A New National Culture
American culture was experiencing a dramatic shift from the conventional beliefs of the 18th century. The Transcendentalists were focused on the power of the individual, and referring back to oneself and to nature in attempt to answer the most plaguing questions of life. This mindset spread to many diverse individuals, starting in the East Coast and spreading throughout the country. And although not everyone adapted this mindset, literature from prominent Transcendentalists communicated these ideas fluidly throughout society which grew into the widespread and distinct idea of American Romanticism. Although closely related to the earlier Romanticism in Europe, America at the time of the Transcendentalists was a different breed. It applied to the spirit of the nation in a way that was distinctly American, stemming from the people’s free will and their revolutionary beginnings (8). In a nation that had been consumed with the strict moral codes and harsh principles of Puritanism and Calvinism, the Revolutionary War, and countless fights to make a name for themselves, Romanticist ideals were very appealing.
The Transcendentalist movement was also in essence a social justice and civil rights movement, as their core principles defended the ideas of equality in the natural world. The majority of Transcendentalists were fierce defenders of women’s rights and opponents to the institution of slavery. Their words paved the way for the movements to come, and opened doors for individuals to speak out about issues facing the nation during their time. Fuller’s Woman In The Nineteenth Century established the line of questioning on a woman’s place in a democratic society, and set the path for the Women’s Suffrage movement. Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience not just reestablished the principles laid down by the Constitution of the people’s right to overthrow an unjust government, but it brought new depth to it. Although the ideas of the Transcendentalists seemed radical at the time, they were incredibly influential in changing the tone of American culture to focus on the full potential of the individual rather than focusing on constraints of a society drowning in old fashioned traditions and practices..