previous next


Norton is the representative Unitarian in taking the position, typical of that body, precisely half-way between Calvinism and Transcendentalism, engaging impartially in controversy on the one hand with Moses Stuart and on the other with George Ripley. The common basis of his opposition to both is his opposition to Plato. Platonism, his researches led him to believe, had in its Neo-Platonic avatar at Alexandria produced, among other doctrines of emanation, the doctrine of the Trinity. Platonism also, believing the soul to have been in contact with ideal archetypes whose memory it retained in this life, was the very fountain of the doctrine of intuitions. Norton's opposition to Emerson and Ripley was thus of a piece with his opposition to Philo Judaeus and Moses Stuart, the opposition of an exact scholar to what he considered loose, effusive, and sentimental thinking. Indeed, though Norton never says so in so many words, he seems to have recognized the Platonism of the Transcendental movement, and to have condemned it upon the same grounds as those upon which he condemned Plato himself. Anti-Platonism is the key to Norton's position.

Norton's teaching is praised by his disciple William Henry Furness (1802-96), who carried it to the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia; and it must, in fact, have been a powerful stimulus to anyone who could taste his austerity and his intellectual keenness. He is not wholly free from banalities, those devils that stand ever ready at the clerical elbow; he prefers Mrs. Stowe to Goethe; but the great body of his work is ascetically pure in taste as in style. It can still be read with pleasure, indeed with a certain intellectual thrill.

The work of enfranchisement was carried on in their several modes by three notable contemporaries: Horace Bushnell (1802-76), Henry Ward Beecher (1813-87), and Mark Hopkins (1802-87), each in his way a liberator.

Superficially, Bushnell may seem to have been a reactionary. Born in Litchfield Township, Connecticut, he graduated at Yale in 1827, whither, after a short experience in journalism, he returned as tutor, student of law, and finally student of theology. In 1833 he was ordained pastor of the North Congregational Church in Hartford, where he remained until 1859. In 1856, while in California for his health, he was active in

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.
Hartford (Connecticut, United States) (1)
California (California, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
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.
1802 AD (3)
1887 AD (2)
1896 AD (1)
1876 AD (1)
1859 AD (1)
1856 AD (1)
1833 AD (1)
1827 AD (1)
1813 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: