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"The True Test Of Civilization"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Emerson has been summarizing the components of a civilization. He has already said that civilization "implies the evolution of a highly organized man, brought to supreme delicacy of sentiment, as in practical power, religion, liberty, sense of honor and taste." America is a great nation not because of her government and her large cities but because of the independence and self-reliance of her families and individuals, the "habitual hospitality," the "refining influence of women." The "vital refinements" of a civilization "are the moral and intellectual steps" which are brought about by extraordinary individuals–Moses, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Luther. A "purer morality . . . kindles genius, civilizes civilization":

These are traits and measures and modes; and the true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops,–no, but the kind of man the country turns out. . . .