Arguably, the two men at the forefront of transcendentalism were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Transcendentalism is defined as "any system of philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical and material." Transcendentalism can somewhat be understood by its context - what the transcendentalists remonstrated against, what they viewed as the relation to their time, therefore, were trying to be non-conformists of their time. Transcendentalism is, in a way, a philosophy of its own.
The "father" of the Transcendentalists, Ralph W. Emerson is one of America's foremost philosophers. One of his best works, "Self-Reliance" exemplifies his main ideologies. He promotes individuality and independence through most of his writings. He believes one should live to the morals of their inner-self. Emerson was a resolute non-conformist: "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world." .
Emerson was not alone in his fundamental beliefs and philosophies. Henry David Thoreau also attempted to offer a spiritual and cultural alternative to the materialism they experienced in the early stages of Americas independence. He revealed many tensions in the government and related them to his writing. Thoreau was more politically oriented then Emerson but their focuses were relative. While Emerson wrote more about individuality than independence, they are basically the same thing, just in different perspectives. Thoreau wasn't only an influence to the people of America but to other Transcendentalists, like Emerson.
Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau were more than just writers, they were philosophers. The two writers" paralleled philosophies represented the non-conformists of their time.