resolved, That it is the duty of all our schools, colleges
and universities to open their doors to woman
and to give her equal and identical educational advantages
side by side with her brother man.50

About the same time Anthony gave her speech asking “What is American Slavery?” and answered,

It is the Legalized, Systematic robbery
of the bodies and souls
of nearly four millions of men, women, and children.
It is the Legallized traffic in God’s image.51

      At the 1860 women’s rights convention Mrs. Stanton proposed ten resolutions to reform divorce. When Wendell Phillips argued that marriage was not a proper topic for discussion at this convention, Anthony responded by saying,

Marriage has ever been a one-sided matter,
resting most unequally on the sexes.
By it, man gains all; woman loses all….
By law, public sentiment, and religion—
woman has never been thought of
other than a piece of property
to be disposed of at the will and pleasure of man.52

In 1861 Anthony wrote in her Diary that she “Fitted out a fugitive slave for Canada with the help of Harriet Tubman.”53 In a speech the next year she asked,

What will you do with the Negroes?
Do with them precisely what you would do with the Irish,
the Scotch, and the Germans—Educate them.
Welcome them to all the blessings of our free institutions;
—to our schools & churches,
to every department of industry, trade & art.54

      In May 1863 in New York the Loyal Women of the Nation was formed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president and Susan B. Anthony as secretary to collect signatures for the abolition of slavery by the 13th Amendment. On February 9, 1864 the first 100,000 were presented in the Senate by Charles Sumner, and eventually more than 300,000 were gathered.

Lydia Child, Dorothea Dix & Oneida

Dorothea Dix Helping the Insane
Lydia Maria Child to 1831
Lydia & David Child on Abolition 1832-44

      In the 1840s and 1850s Lydia Maria Child, Lucretia Mott, and Maria Weston Chapman were on the executive board of the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1845 and 1846 Child published three stories about fallen women. In April 1848 her story “The Hindoo Adventure” exposed caste prejudice. After working on it for eight years, in 1855 she published her 3-volume The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages. The first volume was on Judaism after the exile and Christianity up to the New Platonists, and the third volume has some material on the religion of Muhammad. She also presented quotations from the ancient religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Zoroastrianism as well as the myths and beliefs of Egyptians, Chaldeans, Greeks and Romans, and the Celts. Child was influenced by the mystic Swedenborg; but she did not like the “cold intellectual respectability” of Unitarian meetings, and she criticized Harriet Martineau’s Eastern Lands, Past and Present for arguing that Moses got most of his laws from the Egyptians. Christians criticized Child for considering other religions as having similar authority as Christianity. The radicals Samuel J. May and Theodore Parker praised her work.
      After the South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks severely beat Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber on 22 May 1856, Lydia Child on July 7 wrote to Sumner this:

I have felt such burning indignation
at the ever-increasing insults and outrages of the South,
and the cold, selfish indifference of the North!
I have so longed to seize a signal-torch,
and rush over all the mountains, and through all the valleys,
summoning the friends of freedom to the rescue!
If they only would forget all minor differences,
and form a sold phalanx to resist this gigantic evil,
how soon the blustering despots would cower before them!
At times, my old heart swells almost to bursting
in view of all these things;
for it is the heart of a man
imprisoned within a woman’s destiny.55

Child wrote to the women of Kansas and sent them $60 worth of clothes she raised. Her best juvenile book, A New Flower for Children, was published in 1856, and her short story collection Autumnal Leaves came out in 1857.
      On 26 October 1859 Lydia Child wrote to John Brown,

   Believing in peace principles, I cannot sympathize with
the method you chose to advance the cause of freedom.
But I honor your generous intentions,
I admire your courage, moral and physical,
I reverence you for the humanity which tempered your zeal,
I sympathize with your cruel bereavements,
your sufferings, and your wrongs….
   I think of you night and day, bleeding in prison,
surrounded by hostile faces,
sustained only by trust in God, and your own strong heart.
I long to nurse you, to speak to you
sisterly words of sympathy and consolation.56

      In 1860 Child published The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act: An Appeal to the Legislators of Massachusetts. Yet she refused to support using violence against slavery and also in 1860 co-authored The Right Way the Safe Way, Proved by Emancipation in the British West Indies, and Elsewhere. That same year she criticized the cooperation between northern workers and southern slaveholders in The Patriarchal Institution, as Described by Members of Its Own Family. She also edited Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for its author Harriet Jacobs.
      Child described her feelings during the Civil War after it was over in a letter on 23 July 1865 when she wrote,

Regarding war as a barbarism
which demoralizes and disgraces civilized society,
I am unable to enter
into the military enthusiasm of the day….
   I confess to great apparent inconsistency of feeling
during the course of events in the last few years.
I detested war, with all my heart and soul;
yet I was mortally afraid
our terrible struggle would end too soon.
I have never wavered in my convictions that
peace principles were the highest and truest,
and that human society would never be truly civilized
till they were adopted.
Yet … I dreaded to have the war end
before Slavery was completely overthrown,
because I foresaw that, if it did,
another bloody war must inevitably follow.57

      To help with reconstruction in 1865 Child published The Freedman’s Book with biographies and stories about emancipated slaves and abolitionists including speeches and poems.

      After visiting the jails and almshouses in all the counties of New Jersey in 1844, Dorothea Dix had her memorial for reforms presented to the state legislature by Senator Joseph S. Dodd in January 1845. They passed a bill for the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum and asked Dix to advise them on the plans for the new hospital. From her vast experience she knew what to avoid, and she gladly consulted with them. In February her “Memorial to the Legislature of Pennsylvania” was submitted, and they approved a hospital for Harrisburg on April 14. That year Dix published in Philadelphia her Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline, affirming,

The prisoner has a right in prison to comfortable clothing,
wholesome food, pure air, and a free use of water,
equally with a humane discipline
and ample means of moral instruction.
Government, securing these,
may claim and expect in return diligence,
subordination, and rigid compliance with the rules.58

After studying their institutions in the fall Dix submitted her “Memorial to the Legislature of Kentucky” for a hospital to treat the insane at Lexington, and they appropriated the funds. In 20 months between 1845 and 1847 she visited 411 cities and towns from Boston to Marietta, Georgia and Cincinnati. In February 1848 the Tennessee Legislature approved $40,000 for 100 acres and a large building for 250 patients, and later they added $75,000. North Carolina also approved reforms in 1848. By then Dix had traveled 60,000 miles to visit more than 9,000 insane and ill people as well as thousands more in prisons and detention facilities.
      New York’s Senator John Adams Dix introduced Dorothea Dix’s “Memorial to the Congress of the United States” in June 1848, and it took nearly six years to get both houses of Congress to pass the bill; but then President Franklin Pierce vetoed the measure that would have provided 12,225,000 acres to benefit the insane and the blind, deaf, and dumb. However, her request for a Hospital for the Insane of the Army and Navy to be built in Washington DC was enacted, and the building was completed in 1857.
      In the summer of 1855 at their annual convention the Association of Superintendents of American Insane Asylums passed a resolution to ask Dix to share her investigations at their next meeting.
      During her traveling in February 1861 Dix learned of an extensive conspiracy by secessionists to prevent the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, to take over Washington, and to proclaim the Confederacy as the United States Government. Dix alerted Samuel Felton, who was president of the Philadelphia and Baltimore Railroad. Detectives were sent out, and they learned there were southerners preparing by the rail lines, confirming the conspiracy. Lincoln was then moved into Washington secretly. Dix refused to let Felton publicize her name with credit for having given the best information.
      After the Civil War began in April, Dorothea Dix went to Baltimore and Washington to offer her help. She met with the Surgeon-General R. C. Wood at the War Department and proposed the organization of an Army Nursing Corps using women volunteers. On April 23 the War Secretary Cameron accepted her plan, and she was commissioned the first Superintendent of United States Army Nurses. Her orders included the following:

No woman under thirty need apply
to serve in government hospitals.
All nurses are required to be plain looking women.
Their dresses must be brown or black, with no bows,
no curls, no jewelry, and no hoop-skirts.59

Gradually she learned to overcome her puritanical rigidity. The booklet Hints on Nursing by Florence Nightingale had been selling in Boston since 1860, and the new nurses found this helpful. While inspecting a hospital in Hampton, Dix saw three convalescing men being punished. According to rumor they had been hung up by their thumbs. She found the surgeon who had done this and ordered it ended. When he refused to obey a woman, she went to General Butler who confirmed that she outranked the surgeon; the torture was stopped. She also struggled to maintain her authority to replace incompetent nurses. Dix persuaded Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to improve the military hospitals.

      John Humphrey Noyes was born on 3 September 1811 in Brattleboro, Vermont. He went to Dartmouth College. In 1831 the revivalist Charles Grandison Finney converted him, and he adopted his theory of perfectionism. Finney started teaching theology at Oberlin in 1835 and was the college’s president from 1851 to 1866. Noyes studied at the Andover Theological Seminary. In 1832 he went to the Yale Theological Seminary, and he started an anti-slavery group in New Haven. He believed that the Christ had reappeared during the Jewish Revolt in 70 CE and that humanity entered a new age. In 1838 Noyes married Harriet Holton, and they had five children; but most were premature, and only one survived. In 1844 he separated from his wife. He began to explain his ideas on sexual freedom, and in 1846 his community at Putney began living communally by sharing possessions. Mobs drove them away, and in 1848 they joined others who agreed with them at Oneida, New York. They started with 40 acres and one house and owed $2,000. A small group formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1849, and they did the printing for the society. Another community began at Wallingford, Connecticut in 1850.
      By 1857 their communes had brought in $107,706; they had spent over $40,000 and were worth about $67,000. In the next decade the societies at Oneida and Wallingford increased their wealth every year, and profits ranged from $1,763 in 1858 to $61,382 in 1864 and averaged about $19,000 a year. They made and sold traps, travel-bags, satchels, mop-holders, and other articles including preserved fruits in glass and tin. Their publications included The Perfectionist, The Way to Holiness, the Berean, and The Witness as well as the Spiritual Magazine and the Free Church Circular. These papers were given away, and donations were accepted. In 1853 they wrote,

The Circular is published by Communists,
and for Communists.
Its main object is to help the education
of several confederated associations,
who are practically devoted
to the Pentecost principle of community of property.60

They described Perfectionism this way:

As the doctrine of temperance is
total abstinence from alcoholic drinks,
and the doctrine of anti-slavery is
immediate abolition of human bondage,
so the doctrine of Perfectionism is
immediate and total cessation of sin….
Perfectionists hold that intercourse with God
may proceed so far as to destroy selfishness in the heart,
and so make an end of sin.61

      Charles Nordhoff studied their community in 1874 and wrote about them in his book about communist societies,

They have no preaching;
do not use Baptism nor the Lord’s Supper;
do not observe Sunday,
because they hold that with them every day is a Sabbath;
do not pray aloud;
and avoid with considerable care all set forms.
They read the Bible and quote it much.
   They believe that the exercise of sufficient faith
in prayer to God is capable of restoring the sick to health;
and assert that there have been in their experience
and among their membership a number of such cures.62

Noyes called their system of sexual relations “complex marriage” and described it this way:
 “Complex marriage” means, in their practice:
that, within the limits of the community membership,
any man and woman may and do freely cohabit,
having at first gained each other’s consent.63


1. A Review of the Mexican War by Philip Berry, p. 53 quoted in Radical Pacifists in Antebellum America by Peter Brock, p. 192.
2. The Annals of America, Volume 8, p. 411-412.
3. League of Universal Brotherhood Pledge #1 (August 1846) by Elihu Burritt.
4. “Passive Resistance” by Elihu Burritt in Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, p. 103.
5. Ibid., p. 108.
6. “Passive Resistance” by Elihu Burritt in Thoughts and Things at Home and Abroad, p. 280.
7. Walden by Henry David Thoreau, p. 5.
8. Ibid., p. 61.
9. Ibid., p. 60.
10. “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau, p. 224.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid., p. 225.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid., p. 227.
15. Ibid., p. 230-231.
16. Ibid., p. 231.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid., p. 233.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., p. 243.
21. The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, IX, 446.
22. Quoted in Theodore Parker: Yankee Crusader by Henry Steele Commager, p. 192.
23. “Stonehenge” by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 509.
24. The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume XVI 1866-1882, p. 87.
25. “War” by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 1145, 1147.
26. “Uses of Great Men” by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 328.
27. Representative Men by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 414.
28. The Conduct of Life by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 546-7.
29. Ibid., p. 549.
30. Ibid., p. 571.
31. Ibid., p. 573.
32. Ibid., p. 577.
33. Ibid., p. 583.
34. Ibid., p. 593.
35. Ibid., p. 608.
36. Ibid., p. 619.
37. “The Fortune of the Republic” by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Complete Writings, p. 1186.
38. Woman in the Nineteenth Century by Margaret Fuller, p. 3.
39. Ibid., p. 44.
40. Ibid., p. 117.
41. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 70-71.
42. “Address on Woman’s Rights” July 19, 1848.
43. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 116.
44. Ernestine L. Rose quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 125.
45. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 527.
46. Speeches, Lectures and Letters, Second Series by Wendell Philips, p. 121 quoted in The Era of Reform 1830-1860 by Henry Steele Commager, p. 85-86.
47. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 514.
48. Quoted in Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words by Lynn Sherr, p. 20.
49. Ibid., p. 23.
50. Ibid.
51. Ibid., p. 32.
52. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 735.
53. Quoted in Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words by Lynn Sherr, p. 33.
54. Ibid.
55. Quoted in The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child by Carolyn L. Karcher, p. 384.
56. Ibid., p. 419.
57. Ibid., p. 443.
58. Stranger and Traveler: The Story of Dorothea Dix, American Reformer by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, p. 153.
59. Ibid., p. 273.
60. The Communistic Societies of the United States by Charles Nordhoff, p. 265.
61. Ibid., p. 269, 270.
62. Ibid., p. 272.
63. Ibid., p. 276.

Copyright © 2020 by Sanderson Beck

South America 1845-65
Caribbean & Central America 1845-65
Mexico and Civil Wars 1845-65
Polk and the US-Mexican War 1845-49
US of Taylor, Clay & Fillmore 1849-52
US of Pierce & Kansas Conflicts 1853-56
US Western Expansion & Indians 1845-65
Black Americans & Abolitionists 1845-65
United States & Buchanan 1857-59
United States Dividing 1860-61
Lincoln’s War for Union in 1861
Lincoln’s War for Union in 1862
Lincoln’s War for Emancipation in 1863
Lincoln’s War for Emancipation in 1864
United States Victory in 1865
Canada and British Provinces
US Peacemakers & Women Reformers 1845-65
American Literature 1845-56
Preventing United States Civil War
Summary & Evaluating America 1845-1865

World Chronology to 1830
Chronology of America to 1844

BECK index