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Mr. Emerson's Revolution

Jean McClure Mudge

Emerson: A Chronology 1803-1882

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Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


President Thomas Jefferson’s term.

1801, Toussaint L’Ouverture, black hero of Haiti’s revolt against France, becomes its first governor and helps forward Emerson’s times, an “Age of Revolution.”


Born 25 May, Boston, 2nd son of 5 surviving children.

Louisiana Purchase for $15 million doubles U.S. land area.


Louis & Clark explore Louisiana Purchase.

Napoleon’s Civil Code completed.


Webster compiles first American Dictionary.

British gain control of Cape Colony, South Africa.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


U.S. ignores slave trade prohibition for high cotton profits.

UK ends slave trade, serfdom abolished in Prussia.
Fulton’s steamboat.


President James Madison’s term.


Father dies; his sister, Mary Moody Emerson (MME), helps educate family.

Simón Bolívar declares Venezuela independent of Spain.


Attends Boys’ Latin School, begins writing poetry, in Concord during part of war.

1812-1814, war with England.

Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice.
Cylinder printing press.


Writes rebus letter to brother William.

White House burned, Creeks defeated in South.

First practical steam locomotive.


Corresponds with MME.

U.S. society begins transformation by market economy.

Napoleon defeated, European monarchies return.


President James Monroe’s term.


At Harvard College, freshman orderly to president, witnesses theological rifts in Congregationalism.

First Seminole War.


Works in Commons to pay college fees, supports sophomore rebellion.

British gain virtual rule over India.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Impressed by young professors of elocution and of Germany’s “higher criticism.”

Sermon “Unitarian Christianity” by W. E. Channing, Financial Panic, Florida Purchase, whaling industry starts in Pacific.

Savannah first steamship to cross Atlantic.


At 16, begins journal, berates self for being “idle, vagrant, stupid & hollow.” Essay “The Character of Socrates,” wins 2nd place, Bowdoin prize.

The Missouri Compromise, first Christian missionaries in Hawaii.

In 1820s, U.S. manufacturers produce interchangeable parts, and in same period, Latin American revolts lead to strongmen rule (caudillos) rather than republics, Romanticism at height in Europe.


“Dissertation on the Present State of Ethical Philosophy” wins 2nd place, Bowdoin Prize, ranked 30th of 59 in class, gives class poem.

Peru declares independence from Spain.
Faraday’s electric motor/generator.


Teaches school, in journal: “Let those who would pluck the lot of Immortality from Fate’s Urn, look well to the future prospects of America.”

Publishes essay, “The Religion of the Middle Ages,” in The Christian Disciple, a Unitarian review.

American abolitionists found Monrovia, Liberia’s future capital.

Brazil separates from Portugal.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Walks to Western Massachusetts, in journal: “The true epochs of history should be those successive triumphs... such as the Reformation, the Revival of letters, the progressive Abolition of the Slave-trade.”

Monroe Doctrine strengthens U.S. independence by declaring the American continents closed to European colonization and affirming U.S. lack of interest in Europe’s quarrels.


Decides on the ministry as a vocation largely based on his oratorical gifts.

Henry Clay’s American System, Marshall decision strengthens interstate commerce.

Mexico becomes a republic.


President John Quincy Adams’ term.


Enters Harvard Divinity School, but eye complaints interrupt studies, resumes school-teaching.

American Unitarian Association formed, Erie Canal opens.

1825-1830: Indonesians revolt vs. Dutch rule.
First English passenger railway, friction match.


Licensed to preach, but ill health leads to trip to Charleston SC, supported by Uncle Samuel Ripley.

First photographic image produced in France, Ohm’s Law measures electrical resistance.


Arrives St. Augustine, FL, reports on a slave auction, makes friends with Achille Murat, Napoleon’s nephew, meets Ellen Louisa Tucker in NH.

48 sermons.

Uruguay becomes independent state.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Engaged to Ellen, brother Edward has nervous breakdown.

109 sermons.

Workingman’s Party forms in Philadelphia, NYC and Boston, Cherokees cede homelands to U.S. in Alabama.

First steam railroad in the U.S.


President Andrew Jackson’s term


Marries Ellen Tucker, in journal: “We live among eggs, embryos, & seminal principles & the wisest is the most prophetic eye.”

At Second Church, Boston: junior, then senior pastor; chaplain to MA state senate, 209 sermons.

James Marsh’s American edition of Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection.

Greece wins independence from Turks.
Typewriter, practical locomotive.


In journal: “‘Alii disputent, ego mirabor’ [Let others wrangle, I will wonder], said Augustin. It shall be my speech to the Calvinist & the Unitarian.”

100 sermons.

Indian Removal Act, first wagon trains cross Rockies to California.

French invade Algeria vs. the Ottomans.
First U.S. locomotive.


Ellen (19) dies of TB (Feb), walks daily from Boston to her grave in Roxbury.

Boston School Committee, “Lord’s Supper” sermon to his congregation.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion, National Lyceum Association, Garrison’s “Liberator.”

Mazzini founds Young Italy.
Electromagnetic induction.


Opens Ellen’s coffin, months later resigns pastorate, sails for Europe (Dec. 25) for 9 months.

68 sermons.

Tocqueville in U.S. (Boston, NY, Philadelphia), Jackson’s Nullification Proclamation,Bank Bill veto.

Goethe dies
First electric carriage, Braille developed in France.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Travels from Malta to Continent and UK, returns to Boston (Oct).

Meets leading English writers, including Carlyle, begins “The Uses of Natural History” series, preaches most Sundays.

Factory Act in Britain limits work day for all ages.
Calculating machine (mechanical computer) improves on Pascal’s seventeenth century adding/subtracting device.


Moves to Concord, brother Edward dies (Oct), inherits first half of Ellen’s estate, begins writing Carlyle.

“Natural History” lectures continue, 78 sermons.

Middlesex County, Mass., Anti-Slavery Society begins.

UK slavery ends in West Indies.
First mechanical reaper.


Buys house (“Bush”), marries Lydia Jackson of Plymouth, Mass.

Gives Concord’s 200th anniversary address, “Lives of Great Men” & “English Literature” series, 71 sermons, 26 lectures.

New York Herald and Roger’s Herald of Freedom begin, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America I is published, Second Seminole War.

Ottomans regain control in Tripoli & Benghazi, North Africa.
Photographic paper.


Meets Margaret Fuller, brother Charles dies (May), son Waldo born (Oct), reads Institutes of Hindu Law.

Transcendental Club formed, Nature published, “Philosophy of History” series, 73 sermons, 27 lectures.

Texas wins Mexican War after defeat at the Alamo.

Colt revolver, Prussian “needle gun” introduces breech-loading.


President Martin Van Buren’s term.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Meets Thoreau, inherits second half of Ellen’s estate, Grimké sisters in Concord.

“Concord Hymn,” poem; “American Scholar” Address, “Human Culture” series, briefly speaks vs. slavery, 73 sermons, 29 lectures.

Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society formed, First American Women’s Anti-Slavery Convention, Financial Panic.

DC motor, magnetic telescope, S.F.B. Morse’s telegraph.


Emerson and Thoreau agree: self-reform first, then society’s; Mary M. Brooks leads Concord women & town vs. slavery.

Protests Cherokee removal from GA, “Divinity School Address,” “Human Life” series, 13 sermons, 44 lectures.

Cherokees forced out of GA, Second American Women’s Anti-Slavery Convention: A. Grimke & L. Mott are notable leaders.

French begin to read Emerson.


Daughter Ellen born (Feb).

3 sermons, ends preaching;44 lectures; “The Present Age” series.

Abolitionists divide in New England.

1839: Opium War begins between Britain and China.
Vulcanized rubber, Daguerreotype.


Attends reformers’ Chardon Street Convention, Boston, declines to join Brook Farm.

The Dial begins with Fuller as editor, 31 lectures.

F. Douglass’s first speech in Concord, Boston Vigilance Committee (multiracial), Tocqueville’s Democracy in America II is published.

First World Anti-Slavery Convention, London.


Presidents Harrison and Tyler’s terms.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Thoreau temporarily moves into “Bush,” daughter Edith born (Nov), reads Persian poets (Saadi, Hafiz) & more Eastern literature.

Essays I published,
“The Times” series, “Man the Reformer” in UK press, 11 lectures.

Brook Farm community (ongoing for 6 years), Fruitland―Alcott’s utopian experiment― (lasts 7 months).

Carlyle: Emerson is “a voice of the heart of Nature.”


Son Waldo dies (Jan), funds Alcott trip to England, in NYC meets Henry James, Sr. & Horace Greeley.

Becomes editor of The Dial and in it prints “Ethnical Scriptures,” 19 lectures.

Treaty establishes U.S.-Canada border, Wm Phillips delivers “Slavery” speech at Concord Lyceum.

Opium War ends: Britain forces China to open more ports, cede Hong Kong.


Sends Thoreau to NYC, Daniel Webster at “Bush,” promotes Phillips’ speeches on slavery.

Translates Dante’s Vita Nuova, speaks in Boston series on reform with Thoreau, “New England” lecture series, 26 lectures The Dial focus: Confucian sayings.

Phillips twice more speaks on slavery at Concord Lyceum.

Mercerized textiles (stimulus to more cotton production).


Son Edward born (July), buys 41 acres near Walden Pond, decries Samuel Hoar’s eviction from Charleston SC, opposes Texas Annex. and Mexican War, reads Bhagavad Gita.

Essays II published, Concord address on anniversary of slavery’s end in the West Indies, last issue of The Dial, 30 lectures.

Railroad comes to Concord, New England Anti-Slavery Convention: disunion of the U.S.; F. Douglass favors disunion in Concord address.

Dominican Republic becomes independent of Haiti.


President James K. Polk’s term.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Permits Thoreau to build cabin on his Walden Pond land, continues to promote Phillips, refuses to lecture in New Bedford lyceum over blacks’ segregated seating, reads classical Hindu texts.

“Representative Men” lecture series, 14 lectures.

Phillips in Concord opposes Texas statehood and slavery, Texas (& CA) annexed by U.S.

Irish Potato Famine, 1 million emigrate.
Rotary printing press, double tube tires.


Calls Thoreau’s night in jail to protest the Mexican War, “one step to suicide;” does not sign Concord’s disunion petition.

Poems published, speaks at Thoreau’s cabin on second anniversary of end of West Indian slavery, 55 lectures.

Defeat of Wilmot Proviso ends hope of prohibiting slavery in any territory previously owned by Mexico, Bear Republic established in California; in Boston, a fugitive slave led to safety.

War with Mexico, 1846-1847.
Sewing machine, coal-gas 4 cycle engine.


Lectures in UK (Oct-July), disagrees with Carlyle, Thoreau at “Bush” with Lydian, children.

Lectures to UK workers and elite.
In Paris, meets de Tocqueville.
1847, 55 lectures 1848, 53 lectures (abroad, 40; U.S., 13).

1847-1848 Mormons in Utah 1848, Seneca Falls Convention, Free Soil Party (lasts 6 years).

1847, Liberia established as home for freed American slaves, Istanbul slave market abolished, Revolutions in Europe, 1848; Second French Republic; Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto.
Arc light.


Presidents Taylor and Fillmore’s terms.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Prepares lectures, begins smoking cigars, Frederika Bremer at “Bush,” on Hindu texts: “excellent gymnastics for the mind.”

“Mind and Matters” series, 54 lectures, Nature; Addresses and Lectures published, speaks on third anniversary of end of West Indian slavery.

California Gold Rush, Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” Harriet Tubman escapes slavery, leads 300 to freedom on Underground RR.

Missionary-explorer David Livingstone reaches Africa’s interior, Lake Ngami; construction begins on Suez Canal.
Hydraulic turbine, safety pin.


Mourns Fuller’s death in shipwreck off Fire Island.

Representative Men, “Conduct of Life” lectures begin; first western tour Ohio; from 1850 to last work, refers to Hindu texts, 48 lectures.

Webster’s March 7th speech in Congress, Compromise of 1850 includes Fugitive Slave Act, Boston Vigilance Committee accelerates activities, Melville’s Moby Dick.

1850s South American Republics end slavery, apogee of Romantic music, 1850-1864: Taiping Rebellion, Chinese immigrate to U.S.


Excoriates Webster’s “betrayal” of North, supports Thoreau & family’s aid to escaped slaves via Concord’s Underground RR.

Speaks vs. Fugitive Slave Act 9 times, 34 lectures.

Boston: escaped slave Thomas Sims returned to SC, Charles Sumner elected MA Senator, U.S. Underground RR grows.

First industrial fair, London.
Electric locomotive, icemaking machine, ophthalmoscope.


Praises Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Edits Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 69 lectures in N.E., Canada, Middle Atlantic states, delegate to woman’s rights convention, Worcester, Mass.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin sells 10,000 copies in U.S. in first week; 300,000 in the U.S. and 1.5 million in the UK in first year, revolutionizes attitudes toward slavery.

Napoleon III crowned Emperor of France.
Airship, elevator and its brake, Singer’s sewing machine, gyroscope.


President Franklin Pierce’s term.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Mother dies (Nov); in journal, quotes Elizabeth Hoar: “. . . Bloomer dress is very good & reconcilable to men’s taste, if only it be not offensively sudden; so a woman may speak, & vote, & legislate, & drive coach, if only it comes by degrees.”

44 lectures extend to Mid-West for first time; in IL, Lincoln hears him.

Gadsden Purchase: Mexican land for RR to Pacific becomes part of New Mexico Territory.

Commodore Mathew Perry sails into Japan’s Edo bay, forcing trade with U.S.; India has RR and telegraph lines.
Glider, potato chip.


In journal: “. . . the races... must be used temporarily... by the Linnaean classification... not as true and ultimate.” Thoreau in Walden: “Plainly Boston does not wish liberty, & can only be tricked into a rescue of a slave.”

60 widely given lectures, speaks vs. Fugitive Slave Law in NYC.

Kansas-Nebraska Act, Boston: fugitive slave Anthony Burns returned to VA, Boston conventions: Free Soil Society and New England Anti-Slavery Society.

1854-1856 Crimean War, Russia defeated by UK, France.


Praises Leaves of Grass, helps found Concord Academy and Saturday Club.

Anti-slavery addresses in Boston, New York, Philadelphia; “Woman” speech at Woman’s Rights Convention, Boston; 59 lectures.

Whitman’s Leaves of Grass published.

India begins to read Emerson.
Bessemer furnace.


In journal: “If I knew only Thoreau, I should think cooperation of good men impossible.”

English Traits, speaks for Kansas Relief, 66 lectures from N.E. to Mid-West.

Civil War in Kansas, John Brown’s Massacre, Sumner beaten on Senate floor for Kansas speech.

1856-1860 Second Opium War between Britain and China.
Steel converter.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


President James Buchanan’s term.


Entertains John Brown with Thoreau at “Bush,” donates to Harriet Tubman in Concord.

Praises Brown’s speech in Concord, “Brahma,” poem, 48 lectures.

Dred Scott Decision, Harper’s Weekly, Financial Panic.

Mutiny in India vs. UK, Africa slave trade ends in Ottoman Empire.


Declares self “absolute” abolitionist, camps in Adirondacks.

36 lectures.

Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, Lincoln/Douglas Debates.

Tolstoy praises Emerson on Goethe and Shakespeare.
Steelmaking furnace, Mason jar.


Agitated re Brown, journal entries lapse, begins transcribing MME’s “Almanack,” brother Bulkley dies (May).

Quotes friend: Brown’s gallows will be as “sacred as the cross,” 44 lectures.

John Brown raid and capture at Harper’s Ferry.

Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Spectroscope, storage battery, escalator.


fails to persuade Whitman to minimize sex in Leaves of Grass.

The Conduct of Life, 54 lectures in NE, NY, Mid-West, Toronto.

Lincoln elected, SC secedes, U.S. Pony Express, U.S. slaves at c. 4 million, nearly 60% more than in 1820.

Italian unification begins, Japanese cross Pacific in Western-style ship.
Vacuum cleaner, linoleum, repeating rifle.


President Abraham Lincoln’s term.


In journal: “only as our existence is shared, not as it is self-hood... is [it] divine.”

Pro-Union crowd hoots him off stage; at Anti-Slavery Soc. in Charleston, Mass.: “sometimes gunpowder smells good.” 30 lectures.

Lincoln’s first Inaugural, Confederate Constitution, Civil War begins at Fort Sumter, Lincoln asks for volunteers.

Russian serfs emancipated, Pasteur popularizes germ theory of disease.
Machine gun.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Quotes dying Thoreau: “I wish so to live... that... I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me.” Thoreau dies (May), gives funeral oration.

Delivers “American Civilization” at Smithsonian, meets Lincoln in White House, address printed in Atlantic Monthly, 29 lectures.

Civil War on sea/land, Homestead Act, Pacific Railroad Act.

1862-1867 French puppet empire in Mexico, Nietzsche reads & copies Emerson verbatim, Bismarck appointed Prussian Prime Minister.


In journal: “I am a bard least of bards.” MME dies (Oct).

“Boston Hymn,” poem, celebrates Emancipation, reviews cadets at West Point, 31 lectures.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address.

Player piano.


In journal: “If we escape bravely from the present war, America will be the controlling power.”

Gives “American Life” and “Fortune of the Republic,” elected to new American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 17 lectures.

Cheyenne Massacre, Atlanta Campaign.

Baudelaire echoes Emerson.
Experimental automobile.


Presidents Lincoln and Johnson’s term.


Eulogy for Lincoln, “the true representative of this continent.”

Writes preface to Saadi’s Gulistan, 77 lectures from NE to Mid-West.

Civil war ends, Lincoln shot.
13th Amendment ends slavery in U.S.

Young Ottoman Society founded.
RR sleeping car, pneumatic tool.


Reads poem “Terminus” to son Edward.

Receives LLD, Harvard University, 43 lectures.

Transatlantic Cable, Freedman’s Bureau Act, Civil Rights Act.

American University founded in Beirut, diamonds discovered in South Africa.Dynamite.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


In journal: “. . . a cleavage is occurring in the hitherto firm granite of the past, and a new era is nearly arrived.”

May-Day and Other Pieces published, delivers Harvard PBK Address, elected Harvard Overseer, Free Religious Assoc. and Radical Club, 80 lectures.

Johnson vetoes 1st Reconstruction Act and Reconstruction Acts 2-4, Alaska bought from Russia.

Dominion of Canada declared, Austria-Hungary monarchy established.


In journal: “. . . the delight in another’s superiority, is as M.M.E. Says, ‘My best gift from God.’... the moral nature is... higher than the intellectual”; brother William dies (Sept).

Meets Emma Lazarus, NYC; speaks to Chinese officials, Boston; extols Confucius; 25 lectures.

14th Amendment.
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Meiji (Enlightened) Restoration in Japan.
Air brake.


President Ulysses S. Grant’s term.


In journal: “. . . the charm of [studying religion] is in finding the agreements & identities in all the religions of men.”

Elected VP, NE Women’s Suffrage Association, profiles MME (“Amita”) for NE Women’s Club, 37 lectures.

Transcontinental RR, reduces Native American buffalo herds by half.

Suez Canal opens, Mohandas Gandhi born.


Wishes Julia Ward Howe (“Battle Hymn”) of NYC were Massachusetts born: “We have no such poetess in New England.”

“National History of the Intellect,” Harvard philosophy course; preface, Plutarch’s Morals; Society and Solitude, 27 lectures.

15th Amendment, Enforcement Acts re 14th, 15th Amendments.

Franco-Prussian War, German Empire, 1870-1900 11 million Europeans immigrate to U.S., transatlantic slave trade ends.
Celluloid, stock ticker.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Aborts Harvard course for trip to CA by RR, meets John Muir, Bret Harte visits him in Concord.

39 lectures from Chicago to DC.

Apache War begins, Ku-Klux-Klan Act, Chicago Fire.

Japanese Mission to study Western ideas.
Compressed air rock drill.


Memory lapses increase after fire to “Bush,” trip to Europe, Egypt, sees Henry James in Paris.

Speaks at Howard Institute (later University), addresses Japanese in Boston, is feted in Europe, 20 lectures.

Liberal Republican Party.

Japan claims Ryuku Islands.
Gasoline engine.


Returns home (May), more conscious of memory loss.

begins new term as Harvard Overseer

Financial Panic.

Car coupler, blue jeans.


Excludes himself, Whitman & Poe in new poetry collection.

Parnassus, anthology of his favorite poems.

Independent Greenback Party formed.

Barbed wire.


Ends journal entries.

Reads Minutemen Memorial in Concord, centennial of Revolution, Letters and Social Aims.

Civil Rights Act.

Magazine gun.


Hosts Emma Lazarus; on Virginians: “They are very brave people down there, and say just what they think.”

Selected Poems, lectures at the University of Virginia to indifferent audience.

Sioux War ends, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

Carpet sweeper, Bell’s telephone, refrigerator.


President Rutherford B. Hayes’ term.


Private Life

Professional Work

U.S. Events

World Events & Inventions


Increasingly withdrawn, unable to converse at length.

Southern sentiment vs. blacks rises, North loses interest in Reconstruction.

Queen Victoria becomes Empress of India.
Microphone, phonograph.


On himself: “a lecturer who has no idea what he’s lecturing about, and an audience who don’t know what he can mean.”

Reads “Education” at Concord Lyceum.

Reconstruction ends.

Edison’s electric light, cream separator, disc cultivator, cystoscope.


“Strange that the kind Heavens should keep us on earth after they have destroyed our connection with things!”

Lectures at Amherst College, speaks on memory at Concord School of Philosophy (CSP).

Japanese student at Amherst College takes Emerson’s work to Tokyo University.

Second Afghan War: Britain controls Afghanistan.
Cash register, incandescent light bulb, Ivory soap.


Family asks James E. Cabot to be literary executor/biographer.

Speaks on aristocracy at CSP, reads 1867 lecture at Concord Lyceum.

James Garfield elected president.

Kipling at 15 lists Emerson his 2nd favorite poet.


Whitman on Emerson at home, “A good color in his face... and the old clear-peering aspect quite the same.”

Reads paper on Carlyle at Massachusetts Historical Society.

Clara Barton founds American Red Cross.

Carbon filament.


27 April, dies of pneumonia at home, buried Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.

Late March, attends Longfellow’s funeral but cannot remember his name.

Oscar Wilde tours US, often quotes Emerson.

Cuban José Martí writes “Emerson” in Spanish.
Electric fan, electric flatiron, Christmas lights.


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