UNITARIANISM in America

A History of its Origin and Development
BY GEORGE WILLIS COOKE
BOSTON, October 1, 1902

MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE, ETC.

PREFACE.

The aim I have had in view in writing this book has been to give a history of the origin of Unitarianism in the United States, how it has organized itself, and what it has accomplished. It seemed desirable to deal more fully than has been done hitherto with the obscure beginnings of the Unitarian movement in New England; but limits of space have made it impossible to treat this phase of the subject in other than a cursory manner. It deserves an exhaustive treatment, which will amply repay the necessary labor to this end. The theological controversies that led to the separation of the Unitarians from the older Congregational body have been only briefly alluded to, the design of my work not requiring an ampler treatment. It was not thought best to cover the ground so ably traversed by Rev. George E. Ellis, in his Half-century of the Unitarian Controversy; Rev. Joseph Henry Allen, in his Our Liberal Movement in Theology; Rev. William Channing Gannett, in his Memoir of Dr. Ezra Stiles Gannett; and by Rev. John White Chadwick, in his Old and New Unitarian Beliefs. The attempt here made has been to supplement these works, and to treat of the practical side of Unitarianism,–its organizations, charities, philanthropies, and reforms.

With the theological problems involved in the history of Unitarianism this volume deals only so far as they have affected its general development. I have endeavored to treat of them fairly and without prejudice, to state the position of each side to the various controversies in the words of those who have accepted its point of view, and to judge of them as phases of a larger religious growth. I have not thought it wise to attempt anything approaching an exhaustive treatment of the controversies produced by the transcendental movement and by “the Western issue.” If they are to be dealt with in the true spirit of the historical method, it must be at a period more remote from these discussions than that of one who participated in them, however slightly. I have endeavored to treat of all phases of Unitarianism without reference to local interests and without sectional preferences. If my book does not indicate such regard to what is national rather than to what is provincial, as some of my readers may desire, it is due to inability to secure information that would have given a broader character to my treatment of the subject.

The present work may appear to some of its readers to have been written in a sectarian spirit, with a purpose to magnify the excellences of Unitarianism, and to ignore its limitations. Such has not been the purpose I have kept before me; but, rather, my aim has been to present the facts candidly and justly, and to treat of them from the standpoint of a student of the religious evolution of mankind. Unitarianism in this country presents an attempt to bring religion into harmony with philosophy and science, and to reconcile Christianity with the modern spirit. Its effort in this direction is one that deserves careful consideration, especially in view of the unity and harmony it has developed in the body of believers who accept its teachings. The Unitarian body is a small one, but it has a history of great significance with reference to the future development of Christianity.

The names of those who accept Unitarianism have not been given in this book in any boastful spirit. A faith that is often spoken against may justify itself by what it has accomplished, and its best fruits are the men and women who have lived in the spirit of its teachings. In presenting the names of those who are not in any way identified with Unitarian churches, the purpose has been to suggest the wide and inclusive character of the Unitarian movement, and to indicate that it is not represented merely by a body of churches, but that it is an individual way of looking at the facts of life and its problems.

In writing the following pages, I have had constantly in mind those who have not been educated as Unitarians, and who have come into this inheritance through struggle and search. Not having been to the manner born myself, I have sought to provide such persons with the kind of information that would have been helpful to me in my endeavors to know the Unitarian life and temper. Something of what appears in these pages is due to this desire to help those who wish to know concretely what Unitarianism is, and what it has said and done to justify its existence. This will account for the manner of treatment and for some of the topics selected.

When this work was begun, the design was that it should form a part of the exhibit of Unitarianism in this country presented at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the formation of the American Unitarian Association. The time required for a careful verification of facts made it impossible to have the book ready at that date. The delay in its publication has not freed the work from all errors and defects, but it has given the opportunity for a more adequate treatment of many phases of the subject. Much of the work required in its preparation does not show itself in the following pages; but it has involved an extended examination of manuscript journals and records, as well as printed reports of societies, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and books. Many of the subjects dealt with, not having been touched upon in any previous historical work, have demanded a first-hand study of records, often difficult to find access to, and even more difficult to summarize in an interesting and adequate manner.

I wish here to warmly thank all those persons, many in number and too numerous to give all their names, who have generously aided me with their letters and manuscripts, and by the loan of books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers. Without their aid the book would have been much less adequate in its treatment of many subjects than it is at present. Though I am responsible for the book as it presents itself to the reader, much of its value is due to those who have thus labored with me in its preparation. In manuscript and in proof-sheet it has been read by several persons, who have kindly aided in securing accuracy to names, dates, and historic facts.

G.W.C.

BOSTON, October 1, 1902.
CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION.–ENGLISH SOURCES OF AMERICAN UNITARIANISM

Renaissance
Reformation
Toleration
Arminianism
English Rationalists

II. THE LIBERAL SIDE OF PURITANISM

The Church of Authority and the Church of Freedom
Seventeenth-century Liberals
Growth of Liberty in Church Methods
A Puritan Rationalist
Harvard College

III. THE GROWTH OF DEMOCRACY IN THE CHURCHES

Arminianism
The Growth of Arminianism
Robert Breck
Books Read by Liberal Men
The Great Awakening
Cardinal Beliefs of the Liberals
Publications defining the Liberal Beliefs
Phases of Religious Progress

IV. THE SILENT ADVANCE OF LIBERALISM

Subordinate Nature of Christ
Some of the Liberal Leaders
The First Unitarian
A Pronounced Universalist
Other Men of Mark
The Second Period of Revivals
King’s Chapel becomes Unitarian
Other Unitarian Movements
Growth of Toleration

V. THE PERIOD OF CONTROVERSY

The Monthly Anthology
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Piety, and Charity
General Repository
The Christian Disciple
Dr. Morse and American Unitarianism
Evangelical Missionary Society
The Berry Street Conference
The Publishing Fund Society
Harvard Divinity School
The Unitarian Miscellany
The Christian Register
Results of the Division in Congregationalism
Final Separation of State and Church

VI. THE AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION

Initial Meetings
Work of the First Year
Work of the First Quarter of a Century
Publication of Tracts and Books
Domestic Missions

VII. THE PERIOD OF RADICALISM

Depression in Denominational Activities
Publications
A Firm of Publishers
The Brooks Fund
Missionary Efforts
The Western Unitarian Conference
The Autumnal Conventions
Influence of the Civil War
The Sanitary Commission
Results of Fifteen years

VIII. THE DENOMINATIONAL AWAKENING

The New York Convention of 1865
New Life in the Unitarian Association
The New Theological Position
Organization of the Free Religious Association
Unsuccessful Attempts at Reconciliation
The Year Book Controversy
Missionary Activities
College Town Missions
Theatre Preaching
Organization of Local Conferences
Fellowship and Fraternity
Results of the Denominational Awakening

IX. GROWTH OF DENOMINATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS

“The Western Issue”
Fellowship with Universalists
Officers of the American Unitarian Association
The American Unitarian Association as a Representative Boy
The Church Building Loan Fund
The Unitarian Building in Boston
Growth of the Devotional Spirit
The Seventy-fifth Anniversary

X. THE MINISTRY AT LARGE

Association of Young Men
Preaching to the Poor
Tuckerman as Minister to the Poor
Tuckerman’s Methods
Organization of Charities
Benevolent Fraternity of Churches
Other Ministers at Large
Ministry at Large in Other Cities

XI. ORGANIZED SUNDAY-SCHOOL WORK

Boston Sunday School Society
Unitarian Sunday School Society
Western Unitarian Sunday School Society
Unity Clubs
The Ladies’ Commission on Sunday-school Books

XII. THE WOMEN’S ALLIANCE AND ITS PREDECESSORS

Women’s Western Unitarian Conference
Women’s Auxiliary Conference
The National Alliance
Cheerful Letter and Post-office Missions
Associate Alliances
Alliance Methods

XIII. MISSIONS TO INDIA AND JAPAN

Society respecting the State of Religion in India
Dall’s Work in India
Recent Work in India
The Beginnings in Japan

XIV. THE MEADVILLE THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL

The Beginnings in Meadville
The Growth of the School

XV. UNITARIAN PHILANTHROPIES

Unitarian Charities
Education of the Blind
Care of the Insane
Child-saving Missions
Care of the Poor
Humane Treatment of Animals
Young Men’s Christian Unions
Educational Work in the South
Educational Work for the Indians

XVI. UNITARIANS AND REFORMS

Peace Movement
Temperance Reform
Anti-slavery
The Enfranchisement of Women
Civil Service Reform

XVII. UNITARIAN MEN AND WOMEN

Eminent Statesmen
Some Representative Unitarians
Judges and Legislators
Boston Unitarianism

XVIII. UNITARIANS AND EDUCATION

Pioneers of the Higher Criticism
The Catholic Influence of Harvard University
The Work of Horace Mann
Elizabeth Peabody and the Kindergarten
Work of Unitarian Women for Education
Popular Education and Public Libraries
Mayo’s Southern Ministry of Education

XIX. UNITARIANISM AND LITERATURE

Influence of Unitarian Environment
Literary Tendencies
Literary Tastes of Unitarian Ministers
Unitarians as Historians
Scientific Unitarians
Unitarian Essayists
Unitarian Novelists
Unitarian Artists and Poets

XX. THE FUTURE OF UNITARIANISM

APPENDIX.

A. Formation of the Local Conferences
B. Unitarian Newspapers and Magazines