Define: Romanticism

Do you see yourself in these words?

“Romanticism, perhaps the most sublime of afflictions, is a congenital psychic disorder whose symptoms are evident throughout life. In childhood the romantic writes poetry and dreams of grand and noble exploits. As a youth he embraces causes and fights for them with reckless bravery– which is easy enough for him to do, since he is unable to imagine that failure or defeat is possible. He falls in love once, passionately, and for life. He is spirited, gallant, and bold and sees high drama where others see blandness. He inspires admiration and loyalty in some, envy and hatred in others; he can be charming and witty but not genuinely humorous, for though life to him is always a joyful affirmation, it is never funny. Like the sentimentalist, the dreamer, and the do-gooder, the romantic is ruled by his heart rather than his head. Unlike them, he is also tough-minded and realistic, and that creates within him a turbulence they never know: he drives himself to excel, requires discipline of himself far beyond other men, is ever concerned with honor, sometimes excessively.” -Forrest McDonald

I really wish I’d written this definition. Because it’s dead on. Romanticism certainly can be the ‘most sublime of afflictions’. But all traits of character must be watched, because when used wrongly, they can become detrimental to one’s happiness along with such inherently bad ones as cowardice or vanity. Traits that aren’t absolute virtues like patience or kindness can easily be corrupted. Or simply ignored and left to simmer in a dark corner, breeding discontent or rebellion. In fact, I maintain that to keep your character uncorrupted, you must use every facet of it for a good purpose. What use is it to be an idealist if you do not find the best ideals to pursue? What good is it to be naturally diligent if you are not constantly working hard to further your most cherished principles and plans? As for the romantic, why dream up such beautiful fancies if you don’t even know where your heart lies? A romantic, an idealist… these will latch onto any promising opportunity or idea, if not checked. I’m not saying they should be checked, but one must be certain that the idea or opportunity which seems so fascinating is actually worth pursuing and fighting for. For example, Alexander Hamilton was, among other things, a romantic and an idealist. And he was one who chose his ideals carefully. Extensive study, varied experiences and acquaintances- these helped him weed out the unworthy causes and settle on the ones which had the most potential. Once he discovered those causes, he bent himself to work with a will, because he knew how noble his chosen calling was. Throughout his life, he gave himself to America- to her government and to her people (even though he was dissatisfied with them), and worked along with other valiant men to make his country the grandest in the world. He saddled his romanticism and made it work for him, instead of following blindly any path which presented itself in a pleasant light. And these idealistic and romantic tendencies of his didn’t hinder him- they assisted him in a great work. A fight that was worth winning.
Are you a ‘hopeless romantic’? I guess I would fit under that category as well. And you and I have no business hiding behind our dreams or sighing for impossibilities. Get out of yourself and make the world beautiful. I’m not saying ‘follow your dreams’. Because some of our dreams are not worth following, and might just lead us to a dreary dead end. But some of them are truly noble. How do you know which to pursue? Think of the Master of the mind, the Healer of the heart, the Savior of the soul. I think He might be able to tell you. =)


12 responses

  1. Beautiful. I especially loved the last part. I’m so glad to have a sister who can write so beautifully for God’s glory. =) Thanks for being an amazing example. ❀

    Love ya,

    February 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

  2. I’ve thought of myself as an idealist, and I guess that makes me a romantic, too, hu?

    Oh, and I just wanted to point out that, in his romanticism, Alex Hamilton created the Central Bank, which was later destroyed by Jackson, but revived itself just in time to cause the Great Depression. Look up Milton Friedman’s work on the fed.

    In other word, Hamilton turned out to be a big-government nationalist. He also was the one who published a federal paper on why textile industries should take advantage of young woman to work their assembly lines.

    ><> Brian

    February 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm

  3. Thanks, Emily. I love you too! ❀

    Well, Brian, I've never thought of you as a romantic. πŸ˜‰ But idealism and romanticism do share a lot of traits, indeed!
    I love how you peel apart examples. =) I am aware of Hamilton's mistakes, the repercussions of which are still felt in society today. But as far as I can tell, all he wanted to do was make this nation succeed. And he succeeded in his goal, because he fought so strongly for his ideals. If ever an idealist existed… he was one! That definition of romanticism is from on of his biographies which I'm reading for school. It really shows Hamilton on a personal, unglorified but understanding level. He was kinda cool!


    February 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm

  4. Brian, AH did urge Washington to setup the Bank of the US. However, the predicament was the USA owed $66M debt on funds borrowed for the Revolution. Interest on this was 4.5M a year. Total Federal govt income was 1.5M annually. Through the bank’s control of rates and markets, Europeans were persuaded to refinance the US debt. Markets stabilized, the economy grew, and the war debt interest was paid. All was repaid by early 1800s and bank charter expired. Madison formed 2nd bank to fund War of 1812.
    Not saying Central Bank a good idea, but given the problem AH had to solve, he had little choice.

    February 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

  5. Yeah, I’ve never thought of myself as romantic either. But your definition seems quite inclusive. So, he goes heart instead of head yet is realistic… hummm… oh, I’m not a poetry person. Well. guess that disqualifies me. Never mind.

    I just know I had the wrong opinion of Alexander Hamilton. He was really quite a political gamester.

    See, for example: Chicago University, the Founder’s Constitution | Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures

    “…the employment of persons who would otherwise be idle (and in many cases a burthen on the community), … women and Children are rendered more useful and the latter more early useful by manufacturing establishments, than they would otherwise be.”

    ~ Hamilton, Report on Manufactures (1791)
    Translation: Woman would be more useful working (in manufacturing industry) than at home.

    And a general overview of Hamilton’s economic philosophy:

    It’s one thing to create a bank to manage congress’ debt. But Hamilton didn’t do that. He also grabbed up the state’s debt and made everyone pay for it. (yes, even those states who paid off their debt) That was nothing short of a power grab, and ever since, the states have had a feeling of subservience to the feds.

    Not romantic in my opinion, and (more importantly) not right.

    “However, the predicament was the USA owed $66M debt on funds borrowed for the Revolution. Interest on this was 4.5M a year. “

    Unless I’m mistaken, this is the total US debt (including the state’s), not federal debt. Right? In that case, AH made it worse by assuming it at the federal level.

    “Total Federal govt income was 1.5M annually.”

    Then why did Hamilton think he could pay off the state’s debt, too? Unless I’m mistaken, it was not paid off until Jackson printed a lot of money and killed the bank.
    Wikpedia | US Federal Debt as % of GDP

    My study of history has given me a less than rosy picture of Hamilton.

    So, (further than his political stunt) what do you think about him dying in a duel with his political opponent? Or his affair with a married woman? Romantic?

    ><> Brian

    February 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

  6. I’m not arguing that Hamilton was perfect. And I don’t know as much about him as I would like. But I believe he tried to work for the ultimate good of the country, always pursuing his ideals, but in the most practical way.

    I think agreeing to the duel was the only thing he could have done in that society without being labeled a coward. He didn’t pursue the conflict, and fired into the air. But whether by accident or by design, Burr’s bullet killed him. I think the entire circumstance was entirely consistent with the definition of romance I quoted. What else could he have done?

    Of course his adulterous relationship with Maria was wrong. I would never try to justify it. But we all make mistakes, and on the whole, Hamilton was no worse than most other politicians we’ve ever had. It doesn’t mean his shame is any less. But I still think he’s a prime example of someone who used his personality for the best overall. I don’t hold up this facet of his private life for imitation, but I think we would do well to learn from him in other ways. =)

    February 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  7. The 66M included each state’s debt, but it was all a result of the revolutionary war costs. Hamilton rightly concluded that the burden should be on the Federal level. Some states experienced little fighting, so had little debt – others saw much fighting so the debt burdens were not equal, although all states shared equally in the blessings of independence.

    The Report on Manu. did show that machines allowed the weaker women and children to be involved in greater industry. This is a simple observation as a machine multiplies effort. I never got the idea that AH’s goal was to employ everyone in sweatshops. I think he just realized that industrial revolution was coming and the US would either take part or be overrun/outmatched by the Europeans.
    Recall the US had no standing army, no navy at this point and Britain was in Canada and the French in the Mississippi valley. Their overwhelming resources could not be ignored.
    So overall AH was a flawed man, but considering what he was up against I think did a remarkable job as a Founding Father.
    I recommend Forrest MacDonald’s biography of him when you get a chance. MacDonald is a Southerner so it’s not a glowing yankee-industrial perspective report but a well-rounded account of the man.

    February 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  8. Grace, that was lovely. πŸ™‚ I do see myself in there somewhere, and although that doesn’t totally define me it defines you from the ‘G’ in Grace to the ‘f’ in Einkauf. πŸ˜‰

    You write very well!!! Keep writing for His glory!!

    ~Tabby β™₯β™«

    February 25, 2010 at 10:11 pm

  9. I put off reading this for a long time-but I finally did last night-and laughed hysterically! That quote is just spot on-brilliant.
    -Another “hopeless romantic”

    February 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm

  10. Grace, I don’t know how it is you find stuff like that. It took me a couple times through to get the depth of what you mean. I used to think that I was very Romantic. πŸ™‚ lol
    Well I wasn’t and I see now that I’m just like what you said a “hopeless romantic.”

    February 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

  11. “…but I believe he tried to work for the ultimate good of the country, always pursuing his ideals, but in the most practical way.”

    And my argument is that AH had the wrong ideals. If an ideal has to be compromised for the sake of practicality, then it wasn’t a good ideal to have in the first place.

    “The Report on Manu. did show that machines allowed the weaker women and children to be involved in greater industry. This is a simple observation as a machine multiplies effort.”

    Granted. But that’s not all he said. See the quote above. Basically, he says: the woman and children are otherwise a burden to society, so put them to work!

    Skewed? I would think so…

    Hamilton was the founding father of big government in America. Make no doubt about it. Whatever his intentions, he should be remembered for his most lasting impact.

    If you’d like it can come down to one thing: the General Welfare clause.

    ><> Brian

    March 1, 2010 at 11:39 am

  12. If you argue that he had the wrong ideals, okay. But pursuing your ideals practically isn’t compromise. Everyone pursues their ideals in the most practical way. There is no other way to truly pursue something. Why would anyone pursue an ideal… in an impractical way? That would just be weird…. πŸ™‚

    March 2, 2010 at 5:25 pm

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