It is needful, perhaps, to guard against the inference that the Unitarian movement is only, or in the main, an intellectual one. Since 1833, in consequence of a visit by Dr. Joseph Tuckerman, from Boston, ‘Domestic Missions’ were founded, to promote the religious improvement of the neglected poor, and to-day this kind of work still goes on with much social benefit in our larger cities. Similar benevolence has marked the American side. Many congregations, too, are composed largely of working-people, and in recent years a Van Mission has carried the Unitarian message into the country villages, mining districts, and other populous parts. These aspects of their activity are apt to be obscured owing to a pardonable disposition of Unitarianism to point to the ’great names’ associated with their churches. In the American list, for example, we find Emerson, Longfellow, O.W. Holmes, Bryant, Hawthorne—Whittier and Lowell had close affinities; Bancroft, Motley, Prescott, Parkman; Margaret Fuller, Louisa Alcott; and statesmen, jurists, merchants, and scientists too numerous to set down here. Obviously, the English side cannot rival such a brilliant roll; the elite of society has not been here, as in New England, on the side of the newer theology. Yet English Unitarianism has its eminent mimes also, alike in literature, science, politics, philanthropy, and scholarship of various kinds; and the body is credited with a civic strength out of proportion to the number of its avowed adherents, while its philanthropies have been of the same broad and enlightened kind as those which enrich the American record.
More important to the general public is the question of ideas which now prevail among Unitarians. Our preceding sketch has shown some of the results of the freedom claimed by them in one generation after another. We have now to see in what respects the nineteenth century effected a further change.