History, History Column

Fourth of July – Emerson, Stabler & Zelenskyy

By Sarah Becker ©2022

Copyright ©2022 Sarah Becker

In 1837 Michigan was admitted as a free state, the Union’s 26th state. Texas, a slave-holding republic was denied annexation. The Panic of 1837 began: banks failed, a depression followed, and the price of cotton plummeted. Lawyer Abraham Lincoln was admitted to the Illinois Bar, Martin Van Buren [D-NY] became the 8th U.S. President, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrated his Hymn: Sung at the July 4th Completion of the Concord, Massachusetts, Monument.

The Monument immortalizes Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the settlers April 19, 1775, resistance to oncoming British forces. The fighting covered 16 miles and included 4,000+ colonials: 1,700 British regulars. Concord, a Puritan settlement established in 1635, was the first Massachusetts community to protest Parliament’s March 31, 1774, Coercive Acts.

Independence Day, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “July 4, celebrated in the United States to commemorate the adoption in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them….

[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security….”

Independent, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “Not governed by a foreign power.”

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,/ Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,/ Here once the embattled farmers stood,/ And fired the shot heard round the world,” Emerson’s Hymn begins.

“The foe long since in silence slept;/ Alike the conqueror silent sleeps; And Time the ruined bridge has swept/ Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,/ We set to-day a votive stone;/ That memory may their deed redeem,/ When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare/ To die, and leave their children free,/ Bid Time and Nature gently spare/ The shaft we raise to them and thee.”

Poet, essayist, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803, the fourth child of William, a Unitarian minister, and Ruth Emerson. He spent his early life in Boston and entered Harvard College in 1817. Ten years later Emerson, a student of theology was spiritually adrift. Quaker minister and Alexandria apothecary Edward Stabler consoled Emerson when they coincidentally conversed aboard a north-bound steamboat.

Emerson, 34 years Stabler’s junior, remembered him as a God-taught teacher. “It was said of Jesus that ‘he taught as one having authority,’” Emerson noted. “There are a few people in every age, I suppose, who teach thus. [Edward] Stabler, the [Hicksite] Quaker, whom I saw on board the boat in the Delaware Bay, was one.” Stabler died four years after their 1827 encounter.

At his death, in 1831, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of [Quaker] Friends remembered Stabler as: “Endowed by nature with a clear, comprehensive, and discriminating mind…one [whose ministerial] object was, to impress the minds of his hearers with the importance of examining things for themselves…[to distinguish] between good and evil…[to believe] that the one always blesses, and the other as uniformly torments….”

“I refer now to…the scattered company who have ministered to my highest wants,” Emerson recalled on May 19, 1836. “Edward Stabler, Peter Hunt…A.B. Alcott, even [Achille] Murat has a claim,—a strange class, plain & wise…They are the argument for the spiritual world for their spirit is it.”

“The reason why the world lacks unity—lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself,” Emerson wrote. Waldo believed “in the strength of nature and the power of the human spirit; in individualism and self-reliance.”

Emerson—an abolitionist who believed the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law [an] immoral law—first met Abraham Lincoln, a Whig turned Republican President in 1862: approximately nine months after the outbreak of the Civil War.

“There never was a nation great except through trial,” Emerson noted. “A religious revolution cuts the sharpest, & tests the faith & endurance. A civil war sweeps away all the false issues on which it begun, & arrives presently at real & lasting questions.”

Fast forward to today…what presently are the real & lasting questions regarding Russia’s February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine. For what reason[s] did Russia attack Ukraine a sovereign nation-state: land acquisition generally, power and positioning including Crimea, resurrection of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic [USSR], Ukraine’s claim to the Sea of Azov, or something else.

According to the United Nations, as of March 20, 2022, ten million Ukrainians—one quarter of the population—had either fled the country or been displaced from their homes as a result of Russia’s devastating, if not ruinous attacks. Sadly the mass graves, such as the three found in April in Mariupol, a city located in southeastern Ukraine on the north coast of the Sea of Azov, have become all too common.

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding,” Emerson suggested.

It was on April 24 that U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, Blinken and Austin first visited war torn Ukraine. “We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin,” Blinken said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Meeks and Schiff arrived soon after to discuss “security; economic and humanitarian assistance.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s team also toured.

“Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up,” Emerson said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] was established in 1949, mostly for military purposes: (1) to prevent Germany’s post-WWII military revival, and (2) to quash Russia’s, later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ expansion. Twelve nation-states signed the original treaty including the United States. Since then NATO’s membership has increased; Sweden and Finland’s applications are now pending, Russia and Ukraine are excluded.

Some of NATO’s newer members were formerly affiliated with the USSR, Russia’s Soviet Union. The USSR’s outdated territory stretches from Eastern Europe’s Baltic States to the Pacific Ocean. Ukraine, a 1917 spinoff of a tsarist regime gained its independence in 1991—with the fall of President Mikhail Gorbachev’s USSR. It is Europe’s second largest country.

Ukrainians religious affiliations include Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), Ukrainian Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, born January 25, 1978, is Jewish. Putin speaks of Nazism; Zelenskyy calls Ukraine’s situation “WWIII in the making.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says a nuclear threat is possible, “that the threat of nuclear conflict amid the war in Ukraine ‘should not be underestimated.’” One only needs to remember Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster to comprehend the negative effects of a nuclear encounter.

“The hero is not fed on sweets,” Emerson wrote, “Daily his own heart he eats….” On March 2, 2022, 39 nation-states, “acting under article 13[a] and 14[1] of the International Criminal Court” referred “the situation in Ukraine” to the Prosecutor of the ICC for investigation of war crimes. Russia’s service on the UN Human Rights Council was suspended—effective April 7, 2022.

“What is happening now is not about Ukraine, but about the future world order, which has no room for hegemony and where Russia can’t be isolated,” Russia’s Vladimir Avatkov responded.

As we celebrate Independence Day, let us remember that as of Flag Day 1954 the United States was and still is “one Nation, under God, indivisible.” Zelenskyy, on May 6, 2022, told the U.K.’s Chatham House he was “elected by the people not as president of a Ukraine of some kind, but of Ukraine.” More than 20% of war torn Ukraine, eastern Ukraine especially now functions under Russian control.

“In an age of fops and foys,/ Wants of wisdom, void of right,/ Who shall nerve heroic boys/ To hazard all in Freedom’s fight…,” Emerson asked. “So near is God to man….”

Edward Stabler on compensation [1828]: “I went on to show that a sale implied an exchange of commodities,—a thing to be parted with, and something else as the price, to be received instead of it. And his obedience to those particulars of the outward law that were then mentioned, not having enriched his mind [or his] soul…to obtain this treasure, he must sell all that…prevents him from inheriting eternal life…I then stated what some of these things were; and the price that would be given to us for them., viz:—If we would give up our pride, we should have humility in the place of it. Our obduracy might be exchanged for tenderness of heart; and our fierceness, for gentleness, &c. And these things being spiritual, and appertaining both in nature and quality to the soul, they would make it ‘rich toward God.’”

“[T]he law of compensation…holds as far as we can see,” Emerson echoed. “Different gifts to different individuals but with a mortgage of responsibility on everyone…old Stabler the Quaker in the Baltimore Steamboat said to me.”

“Spirit, that made those heroes dare/ To die, and leave their children free,/ Bid Time and Nature gently spare/ The shaft we raise to them and thee.” Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, is buried in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

About the Author: Sarah Becker started writing for The Economist while a graduate student in England. Similar publications followed. She joined the Crier in 1996 while serving on the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association Board. Her interest in antiquities began as a World Bank hire, with Indonesia’s need to generate hard currency. Balinese history, i.e. tourism provided the means. The New York Times describes Becker’s book, Off Your Duffs & Up the Assets, as “a blueprint for thousands of nonprofit managers.” A former museum director, SLAM’s saving grace Sarah received Alexandria’s Salute to Women Award in 2007.

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