Workshop: Spirit in Action: Margaret's Legacy for Us by Michael Barnett and Rev. Dorothy Emerson The following items by Michael Barnett provide background for this workshop: “Margaret Fuller at the New York Tribune: Emerging As a Social Justice Activist” “Margaret Fuller and Transcendentalism” See items presented by Dorothy Emerson for the workshop on the Proceedings. Margaret Fuller at the New York Tribune: Emerging As a Social Justice Activist by Michael Barnett, M.Div., M. Ed. “Thanksgiving and Care for Others” At Thanksgiving 1844, Margaret took a look at the deeper and practical meaning of this significant holiday: not wholly without use in healing differences...if the design of its pious founders were remembered by those who show enough obedience to the Law and the Prophets to love thy neighbor as ourselves...if in this nation recent decisions have shown a want of moral discrimination on important subjects...there is cause for thanksgiving and that our people may be better than they seem, the meeting last week to organize an Association for the benefit of Prisoners....The prisoner, too, may become a man....We will treat him as if he had a soul.... In this thought-provoking essay on the spiritual meaning of Thanksgiving, Margaret moved critically from the traditional family get-together to its transcending opportunity for her readers to experience their shared humanity and to conduct social justice. She urged them to understand the religious reasons why the Puritans shared their treasured bounty with those Native Americans who gave them their knowledge and saved their lives. Margaret's extensive background in the Bible was evident as she appealed to her public to grow from the Pharisees to embrace Jesus' greatest commandment. She was acutely aware that her readers were well-versed in knowledge of the Bible, so she naturally used this to her advantage to build her case for care of others. Implying that America has not lived up to its supreme democratic mandate to eradicate slavery within its borders as well as to refrain from tensions with Mexico, Margaret never gave up on the integrity of the nation. Proof of the pudding was her report that people have come together in an atmosphere of tenderness to create an organization for prison reform in New York. From her experience, Margaret saw the prisoner as no different from any other person who could easily go astray due to difficult circumstances. If one treats the prisoner as human, then the prisoner has the opportunity for change and rehabilitation. Weeks earlier, Margaret had heard the female prisoners at Sing Sing prison sing hymns while filled with the spirit. She confidently and sincerely asked Americans if they could do their part to help those in less fortunate circumstances than themselves. Fuller had gone deeper inside herself and outwardly into the world with her social criticism. She courageously traveled into the dark and difficult places of America where people are pushed aside, left to fend for themselves, and are forgotten. She bravely entered the prisons of New York to observe and to reflect upon people's conditions, then revealed the monsters and demons lurking within. Margaret opened the locked door to penetrate the darkness and to bring the light to shine on the horrendous circumstances. As a social crusader, she exposed the dark side of our American society and enlisted her audience to become part of the healthy solution to benefit everyone. How do we become engaged as part of the healthy solution today? From her own life experience, Margaret realized that there is no separation between one's own happiness and the welfare of others; in human interaction, human beings must live beyond any racism, sexism, classism, and nationalism, which ultimately limit and undermine them. New Year's, Slavery and War In her 1844 New Year's reflection upon the course of the nation, Margaret dug deeply into her Transcendentalist and mystical belief system to promote social and political justice: ...Let us look about us to see with...what acts of devotion, this modern Christian nation greets the approach of the New Year;...This last week brings tidings that a portion of the inhabitants of Illinois, themselves, acknowledging no obligation and no duty to God or to man. One man has freed a slave, but a great part of the nation is now busy in contriving measures that may best rivet the fetters on those now chained, and forge them strongest for millions yet unborn. National Honor is trodden under foot for a National bribe....Yet we cannot lightly be discouraged or alarmed as to the destiny of our Country. The whole history of its discovery and early progress indicates too clearly the purposes of Heaven with regard to it...We too have been chosen...If the nation tends to wrong, there are yet present the ten just men...There is still hope, there is still an America,... Even in these dark days of Americans condoning slavery and the nation aggressively seeking its expansive policy of Manifest Destiny and war with Mexico, Margaret still knew that there were sane women and men who would stand up and act in accordance with what is right before God. She was totally convinced that America would remember its original democratic commitment to all who seek freedom. This was the greatness and promise of America for all its people. In her column, Margaret repeatedly instigated whatever she could to lead her readers to recommit themselves to the nation's true glory of living its ideals at home and in relation in the world. She instilled the thoughtfulness and vigor for them to be and act their best as Americans. Both Margaret and Greeley adamantly opposed the expansion of slavery and Texas annexation. Poverty in Europe Perceiving the severe poverty in Glasgow, Scotland, Margaret noted: Certainly the place,...more resembles an Inferno than any other we have yet visited. The people are more crowded together, and the stamp of squalid, stolid misery and degradation more obvious and appalling....I saw here in Glasgow persons, especially women, dressed in dirty, wretched tatters, worse than none, and with an expression of listless, unexpecting woe upon their faces, far more tragic than the inscription over the gate of Dante's Inferno....Yet there is every reason to hope that those who ought to help are seriously, though slowly, becoming alive to the imperative nature of this duty; so we must not cease to hope, even in the streets of Glasgow, and the gin-palaces of Manchester, and the dreariest recesses of London.... Margaret sorrowfully comprehended the massive scope of suffering poor amidst the growing prosperity of England's industrial revolution. Those thriving industries and persons with means and wealth, Margaret insisted, have a duty to respond to and alleviate this overwhelming by-product of capitalism. Poverty and Reform In Paris for the 1846-47 winter season, Margaret realized the difficult plight of the people: ...the poorer classes have suffered from hunger this winter. All signs of this are kept out of sight in Paris. A pamphlet, called "The Voice of Famine," stating facts, ...was suppressed almost as soon as published; but the fact cannot be suppressed, that the people in the provinces have suffered most terribly....the need of some radical measures of reform is not less strongly felt in France than elsewhere,...The more I see of the terrible ills which infest the body politic of Europe, the more indignation I feel at the selfishness of stupidity of those in my own country who oppose an examination of these subjects,... As Margaret watched and analyzed the people's unrest unfurling in her travels, she could not help but see how the same problems of poverty and class were occurring in America and needed to be addressed. Seeds of Revolution and Reform When the Austrians tightened their political grip on Rome in 1847, Margaret reported: The Austrian rule is always equally hated,...there is always a force at work underneath which shall yet,..shake off the incubus....In the middle class ferments such thought,...The Austrian policy is to allow them a degree of material well-being,...Her policy is, indeed, too thoroughly organized to change except by revolution....Alas! I have the more reason to be ashamed of my countrymen...who...have no heart for the idea, for the destiny of our own great nation: how can they feel the spirit that is struggling now in this and others of Europe?... Through her ever-growing love of Italy and its people, Margaret attacked the Austrians' iron rule and assailed America for its loss of democratic identity and freedom. As she entered and supported the Roman Revolution, Margaret expected her fellow Americans to follow suit. Would you join Margaret in her cause? In 1848, Pope Pius IX reversed his liberal policies and acceded to the demands of catholic Austria. Margaret felt called to the Italian revolutionary cause: The loss of Pius IX is for the moment a great one....The responsibility of events now lies wholly with the people....Hoping this era, I remain at present here....My friends write to urge my return; they talk of our country as the land of the future. it is so, but that spirit which made it all it is of value in my mo re alive here at present than in America.... Margaret could not leave her active participation in the Revolution as journalist because it had become her life. She felt vitally alive to report the ongoing progress of the Italian democratic movement to America, which she felt had lost its revolutionary spirit and fervor. Realistically, Margaret could not return to her native country because she expected a child. No one back home knew about this. The Roman Republic was established in February 1849, but France and Austria attacked. In great despair, Margaret wrote her last dispatch: I am sick of breathing the same air with men capable of a part so utterly cruel and false....I have seen too much sorrow, and alas! without power to aid. It makes me sick to see the palaces and streets of Rome full of these infamous foreigners.... Margaret was disgusted and sickened by the devastating cruelty and destruction of lives and property. Margaret Fuller and Transcendentalism Michael Barnett, M. Div., M. Ed Transcendentalism: An American philosophical and literary movement which lasted from 1830 to 1850. It grew from Romanticism, which emphasized the individual, the emotions, and Nature. Transcendentalism was a reaction to Enlightenment logic and reason. It advocated the importance of intuition and understanding beyond the five senses. Transcendentalism focused on what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "the Oversoul," the unity of God, humankind, and Nature. Origins: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): German poet, playwright, novelist, and scientist who understood the individual as part of an organic whole. He acknowledged the importance of the self. Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805): German dramatist, poet, and historian who worked closely with Goethe. August Wilhelm (1767-1845) and Friedrich (1772-1829) von Schlegel: German romantic poets, philosophers, and critics who established the principles of German Romanticism. William Wordsworth (1770-1850): English poet who loved nature and was deeply interested in the lives of common people. He led English Romanticism with Coleridge. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834): English poet, essayist, and critic who personified the English romantic movement. With his friend, William Wordsworth, Coleridge created and published poetry and traveled to Germany, where he studied German. He translated Schiller's work. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881): Scottish-born English prose writer who attacked excessive materialism and believed in the power of the individual. He admired Goethe's and Schiller's creative work, which he popularized in England. Margaret Fuller (1810-1850): American Transcendentalist who translated Goethe.
Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society  UU History & Heritage Convocation 2010 Proceedings