The fifth volume, covering the years 1840 and 1841, contains essays revealing Brownson's increasing hostility to the lingering effects of the Great Depression of 1837 and his defense of Transcendentalism that was coming under mounting criticism. The most important essay of these years, the essay on "The Laboring Classes" (July 1840), fell like a bombshell on the politicians' playground in the midst of the presidential campaign of that year. In that essay he called for the abolition of the priesthood and institutional Christianity, the resuscitation of the Christianity of Christ, and the destruction of all laws protecting the inheritance of property all provisions in his plan to elevate the working class. The whigs were delighted. The essay allowed them to paint the Democrats as agrarians. Many Democrats were appalled. Brownson had been imprudently audacious and as impolitic as ever. That essay on the elevation of the working class fit into Brownson's life-long concerns and demonstrated the direction of his own form of Transcendentalism during those years. The multiple attacks on that essay forced Brownson to write a number of defenses of his proposal for justice for the working class and to work out in those defenses his own form of social Transcendentalism. As in the immediate past, he supported the writings of the French Catholic Felicite de Lamennais who had identified Christianity with social democracy a view that coincided with his own. Other essays in this volume defend Transcendentalism, at least his own version of Transcendentalism, and demonstrate how his intuitive-empirical understanding of knowledge influenced his understanding of politics and literature as well as religion and Christianity. He defines his own form of Transcendentalism in this volume, as in the previous one, vis-a-vis the empircism and anti-Transcendentalism of Andrews Norton and the Princetonian professors Charles Hodge, James Waddle Alexander, and Albert Baldwin Dod. In his defense of Transcendentalism he sides with Emerson and especially with Theodore Parker, even though he did not entirely share their philosophical or religious views.
About the Author
Patrick W. Carey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, William J. Kelly, S.J., Chair in Catholic Theology (Ph.D., Fordham University, 1975), [Historical], specializes in the study of American Protestant and Catholic religious life and thought. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals and over twenty books.