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Knights of the Golden Rule

Knights of the Golden Rule: The Intellectual as Christian Social Reformer in the 1890s

Peter J. Frederick
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 342
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jkvq
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  • Book Info
    Knights of the Golden Rule
    Book Description:

    This is a book about American intellectuals as would-be social reformers and what happens to them in the arena of practical politics. Specifically, it examines the lives of ten highly idealistic Christian socialist and anarchist intellectuals of the 1890s who were profoundly influenced -- indeed inspired -- by the prophetic social messages and exemplary lives of Tolstoy, Mazzini, and Ruskin. The ten Americans -- including ministers, journalists, professors, and poets -- were constantly thwarted in their efforts to apply the Golden Rule and the ethics of Jesus not only to the socioeconomic institutions of their society, but to their own lives as well. These ten Christian knights rode high on clouds of words, carrying swords of good intentions, tilting at windmills often of their own despair. As a result, they paid the price (as Emerson said) of being "too intellectual." This is, indeed, a story of noble dreams, frustration, agonizing self-doubts and, ultimately, of failure.

    Peter J. Frederick develops his argument by comparing and contrasting the intellectuals in pairs, examining the many forms frustrated activism can take. His study emerges as a critique of the Social Gospel movement from a New Left perspective; implicitly, it is a critique of the contemporary New Left, approached with empathetic understanding. Ethical, decisive action, he concludes, is essential not only for effective reform but for the psychic well-being of the intellectual.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6289-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. 1 KNIGHTS AWAKENED AND INSPIRED
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the 1880s and 1890s many American intellectuals were awakened to the increasing social evils of the new urban, industrial age. They took their cue from Henry George that “it is around the standard of duty rather than around the standard of self-interest that men must rally to win the rights of man.”¹ Not since the abolition movement had educated Americans been so disturbed by the inequalities and injustices of their society. The new culprit, however, was not the slave owner but the industrial and financial entrepreneur, the Rockefellers, Goulds, and Morgans. The revered values of American society seemed to...

  5. 2 CHRISTIAN INSPIRATION RESTRAINED: WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS AND HENRY DEMAREST LLOYD
    (pp. 29-78)

    One afternoon in 1896 the self-styled American itinerant Josiah Flynt was tramping across the fields of Yasnaya Polyana with Count Tolstoy, and the Russian told Flynt that there were four men in the world whom he was anxious to bring together in a conference. In a letter to Henry Demarest Lloyd six years later, Flynt recalled that three of the four were Lloyd, George, and Howells: “The Count seemed to think that if all of you got together, and had a long soulful conversation, an advance would have been made toward the regeneration of degenerate humanity.”¹ Such a conversation unfortunately...

  6. 3 THE STRUGGLE FOR CHRISTIAN REFORMIST UNITY: W. D. P. BLISS AND B. O. FLOWER
    (pp. 79-112)

    The difficulty of Howells in reconciling words and deeds showed clearly that the kingdom of heaven in America would not be realized by visionary proclamations of Altruria and impassioned declarations of the dignity of labor alone. Lloyd’s eclectic experience in moving from one reform group and position to another illustrated the frustration of American reformers in the 1890s. As they looked about them, they saw a seemingly infinite array of organizations, each convinced that the gap between the promises and achievements of America had to be closed, and each pursuing a different path to that end. Socialist laborites, social democrats,...

  7. 4 THE STRUGGLE FOR PERSONAL HARMONY: VIDA SCUDDER
    (pp. 113-140)

    The efforts of Bliss and Flower to achieve organizational and doctrinal unity failed. Part of their failure was in shallow analysis and tactical naiveté; part was a result of their inability to make contact with anyone but those in middle-class intellectual circles. Neither, however, suffered many self-doubts about their tactical approach or personal limitations. Vida Scudder had the same goals and was to a large extent able to overcome both sources of failure that plagued Bliss and Flower. She was a much more sophisticated and critical thinker than either of her two Boston contemporaries, and through strike involvement, Socialist party...

  8. 5 THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ON EARTH: WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH AND GEORGE HERRON
    (pp. 141-184)

    While W. D. P. Bliss and Vida Scudder were feasting on ham, pickles, and dreams of the Christian revolution in 1890, two young men saw signs that the revolution had already begun. Walter Rauschenbusch, speaking before a Baptist conference in Toronto in 1889, cited Mazzini’s assertion that the French Revolution emphasis on rights rather than duties marked the end, not the beginning of an age, and proclaimed the beginning of a new era. The age of selfish individualism, Rauschenbusch argued, was over. “We have come now to the era of cooperation and association, and all these attempts at combining and...

  9. 6 POETS OF BROTHERHOOD AND LOVE: EDWIN MARKHAM AND ERNEST CROSBY
    (pp. 185-234)

    The death of Walter Rauschenbusch in 1918 moved a poet, Edwin Markham, to mourn his death in verse. He called Rauschenbusch “our social prophet, Our John the Baptist Crying in the Wilderness,” and proclaimed anew his dream of the kingdom.

    How shall I name you, valiant and so wise?

    Shall I not call you conscript of the Christ,

    Son of his dream of earth imparadist?

    You saw his Comrade Kingdom must arise,

    The Kingdom so long hid from mortal eyes,

    The truth for which he lived, for which he died,

    The Brother Truth the ages have denied,

    The Truth the...

  10. 7 THE GOLDEN RULE IN ACTION: SAMUEL M. JONES
    (pp. 235-266)

    In the late spring of 1904 the Common Council of Toledo, Ohio, extended the franchise of a private street railway company for twenty-five years. The mayor of Toledo, Samuel Milton Jones, who had opposed the extension, promptly vetoed the action. For several years Jones had advocated a public street railway system, and this last of many skirmishes with the city council and the private interest groups of the city was bitterly contested. Five councilmen were on the railway company’s payroll in 1903 and the general manager of theToledo Timesspent $75,000 to combat the mayor’s influence. On the night...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 267-296)
  12. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 297-316)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 317-324)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-325)