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LETTER TO SAMUEL GRIDLEY HOWE

ON THE NEGRO KIDNAPPING IN BOSTON

CONCORD, September 23, 1846. DR. S. G. HOWE, AND ASSOCIATES OF THE COMMITTEE OF CITIZENS: - If I could do or say anything useful or equal to the occasion, I would not fail to attend the meeting on Thursday. I feel the irreparable shame to Boston of this abduction. I hope it is not possible that the city will make the act its own, by any color or justification. Our State has suffered many disgraces, of late years, to spoil our pride in it, but never any so flagrant as this, if the people of the Commonwealth can be brought to be accomplices in this crime, - as nothing will be too bad for their desert, —- so it is very certain they will have the ignominy very faithfully put to their lips. The question you now propose, is a good test of the honesty and manliness of our commerce.

If it shall turn out, as desponding men say, that our people do not really care whether Boston is a slave-port or not, provided our trade thrives, then we may, at least, cease to dread hard times and ruin. It is high time our bad wealth came to an end. I am sure, I shall very cheerfully take my share of suffering in the ruin of such a prosperity, and shall very willingly turn to the mountains to chop wood, and seek to find for myself and my children labors compatible with freedom and honor.

With this feeling, I am proportionably grateful to Mr. Adams and yourselves for undertaking the office

of putting the question to our people, whether they will make this cruelty theirs ? and of giving them an opportunity of clearing the population from the stain of this crime, and of securing mankind from the repetition of it, in this quarter, forever.

Respectfully and thankfully,
Your obedient servant,

RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

TWO LETTERS TO HENRY WARE, JR.

CONCORD, July 28, 1838. What you say about the discourse at Divinity College, is just what I might expect from your truth and charity, combined with your known opinions. I am not a stock or a stone, as one said in the old time; and could not but feel pain in saying some things in that place and presence, which I supposed might meet dissent, and the dissent, I may say, of dear friends and benefactors of mine. Yet, as my conviction is perfect in the substantial truth of the doctrine of this discourse, and is not very new, you will see, at once, that it must appear to me very important that it be spoken; and I thought I would not pay the nobleness of my friends so mean a compliment, as to suppress my opposition to their supposed views out of fear of offence. I would rather say to them – These things look thus to me; to you, otherwise. Let us say out our uttermost word, and be the all-pervading truth, as it surely will, judge between us. Either of us would, I doubt not, be equally glad to be apprized of his error. Meantime, I shall be admonished by this expression of your thought, to revise with greater care the “ Address ” before it is printed (for the use of the class), and I heartily thank you for this renewed expression of your tried toleration and love. Respectfully and affectionately yours,

RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

CONCORD, October 8, 1838. MY DEAR SIR:—I ought sooner to have acknowledged your kind letter of last week, and the Sermon

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it accompanied. The letter was right manly and noble. The Sermon, too, I have read with attention. If it assails any doctrines of mine perhaps I am not so quick to see it as writers generally, tainly I did not feel any disposition to depart from my habitual contentment, that you should say your thought, whilst I say mine.

I believe I must tell you what I think of my new position. It strikes me very_oddly, that good and wise men at Cambridge and Boston should think of raising me into an object of criticism. I have always been, — from my very incapacity of methodical writing, a chartered libertine” free to worship and free to rail, — lucky when I could make myself understood, but never esteemed near enough to the institution and mind of society to deserve the notice of the masters of literature' and religion. I have appreciated fully the advantages of my position; for I well know, that there is no scholar less willing or less able to be a polemic. I could not give account of myself, if challenged. I could not possibly give you one of the “arguments you cruelly hint at, on which any doctrine of mine stands. For I do not know what arguments mean, in reference to any expression of thought. I delight in telling what I think; but, if you ask me how I dare say so, or, why it is so, I am the most helpless of mortal men. I do not even see, that either of these questions admits of

So that, in the present droll posture of my affairs, when I see myself suddenly raised into the importance of a heretic, I am very uneasy when I advert to the supposed duties of such a personage, who is to make good his thesis against all comers.

I certainly shall do no such thing. I shall read what you and other good men write, as I have always done, – glad when you speak my thoughts, and

an answer.

skipping the page that has nothing for me. I shall go on, just as before, seeing whatever I can, and telling what I see; and, I suppose, with the same fortune that has hitherto attended me; the joy of finding, that my abler and better brothers, who work with the sympathy of society, loving and beloved, do now and then unexpectedly confirm my perceptions, and find my nonsense is only their own thought in motley. And so I am,

Your affectionate servant,

RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

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