Charles A. Beard, an Intellectual Biography

By Ellen Nore | Go to book overview

1

Life in Indiana,
1874-1898

Charles Beard once commented that optimism or pessimism in the individual thinker was "a matter of temperament, not of philosophy." 1 Beard's own optimism, his sense of competence, his permanent, unwavering faith in the possibilities of individual achievement, his humane rationalism, his belief in the power of the printed word (based on experience) to bring a more just world was the legacy of his family's circumstances and tradition, an inheritance reinforced by the formal educational experience of his first twenty-four years.

Beard's memories of those early years in the rich, varied county of eastcentral Indiana, that green and gold land of large oaks and hills and healthy fields, were written down when he was more than sixty years old. 2 Through "the mists of time" he recalled working hard on his father's land: a sixty‐ acre parcel near Knightstown, on which Beard had been born in 1874, and a smaller thirty-five-acre tract in Spiceland township, to which the Beards had moved in 1880 in order to enable their two sons to attend Spiceland Academy, a Quaker school of excellent local reputation. His recollections of life on these farms have a mythic quality: "By the time I was fifteen I had had enough exercise to last me a lifetime. My muscles and body were hard as steel. I could ride wild horses bare back, and split an oak log with a maul and wedge." 3 Years later Beard replied to European critics of the brutality and materialism of modem, machine-oriented urban society by saying, from his own experience, that he found it hard to believe that "the machine system

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