Ralph Waldo EmersonThe Young American Marlea Key
Ralph Waldo Emerson1803-1882 • Born in Boston • Son of a Minister • Studied at Harvard • Transcendentalist • Individualist that rejected traditional authority • Poet • One of the greatest orators
The Young American • A lecture that Emerson read before the Mercantile Library Association in Boston on February 7, 1844. • He claims that America wanted everything “British,” and that Americans can start making their own history. • He stresses that it is great to be an American and that everyone should start acting like one and be proud of it.
Main Points • “It is remarkable, that our people have their intellectual culture from one country, and their duties from another… This false state of things is newly in a way to be corrected. America is beginning to assert itself to the senses and to the imagination of her children, and Europe is receding in the same degree.” - America needs to make its own history and stop living in the shadows of Britain. He is stressing that everyone needs to act “American,” be proud of it, and pass it on for generations to come. • “An unlooked for consequence of the railroad, is the increased acquaintance it has given the American people with the boundless resources of their ownsoil.” - The building of the railroad benefits Americans by contracting time and space. It facilitates transportation and travel, benefits commerce, creates wealth, and binds Americans together as a common people.
Main Points Continued • “Commerce, is the political fact of most significance to the American at this hour…” • “The history of commerce… is the record of this beneficent tendency… Trade, a plant which grows wherever there is peace, as soon as there is peace, and as long as there is peace.” • “We plant trees, we build stone houses, we redeem the waste, we make prospective laws, we found colleges and hospitals, for remote generations. We should be mortified to learn that the little benefit we chanced in our own persons to receive was the utmost they would yield.” - Commerce will build America’s wealth by exploiting her many riches. It also forms American character by placing everything into the competitive market place: “talent, beauty, virtue, and man himself…”
Main Points Continued • “Gentlemen, the development of our American internal resources, the extension to the utmost of the commercial system, and the appearance of new moral causes which are to modify the state, are giving an aspect of greatness to the Future, which the imagination fears to open.” -These (commerce, railroad & trade) are the elements that will make America “great” in the future, and allow Americans to make their own history rather than living in the shadow of Britain’s history.
Historical Significance • Emerson directed this speech to all Americans, in hopes that it would make them see what a bright future it held. • Emerson also wanted his audiences to see that America has no history and they can make the history for themselves.