Margaret Fuller, “Fourth of July” (New York Tribune, 1845)

  1. FOURTH OF JULY, 1845

(Text from the New York Tribune, July 4, 1845.)


[This is a still more vigorous assertion of Margaret’s in-

creasing comprehension of and sympathy for the cause of

American nationalism. Her patriotism now includes both

a faith in the multitude and a contempt for the inade-

quacies of the citizens.]


The bells ring; the cannon rouse the echoes along the

river shore; the boys sally forth with shouts and little

flags, and crackers enough to frighten all the people they

meet from sunrise to sunset. The orator is conning for

the last time the speech in which he has vainly attempted

to season with some new spice the yearly panegyric upon

our country; its happiness and glory; the audience is

putting on its best bib and tucker, and its blandest ex-

pression to hsten.


And yet, no heart, we think, can beat to-day with one

pulse of genuine, noble joy. Those who have obtained their

selfish objects will not take especial pleasure in thinking of

them to-day, while to unbiassed minds must come sad

thoughts of national honor soiled in the eyes of other na-

tions, of a great inheritance risked, if not forfeited.


Much has been achieved in this country since the Dec-

laration of Independence. America is rich and strong; she

has shown great talent and energy; vast prospects of ag-

grandizement open before her. But the noble sentiment

which she expressed in her early youth is tarnished; she

has shovm that righteousness is not her chief desire, and

her name is no longer a watchword for the highest hopes to

the rest of the world. She knows this, but takes it very

easily; she feels that she is growing richer and more power-

ful, and that seems to suffice her.


These facts are deeply saddening to those who can pro-

nounce the words “my country” with pride and peace only

so far as steadfast virtues, generous impulses, find their

home in that country. They cannot be satisfied with super-

ficial benefits, with luxuries and the means of obtaining

knowledge which are multiplied for them. They could

rejoice in full hands and a busy brain, if the soul were ex-

panding and the heart pure; but, the higher conditions

being violated, what is done cannot be done for good.


Such thoughts fill patriot minds as the cannon-peal

bursts upon the ear. This year, which declares that the

people at large consent to cherish and extend slavery as one

of our “domestic institutions,” takes from the patriot his

home. This year, which attests their insatiate love of wealth

and power, quenches the flame upon the altar.


Yet there remains that good part which cannot be taken

away. If nations go astray, the narrow path may always be

found and followed by the individual man. It is hard,

hard indeed, when politics and trade are mixed up with

evils so mighty that he scarcely dares touch them for fear

of being defiled. He finds his activity checked in great nat-

ural outlets by the scruples of conscience. He cannot enjoy

the free use of his limbs, glowing upon a favorable tide;

but struggling, panting, must fix his eyes upon his aim,

and fight against the current to reach it. It is not easy, it

is very hard just now, to realize the blessings of independ-



For what is independence if it do not lead to freedom?

—freedom from fraud and meanness, from selfishness,

from public opinion so far as it does not agree with the

still, small voice of one’s better self?


Yet there remains a great and worthy part to play. This

country presents great temptations to ill, but also great in-

ducements to good. Her health and strength are so remark-

able, her youth so full of life, that disease cannot yet have

taken deep hold of her. It has bewildered her brain, made

her steps totter, fevered, but not yet tainted, her blood.

Things are still in that state when ten just men may save

the city. A few men are wanted, able to think and act upon

principles of an eternal value. The safety of the country

must lie in a few such men; men who have achieved the

genuine independence, independence of wrong, of vio-

lence, of falsehood.


We want individuals to whom all eyes may turn as

examples of the practicability of virtue. We want shining

examples. We want deeply-rooted characters, who cannot

be moved by flattery, by fear, even by hope, for they work

in faith. The opportunity for such men is great; they will

not be burned at the stake in their prime for bearing

witness to the truth, yet they will be tested most severely

in their adherence to it. There is nothing to hinder them

from learning what is true and best; no physical tortures

will be inflicted on them for expressing it. Let men feel

that in private lives, more than in public measures, must

the salvation of the country lie. If that country has so

widely veered from the course she prescribed to herself,

and that the hope of the world prescribed to her, it must

be because she had not men ripened and confirmed for

better things. They leaned too carelessly on one another;

they had not deepened and purified the private lives from

which the public vitality must spring, as the verdure of

the plain from the fountains of the hills.


What a vast influence is given by sincerity alone. The

bier of General Jackson has lately passed, upbearing a

golden urn. The men who placed it there lament his de-

parture, and esteem the measures which have led this

country to her present position wise and good. The other

side esteem them unwise, unjust, and disastrous in their

consequences. But both respect him thus far, that his con-

duct was boldly sincere. The sage of Quincy! Men differ

in their estimate of his abilities. None, probably, esteem

his mind as one of the first magnitude. But both sides.

All men, are influenced by the bold integrity of his char-

acter. Mr. Calhoun speaks straight out what he thinks.

So far as this straightforwardness goes, he confers the bene-

fits of virtue. If a character be uncorrupted, whatever bias

it takes, it thus far is good and does good. It may help

others to a higher, wiser, larger independence than its own.

We know not where to look for an example of all or

many of the virtues we would seek from the man who is

to begin the new dynasty that is needed of fathers of the

country. The country needs to be bom again; she is pol-

luted with the lust of power, the lust of gain. She needs

fathers good enough to be godfathers— men who will stand

sponsors at the baptism with all they possess, with all the

goodness they can cherish, and all the wisdom they can

win, to lead this child the way she should go, and never

one step in another. Are there not in schools and colleges

the boys who will become such men? Are there not those

on the threshold of manhood who have not yet chosen

the broad way into which the multitude rushes, led by

the banner on which, strange to say, the royal Eagle is

blazoned, together with the word Expediency? Let them

decline that road, and take the narrow, thorny path where

Integrity leads, though with no prouder emblem than the

Dove. They may there find the needed remedy, which,

like the white root, detected by the patient and resolved

Odysseus, shall have power to restore the herd of men,

disguised by the enchantress to whom they had willingly

yielded in the forms of brutes, to the stature and beauty

of men.






Perry Miller was bom in Chicago and graduated from 
the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. 
degree in 1931. That year he became an instructor at 
Harvard University. He has been Professor of American 
Literature at Harvard since 1946. During 1962-63, he was 
at the Institute for Advanced Studies, in Princeton, where 
he was composing an analysis of the American intellect 
in the early nineteenth century— the era of Margaret 

Among his many books are: Orthodoxy in Massachu- 
setts; The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century; 
Jonathan Edwards; Roger Williams; The New England 
Mind: From Colony to Province; The American Puritans 
(A80); The American Transcendentalists (A119); and 
The Legal Mind in America (A313). 

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Anchor Books 

Doubleday & Company, Inc. 

Garden City, New York 


The Anchor Books edition 

is the first publication of 

Margaret Fuller: American Romantic. 

Anchor Books edition: 1963 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 63-13082 

Copyright © 1963 by Perry Miller 

All Rights Reserved 

Printed in the United States of America
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