Although Ralph Waldo Emerson is commonly recognized as one of the most radical thinkers and important reformers of his age, little has been said regarding his thoughts on the most critical reform of his period - the abolition movement. This book presents, for the first time, a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Emerson's writings against slavery and the subjugation of American Indians, writings that reveal Emerson's deep commitment to this reform movement. Len Gougeon and Joel Myerson introduce the collection with a substantial historical overview that puts Emerson's contribution to the abolition movement in its social and political context, shows existing historical treatments of Emerson and the transcendentalists, and provides a wealth of references to secondary reading on these subjects. The book then presents fourteen speeches and four letters by Emerson. Four of his speeches have been recovered from contemporary newspaper accounts and have never been collected in any edition of Emerson's writings. Nine were published posthumously in corrupted form in either the 1884 or the 1904 edition of Miscellanies, and five of these nine are edited from manuscript here. Emerson's 1855 "Lecture on Slavery," one of his most comprehensive and philosophical statements on the subject, is now published for the first time. The letters include Emerson's famous correspondence with President Van Buren about the Cherokees.
This valuable collection contains eighteen works by Emerson on the subject of slavery written between 1838 and 1863... . The texts are well annotated, and a historical introduction rightly demonstrates Emerson's important participation in the abolition movement.