May 25 marks Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birthday. “The Sage of Concord,” called “the outstanding representative of romantic symbolism in the English speaking world,” was a major poet and influence on 19th century America. He was also an essayist who emphasized individualism and challenged traditional authority. He worked for women’s rights and against slavery. According to Barbara Solowey, “He inspired many of the best minds of his age to quest for authentic freedom…[He] embodied much of what is noblest and most admirable in our national character.”
Leonard Read, the founder of the Foundation of Economic Education, in almost 30 books, also quoted Emerson more than any other person, except Edmund Burke, Read’s model of a philosopher-statesman. In fact, Read’s single most frequently quoted line was from Emerson: “Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed.” Knowing some of what Read gleaned from Emerson doesn’t just give us a window into Leonard Read’s thoughts, but something well worth thinking for ourselves.
Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than material force, that thoughts rule the world.
What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.
Look not mournfully to the past—it comes not back again; wisely improve the present—it is thine; go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear, and with a manly heart.
There is a persuasion in the soul of man that he is here for a cause, and that he was put down in this place by the Creator to do the work for which He inspired him; that thus he is an over-match for all the antagonists that could contrive against him.
Thought must take the stupendous step of passing into realization.
[N]o man thoroughly understands a truth until first he has contended against it.
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Trust men and they will be true to you.
We lie in the lap of Immense Intelligence which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves but allow a passage of its beams.
America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race.