Emerson was a friend and a teacher of another eminent American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. They both lived in New England, USA, and were proponents of philosophy known as "transcendentalism". "To transcend" means to go beyond, to go over the edge, in other words to rebel. The rebellion which they were fostering in the minds was the rebellion of the Southern states against the North, the Industrial revolution against the semi-feudal society. 

Three Great Virtues 1110
The most memorable essay of Emerson is "Self-Reliance". I can still remember the words with which it began, even though I studied the essay in high school: "Whose be a man must be a non-conformist". With this criterion, most of the people are not really "men", but slime. 
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