(from 'Freedom's Ferment' by Alice Felt Tyler, copyright 1944 by the University of Minnesota:)


Any period of history, any era of man's endeavor to make this world a better place for himself and his children, has a right to be known for its highest aspirations, its loftiest moments, as well as for its failures and futilities, its fads, and its crackpots. The exuberance and optimism of the young American republic and its willingness to listen to every new idea--to believe that because it was new it might be better--made it susceptible to imposture and charlatanry. Holding fast to certain truths, it could not refuse a hearing to half-truths. When science, too, was young and its methods and disciplines were little understood, much that was pseudo-scientific or not scientific at all became glamorous if embellished with the terms of science. For too long we have paid amused attention to the fads and fancies of the early nineteenth century. Phrenology, hydropathy, mesmerism, health and diet notions, free love, spiritual affinities, and all the other eccentricities of the era have had more than their due share of the limelight. Alongside them were fundamentals of faith, crusades, reforms, and reformers whose effect on American civilization was profound and permanent. The bases of our social history were well laid and deep; there is more than froth in our heritage from the past. The religious movements and the adventures in reform of the early years of the republic were the truly significant activities of the men and women of the age, and they contributed much to the way of life of twentieth-century America. A.F.T.

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