‘America’s Declaration of Intellectual Independence’

On August 31, 1837, an important man from the Greater Merrimack River Valley spoke to members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass. His address that day is considered by some to be ‘America’s Declaration of Intellectual Independence.’ Here is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘The American Scholar,’ in which he wrote, ‘Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that are around us rushing into life, cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves.’

Read ‘The American Scholar’ here, from emersoncentral.com

In “Cotton Was King,” the history of Lowell from the Lowell Historical Society (1976), Arthur L. Eno, Jr., writes that Emerson delivered 25 lectures in Lowell in the middle 1800s, starting in 1836. Think about that. Emerson spoke in Lowell 25 times. In “The Annotated Emerson,” David Mikics writes, “And he started his career on the public-speaking circuit, developing lectures on topics ranging from natural history, to the biographies of great men, to art and culture. The craze for public lectures had come to America, and Emerson was able to make a good living from it. Since the late 1820s, instructive, entertaining lectures had become wildly popular in America; lecturing halls called Lyceums dotted the landscape, as far west as Oregon. Emerson was probably the most successive Lyceum speaker of his day, followed by the ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.”