UNITARISM – XVIII UNITARIANS AND EDUCATION.

XVIII.
UNITARIANS AND EDUCATION.

The interest of Unitarians in education has always been very great, but it has not been in the direction of building and fostering sectarian institutions. As a body, Unitarians have not only been opposed to denominational colleges, but they have been leaders in promoting unsectarian education. Freedom of academic teaching and the scientific study of theology may be found where Unitarianism has no existence, and yet it is significant that in this country such mental liberty should have first found expression under Unitarian auspices. From the first, American Unitarianism has been unsectarian and liberty-loving, taking an attitude of toleration, free investigation, and loyalty to truth. That it has always been faithful to its ideal cannot be maintained, and yet its history shows that the open-mindedness and the spirit of freedom have never been wholly ignored.
Pioneers of the Higher Criticism.

The attitude of the early Unitarians towards the Bible, their trust in it as the revealed word of God and the source of divine authority in all matters of faith, and their confidence that a return to its simple principles would liberate men from superstition and bigotry, naturally made them the first to welcome the higher criticism of the Bible in this country. Such men as Noah Worcester and his successors brought to the Bible new and common-sense interpretations, and began the work of pointing out the defects in the common version. The Unitarians were not hampered by the theory of the verbal infallibility of the Bible; and they were therefore prepared to advance the critical work of the scholars, as it came to them from England and Germany, as was no other religious body in this country.

Joseph, S. Buckminster was an enthusiastic student of the Bible, securing when in Europe all the apparatus of the more advanced criticism that could then be procured; and after his return to Boston he gave his attention to bringing out the New Testament in the most scholarly form that was then possible. In 1808, in connection with William Wells, and under the patronage of Harvard College, he republished Griesbach’s Greek Testament, with a selection of the most important various readings. He also formed a plan of publishing in this country all the best modern English versions of the Hebrew prophets, with introductions and notes; but he did not find the necessary support for this project. In The Monthly Anthology and in The General Repository he “first discussed subjects of Biblical criticism in a spirit of philosophical and painstaking learning, and took the critical study of the Scriptures from the old basis on which it had rested during the Arminian discussions and placed it on the solid foundation of the text of the New Testament as settled by Wetstein and Griesbach, and elucidated by the labors of Michaelis, Marsh, Rosenmüller, and by the safe and wise learning of Grotius, Le Clerc, and Simon.” “It has,” wrote George Ticknor, “in our opinion, hardly been permitted to any other man to render so considerable a service as this to Christianity in the western world.”[1] In 1811 Mr. Buckminster was made the first lecturer in Biblical criticism at Harvard, on, the foundation established by the gift of Samuel Dexter; and he entered with great interest and enthusiasm upon the work of preparing for the duties of this office. We are assured that “this appointment was universally thought to be an honor most justly due to his pre-eminent attainments in this science”;[2] but his death the next year brought these plans to an untimely end.

To some extent the critical work of Buckminster was continued by Edward Everett, his successor in the Brattle Street Church. Mr. Everett’s successor in that pulpit, Rev. John G. Palfrey, became the professor of sacred literature in the Harvard Divinity School in 1831, and was the dean of that institution. In his lectures on the Jewish Scriptures and Antiquities, published in four volumes, from 1833 to 1852, he gave the most advanced criticism of the time. A more important work was done by Professor Andrews Norton, who was as radical in his labors as a Biblical critic as he was conservative in his theology. For the time when they were published, his Statement of Reasons, the first edition of which appeared in 1819, Historical Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, 1837-44, Translation of the Gospels, with Notes, 1855, Internal Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, 1855, have not been surpassed by any other work done in this country. As a scholar, he was careful, thorough, honest, and uncompromising in his search for the truth. In an extended note added to the second volume of his work on the Genuineness of the Gospels he investigated the origin of the Pentateuch and the validity of its historical statements. He showed that the work could not have bee its man written by Moses, that it was a compilation from prior accounts, and that its marvels were not to be accepted as authentic history.[3] In dealing with the New Testament, Professor Norton discarded the first two chapters of Matthew, regarding them as later additions. Frothingham speaks of Norton as “an accomplished and elegant scholar,” and says that his interpretations of the Bible were by Unitarians “tacitly received as final.” “He was the great authority, as bold, fearless, truthful, as he was exact and careful.”[4] Although these words of praise intimate that Unitarians were too ready to accept the conclusions of Professor Norton as needing no emendation, yet his work was searching in its character and thoroughly sincere in its methods. Considering the general attitude of scholarship in his day, it was bold and uncompromising, as well as accurate and just.

Another scholar was George Rapall Noyes, who was a country pastor in Brookfield and Petersham from 1827 to 1840, and devoted his leisure to Biblical studies. He became the professor of Hebrew and, lecturer on Biblical Literature in the Harvard Divinity School in 1840. His translations, with notes, of the poetical books of the Old Testament, beginning with Job in 1827, were of great importance as aids, to the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. His translation of the New Testament, which appeared after his death, in 1868, gave the best results of critical studies in homely prose, and with painstaking fidelity to the original. That Noyes was in advance of the criticism of his time may be indicated by the fact that, when he published his conclusions in regard to the Messianic prophecies in 1834,[5] he was threatened with an indictment for blasphemy by the attorney-general of Massachusetts. Better judgment prevailed against this attempt to coerce opinion, but that such an indictment was seriously considered shows how little genuine criticism there was then in existence. What are now the commonplaces of scholarship were then regarded as destructive and blasphemous. Noyes said that the truth of the Christian religion does not in any sense depend upon the literal fulfilment of any predictions in the Old Testament by Jesus as a person.[6] He said that the apostles partook of the errors and prejudices of their age,[7] that the commonly received doctrine of the inspiration of the whole Bible is a millstone about the neck of Christianity,[8] and that the Bible contains much that cannot be regarded as revelation.[9] Even as early as 1835 these opinions were generally accepted by Unitarians; and they were not thought to impair the true worth of the spiritual revelation contained in the Bible, and especially not the divine nature of the teachings of Christ. It was very important, as Dr. Joseph Henry Allen has said, in speaking of Norton and Noyes, that “these decisive first steps were taken by deliberate, conscientious, conservative scholars,–the best and soberest scholars we had to show.”[10]

The work of Ezra Abbot especially deserves notice here, because of “the variety and extent of his learning, the retentiveness and accuracy of his memory, the penetration and fairness of his judgment.”[11] For fourteen years previous to his death, in 1884, he was the professor of New Testament criticism and interpretation in the Harvard Divinity School. He also rendered important service as a member of the American committee on the revision of the New Testament. His essay on The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel was one of the ablest statements of the conservative view of the origin of that writing. The volume of his Critical Essays, collected after his death, shows the ripe fruits of his “punctilious and vigilant scholarship.” He was a zealous Unitarian, and did much to show that the New Testament is in harmony with that faith. In 1843 Rev. Theodore Parker published his translation of De Wette’s Introduction to the New Testament, with learned notes. The extreme views of Baur and Zeller were interpreted by Rev. O.B. Frothingham in his The Cradle of the Christ, 1872.

Various attempts were also made by those who were not professional scholars to bring the Bible into harmony with modern religious ideas. One of the most notable of these was that of Dr. William Henry Furness, pastor of the church in Philadelphia from 1825 to 1875. His Remarks on the Four Gospels appeared in 1835, and was followed by Jesus and his Biographers, 1838, Thoughts on the Life and Character of Jesus of Nazareth, 1859, and The Veil Partly Lifted and Jesus Becoming Visible, 1864, as well as several other works. His attempt was to give a rational interpretation of the life of Jesus that should largely eliminate the miraculous and yet preserve the spiritual. These works have little critical value, and yet they have much of charm and suggestiveness as religious expositions of the Gospels. Of somewhat the same nature was Dr. Edmund H. Sears’s The Fourth Gospel: The Heart of Christ, 1872, a work of deep spiritual insight.
The Catholic Influence of Harvard University.

The catholic and inclusive spirit manifested by the Unitarians in their Biblical studies is worthy of notice, however, much more than any definite results of scholarship produced by them. In the cultivation of the broader academic fields which their control of Harvard University brought within their reach this attitude is especially conspicuous. At no time since it came under their administration has it been used for sectarian purposes, to make proselytes or to compel acceptance of their theology. During the first half of the nineteenth century, Harvard was in some degree distinctly Unitarian; but since 1870 it has been wholly non-sectarian. When the Divinity School was organized, it was provided in its constitution that no denominational requirements should be exacted of professors or students; yet the school was essentially Unitarian until 1878. In that year the president, Charles W. Eliot, asked of Unitarians the sum of $130,000 as an endowment for the school; but he insisted that it should be henceforth wholly unsectarian, and this demand was received with approval and enthusiasm by Unitarians themselves.

In 1879 President Eliot said at a meeting held in the First Church in Boston for the purpose of appealing to Unitarians in behalf of the school: “The Harvard Divinity School is not distinctly Unitarian either by its constitution or by the intention of its founders. The doctrines of the unsectarian sect, called in this century Unitarians, are indeed entitled to respectful consideration in the school so long as it exists, simply because the school was founded, and for two generations, at least, has been supported, by Unitarians. But the government of the University cannot undertake to appoint none but Unitarian teachers, or to grant any peculiar favors to Unitarian students. They cannot, because the founders of the school, themselves Unitarians, imposed upon the University the following fundamental rule for its administration: that every encouragement shall be given to the serious, impartial, and unbiassed investigation of Christian truth, and that no assent to the peculiarities of any denomination of Christians shall be required either of the instructors or students.”[12] Dr. Charles Carroll Everett, dean of the school from 1878 to 1900, has said that “in some respects it differs from every other theological seminary in the country.” “No pains are taken to learn the denominational relations of students even when they are applicants for aid.” “No oversight is exercised over the instruction of any teacher. No teacher is responsible for any other or to any other.”[13]

In 1886 compulsory attendance upon prayers was abolished at Harvard University. Religious services are regularly held every week-day morning, on Thursday afternoons, and on Sunday evenings, being conducted by the Plummer professor of Christian morals, with the co-operation of five other preachers, who, as well as the Plummer professor, are selected irrespective of denominational affiliations. In this and other ways the university has made itself thoroughly unsectarian. Its attitude is that of scientific investigation, open-mindedness towards all phases of truth, and freedom of teaching. Theology is thus placed on the same basis with other branches of knowledge, and religion is made independent of merely dogmatic considerations.

This undenominational temper at Harvard University has been developed largely under Unitarian auspices. Its presidents for nearly a century have been Unitarians, namely: John T. Kirkland, 1810-28; Josiah Quincy, 1829-45; Edward Everett, 1846-49; Jared Sparks, 1849-53; James Walker, 1853-60; Cornelius C. Felton, 1860-62; Thomas Hill, 1862-68; and Charles W. Eliot since 1869. Kirkland, Everett, Sparks, Walker, and Hill were Unitarian ministers; but under their administration the university was as little sectarian as at any other time.

When the new era of university growth began in 1865, with the founding of Cornell University, the influence of Harvard was widely felt in the development of great unsectarian educational institutions. Although Ezra Cornell was educated as a Friend, he was expelled from that body, and connected himself with no other religious sect. He was essentially a Unitarian, often attending the preaching of Dr. Rufus P. Stebbins. The university which took his name was inspired with the Harvard ideal, and, while recognizing religion as one of the great essential phases of human thought and life, gave and continues to give equal opportunity to all sects.

Another instance of the same spirit is Washington University, which began under Unitarian auspices, but soon developed into an entirely undenominational institution. Members of the Unitarian church in St. Louis secured a charter for a seminary, which in 1853 was organized as the Washington Institute. In 1857 it was reorganized as Washington University, and the charter declared, “No instruction, either sectarian in religion or party in politics, shall be allowed in any department of said university, and no sectarian or party test shall be allowed in the selection of professors, teachers, or other officers of said university or in the admission of scholars thereof, or for any purpose whatever.” Sectarian prejudice, however, regarded the university as essentially Unitarian; and for the first twenty years of its existence three-fourths of the gifts and endowments came from persons of that religious body.

Although Dr. William G. Eliot knew nothing of the original movement for forming a seminary under liberal auspices, he gave the institution his unstinted support and encouragement. He was the president of the board of management from the first, and in 1871 he became the chancellor. At his death, in 1887, the university included Smith Academy, Mary Institute, and a manual training school, these being large preparatory schools; the college proper, school of engineering, Henry Shaw school of botany, St. Louis school of fine arts, law school, medical school, and dental college. It then had sixteen hundred students and one hundred and sixty instructors. The endowments have since been largely increased, the number of students has increased to two thousand, and important new buildings have been added. Dr. Eliot gave the university its direction and its unsectarian methods, and it has attained its present position because of his devoted labors. The Leland Stanford Jr. University in California, and Clark University in Massachusetts, both founded by Unitarians, further illustrate the Harvard spirit in education.
The Work of Horace Mann.

Horace Mann was an earnest and devoted Unitarian, the intimate friend of Channing and Parker, to both of whom he was largely indebted for his intellectual and spiritual ideals. He was inspired by their ideas of reform and progress, and to their personal sympathy he owed much. It is now universally conceded that to him we are indebted for the diffusion of the common-school idea throughout the country, that he developed and brought to full expression the conception of universal education. In full sympathy with him in this work were such men as Dr. Channing, Edward Everett, Theodore Parker, Josiah Quincy, Samuel J. May, and the younger Robert Rantoul; but he made the common school popular, and put it forward as a national institution. When Mann became the secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education on its creation, in 1837, the theory that all children should be educated by the state, if not otherwise provided for, was by no means generally accepted; nor was it an accepted theory that such education should be strictly unsectarian.[14] Mann fought the battle for these two ideas, and virtually established them for the whole nation. On the first board one-half the members were Unitarians,–Horace Mann, the younger Robert Rantoul, Jared Sparks, and Edmund Dwight. Some of the staunchest and most devoted and most liberal friends of Mann were of other denominations; but the work for common schools was thoroughly in harmony with Unitarian principles. Edmund Dwight was largely instrumental in securing the establishment of a Board of Education in Massachusetts, and he brought about the election of Horace Mann to fill the position of its secretary. He was a leading merchant in Boston, and his house was a centre for meetings and consultations relating to educational interests. He contributed freely for the purpose of enlarging and improving the state system of common schools, his donations amounting to not less than $35,000.[15]

The first person to clearly advocate the establishment of schools for the training of teachers was Rev. Charles Brooks, minister of the Second Unitarian Church in Hingham from 1821 to 1839, afterwards professor of natural history in the University of the City of New York, and a reformer and author of some reputation in his day. In 1834 he began to write and lecture in behalf of common schools, and especially in the interest of normal schools.[16] He spoke throughout the state in behalf of training schools, with which he had become acquainted in Prussia; he went before the legislature on this subject; and he carried his labors into other states.[17]

Horace Mann took up the idea of professional schools for teachers and made it effective. Edmund Dwight gave $10,000 to the state for this purpose, and schools were established in 1838. When the first of these normal schools opened in Lexington, July 3, 1839, its principal was Rev. Cyrus Peirce, who had been the minister of the Unitarian church in North Reading from 1819 to 1829, and then had been a teacher in North Andover and Nantucket. “Had it not been for Cyrus Peirce,” wrote Henry Barnard, “I consider the cause of Normal Schools would have failed or have been postponed for an indefinite period.”[18] Dr. William T. Harris has said that “all Normal School work in this country follows substantially one tradition, and this traces back to the course laid down by Cyrus Peirce.”[19] In the Lexington school Peirce was succeeded by Samuel J. May, who had been settled over Unitarian churches in Brooklyn and Scituate.[20]

The work done by Horace Mann for education includes his labors as president of Antioch College from 1852 to 1859. He maintained that the chief end of education is the development of character; and he sought to make the college an altruistic community, in which teachers and students should labor together for the best good of all. He put into practice the nonsectarian principle, made the college coeducational, and developed the spirit of individual freedom as one of cardinal importance in education. “The ideas for which he stood,” has written one who has carefully studied his work in all its phases, “spread abroad among the people of the Ohio valley, and showed themselves in various state institutions, normal schools, and high schools that were planted in the central west. Altogether, apart from Mr. Mann’s visible work in Antioch College may be found agencies which he set at work, whose influence only eternity can measure. It was a great thing to the new west that a high standard of scholarship should be placed before her sons and daughters, and that a few hundred of them should be sent out into every corner of the state, and ultimately to the farthest boundaries of the nation, with a sound scholarship and a love for truth there and then wholly new. His reputation for scholarship and zeal gave his opinions greater weight than those of almost any other man in the country. As a result the most radical educational ideas were received from him with respect; and he carried forward the work of giving a practical embodiment to co-education, non-sectarianism, and the requirements of practical and efficient moral character, as perhaps no other educator could have done. His influence among people, and the aspirations which he kindled in thousands of minds by public addresses and personal contact, did for the people of the Ohio valley a work, the extent and value of which can never be measured.”[21]
Elizabeth Peabody and the Kindergarten.

Horace Mann was largely influenced by Dr. Channing throughout his career as an educational reformer,[22] as was his wife and her sister, Elizabeth P. Peabody. It was to Channing that Miss Peabody owed her interest in the work of education; and his teachings brought her naturally into association with Bronson Alcott, and made her the leader in introducing the kindergarten into this country. She was influenced by the kindergarten method, at an early date, and she gave years of devoted labor to its extension. In connection with her sister, Mrs. Horace Mann, she wrote Culture in Infancy, 1863, Guide to the Kindergarten, 1877, and Letters to Kindergartners, 1886. As a result of her enthusiastic efforts, kindergartens were opened in Boston in 1864; and it was in 1871 that she organized the American Froebel Union, which became the kindergarten department of the National Educational Association in 1885. The Kindergarten Messenger was begun by her in 1873, and was continued under her editorship until 1877, when it was merged in The New Education.

Miss Peabody’s Kindergarten Guide has been described as one of the most important original contributions made to the literature of the subject in this country. Her name is most intimately associated with the educational progress of the country because of her enthusiasm for the right training of children and her spiritual insight as a teacher.
Work of Unitarian Women for Education.

Much has been done by Unitarian women to advance the cause of education. The conversations of Margaret Fuller, held in Boston from 1839 to 1844, were an important influence in awakening women to larger intellectual interests; and many of those who attended them were afterwards active in promoting the educational enterprises of the city. In 1873 Miss Abby Williams May, Mrs. Ann Adeline Badger, Miss Lucretia Crocker, and Miss Lucia M. Peabody were elected members of the school committee of Boston, but did not serve, as their right to act in that capacity was questioned. Thereupon the legislature took action, making women eligible to the office. The next year Misses May, Crocker, and Peabody, with Mrs. Kate Gannett Wells, Mrs. Mary Safford Blake, and Miss Lucretia Hale, were elected, and served. In 1875 Misses Crocker, Hale, May, and Peabody were re-elected; and in 1876 Miss Crocker was elected one of the supervisors of the public schools of Boston. It is significant that the first women to hold these positions were Unitarians. It is also worthy of note that Miss Sarah Freeman Clarke, sister of James Freeman Clarke, was the first landscape painter of her sex in the country; and that Mrs. Cornelia W. Walter was the first woman to edit a large daily newspaper, she having become the editor and manager of the Boston Transcript at an early date.

In 1873 was organized by Miss Anna E. Ticknor, daughter of Professor George Ticknor, the historian, the Society to encourage Studies at Home. During the twenty-four years of its existence it conducted by correspondence the reading and studies of over 7,000 women in all parts of the country, and did an important work in enlarging the sphere of women, preparing them for the work of teachers and for social and intellectual service in many directions. The society was discontinued in 1897, because, largely through its influence, many other agencies had come in to do the same work; but the large lending library, which had been an important feature of the activities of the society, was continued under the management of the Anna Ticknor Library Association until 1902. The memorial volume, published in 1897, shows how important had been the work of the Society to encourage Studies at Home, and how many women, who were otherwise deprived of intellectual opportunities, were encouraged, helped, and inspired by it. It was said of Miss Ticknor, by Samuel Eliot, the president of the society throughout the whole period of its existence: “While appreciative of the restrictions which she wished to remove, she was desirous to gratify, if possible, the aspirations of the large number of women throughout the country who would fain obtain an education, and who had little, if any, hope of obtaining it. She was very highly educated herself, and thought more and more of her responsibility to share her advantages with others not possessing them. In addition to these moral and intellectual qualifications, she possessed an executive ability brought into constant prominence by her work as secretary of the society. She was a teacher, an inspirer, a comforter, and, in the best sense, a friend of many and many a lonely and baffled life.”[23]

The service of Mrs. Mary Hemenway to education also deserves recognition. Possessed of large wealth, she devoted it to advancing important educational and intellectual interests. She established the Normal School of Swedish Gymnastics in Boston, and provided for its maintenance until it was adopted by the city as a part of its educational system. With her financial support the Hemenway South-western Archaeological Expedition was carried on by Frank H. Cushing and J.W. Fewkes. It was largely because of her efforts that the Montana Industrial School was established, and maintained for about ten years. Her chief work, however, was in the promotion of the study of American history on the part of young persons. When the Old South Meeting-house was threatened with destruction, she contributed $100,000 towards its preservation; and by her energy and perseverance it was devoted to the interests of historical study. The Old South Lectures for Young People were organized in 1883, soon after was begun the publication of the Old South Leaflets, a series of historical prizes was provided for, the Old South Historical Society was organized, and historical pilgrimages were established. All this work was placed in charge of Mr. Edwin D. Mead; and the New England Magazine, of which he was the editor, gave interpretation to these various educational efforts.

Mrs. Hemenway devoted her life to such works as these. It is impossible to enumerate here all her noble undertakings; but they were many. “Mrs. Hemenway was a woman whose interests and sympathies were as broad as the world,” says Edwin D. Mead, “but she was a great patriot; and she was pre-eminently that. She had a reverent pride in our position of leadership in the history and movement of modern democracy; and she had a consuming zeal to keep the nation strong and worthy of its best traditions, and to kindle this zeal among the young people of the nation. With all her great enthusiasms, she was an amazingly practical and definite woman. She wasted no time nor strength in vague generalities, either of speech or action. Others might long for the time when the kingdom of God should cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and she longed for it; but, while others longed, she devoted herself to doing what she could to bring that corner of God’s world in which she was set into conformity with the laws of God,–and this by every means in her power, by teaching poor girls how to make better clothes and cook better dinners and make better homes, by teaching people to value health and respect and train their bodies and love better music and better pictures and be interested in more important things. Others might long for the parliament of man and the federation of the world, and so did she; but while others longed, she devoted herself to doing what she could to make this nation, for which she was particularly responsible, fitter for the federation when it comes. The good state for which she worked was a good Massachusetts; and her chief interest, while others talked municipal reform, was to make a better Boston.”[24]
Popular Education and Public Libraries.

The interest of Unitarians in popular education and the general diffusion of knowledge may be further indicated by a few illustrations. One of these is the Lowell Institute in Boston, founded by John Lowell, son of Francis Cabot Lowell, and cousin of James Russell Lowell. He was a Boston merchant, became an extensive traveller, and died in Bombay, in 1836, at the age of thirty-four. In his will he left one-half his fortune for the promotion of popular education through lectures, and in other ways. John Amory Lowell became the trustee of this fund, nearly $250,000; and in December, 1839, the Lowell Institute began its work with a lecture by Edward Everett, which gave a biographical account of John Lowell, and a statement of the purposes of the Institute. Since that time the Lowell Institute has given to the people of Boston, free of charge, from fifty to one hundred lectures each winter. The topics treated have taken a wide range, and the lecturers have included many of the ablest men in this and other countries. The work of the Lowell Institute has also included free lectures for advanced students given in connection with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, science lectures to the teachers of Boston, and a free drawing school.

In 1846 Louis Agassiz came to this country to lecture before the Lowell Institute. The result was that he became permanently connected with Harvard University, and transferred his scientific work to this country. This was accomplished by means of the gift of Abbott Lawrence, who founded the Lawrence Scientific School in 1847. Although the Lowell Institute was founded by a Unitarian, and although it has always been largely managed by Unitarians, it has been wholly unsectarian in its work. Many of its lecturers have been of that body, but only because they were men of science or of literary attainments.

In 1854 Peter Cooper founded the Cooper Union in New York for the Advancement of Science and Art, to promote “instruction in branches of knowledge by which men and women earn their daily bread; in laws of health and improvement of the sanitary conditions of families as well as individuals; in social and political science, whereby communities and nations advance in virtue, wealth, and power; and finally in matters which affect the eye, the ear, and the imagination, and furnish a basis for recreation to the working classes.” He erected a large building, and established therein the Cooper Institute, with its reading-room, library, lectures, schools, and other facilities for bringing the means of education within reach of those who could not otherwise obtain them.

Peter Cooper was an earnest Unitarian in his opinions, attending the church of Dr. Bellows; but he was wholly without sectarian bias. In a letter addressed to the delegates to the Evangelical Alliance, at its session held in New York in 1873, he expressed the catholicity and the humanitarian spirit of his religion. “I look to see the day,” he wrote, “when the teachers of Christianity will rise above all the cramping power and influence of conflicting creeds and systems of human device, when they will beseech mankind by all the mercies of God to be reconciled to the government of love, the only government that can ever bring the kingdom of heaven into the hearts of mankind either here or hereafter.”

About 1825 there was opened in Dublin, N.H., under the auspices of Rev. Levi W. Leonard, minister of the Unitarian church in that village, the first library in the country that was free to all the inhabitants of a town or city. In the adjoining town of Peterboro, in 1833, under the leadership of Rev. Abiel Abbot, also the Unitarian minister, a library was established by vote of the town. This library was maintained by the town itself, being the first in the country supported from the tax rates of a municipality. In the work of these Unitarian ministers may be found the beginnings of the present interest in the establishment and growth of free public libraries.

In the founding and endowment of libraries, Unitarians have taken an active part. What they have done in this direction may be illustrated by the gift of Enoch Pratt of one and a quarter million dollars to the public library in Baltimore. Concerning the time when Jared Sparks was the minister of the Unitarian church in Baltimore, Professor Herbert B. Adams has said: “Some of the most generous and public-spirited people of Baltimore were connected with the first independent church. Afterwards, men who were to be most helpful in the upbuilding of Baltimore’s greatest institutions–the Peabody Institute, the Pratt Library, and the Johns Hopkins University–were associated with the Unitarian society.”[25]

Professor Barrett Wendell speaks of George Ticknor as “the chief founder of the chief public library in the United States.”[26] Ticknor undoubtedly did more than anybody else to make the Boston Public Library the great institution it has become, not only in giving it his own collection of books, but also in its inception and in its organization. The best working library in the country, that of the Boston Athenaeum, also owes a very large debt to the early Unitarians, with whom it originated, and by whom it was largely maintained in its early days.
Mayo’s Southern Ministry of Education.

One of the most important contributions to the work of education has been that of Rev. Amory D. Mayo, known as the “Ministry of Education in the South.” After settlements over churches in Gloucester, Cleveland, Albany, Cincinnati, and Springfield, Mr. Mayo began his southern work in 1880. He had an extensive preparation for his southern labors, having served on the school boards of Cincinnati and Springfield for fifteen years, lectured extensively on educational subjects, and been a frequent contributor to educational periodicals. He has written a History of Common Schools, which is published by the national Bureau of Education, prepared several of the Circulars of Information of that bureau, and printed a great number of educational pamphlets and addresses.

“One of the most helpful agencies in the work of free and universal education in the South, for the last twenty years,” says Dr. J.L.M. Curry in a personal letter, “has been the ministry of A.D. Mayo. His intelligent zeal, his instructive addresses, his tireless energy, have made him a potent factor in this great work; and any history of what the Unitarian denomination has done would be very imperfect which did not make proper and grateful recognition of his valuable services.”

[1] Christian Examiner, XLVII. 186; Mrs. E.B. Lee, Memoirs of the Buckminsters, 325.

[2] Memoir of Buckminster, introductory to his Sermons, published in 1814, xxxii.

[3] The Pentateuch and its Relation to the Jewish and Christian Dispensation. By Andrews Norton. Edited by John James Tayler, London, 1863. This was the Note, with introduction.

[4] Boston Unitarianism, 244.

[5] Hengstenberg’s Christology, Christian Examiner, July, 1834, XVI. 321.

[6] Ibid., 327.

[7] Ibid., 356.

[8] Ibid., 357.

[9] Ibid., 358.

[10] Our Liberal Movement in Theology, 68.

[11] The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and Other Critical Essays selected from the published papers of Ezra Abbot, edited, with preface, by Professor J.H. Thayer.

[12] The Divinity School of Harvard University: Its History, Courses of Study, Aims, and Advantages, published by the University, 9.

[13] The Divinity School as it is, Harvard Graduates’ Magazine, June, 1897.

[14] B.A. Hinsdale, Horace Mann and the Common School Revival in the United States, 127.

[15] B.A. Hinsdale, Horace Mann and the Common School Revival in the United States, 148.

[16] Henry Barnard, Normal Schools, 125.

[17] B.A. Hinsdale, Horace Mann, 147.

[18] Quoted by J.P. Gordy, Rise and Growth of the Normal School Idea in the United States, Circular of Information of the Bureau of Education, 1891, 49.

[19] Ibid., 43.

[20] S.J. May, Memoir of Cyrus Peirce, Barnard’s American Journal of Education, December, 1857.

[21] G.A. Hubbell, Horace Mann in Ohio: A Study of the Application of his Public School Ideals to College Administration, No. IV. of Vol. VII., Columbia University Contributions to Philosophy, Psychology, and Education, 50.

[22] Mary Mann, Life of Horace Mann, 44; Henry Barnard, Normal Schools, 93.

[23] Memorial Volume, 2.

[24] Edwin D. Mead, The Old South Work, 1900; also Memorial Sermon, by Charles G. Ames, 17.

[25] Life and Writings of Jared Sparks, I. 141.

[26] A Literary History of America, 266.

2,078 thoughts on “UNITARISM – XVIII UNITARIANS AND EDUCATION.”


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