Aesthetic Realism Consultant Nancy Huntting
Frances Wright (1795 - 1852), abolitionist
Frances Wright (1795-1852), abolitionist

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Aesthetic Realism Seminar "What Does It Mean to Like People?"
Given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street, New York, NY 10012

Part 2.  What Is Our Motive with People?

In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known,Mr. Siegel wrote: 

Aesthetic Realism definitely says that if you don't want the world to be and look as good as possible, you will not be sincere in your friendliness to a neighbor or relative.
Frances Wright very much wanted the world and people to be good. She could have used her parents' early deaths to feel angry and separate, but she wanted to feel a kinship with other people's suffering.  "If grief becomes a means of kinship," Mr. Siegel explained, "it can be borne."  In an account of her life she wrote in the third person, Frances has this description of herself seeing older people who were poor:
She was perhaps 15...witnessing the painful labor of the aged among the English peasantry; and again, when she saw that peasantry ejected...from the estates of the wealthy. .."Has man then no home upon the earth; and are age and infirmity entitled to no care or consideration?"
She began to realize, she wrote, that "some extraordinary vice lay at the foundation of the whole human practice," and that she wanted to "devote her whole energies to its discovery."

When she was 17, she read about the young United States of America and was thrilled, writing later:

From that moment she awoke, as it were, to a new existence. Life was full of promise...There existed a country consecrated to freedom, and in which man might awake to the full knowledge and full exercise of his powers.
At 23, she and her sister Camilla made the boat voyage to America unchaperoned--an unheard of thing for two young women to do.  From her travels in the Northern states she wrote her first book, about the people she met, Views of Society and Manners in America, Letters of an Englishwoman.  It was enthusiastic and highly praising, in bold defiance of the contempt England wanted to feel towards their former colonies.  The book caused a stir and she received a letter of congratulations from Thomas Jefferson, whom she would later meet.

But when she returned, in 1824, she saw that there was also tremendous injustice here.  Slavery, she wrote, is "the most atrocious of all sins that deface the annals of modern history," and her biographer says she was the first woman in America to act publicly against it.  She founded "Nashoba" a community to educate and free slaNashoba Settlement in Tennesseeves near Memphis, Tennessee.  The school she planned, Eckhardt writes, would be one in which: 

...no distinctions would be made between white children and black and no privileges given to either the one or the other. ..Consequently, when those children grew up, they would together enjoy "that complete equality of habits and knowledge, alone consistent with the political institutions of the country." 
She hoped that the slave owners would, if given an economic alternative, give up what was so evil, and that other communities like Nashoba would spread through the South.  But it was attacked and ridiculed as "Frances Wright's Free Love Colony," because it was known that she was against laws that made women literally the property of their husbands.  People were angry that she was calling for greater justice and felt their positions were threatened. 

3.  Contempt Is Also the Cause of the Pain in Women's Lives

Frances Wright wrote to a friend when she was 32:

I am dissatisfied with my own nature and am driven to fear that all the evil I have seen in my short but varied life has done evil unto me, by chilling my affections and rendering me indifferent...
She didn't know that there was that in herself that wanted to chill her affections--the desire to have contempt for the world and people.

The young girl who was so moved by the words of our Declaration of Independence, who would later work till she nearly collapsed in the woods of Tennessee so that an enslaved person be free and have happiness and dignity, had in her too, a desire to hate and be disdainful.  The way Frances saw the aunt who raised her was crucial; Eckhardt writes that she "despised" her.  It is likely her aunt, only 18 when put in the position of being a mother to her, didn't have enough desire to understand her.  After Frances went to live in America, she had nothing further to do with her Aunt Campbell, and when her aunt tried to renew contact, we see how scornful and hard Frances could be: "It is beyond your power to irritate me," she wrote to her, "You, Madame...you force me to remind you of all that you have done and all that I have suffered?.... I have now expressed, leisurely and calmly," she closed the letter, "the contempt which your conduct has inspired in me."  "The haughty rage Fanny unleashed against [her aunt]," Celia Morris Eckhardt writes, "she would intermittently direct at others all her life."

"Before you start hating anybody," Mr. Siegel said in his lecture on people: 

try to understand what makes him confused, and you will find, perhaps, that there is more confusion than just animosity...It is important that what we're against in a person not  be seen as the person himself. Otherwise, we're not fair. 
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