German Influence

The New England Transcendentalists to some extent followed and creatively transformed German transcendental philosophy.  This German portion of their history, influence, and intellectual lineage is exceedingly vast and varied, involving such disparate authors, dramatists, scholars, philosophers, theologians, poets, educators, and reformers as Johann Gottfried von Herder, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, David Friedrich Strauss, Christian H. Weisse, Christian Wolff, and Novalis.
Orestes A. Brownson, in his article "Recent Contributions to Philosophy" (Christian Examiner, vol. 22, no. 2 [May 1837], pp. 186 - 187), compared some of the major German transcendental philosophers as follows:
Kant, the ablest and soberest of them all, has unquestionably done much.  He has explored the human understanding, and determined the conditions of all experience, or what must be the nature of the understanding to render experience possible.  In doing this, he has created a new era in the history of metaphysical science; but he has not given us a philosophy; he has merely fixed the starting point, and opened the route for future philosophers.  Fichte was a bold speculator, an ardent friend of freedom and Humanity.  For this last we honor him, and cherish his memory; but we have yet to learn the important service he has rendered to philosophy.  Had he lived, he might have done something worth remembering, as he had before his death hit upon the path, which, if followed, conducts to true philosophy; but cut off as he was in the prime of his life, philosophy has gained little by his talents, genius, and labors.  Jacobi had some dim visions, some vague presentiments of a superior philosophy, but he wanted the intellectual vigor to obtain results truly scientific.  He did something, however, to open the way for Fries, from whom philosophy is receiving valuable contributions.  Fries adopts the true psychological method of philosophizing, and upholds the experimental against the hypothetical or constructive philosophy.  Schelling, whose reputation as a philosopher will diminish with time, attempted a philosophy of Man, and of Nature; but both he and Hegel, who in respect to method agrees with him, have vitiated their labors by adopting the hypothetical or constructive instead of the psychological or experimental method of philosophizing; and notwithstanding they have, as we believe, divined the truth to a great extent, in consequence of the original sin of their method, they have been unable to give it any scientific value.
Then, too, the French philosophy of the time was in important ways a distillation of the German.  The ideas of French philosophers such as Benjamin Constant, Victor Cousin, and Théodore Jouffroy were highly regarded by the New England Transcendentalists as well.