of religious liberalism known as Unitarianism.
The movement spread throughout Eastern Massachusetts
and made its way to other States.
Orthodox and liberal Congregational churches split apart, and when Channing
preached the ordination sermon for Jared Sparks
in 1819, the word Unitarian
, accepted by the liberals with some misgiving, became the recognized motto of the new creed.
It is only with its literary influence that we are here concerned, yet that literary influence became so potent that there is scarcely a New England
writer of the first rank, from Bryant
onward, who remained untouched by it.
The most interesting and peculiar phase of the new liberalism has little directly to do with the specific tenets of theological Unitarianism, and in fact marked a revolt against the more prosaic and conventional pattern of English and American Unitarian thought.
But this movement, known as Transcendentalism, would have been impossible without a preliminary and liberalizing stirring of the soil.
It was a fascinating moment of release for some of the most brilliant and radical minds of New England
Its foremost representative in our literature was Ralph Waldo Emerson
, as its chief