Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Kim Wilson asked me a good question - that I couldn't answer, and hadn't ever thought about. This explains why she is a professional historian, and why I am but an amateur...(as Richard Thompson said "they're worse than critics, they're amateur critics!"). She asked me about the politics of SC Universalists of the 1830s -- I dunno - and other than the Rev. T. Fisk who preached down in Charleston, who was for reform - I still dunno. And I admit that I dunno much about his politics - other than he had some, and was well known for having them. D.B. Clayton's son, Virgil Pingree Clayton was the famous one in his family, as he was a well known leader in the Lily White Republicans (and as a southern politician he joined the main southern church- Episocalipans) - but D. B.'s politics, I dunno. Indeed I find that I'm having a tendacy to make the southern Universalist fit in with their neighbors and their neighbor's politics. They were mainly solidly middle class professionals, but its easy for amateurs to forget that in the old south, Doctors and merchants were middle not upper class - Planters were upper class, regardless if they had other occupations they dabbled in.... Slave owners with 10 slaves or more were upper class (don't take this as fact all you other amateur historians) -- anyway I've been thinking more of southern Universalists as just another member of the solid south....But then I read this from Claudia L. Bushman's A GOOD POOR MAN'S WIFE (1998 EDITION), which is a biography of Harriet Hanson Robinson. Her brother J. W. Hanson was the known Universalist writer, publisher, theologian . (pg49-50) "... The controversial and despised Universalists. Though the sect preached the mild, loving doctrine of universal salvation and the brotherhood of man, Univeralsim aroused powerful antipathy, and with cause. The sect undercut the very basis of religion and morality as they were then understood. .... The traditionalists had reason to fear and despise the Universalists. While the Universalists preached love and brotherhood, they were revolutionary at the base. It dismissed claims of authority at existing churches. Founded and promulgated by lower-class uneducated preachers, the sect was democratic and reasonable, whereas the Calvinists were authoritarian and punitive. Univeralism threatened the power structure of the traditional church, removing the sting from God's commandments and even humanizing Christ. Universalists refused to take their place in the ordained order of society. Their agitation rattled the framework of life. Another reason for the traditionalists' concern was the belligerent stance of the Universalists. Not content to go their way in peace and love, they felt obligated to criticize the establishment and to enter into disputations with clergymen of other sects. They pictured their religious work as a battle, adopting a military jargon to talk about it." Certainly one of the themes of Universalist periodicals of the 1830s is the immorality and hypocrisy of other denominations.... If one wants to read about all of the scandals afflicting clergymen, Universalist periodicals is a good place to start....... so are the southern Universalists of the 1790s-1820s bold and revolutionary?

No comments: