R.W. Emerson's Self-Reliance
The essay has three major divisions: the importance of self-reliance (paragraphs 1-17), self-reliance and the individual (paragraphs 18-32), and self-reliance and society (paragraphs 33-50). As a whole, it promotes self-reliance as an ideal, even a virtue, and contrasts it with various modes of dependence or conformity.
Paragraphs 1-17. The Importance of Self-Reliance.
Emerson begins his major work on individualism by asserting the importance of thinking for oneself rather than meekly accepting other people's ideas. As in almost all of his work, he promotes individual experience over the knowledge gained from books: "To believe that what is true in your private heart is true for all menthat is genius." The person who scorns personal intuition and, instead, chooses to rely on others' opinions lacks the creative power necessary for robust, bold individualism. This absence of conviction results not in different ideas, as this person expects, but in the acceptance of the same ideasnow secondhand thoughtsthat this person initially intuited.
The lesson Emerson would have us learn? "Trust thyself," a motto that ties together this first section of the essay. To rely on others' judgments is cowardly, without inspiration or hope. A person with self-esteem, on the other hand, exhibits originality and is childlikeunspoiled by selfish needsyet mature. It is to this adventure of self-trust that Emerson invites us: We are to be guides and adventurers, destined to participate in an act of creation modeled on the classical myth of bringing order out of chaos.
Although we might question his characterizing the self-esteemed individual as childlike, Emerson maintains that children provide models of self-reliant behavior because they are too young to be cynical, hesitant, or hypocritical. He draws an analogy between boys and the idealized individual: Both are masters of self-reliance because they apply their own standards to all they see, and because their loyalties cannot be coerced. This rebellious individualism contrasts with the attitude of cautious adults, who, because they are overly concerned with reputation, approval, and the opinion of others, are always hesitant or unsure; consequently, adults have great difficulty acting spontaneously or genuinely.
Emerson now focuses his attention on the importance of an individual's resisting pressure to conform to external norms, including those of society, which conspires to defeat self-reliance in its members. The process of so-called "maturing" becomes a process of conforming that Emerson challenges. In the paragraph that begins with the characteristic aphorism "Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist," he asserts a radical, even extreme, position on the matter. Responding to the objection that devotedly following one's inner voice is wrong because the intuition may be evil, he writes, "No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature . . . the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it." In other words, it is better to be true to an evil nature than to behave "correctly" because of society's demands or conventions.
The non-conformist in Emerson rejects many of society's moral sentiments. For example, he claims that an abolitionist should worry more about his or her own family and community at home than about "black folk a thousand miles off," and he chides people who give money to the poor. "Are they my poor?" he asks. He refuses to support morality through donations to organizations rather than directly to individuals. The concrete act of charity, in other words, is real and superior to abstract or theoretical morality.
In a subdued, even gentle voice, Emerson states that it is better to live truly and obscurely than to have one's goodness extolled in public. It makes no difference to him whether his actions are praised or ignored. The important thing is to act independently: "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think . . . the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." Note that Emerson contrasts the individual to society"the crowd"but does not advocate the individual's physically withdrawing from other people. There is a difference between enjoying solitude and being a social hermit.
Outlining his reasons for objecting to conformity, Emerson asserts that acquiescing to public opinion wastes a person's life. Those around you never get to know your real personality. Even worse, the time spent maintaining allegiances to "communities of opinion" saps the energy needed in the vital act of creationthe most important activity in our livesand distracts us from making any unique contribution to society. Conformity corrupts with a falseness that pervades our lives and our every action: ". . . every truth is not quite true." Finally, followers of public opinion are recognized as hypocrites even by the awkwardness and falsity of their facial expressions.
Shifting the discussion to how the ideal individual is treated, Emerson notes two enemies of the independent thinker: society's disapproval or scorn, and the individual's own sense of consistency. Consistency becomes a major theme in the discussion as he shows how it restrains independence and growth.
Although the scorn of "the cultivated classes" is unpleasant, it is, according to Emerson, relatively easy to ignore because it tends to be polite. However, the outrage of the masses is another matter; only the unusually independent person can stand firmly against the rancor of the whole of society.
The urge to remain consistent with past actions and beliefs inhibits the full expression of an individual's nature. The metaphor of a corpse as the receptacle of memory is a shockingbut aptimage of the individual who is afraid of contradiction. In this vivid image of the "corpse of . . . memory," Emerson asks why people hold onto old beliefs or positions merely because they have taken these positions in the past. Being obsessed with whether or not you remain constant in your beliefs needlessly drains energyas does conformityfrom the act of living. After all, becoming mature involves the evolution of ideas, which is the wellspring of creativity. It is most important to review constantly and to reevaluate past decisions and opinions, and, if necessary, to escape from old ideas by admitting that they are faulty, just as the biblical Joseph fled from a seducer by leaving his coat in her hands, an image particularly potent in characterizing the pressure to conform as both seductive and degrading.
Noteworthy in this discussion on consistency is the famous phrase "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." The term "hobgoblin," which symbolizes fear of the unknown, furthers the effect produced by the "corpse" of memory and reinforces Emerson's condemnation of a society that demands conformity. Citing cultures that traditionally frown on inconsistency, Emerson points out that history's greatest thinkers were branded as outcasts for their original ideasand scorned as such by their peers. Notable among these figures is Jesus Christ.
What appears to be inconsistency is often a misunderstanding based on distortion or perspective. Emerson develops this idea by comparing the progress of a person's thoughts to a ship sailing against the wind: In order to make headway, the ship must tack, or move in a zigzag line that eventually leads to an identifiable end. In the same way, an individual's apparently contradictory acts or decisions show consistency when that person's life is examined in its entirety and not in haphazard segments. We must "scorn appearances" and do what is right or necessary, regardless of others' opinions or criticisms.
Society is not the measure of all things; the individual is. "A true man," Emerson's label for the ideal individual, "belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of all things. Where he is, there is nature." Nature is not only those objects around us, but also our individual natures. And these individual natures allow the great thinkerthe ideal individualto battle conformity and consistency.
Paragraphs 18-32. Self-Reliance and the Individual.
The second section of "Self-Reliance" offers more suggestions for the individual who wants to achieve the desirable quality of self-reliance. Emerson begins with a directive: "Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet." Material objects, especially those that are imposingEmerson cites magnificent buildings and heroic works of art, including costly booksoften intimidate people by making them feel of lesser worth. This feeling of inferiority is a mistake: Humans determine an object's worth, not vice versa. Emerson illustrates this point by relating a fable of a drunkard who is brought in off the street and treated like a royal personage; the unthinking individual is like the drunkard, living only half awake, until he comes to his senses by exercising reason and discovers that he is actually a prince.
One cause for our not exercising reason is the uncritical manner in which we read. Complaining that we often enjoy reading about the exploits of famous people while ignoring or devaluing books about ordinary righteousness and virtue, Emerson asks why people view the acts of well-known individuals as more important than the behavior of ordinary citizens, even though the good or bad behavior of ordinary people can have effects as noble or as dire as the actions of the powerful. Condemning European monarchies, he considers why royalty is accorded exaggerated respect despite the equal importance of common people; he can reason only that ordinary people respect royalty in recognition that a king or a queen represents the "royal" nature of every person, an argument he rejects outright.
Given the inferiority that an individual can feel when confronted by conformity and consistency, and now commonality, Emerson wonders how people remain confident in their abilities. The answer is provided by "that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct." The wisdom that springs from spontaneous instinct is Intuition, or inner knowledge from directly apprehending an object. All other knowledge is mere tuition, secondhand beliefs received from others instead of a uniquely individual response that was sparked by the source itself. This notion of Intuition is closely related to a main idea of transcendentalism: An all-encompassing "soul" animates the universe and is the source of all wisdom and inspiration. Direct knowledge, or intuition, is gained as a gift from this overwhelming source. But exactly what Emerson means by "Intuition" and "soul" is difficult to grasp, even for him: "If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm."
Emerson now introduces a contrasting idea to the portrait he has drawn of the intuitive individual: the characteristics and behavior of the "thoughtless man," who cannot see the depth of truth being used by the self-reliant, intuitive person. Thoughtless people cannot understand self-reliant individuals' seeming inconsistencies because thoughtless people are too worried about being consistentas society oppressively wants them to be.
Transcendence is gained only through intuitive knowledge. Describing this transcendent quality is difficult, Emerson says, because we have no concrete words for such an abstract state of mind. It is beyond language and can be conveyed only in negatives, by telling what it is not: "And now at last the highest truth of this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition." This type of understanding does not come from any teacher or intermediary; moreover, it reaches deeper than any kind of emotion, such as hope, gratitude, or even joy.
Attempting to relate transcendence to what he has been saying about self-reliance, Emerson emphasizes the important process of eternally evolving for the better. The self-reliant individual is not beholden to society: Although society may remain stagnant, the individual constantly changes, growing more virtuous and noble. This person gains something that others in society do not: namely, the knowledgeand, by extension, the powerof the permeating spirit that animates all things, be they natural objectsplants, animals, or treesor social activitiesfor example, commerce or war.
In the paragraphs leading up to this section's conclusion, Emerson moves from analysis to exhortation, offering suggestions on how we should act. Although everyone can become a model of self-reliance for the improvement of society, he asserts that "we"the lazy, non-self-reliant individualsare a "mob." Too many people, he says, are led by suggestions, by desires, and by feelings of responsibility. Instead of practicing independent self-reliance, we give in to others' demands. He urges us to place truth before politeness, value integrity more than comfort, and abandon hypocrisy in favor of honesty. Acknowledging that the self-reliant individual risks being misunderstood as merely selfish or self-indulgent, he vows that individuals who rigorously follow their consciences will be more "godlike" than individuals who follow society's laws.
Paragraphs 33-50. Self-Reliance and Society.
In the final third of "Self-Reliance," Emerson considers the benefits to society of the kind of self-reliance he has been describing. His examination of society demonstrates the need for a morality of self-reliance, and he again criticizes his contemporary Americans for being followers rather than original thinkers. Condemning the timidity of most young people, whose greatest fear is failure, he levels his complaint especially at urban, educated youths, unfavorably comparing them with a hypothetical farm lad, who engages himself in many occupations largely self-taught and entrepreneurial. The comparison between the city youths and the country fellow is to be expected given the quality of life Emerson traditionally assigns to each environment. Of no surprise is his favoring the bucolic life.
Emerson now focuses on four social arenas in which self-reliant individuals are needed: religion, which fears creativity; culture, which devalues individualism; the arts, which teach us only to imitate; and society, which falsely values so-called progress.
Religion, Emerson says, could benefit from a good dose of self-reliance because self-reliance turns a person's mind from petty, self-centered desires to a benevolent wish for the common good. Religion's main problem is its fear of individual creativity. As a consequence, it opts for the art of mimicry: "Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother, because he has shut his own temple doors, and recites fables merely of his brother's, or his brother's brother's God." Any religion can introduce new ideas and systems of thought to an individual, but religious creeds are dangerous because they substitute a set of ready answers for the independent thought required of the self-reliant person.
Although we might question Emerson's relating travelor cultureto religion, both substitute an external source of wisdom for an individual's inner wisdom. The person who travels "with the hope of finding something greater than he knows . . . travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things." The reference to youth reminds us that the self-reliant individual is childlike and original, whereas a person who travels for the wrong reasons creates nothing new and chooses instead to be surrounded by "old things."
The urge to travel is a symptom, according to Emerson, of our educational system's failure: Because schools teach us only to imitate, too often we travel to experience others' works of art rather than create them ourselves. In "The American Scholar," Emerson advises young scholars to break with European literary traditions.
Likewise, in "Self-Reliance," he addresses American artists with many of the same arguments: "Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any," if only American artisans would consider "the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government."
Emerson's criticism of society, and especially its ill-conceived notion of progress, differs from his earlier comments on the subject. The progression of ideas symbolized in the zigzag line of a ship is not what he is addressing here. He is arguing that society does not necessarily improve from material changes. For example, advances in technology result in the loss of certain kinds of wisdom: The person who has a watch loses the ability to tell time by the sun's position in the sky, and improvements in transportation and war machinery are not accompanied by corresponding improvements in either the physical or mental stature of human beings. The most effective image for this static nature of society is the wave. A wave moves in and out from the shoreline, but the water that composes it does not; changes occur in society, but "society never advances."
The last two paragraphs of "Self-Reliance" are a critique of property and fortune. Emerson castigates reliance on property, as he earlier attacked reliance on the thinking of others, as a means to a full life. Rather than admiring property, the cultivated man is ashamed of it, especially of property that is not acquired by honest work. Respect for property leads to a distortion of political life: Society is corrupted by people who regard government as primarily a protector of property rather than of persons.
Finally, Emerson urges the individual to be a risk taker. No external event, he says, whether good or bad, will change the individual's basic self-regard. "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles." Self-reliance, then, is the triumph of a principle.
Ne te quaesiveris: Extra Latin, meaning "Do not seek outside yourself." In other words, "Look within."
Beaumont, Francis (d. 1616): An English dramatist, he co-authored all of his major works, including The Maides Ragedy (1611), with John Fletcher.
Fletcher, John (1579-1625): An English dramatist best known for his collaboration with Francis Beaumont; Fletcher was the sole author of at least fifteen plays.
bantling: A baby.
Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.): A Greek philosopher, he formulated the philosophy of idealism, which holds that the concepts or ideas of things are more perfectand, therefore, more realthan the material things themselves.
Milton, John (1608-74): The English poet renowned for his religious epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), which sought to "justify the ways of God to men."
set at naught: To set aside, or deem inconsequential.
firmament: The expanse of the heavens; the sky; poetically, a symbol of strength.
piquancy: Appealingly provocative.
the pit: In early theaters, the cheapest seats behind the orchestra, below the level of the stage.
cumbers: To trouble the mind or the senses.
eclat: A dazzling display.
Lethe: In Greek mythology, the river of forgetfulness that flows between the world of the living and the underworld of the dead.
titular: Existing only in title, or name.
ephemeral: Short-lived; transitory.
Barbados: The easternmost island of the West Indies, Barbados was a British colony until it became independent in 1966; British legislation abolished slavery in the West Indies in 1833.
lintel: The horizontal door post of a house.
Whim: Emerson is recalling Exodus 12, in which God instructs Moses to mark the doors of Hebrew homes with blood so that the inhabitants will be spared when God passes through Egypt to "smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast." Here, Emerson is saying that instead of marking the house with blood, he would mark the house with the word "Whim," thereby characterizing the inhabitants as utterly devoid of personal integrity.
alms to sots: Donations to drunkards.
bleeding: A medical practice in which blood is released from a patient's veins, supposedly to drain away infections or toxic matter.
Bible-society: One of a number of societies organized for translating and distributing bibles.
blindman's buff: A game in which a blindfolded player tries to catch and identify other players.
mow: To grimace.
magnanimity: The quality of being generous in forgiving insult or injury.
Joseph and the harlot: A reference to the biblical Joseph, who refused the advances of an Egyptian officer's wife (the "harlot"); the woman then falsely accused him of rape, and Joseph was thrown in jail, where he received his gift of dream interpretation.
hobgoblin: A frightening apparition; a goblin.
Pythagoras (sixth century B.C.): Greek philosopher; considered to be the first true mathematician.
Socrates (d. 399 B.C.): A Greek philosopher, he initiated a question-and-answer method of teachingcalled the Socratic methodas a means of achieving self-knowledge; opponents of Socrates' method felt that he was undermining the authority of the state by teaching youths to question received knowledge. He was brought to trial, convicted of corrupting youth, and condemned to die; he carried out the sentence by drinking poison.
Luther, Martin (1483-1546): A German theologian, Luther is credited with initiating the Protestant Reformation; he believed in the ability of educated lay people to form ethical and religious judgments based on their own interpretations of scripture.
Copernicus, Nicolaus (1473-1543): The Polish astronomer who theorized that the earth revolves around the sun.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): An Italian scientist, Galileo furthered the theories advanced by Copernicus through use of the telescope; his views were considered a threat to certain religious doctrines, and he was obliged to publicly retract some of his assertions.
Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727): English mathematician and scientist; Newton is chiefly remembered for formulating the law of gravity.
Andes: A South American rugged mountain chain that runs parallel to the Pacific coast, through Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.
Himmaleh: The Himalaya Mountains are the highest in the world, forming the northern border of Nepal.
acrostic: A short poem in which the first, middle, or last letter of each line spells a word or phrase when read in sequence.
Alexandrian stanza: A palindrome; an arrangement of words that reads the same backwards or forwardfor example, "If I had a hi-fi."
tacks: The movement of a sailboat against the wind by setting sails and steering back and forth across the direction of the wind; each leg of the journey is a single tack.
Chatham, First Earl of (1708-78): More widely known as Willim Pitt the Elder, he supported the American colonists' bid for independence in the British Parliament.
port: Bearing; posture.
ephemera: Something that has a transitory existence.
gazetted: Here, meaning "dismissed."
Spartan fife: Refers to the fife, a small flute, used in tandem with drums to provide cadence for marching soldiers.
Caesar, Gaius Julius (100-44 B.C.): A Roman general, statesman, and emperor, Caesar was given a mandate by the people to rule as dictator for life; he was stabbed to death by a group of republicans led by Brutus and Cassius.
Monachism of the Hermit Anthony: The construction of the abbeys of St. Anthony marked the beginning of Christian monasticism.
Reformation: A sixteenth-century movement in Europe to reform excesses and deficiencies in the Church, the Reformation eventually resulted in the separation of the Protestant churches from what then came to be known as the Roman Catholic Church.
Quakerism: Officially called the Society of Friends; a group of Christians originating in seventeenth-century England under George Fox. They hold that believers receive direct guidance from a divine inner light.
Fox, George (1624-91): The founder of the Society of Friends (1647), popularly called the Quakers, Fox preached equality between men and women, and pacifism. The Quaker doctrine of inner enlightenment is similar to transcendentalists' emphasis on intuitive knowledge.
Methodism: Founded by John Wesley (1703-91), Charles Wesley (1707-88), and others in England during the early 1700s, this Protestant religion emphasized doctrines of free grace and individual responsibility.
Clarkson, Thomas (1760-1846): A pioneer of the British antislavery movement.
Scipio Africanus the "Elder" (237-183 B.C.): Until Julius Caesar, he was the greatest Roman general, defeating the mighty Hannibal at Zama in 202 B.C.
charity-boy: A boy attending a school for indigent children and funded by charitable donations.
interloper: One who interferes in the affairs of others.
mendicant: Taking the characteristics of a beggar.
sycophantic: Trying to win favors from influential people by excessive fawning and flattery.
Alfred (d. 899): Alfred was the king (871-99) of what was then called West Saxony, in the southwest portion of England.
Scanderbeg (d. 1468): Revolutionary leader and national hero of Albania.
Gustavus (1594-1632): Gustavus was the Swedish king responsible for making Sweden a major European power; after his troops marched through Germany, he became known as the "Lion of the North." During his reign, a short-lived Swedish colonythe only one in the Americaswas founded in what is now Delaware.
hieroglyphic: A picture or symbol representing a sound or a word; best known for being used by the ancient Egyptians.
parallax: The apparent change in the position of an object, resulting from a change in the position from which it is viewed.
David (d. 962 B.C.): The second king of Judah and Israel, David is the reputed author of many of the Psalms; the most famous stories about David concern his success as a young shepherd boy over the great Philistine warrior Goliath, and his love for the king's son, Jonathan, who loved David with a love that "was wonderful, surpassing the love of women" (I Samuel 17:48; 11 Samuel 1:26-27).
Jeremiah: Hebrew prophet during the period 626 B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; his texts are compiled in the Book of Jeremiah, also called Lamentations.
Paul (c. first century): Termed the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was a Hebrew who had Roman citizenship; while on the road to Damascus, he saw a vision of Christ and was converted to Christianity. His writings in the New Testament articulate the foundations for most Christian beliefs.
Judas Iscariot (d. 33): Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Apostles and the betrayer of Christ.
Thor: In Norse mythology, the god of thunder; he is commemorated in the name of the fifth day of the week, Thursday.
Woden: The Anglo-Saxon form of Odin, chief among the Norse and Germanic gods.
Saxon breasts: Part of the American construction of race in the 1800s was the development of the notion of a "Saxon" or "Anglo-Saxon" race, supposedly derived from the Teutonic conquerors of England following the Roman Empire; Americans who wished to maintain an elite class of descendants of northern European Protestants excluded Irish, eastern and southern Europeans, and people of color from the notion of "true" Americans.
antinomianism: Belief in the religious doctrine that promotes faith rather than adherence to moral laws.
Zoroaster (sixth century B.C.): The Persian prophet who founded a religious system that taught that life was a continual struggle between the forces of light and dark.
Locke, John (1632-1704): An English philosopher, Locke developed a theory of cognition that denied the existence of innate ideas and asserted that all thought is based on knowledge received from our senses. His works influenced American Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, who modified Puritan doctrine to allow for more play of reason and intellect, building a foundation for Unitarianism and, eventually, transcendentalism.
Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent (1743-94): French chemist; regarded as the founder of modern chemistry
Hutton, James (1726-97): A Scottish geologist, he advanced the hypothesis that geologic changes in the earth's surface occur slowly over long periods of time.
Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832): British philosopher; recognized as the official founder of utilitarianism, which holds that the chief purpose of human social existence is to secure the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
Fourier, Francois Marie (1772-1837): French social theorist.
Calvinism: A Christian theological perspective associated with the work of John Calvin (1509-64), who advocated the final authority of the Bible and salvation by grace alone.
Swedenborgism: The philosophical system derived by the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772); emphasizes mystical insight and an idealistic vision of human nature.
pinfold: An enclosure for stray animals; to confine.
Thebes: An ancient city in Egypt, it was a major center of national life and culture at the time of the Pharaohs; many of its magnificent monuments had fallen into ruin by Emerson's time.
Palmyra: An ancient city in the Middle East, north of Damascus.
Doric: The earliest and simplest of Greek architecture, characterized by fluted pillars with plain, square tops.
Gothic: A European style of architecture noted for its pointed arches and flying buttresses.
Franklin, Benjamin (1706-90): An American scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and philosopher; one of the most important figures in the transformation of the American colonies into the United States of America.
Bacon, Francis (1561-1626): English essayist, statesman, and philosopher; he proposed a theory of scientific knowledge based on observation and experiment that came to be known as the inductive method.
Phidias (c. fifth century B.C.): A great Athenian sculptor, none of whose works survive.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): The Italian poet renowned for The Divine Comedy, completed in 1321.
Foreworld: The primeval world.
amelioration: An improvement.
Greenwich nautical almanac: Initiated in 1767, the Nautical Almanac, published by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England, was indispensable to ship captains and navigators,
solstice: The two times of the year when the sun reaches its most northerly (summer) and southerly (winter) positions, with reference to the equator. These are the longest and shortest days, respectively, of the year.
equinox: The two times during the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator, and day and night are of equal length.
Stoic: One who approaches life rationally, indifferent to pleasure and emotional pain.
Plutarch (c. 46-120): Greek biographer; his Parallel Lives was a source for much of English literature, including several works by Shakespeare.
Phocion (402-318 B.C.): A ruler of Athens and a former pupil of Plato.
Anaxagoras (d. 428 B.C.): Greek philosopher; he believed that matter was composed of atoms.
Diogenes of Sinope (c. fourth century B.C.): Diogenes was the most famous of the Cynics, a group of Greek philosophers who considered virtue to be the only good and esteemed self-sufficiency.
Hudson, Henry (d. 1611): The English explorer who sailed up the river now bearing his name and established an English claim to it; he died after being set adrift by a mutinous crew in the Canadian bay that was later named for him.
Bering, Vitus (d. 1741): Danish explorer.
Parry, Sir William Edward (1790-1855): A pioneer explorer of the Arctic Ocean.
Franklin, Sir John (1786-1847): An Arctic explorer from England.
Napoleon I (1769-1821): The emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, Napoleon I is remembered as one of the greatest military strategists of all time.
bivouac: A camp without tents.
Las Casas, Emmanuel (1766-1842): French historian; best known for recording Napoleon's last conversations on the island of St. Helena.
Caliph Ali (d. 661): The fourth caliphor leaderof the Muslim community, Caliph Ali's descendants are regarded as the true successors to the prophet Mohammed.
Whigs: Naming themselves after the British party of the common people (as opposed to the aristocratic Tories), the Whig party in the United States was active from 1834 to 1854.