Channing, William Ellery

Channing, William Ellery, 1780–1842, American Unitarian minister and author, b. Newport, R.I. At 23 he was ordained minister of the Federal St. Congregational Church in Boston, where he served until his death. He was a leader among those who were turning from Calvinism, and his sermon at Jared Sparks's ordination in Baltimore (1819) earned him the name “the apostle of Unitarianism.” In 1820 he organized the Berry St. Conference of Ministers, which in 1825 formed the American Unitarian Association. Channing's plea was for humanitarianism and tolerance in religion rather than for a new creed. Not only a great preacher but a lucid writer, Channing influenced many American authors, including Emerson and other transcendentalists and Holmes and Bryant. Channing was not by nature a controversialist and never allied himself with the abolitionists, but his writings on slavery helped prepare for emancipation. In his denunciations of war, his discussion of labor problems, and his views on education, he was ahead of his time. His works (6 vol., 1841–43) passed through many editions.

See his Life … with Extracts from His Correspondence (ed. by W. H. Channing, 3 vol., 1848); biographies by J. W. Chadwick (1903), M. H. Rice (1961), and J. Mendelsohn (1971); R. L. Patterson, The Philosophy of William Ellery Channing (1952, repr. 1972).

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