Friday, January 26, 2007

Gov Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina

I've been doing some mild research into Gov Benjamin Tillman of SC, who's father died when he was a small child. BT got his father;s books, and I've seen quotes about his reading his father's copy of Ivanhoe, etc. However his father also had a very large Universalist library and was an Universalist himself.
There is no indication that BT had any Universalist sentiments, or is there? While we nowadays look at BT as the racist that he was - he was also the first SC politician who was a populist (even if that populism was for whites' only). An interesting if disturbing thought if he was an Universalst, would he had been better? Or if there was no Universalist tinge, would he never had been elected and we therefore spared the BT legacy? Pretty interesting idea for a thesis for a college student - particularly - if as likely, the list of Universalist books does still exists....

(I posted this on the new UU board
and knew I couldnt let them keep that to themselves)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Charleston Universalists and the art of the duel

Ok, I went to the State Archives, and looked at a couple of the documents...
on microfilm! Did I ever mention how much I hate microfilm?

anyway the Universalists were petitioning the SC General Assembly to let them change their name, sell some of their land, etc. They were doing that as late as 1859 - certainly looking like they made it up to the war....

Still doing research into the few names I found...

and then there is this from a 1970 reprinting of the famous works of Theophilus Fisk (minister and banking reformer) where former SC Governor J. L. Wilson (1784-1849) writes Fisk a letter on behalf of the trustees of the board of the First Universalist Church in Charleston, asking him to please renew his contract for another year. I don't know when Gov Wilson became an Universalist, but this was after the time he was Charleston's representative to the 1832 Nullification Convention, and before the 1838 publication of his most famous book CODE OF HONOR, which basically is a gentleman's dueling book. This was THE how-to book on correct dueling etiquette...

the book:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Still digging in history

Everyone once in a while I like to post that I am still working and still digging.

Yesterday (for example), I discovered two names of members of the Universalist Church of Charleston - besides J.L.E. Shecut! It also seems likely that the Church survived past 1859. I hope to give a full report on this later this week (as I may be getting a look at, and copies of documents!)

I've learned a bit more about Rev Westall - who wasn't an Universalist minister as long as he was an Unitarian minister (went to Tufts and switched denominations!) He does appear in various stories by his nephew - Thomas Wolfe. I assume some Wolfe scholar has studied this....

Saturday, January 06, 2007

"Our Home" at UUA

The "Our Home" Universalist Unitarian Church has an article on the UUA webpage at

I could certainly go into a discussion of if the 1880s-1910s were the golden age of Southern universalism or if the 1830s-1840s were the golden age. However, this would be one of those fun but unwinable "How Many Angels can dance on the head of a pin" debates.

With the mention of the decline starting in the 1970s - plays into one of my current theories about the failure of organized universalism - that it doesn't flourish well in a society steeped in cynicism. And certainly deeprooted cynicism was one of the core features of the 1850s-1870s, 1920s, and 1970s-now. How can one care or think about Universal Reconcilliation or God is Love, when actually God is Dead, Nobody Cares About You, it's everyman for himself, and watch your back.

This sort of starts to push away from the core topic of this blog (history) - (the 1970s cant be history yet, can they?) but does bring up to me one of what I feel is an important cores of Universalism - the optimism of knowing a loving god - the optimism that even those cynics will eventualy be optimistic.....No wonder Universalism didnt grow past the 1910s!

optimisticaly yours!