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What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848
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AMERICAN HISTORY > 16. WHAT GOD HATH WROUGHT- AMERICAN RENAISSANCE, CHAPTER 16 (613 - 657) ~ February 11th - February 17th; No Spoilers, Please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

For the week of February 11, 2012 - February 17, 2012, we are reading American Renaissance which is Chapter 16 of What God Hath Wrought.

The sixteenth week's reading assignment is:

WEEK SIXTEEN: February 11, 2013 - February 17, 2013
16. American Renaissance (613 - 657)

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book is being kicked off on February 11th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle. This weekly thread will be opened up on February 10th.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Bentley will be moderating this discussion.




What Hath God Wrought The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe by Daniel Walker Howe



It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.


If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:


Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.


There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author used in her research or in her notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations. No self promotion, please.

TOC and the Syllabus

The following is a link to the table of contents for the book and the weekly syllabus:

Book as a Whole Thread

What Hath God Wrought The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe by Daniel Walker Howe

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Some of you might be asking what happened to poor old Bentley. Unfortunately Bentley's house was badly damaged during Sandy so I have had a full plate with the insurance company, architects, structural engineers, contractors and would be contractor types, etc. And with the cold winter things are even more delayed. Also we have had to find alternate housing during the building and pre building process. I do hope things smooth out soon but wanted to pop in and post as to where I have disappeared. I am trying to find a bit more time to get back into the swing of things here and will do that over the coming weeks. Hopefully by the end of the year - we will be back in our house. That is the goal.

Lori Sorry to hear about your house. At least it's just property and not people. I experienced the '89 SF earthquake (as a renter) so I've seen how long it can take to get back to normal.

Lori I had heard of Transcendentalism but had thought of it in the 20th century sense, so I confused it with the later spiritualistic movements (talking to the dead, not singing). I did not realize just how completely this relatively small and short-lived group modified the American ethos. I've been reading a lot of older books recently (new ebook reader and old books are free/cheap) and this highlighted this point.

Actually the big thing I am taking from this book as a whole is how much our American character was formed during this time. So many of the issues that divide us today were defined back then. In this chapter the two definitions of freedom were particularly interesting to me (small town coherence vs individualism). I hadn't really thought about what Americans mean by 'Liberty' and 'Freedom'. I knew it was different than the European concept (freedom from some burden as opposed to freedom to do things). That different concepts exist within America is a new idea to me.

I know there haven't been a lot of comments. I hope that's because people are reading the book and finding the information takes time to digest. I know that's been my feeling.

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2013 08:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Yes Lori that is true. Thank you for your kind words.

The Transcendentalists had quite an influence on America. Remember that Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson (both from Concord) were transcendentalists.

They believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.

Besides Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau other famous Transcendentalists were John Muir, Margaret Fuller and Amos Bronson Alcott.

And of course Louisa May Alcott, Charles Timothy Brooks, Orestes Brownson, William Ellery Channing, William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clarke, Christopher Pearse Cranch, Walt Whitman, John Sullivan Dwight, Convers Francis, William Henry Furness, Frederic Henry Hedge, Sylvester Judd, Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, George Ripley, Thomas Treadwell Stone, Emily Dickinson and Jones Very.

The following excerpt is from wikipedia:

The publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay Nature is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement.

Emerson wrote in his speech "The American Scholar": "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; Divine Soul which also inspires all men." Emerson closed the essay by calling for a revolution in human consciousness to emerge from the brand new idealist philosophy:

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ...Build, therefore, your own world.

As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.

In the same year, transcendentalism became a coherent movement with the founding of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 8, 1836, by prominent New England intellectuals including George Putnam (1807–78; the Unitarian minister in Roxbury), Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Frederick Henry Hedge, all of them from the same native town.

From 1840, the group published frequently in their journal The Dial, along with other venues. Early in the movement's history, the term "Transcendentalists" was used as a pejorative term by critics, who were suggesting their position was beyond sanity and reason.

The transcendentalists varied in their interpretations of the practical aims of will. Some among the group linked it with utopian social change; Brownson connected it with early socialism, while others considered it an exclusively individualist and idealist project. Emerson believed the latter.

In his 1842 lecture "The Transcendentalist", Emerson suggested that the goal of a purely transcendental outlook on life was impossible to attain in practice:

You will see by this sketch that there is no such thing as a transcendental party; that there is no pure transcendentalist; that we know of no one but prophets and heralds of such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped short of their goal. We have had many harbingers and forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angels' food; who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands.

...Shall we say, then, that transcendentalism is the Saturnalia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders the satisfaction of his wish.

By the late 1840s, Emerson believed the movement was dying out, and even more so after the death of Margaret Fuller in 1850. "All that can be said", Emerson wrote, "is, that she represents an interesting hour and group in American cultivation".

There was, however, a second wave of transcendentalists, including Moncure Conway, Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Samuel Longfellow and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.

Notably, the transgression of the spirit, most often evoked by the poet's prosaic voice, is said to endow in the reader a sense of purposefulness. This is the underlying theme in the majority of transcendentalist essays and papers—all of which are centered on subjects which assert a love for individual expression.

Henry David Thoreau Henry David Thoreau

Louisa May Alcott Louisa May Alcott

Timothy Brooks (no photo)

Orestes Brownson (no photo)

William Ellery Channing (no photo)

William Henry Channing (no photo)

James Freeman Clarke (no photo)

Christopher Pearse Cranch Christopher Pearse Cranch

Walt Whitman Walt Whitman

John Sullivan Dwight (no photo)

Convers Francis (no photo)

William Henry Furness (no photo)

Frederic Henry Hedge (no photo)

Sylvester Judd Sylvester Judd

Theodore Parker Theodore Parker

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (no photo)

George Ripley (no photo)

Thomas Treadwell Stone (no photo)

Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson

Jones Very (no photo)

Amos Bronson Alcott Amos Bronson Alcott

John Muir John Muir

Margaret Fuller Margaret Fuller

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson The Transcendentalist (Forgotten Books) by Ralph Waldo Emerson The American Scholar; Self-Reliance. Compensation by Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moncure Conway (no photo)

Octavius Brooks Frothingham(no photo)

Samuel Longfellow (no photo)

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (no photo)

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Freedom is one of those terms Lori which can be quite individualistic in meaning - what would be freedom to one person or group could mean abandonment by another or not being taken care of in a paternalistic way. Americans wanted freedom from the monarchy and possibly some Europeans or Brits maybe see or saw this as not a burden but a privilege and somebody looking out for their welfare. I guess it is all a matter of perspective.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Folks, feel free to comment and to post as you get caught up with your reading.

Lori Thanks for the Goodreads links!

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
You are welcome Lori.

Theresa | 84 comments one of the more interesting chapters in this book, in my opinion. That's probably probably because it focused a lot on literature. although I'm as ashamed that I have read very little of the authors mentioned.

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Today is a new day Theresa and there is always time to begin anew (smile).

Theresa | 84 comments ha, that's true. I don't think I'll ever read all of the books I want to in just one lifetime, but I'll do as much as I can. I'm really interested in Fuller. Its a shame, really, that the women authors from this time aren't as well known compared to the men. I'd like to explore this thought more when I get onto a computer and can throw in a few cites. (smile)

message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I look forward to reading your post when you have the time. Yes, it is a shame but woman were not considered even voting equals until 1920 when the 19th amendment finally was ratified. In fact, many women took male pseudonyms so that they would be taken seriously. Things have changed for the better nowadays.

Theresa | 84 comments alright! i'm at my computer. I'm not sure exactly what the link could be to this is but it's interesting to note that women (in general) got into writing to support their families. E.D.E.N Southworth wrote many novels because she was the sole breadwinner of her family. She had a talent for writing and this was the best way for her to make money. I believe, but don't remember for sure that she had a lot of children. Again, I don't want to generalize, but the impression I get is that the women from this time are writing more to earn a living, rather than for expression or to be heard.I highly recommend her books. I have a copy of The Hidden Hand that I read over a decade ago, that I should probably revisit.

Her novels are more sensational and less intellectual. Not to put down what she wrote, but they were meant for audiences as escapism. They read like soap operas. Whereas other Transcendental authors urged the reader to reflect more. This was a good time for these serial authors due to the emergence of magazine or circulars that were mailed. They were able to reach a wide audience for relatively cheap.

But Southworth is relatively unknown. the only women out of this time period in American literature that the average person has heard of are Alcott and Dickinson. I never heard of Margaret Fuller until I read this chapter and I took many Women & Gender Studies classes in college.

I'm going to attempt the citation now. In all of the discussions I've participated in, I have never cited another work. First time for everything.

The Hidden Hand: Or, Capitola the Madcap by E. D. E. N. Southworth by E. D. E. N. Southworth E. D. E. N. Southworth

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 07, 2013 04:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
And both of those women were born and bred to successful families in both Concord and Amherst. Concord was the seat (home) of some of the more well know Transcendentalists.

Well it was a good try. But you added the link rather than the cover - make sure to check cover at the bottom - you had all of the other parts right. You can always use the preview area first to see what things really look like before you click edit or post.

The Hidden Hand Or, Capitola the Madcap by E. D. E. N. Southworth by E. D. E. N. Southworth by E. D. E. N. Southworth E. D. E. N. Southworth

message 16: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy (kathy_h) I am so glad that these posts are left up for a bit after the read date. I am still in this chapter, but do hope to finish this book by April. Am really enjoying the book, but so dense with information -- and it always makes me want to learn more and more.

message 17: by Lori (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori I just finished reading The House of the Seven Gables. Knowing that he was an anti-Transcendentalist helped me understand his fascination with inherited sin.

I am also re-reading Louisa May Alcott (love my ebook). It's amazing how much of her books are an example of how to live like a Transcendentalist. Plus I find it fascinating that a lot of these ideas are today common theory and practice in education. It is amazing how such a small group has had such a huge impact.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne by Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott , Little Men (Little Women #2) by Louisa May Alcott , Jo's Boys (Little Women, #3) by Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott Louisa May Alcott

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1246 comments Well I am again pleased that Howe organized this "Renaissance" chapter and gave the cultural, literary and intellectual aspects of these years a base in his book. These are the kinds of things that can be skipped while listing politicians, elections, dates, battles etc.

I haven't got so much to add. But I have visited Walden Pond and I seem to remember his Mother lived about 3/4 of a mile away. and the railroad passed not 200 meters from what was the site of Thoreau's cabin.

I was pleased to see and have pointed out the African influence in music etc.

I added a lot to my "to read" list - if not on Goodreads with samples into my Kindle.

This is a chapter I will refer people to/ lend to people who I would think would not be interested in the whole book.

message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Yes Vince this was a welcome chapter - you are right - Thoreau could have walked to his cabin practically from town - it really is not out in the wilderness but it is a tranquil spot for some reflective guy to find a bit of solitude. I did do the Walden Pond walk around more than once and it is still a tranquil location (thanks to the local community which kept/keeps it that way).

You are right Vince - that would be a terrific gesture.

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