previous next

[330] in which King's Chapel in the revision of its liturgy tacitly denied the doctrine of the Trinity, is often selected as the beginning of the Unitarian movement, and though the actual schism between the Unitarian and the Trinitarian churches did not come till 1815, it is convenient, if not strictly accurate, to speak of the whole evolution of American liberalism in the eighteenth century as the Unitarian movement.

Throughout that century the position of the New England liberal had been an increasingly strong one, the typical Unitarian of the time being a man of tolerance, of intellect, of cultured tastes, of unexceptionable private morality and notable civic virtue. Emotional or spiritual in temperament, however, he was not. When, therefore, the intense fervour and the new ideals of revolutionary Europe began to make their way to New England, the Unitarian (like the orthodox Calvinist of a century before) began to find himself in an untenable position, transformed by the altered spirit of the age from a radical into a conservative. A number of Unitarian clergymen, notably the Rev. Joseph Stevens Buckminster (1784-1812), seem to have had an inkling of new things, but Buckminster died at the age of twenty-eight, and it was left to William Ellery Channing to be the first Unitarian to show something like a full appreciation of the significance for religion of the changing spirit of the time. Channing is the bridge between Unitarianism and transcendentalism.

Channing was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1780. His early religious environment was Calvinistic but not illiberal, his parents being orthodox in belief but tolerant in spirit. The stern Calvinism of Dr. Samuel Hopkins, Edwards's pupil, the minister to whose preaching Channing listened as a boy, shocked his delicately sensitive nature, and was doubtless one of the influences that by reaction led to his liberal religious views. During his college days at Harvard Channing's early tendency toward revolt was strengthened and his seeking for intellectual independence encouraged. Contact in his reading with radical English writers of the eighteenth century gave a direction to his thinking which, in spite of marked mental growth in later years, was never fundamentally altered.

On leaving Harvard he acted for nearly two years as tutor in a Virginia family, imbibing in the course of this experience an

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New England (United States) (2)
Newport (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Kings Chapel (Alabama, United States) (1)
Europe (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Ellery Channing (4)
Unitarian (2)
Joseph Stevens Buckminster (2)
Samuel Hopkins (1)
Jonathan Edwards (1)
Harvard Channing (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1815 AD (1)
1812 AD (1)
1784 AD (1)
1780 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: