History 151

It was a reaction against the Enlightenment and yet akin in that they both assumed life was designed for human happiness. However the Enlightenment placed reason at the center of human acheivement. Romanticismm distrusted the human intellect and placed its value on the emotions and intutive qualities. The natural and spontaneous was deemed good. The highest truths would be derived from the instantaneous of the individual. It gloried in the unlimited potential of the individual. There was an overall feeling of optimism and belief of a utopia. Romanticism reinforced the emotionalism of the period and its philosophies influenced the Transcendental movement.
Transcendalism grew when people like Emerson protested the churchs\' lifeless teachings. Transcendalism\'s body of doctrine was back to nature, a divine spark in each individual and a belief in the goodness of man. Transcendalists emphasized feeling over reason and that the human has faculties to transcend experiences, i.e. to go beyond the senses. They looked at Jesus Christ as an example of that human potential. They were to follow the inner conscience, even if driven through conscience, to defy the state. It built on the principles of individualism, self reliance, strength and confidence to strike out on own. They were critical of government, laws, social institutions, debasing commercialism and whatever kept humans from reaching their highest potential. They took a PollyAnna attitude that everything will turn out. Emerson taught "Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string." Listeners who attended Emerson\'s lectures were inspired with a spirit of optimism. Utopian communities were established where the members shared a belief in perfectionism and the millenia. One group headed by George Ripley was Brook Farm, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. This was a Transcendentalist inspired community.
Significant reform movements sought to remove the blemishes of society. This was in keeping with the inner human potential and Love that was extended to all men. It brought great humanitarism efforts to the front. Women played prominent roles as they went forth in society to clear the blemishes. Volunteerism was born in America, displaying the true American mentality. Dorothea Dix worked hard at convincing the State Legislatures to establish institutions for the mentally ill. The men of America also marched forward to call for reform. Horace Mann helped Massachusetts become the first state to provide a public school. The Temperance Movement wanted to change society not withdraw. Alcohol consumption had reached an all time high. The movement undertook to eliminate problems caused by drinking. These movements of Reform and many more, were influenced by Romanticism. The need to create the utopia meant they had to clear the blemishes and they did so with emotion and heart.