William Ellery Channing and American Unitarianism

In Democracy In America and in his journals and letters Tocqueville noted the Americans' inclination toward Deism. He saw Unitarianism as the last bridge between Christianity and natural religion. In his Essay on American Government and Religion, included in Tocqueville and Beaumont In America, Tocqueville wrote,

"On the confines of Protestantism is a sect which is Christian only in name, the Unitarians. ... They are pure Deists. They speak of the Bible because they do not wish to shock public opinion, still entirely Christian, too deeply. ... It's evident that the Protestants whose minds are cold and logical, the argumentative classes, the men whose habits are intellectual and scientific, are grasping the occasion to embrace and entirely philosophic faith which allows them to make almost public profession of pure Deism."


In his interview with John Quincy Adams, Tocqueville asked, "do you not see in the Unitarianism of this country the last link that separates Christianity from natural religion?"

That Tocqueville saw Unitarianism as an intellectual and religious curiosity is clear. Equally clear is that to understand Unitarian Christianity as it existed in the United States in 1831, he had to meet one man: William Ellery Channing.

The Life and Career of William Ellery Channing A brief look.

Unitarian Christianity

Channing's 1819 Baltimore oration

Tocqueville on Channing Tocqueville's account of his interview with Dr. Channing from Tocqueville and Beaumont in America






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