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A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism

A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism

From the Beginning to 1899

A panel of top scholars presents the first comprehensive collection of primary sources from Unitarian Universalist history. Spanning two volumes, each containing more than a hundred distinct selections, with scholarly introductions by leading experts

Editor: Dan McKanan

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A panel of top scholars presents the first comprehensive collection of primary sources from Unitarian Universalist history. This, the first of the two-volume set, covers the early histories of Unitarianism and Universalism, from the third century up to 1899. From Arius and Origen to Theodore Parker and Olympia Brown, this rich anthology features leaders, thinkers, and ordinary participants in the ever-changing tradition of liberal religion. This volume contains more than a hundred distinct documents, with scholarly introductions by leading experts in Unitarian Universalist history. The selections include sermons, theologies, denominational statements, hymns, autobiographies, and manifestos, with special attention to class, cultural, gender, and sexual diversity. Primary sources are the building blocks of history, and A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism presents the sources we need for understanding this denomination's past and for shaping its future.

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Introduction to the Collection
Introduction to Volume One


c. 225   Origen, On First Principles

c. 325-360   Arius, "Thalia"

1531   Michael Servetus, On the Errors of the Trinity

1554   Celio Secondo Curione, On the Great Extent of God's Blessed Kingdom; Matteo Gribaldi, Apology for Michael Servetus

c. 1561   Laelius Socinus (Lelio Sozzini), A Brief Exposition of the First Chapter of John

1568   Francis David, "The Edict of Torda"

1569   Francis David, "Propositions of the Nagyvarad Debate"

1582   Robert Browne, Book Which Sheweth the Life and Manners of All True Christians

1605   Faustus Socinus (Fausto Sozzini), Racovian Catechism

1629, 1636   The Salem Covenant of 1629 and the Enlarged Covenant of 1636

1644   John Biddle, Twelve Arguments Drawn out of the Scripture

1648   The Cambridge Platform; Gerrard Winstanley, "The Mysterie of God, Concerning the whole Creation, Mankinde"

1689   John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration

1694, 1696   Jane Leade, The Enochian Walks with God and A Fountain of Gardens

1743   Charles Chauncy, Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New-England

1748   Jonathan Mayhew, "Men, Endowed with Faculties Proper for Discerning the Difference betwixt Truth and Falsehood"

1750   Jonathan Mayhew, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers

1759   James Relly, Union: or, a Treatise of the Consanguinity and Affinity between Christ and his Church; Ebenezer Gay, "Natural Religion, as Distinguish'd from Revealed"

1774   Theophilus Lindsey, The Apology of Theophilus Lindsey, M.A., on Resigning the Vicarage of Cattarick, Yorkshire

1782   George de Benneville, A True and Most Remarkable Account of Some Passages in the Life of Mr. George de Benneville; Judith Sargent [Murray], Some Deductions from the System Promulgated in the Page of Divine Revelation, Ranged in the Order and Form of a Catechism

1784   Ethan Allen, Reason, the Only Oracle of Man

1785   James Freeman, King's Chapel Prayer Book; An Appeal to the Impartial Public by the Society of Christian Independents congregating in Gloucester

1788   Elhanan Winchester, The Universal Restoration: Exhibited in a Series of Dialogues

1790   Judith Sargent Murray, "On the Equality of the Sexes"; Philadelphia Convention of Universalists, "Articles of Faith and Plan of Church Government"

1792   Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1794   Joseph Priestley, A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God; Daniel Shute and Henry Ware, Sr., A Compendious and Plain Catechism

1803   General Association of the Universal Churches and Societies of the New England States, "Profession of Belief" (The Winchester Profession)

1805   Hosea Ballou, A Treatise on Atonement; Jedidiah Morse, "The True Reasons on which the Election of a Hollis Professor . . . Was Opposed"

1809   Lucy Barns, "To a friend, who could not believe in the final holiness and happiness of all mankind"

1815   William Ellery Channing, "A Letter to the Reverend Samuel C. Thatcher"

1816   John Murray, Records of the Life of the Rev. John Murray; Judith Sargent Murray, Conclusion of Records of the Life of the Rev. John Murray; William Ellery Channing, Sermon on "War"

1817   Hannah Adams, A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations

1817-1818   Hosea Ballou and Edward Turner, "On Future Misery"

1819   William Ellery Channing, "Unitarian Christianity"

1820   Massachusetts Supreme Court, Baker et. al. v. Fales (The Dedham Decision)

1821   David Reed, "To the Public"

1822   Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Smith; Catharine Sedgwick, A New-England Tale; Or, Sketches of New-England Character and Manners

1826   American Unitarian Association, First Annual Report of the Executive Committee

1826, 1831, 1832   Joseph Tuckerman, "A Letter on the Principles of the Missionary Enterprise" and Semiannual Reports

1827   Caleb Rich, "Narrative of Elder Caleb Rich"

1828   William Ellery Channing, "Likeness to God"; Dorcas Cleveland, A Dialogue on Some of the Causes of Infidelity

1830   "Trust Deed of Adi Brahmo Samaj"

1831   Henry Ware, Jr., On the Formation of the Christian Character; Adin Ballou, "Epistle General to Restorationists"

1832   Hosea Ballou, "Author's Preface to the Fifth Edition of A Treatise on Atonement" ; Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Lord's Supper"

1833   Lydia Maria Child, An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans

1834   Eliza Lee Cabot Follen, "Remember the Slave"; Abner Kneeland, Speech Delivered before the Supreme Court of the City of Boston

1835   Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Record of a School

1836   Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

1837   Adin Ballou, A Discourse on the Subject of American Slavery

1838   Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Divinity School Address"; Henry Ware, Jr., "The Personality of the Deity"

1839   Andrews Norton, "The Latest Form of Infidelity"; James Martineau, "Christianity Without Priest, and Without Ritual"; Adin Ballou, "Standard of Practical Christianity"

1840   Prospectus for The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion; Orestes Brownson, "The Laboring Classes"; Thomas Whittemore, The Plain Guide to Universalism

1841   Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"; Theodore Parker, "The Transient and Permanent in Christianity"

1843   Margaret Fuller, "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women"; Stephen R. Smith, Historical Sketches and Incidents

1844   Constitution of the Brook Farm Association for Industry and Education

1845   James Freeman Clarke, "The Principles and Methods of the Church of the Disciples"; John Turner Sargent, An Answer to "Questions Addressed to Rev. T. Parker and His Friends"

1848   Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience"

1849   Antoinette Brown and Lucy Stone, Correspondence; Edmund Hamilton Sears, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"

1850   Nathaniel Stacy, Memoirs

1851   Theodore Parker, "Speech at the Ministerial Conference"; Thomas Starr King, "Substance and Show"

1852   John Murray Spear, Messages from the Superior State

1853   Frederic Henry Hedge, "Beneath Thine Hammer, Lord, I Lie"

1854   Ezra Stiles Gannett, "Relation of the North to Slavery"

1856   John Cordner, "The Foundations of Nationality"

1858   Theodore Parker, "A False and True Revival of Religion"; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Saints and Their Bodies"

1859   Theodore Parker, Theodore Parker's Experience as a Minister; Henry Whitney Bellows, "The Suspense of Faith"; Henry David Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown"

1860   Frederic Henry Hedge, "The Broad Church"

1860, 1863   Thomas Starr King, "Sermon on Yosemite," "Lessons from the Sierra Nevada"

1865   Report of the Convention of Unitarian Churches Held in New York

1866   Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "We Are All Bound Up Together"

1867   Francis William Newman, "Why Do I Not Call Myself a Christian?"

1870   "What Is the Aim of the Woman Movement?; Julia Ward Howe, "Mother's Day Proclamation"; Francis Ellingwood Abbot, "Fifty Affirmations of Free Religion"; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Sympathy of Religions; Hannah Tobey Farmer, "Hymn"; Olympia Brown, "Hand of Fellowship"

1871   Phebe Hanaford, "The Question Answered"

1873   Louisa May Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats"; William James Potter, "What Is Christianity, and What Is It to Be a Christian?"

1875   Antoinette Brown Blackwell, The Sexes Throughout Nature

1876   Charles Wendte, "The Chinese Problem"

1878   Lydia Maria Child, "Aspirations of the World"

1883   Mary Livermore, What Shall We Do With Our Daughters?

1885   James Freeman Clarke, "The Five Points of the New Theology"

1886   Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, "Religious Nurture"; Jabez Sunderland, "The Issue in the West"

1887   William Channing Gannett, "Things Commonly Believed Among Us"; Drude Krog Janson, A Saloonkeeper's Daughter

1889   Mary Safford, "Obedience to the Heavenly Vision"

1891   Constitution and By-Laws of the First Icelandic Unitarian Church of Winnipeg; Magnus Skaptason, "Sermon delivered at Gimli"

1893   Jenkin Lloyd Jones, A Chorus of Faith; Fannie Barrier Williams, "What Can Religion Further Do to Advance the Condition of the American Negro?"

1894   Caroline Bartlett Crane, "What Women Can Do in Uniting the Culture and Religious Forces of Society"

1895   Phebe Hanaford, "Comments on Deuteronomy"

1899   "Creed and Conditions of Fellowship"


Bibliography of General Histories and Primary Source Collections
Index of Names and Titles
Index of Genres and Themes

    Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?
    Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons. . . . It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her,—the only house in a slave-state in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight...
    I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obey a higher law than I.

Source: Henry David Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government," in Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 65, 67, 72-73, 76-77, 79-81.

Unitarian Universalists today can benefit from greater awareness of the depth and resources of their own faith tradition. This excellent and well-edited collection will go a long way toward meeting that need. The material is well-chosen, and the helpful introductory comments place the selections in context. Overall, an excellent and much-needed resource.
—Paul Rasor, author, Faith Without Certainty and Reclaiming Prophetic Witness


Dan McKanan and his editorial committee of scholars have provided the Unitarian Universalist community with a marvelously useful access to its rich heritage in A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism. With curated writings from early Christianity to the twenty-first century, this collection offers the defining texts of this diverse liberal religious tradition. The compilation is of particular value for its inclusion of texts that illuminate both the religious doctrines and the institutional events that have shaped the complex history of Unitarian Universalism. The authoritative introductory essays provide an illuminating synthesis of the numerous Universalisms and Unitarianisms that have contributed to the movement.
—David M. Robinson, author, The Unitarians and the Universalists and Emerson and the Conduct of Life

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