THE PASSAGE OF the Dissenters’ Chapels Act definitely marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Unitarian movement in England. After the surge of new life and activity following the passage of the Trinity Act in 1813, the affairs of the churches had showed no little vigor. Old congregations renewed their strength, many new ones were gathered, and the whole new denomination pressed on toward the goal of complete religious freedom. Despite the growing unfriendliness of the orthodox, the small clouds on the horizon were ignored. But when the Wolverhampton and Lady Hewley cases arose after a decade or two, and were protracted year after year, dark clouds began to gather over the Unitarians as they contemplated the possible loss of all their old chapels and funds. This fear naturally dampened their spirits, slowed down their missionary activities, and kept them from building new chapels or even keeping their old ones in repair. In the twenty-five years of uncertainty and increasing discouragement, numbers of their congregations, especially small ones in the country which depended for their support on only two or three families, became all but extinct. Yet despite all, a hundred of these small country societies were still holding together at the middle of the century. Now with the passing of the Dissenters' Chapels Act, fears were dispelled and spirits revived, and as soon as congregations had time to take breath and recover tone, a marked increase of zeal and activity set in. Thus whereas during the first quarter-century of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association but thirteen chapels were built or restored, in the next quarter there were more than sixty, besides a considerable number of wholly new congregations gathered. Numerous local missionary societies were also now organized to cooperate with the national Association in the work of church extension.
The missionary spirit was particularly active in the growing manufacturing towns of Lancashire, and the local demand for popular preachers to gather and sustain these new movements was so pronounced that a new school for training the needed ministers was called into being. It was thus that in 1854 the Unitarian Home Missionary Board (from 1889 known as the Unitarian Home Missionary College, and since 1926 as the Unitarian College, Manchester), was founded by the Rev. John R. Beard of Manchester. The demand for it was the more urgent since Manchester New College had just been removed to London. The definite aim of the new school was to make men without previous University training, whose life hitherto had been spent in trade or industry rather than in academic studies, men of the people, who understood and sympathized with the wants of their own class, and could present the gospel to them in their own homely language, and to prepare them for a popular ministry to the common people. It was believed that such men, suitably chosen, would find a large field in the rapidly growing and prosperous Lancashire towns, and could also supply the smaller Presbyterian and Unitarian congregations that had formerly been partly supported from the Lady Hewley Fund. This venture, at first an experiment, rapidly surpassed the expectations of its supporters, and proved an incalculable factor in the Unitarian movement.1
The serious financial loss that Unitarian causes suffered by the decision of the Lady Hewley case in 1844 was to a considerable degree repaired three years later by the trust established by Robert Hibbert (1770–1849),2 a retired merchant of London, who left to trustees a large sum, the income of which they were to apply at discretion ‘to the spread of Christianity in its most simple and intelligible form.’ The income has been used to subsidize a large number of advanced scholars, to endow the well-known Hibbert Lectures, and to support the Hibbert Journal. In 1856 yet another benefaction bore witness to the renewed vitality of the Unitarian cause. On the, initiative and largely through the efforts of Christopher Rawdon of Liverpool (1780–1858)3 a Ministers' Stipend Augmentation Fund of £20,000 (later augmented to £50,000) was constituted to replace the lost Hewley Fund, and to supplement the too often inadequate salaries of the ministers. Yet another witness to the effect of the Dissenters' Chapels Act was given in London, where the gratitude of Unitarians for the passage of the Act was testified by a permanent memorial, in the erection of the handsome University Hall, completed in Gordon Square in 1850, which was designed to serve as a Unitarian adjunct to University College.4
For a good many years the Committee of the national Association, in reply to appeals for aid for new congregations or enfeebled older ones, was forced to lament its narrow resources, and the failure of most of the churches to make any group contributions for the common work. An average of only some £1,400 a year made it possible, after providing for general objects, to make little grants of only five or ten pounds each to a small handful of needy causes. The amount of annual contributions was of course irregular, but for the first half-century the average amount did not greatly exceed that of the first decade, and it fell off notably during the years of the Hewley case. At length, however, bequests began to come in more frequently, a permanent fund was established (1857), and grants in aid of local churches, which had mostly been withheld during the years of uncertainty, were resumed, until by the end of the century over sixty causes were aided in a year; though the fact that most of the grants were still of only ten or twenty pounds suggests how close the aided congregations were to the subsistence level. The complaints of a dearth of ministers to supply the large number of vacant pulpits, and of the poor salaries deterring men from entering the ministry at all, and the Committee’s published statement5 that ‘a very large number of wealthy Unitarians gave nothing at all to the work of the Association, indicate that the common affairs of the denomination reached their lowest ebb in the anxious period of the Crimean War. But immediately after this came an encouraging revival, coincident with the removal of Manchester New College to London, and the establishing of its successor at Manchester; and the depleted ranks of the ministry were gradually filled, and the vacant pulpits were again supplied. The establishment in 1842 of the Inquirer, a weekly newspaper destined to have great value as a medium for all the churches, was another important step, and the output of Unitarian books and tracts went on steadily. Despite all discouraging conditions without and within, the Association continued to promote the cause as far as its limited means allowed. Special missionary enterprises were supported in Scotland where the dormant Scottish Unitarian Association was now reestablished, in the Potteries, in chosen districts in the North, the Eastern Counties, Kent, and the West of England; and for six years a special Missionary and Agent of the Association was in the field at large with excellent results. Thus a good number of new and handsome chapels were erected, and many others rebuilt, in the twenty years after the Dissenters' Chapels Act.
The pathetic little foreign mission at Madras was kept alive for a generation, and though no considerable results were achieved, small appropriations (even after the Association had voted to be no longer responsible for the work) were continued until the end of the century. Warm friendly relations were also cultivated with the Unitarians in Transylvania, and at the time of their great crisis in 1857,6 their churches were saved from ruin by the timely help given from England. The Brevis Expositio of 18217 had discovered a wide circle of sympathizers throughout Europe, and frequent assurances of religious sympathy were exchanged with liberal spirits in France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Italy,8 and even in the West Indies and Brazil. Under the glow of enthusiasm that these responses kindled one was almost persuaded to believe that the whole world was ready to burst out into Unitarianism if some providential leader were to kindle the torch. In the middle years of the century permanent churches were established in such important colonial centres as Montreal and Toronto in Canada, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia, Hobart in Tasmania, and Cape Town in South Africa. On the whole, in spite of all hindrances and discouragements, of organization that was loosely knit and hence unable to act efficiently, of small means, of an unyielding attachment to congregational independence and a corresponding aversion to confederate action, which led a very important proportion of the societies and individuals best able to promote the common cause to hold aloof from taking active part in supporting it, still it can be recorded that during the first half-century of the Association a gratifying deal of solid achievement was accomplished. The period of any considerable controversy with other bodies was past. The Unitarians had won nearly all the civil rights for which they had so long struggled;9 and they had come to hold an acknowledged place among the religious forces of the land, and were free to serve their time in their own way.
While the external progress of the Unitarian churches was going on as related above, important internal changes were quietly taking place, which were of the greatest significance. It will be remembered that the religion of those that first promoted the Unitarian cause in England was unhesitatingly biblical in its beliefs. Priestley and some of his immediate followers may have been in their own way materialists and determinists in their philosophy, but for the doctrines of their theology they depended solely upon the word of the Bible. Principal Wellbeloved of Manchester College, York, in his controversy with Wrangham in 1823, expressed the common view of Unitarians when he wrote, ‘Convince us that any tenet is authorized by the Bible, from that moment we receive it, . . . and no power on earth shall wrest it from us.’ If they nevertheless rejected some things found in the Bible, it was because the passages concerned had been proved to be late additions or corruptions of the text, and hence no true part of authentic Scripture. They contended that the Unitarian doctrinal system was more in accord with the Bible than the orthodox one. But by the time when the Unitarian Association was founded, the new German biblical criticism was beginning to weaken the foundations, and it was coming to be felt by some that their faith needed a more solid basis than had hitherto sufficed. The day was about to dawn when Priestley and Belsham were no longer to be listened to as the major prophets of Unitarianism, and when the prevailing current of its thought was to be that of James Martineau and John James Tayler.10 Early in his ministry at Liverpool a transition in Martineau's thinking had begun. He had undertaken in 1835 to explore the true foundations of religious belief in six sermons, which were later published as a little book.11 In this he criticized both the Catholic view that the decisions of the Church must be accepted as final authority in matters of religion, and the Protestant reliance on Scripture as final authority; and he contended “that reason is the ultimate appeal, the supreme tribunal, to the test of which even Scripture must be brought.”12 He thus became herald of a view that, though not generally taken for granted until a half-century later, has at length become accepted as one of the principles fundamentally characterizing the Unitarian movement.
It is at this time that symptoms are first shown of a rift among the Unitarians, which never came quite to an open breach, indeed, but which for a time threatened a distinct cleavage between two different elements in the denomination, the one rather aggressively denominational, and emphasizing adherence to the traditional beliefs of Unitarians and to the Unitarian name, and the other, laying little stress upon particular doctrines, but holding a spirit of generous breadth as to doctrines, provided a sincere religion of the heart were present. Let them here for convenience be called the conservative and the liberal wings. Both wings traced their descent from a common stock in the old Dissent; but the contrasted tendencies began to be evident even in the first two organized societies, the Unitarian Book Society and the Unitarian Fund. At the risk of drawing distinctions too sharply it may in general be said that what we have named the liberal wing was largely made up of old Dissenting families, county landholders, and men engaged in business or commerce, predominating in London and the larger provincial towns, persons of moderate or large wealth and good education, inheriting the traditions of the old Presbyterianism; that their ministers were scholarly men of ample learning, who preached able sermons appealing more to the intellect than to the feelings, but were little given to dogmatism, and depended less upon missionary preaching than upon the printing-press to defend or spread their views through books and tracts. Their ministers were largely trained at Manchester (New) College, and their chief leaders were James Martineau, John James Tayler, John Hamilton Thom, and Charles Beard, who powerfully influenced religious thought by their articles in their periodicals, the Christian Teacher, Prospective Review, National Review, and Theological Review. The conservative wing, on the other hand, besides including not only a great many of the democratic middle class, had also a significant contingent of artisans and others of the humbler class, on the whole more from factory towns and country districts than from the larger centres of wealth and culture. To this wing those from the old General Baptist societies, and from the off-shoots of Methodism, naturally gravitated. They were in the main persons enjoying but a moderate standard of wealth and education; while their ministers were men who knew how to appeal to the common people in familiar address, were interested in promoting church extension by missionary enterprises, and were inclined to be active in matters of social and political reform. Their religious beliefs were strictly based on the Bible, and they set much store by the distinctive doctrines of Unitarianism. Thus they enthusiastically supported the missionary work of the Unitarian Fund as a necessary supplement to the modest work of the Book Society. For their ministers they looked first to Aspland's short-lived Unitarian Academy at Hackney as well as to tested laypreachers, and later to the Home Missionary Board at Manchester. Their spirit was best embodied in Richard Aspland of Hackney and his son Robert Brooke, and it found expression during nearly fifty years in the successive series of the Christian Reformer; while in later years the weekly newspapers the Unitarian Herald and the Christian Life spoke for them as the Inquirer did for the liberals.
There is evidence that Martineau as a brilliant young minister at Liverpool had already been regarded by conservatives with suspicion as to the soundness of his faith; and when his Rationale was published in 1836, with its declaration that in matters of religion the supreme authority is reason, to which even the word of Scripture must be submitted, it was clear to the guardians of the old faith that here was a dangerous heretic, who would be undermining the very foundations of their religion. By 1838 there was such general discontent with the state of affairs in the denomination, with its slow progress and prevailing lethargy, that the Association's Committee issued an appeal to all ministers and active lay-members throughout the denomination to attend an “aggregate meeting of Unitarians” to be held in London. It was so held during two days in June, and was largely attended." The general situation was discussed earnestly and at length, and the need of some effective plan for better cooperation was recognized. Many weak points were noted, and many reforms proposed. But beyond the clarification of confused issues that free discussion may bring about, the most significant result of the meeting was a dim recognition of the fact that the traditional foundations of Unitarianism were slowly giving way, that the supreme authority of Scripture was being dissolved, that a faith depending wholly on it did not satisfy the deepest needs of the soul, and that the Unitarianism of the past, founded on events of ancient history and relying only upon external authority, must now give way to one grounded on inner conviction in the soul of man. The religion to come must be no mere ism, adopted by the understanding and in time liable to be outgrown, but must be a permanent possession of the soul within.
Such views as these were more or less echoed by a number of the speakers, but they were expressed most strongly by Martineau and John James Tayler, who were not only Professors in the College at Manchester, but also ministers at Manchester and Liverpool. From now on Martineau’s utterances were narrowly watched, and three years later when the Liverpool controversy took place, in which he spoke out more plainly than ever, the conservative organ, the Christian Reformer, treated it with silence, publishing nothing about it after the opening announcement. These suggestions of a reconstruction of the bases of religious faith were of course not widely accepted and adopted at the first hearing, but they gradually sank into the minds of not a few, and a generation or more later bore ample fruit. Meanwhile Martineau went his way. With the following years his convictions were confirmed. In them he was much influenced by the writings of Channing in America, who had expressed warm approval of his recent writings, while he not long afterwards found a kindred spirit in the radical writings of Theodore Parker. His sermons sounded ever deeper levels, and depended less and less on merely biblical thought. Although unequivocally Unitarian in his own doctrinal belief, he was no sectarian, but constantly emphasized the essential Christian faith above any particular doctrine. The greater breadth and depth of his sympathies was shown in his compilation of a new hymnbook,14 which drew from a very wide range of Christian devotion; but also discarded a great many of the hitherto popular hymns based on a purely biblical background. The book was widely adopted, and did not a little in the course of a generation to mold the thought and feeling of worshipers. Along with unremitting attention to his congregation, he took on in 1840the additional duty of lecturing to the students at Manchester New College, which he continued throughout his active life; and a few years later (1845) he also became one of the editors of the Prospective Review, to which he contributed brilliant essays that brought his views before a wider public.
In 1848 Martineau went abroad for a year's refreshment and study, chiefly in Germany, in which he gave especial attention to New Testament criticism and philosophy. Even before this he had bidden a final farewell to the philosophical views of Hartley and Priestley, and was now more strongly than ever confirmed in a theology based on the intuitions of the soul within rather than on a miraculous revelation from without. In his New Testament studies he also presently became an avowed adherent of the radical criticism of Baur and other scholars of the Tübingen School, abandoned belief in miracles, or at least in their importance, and adopted the view that Jesus instead of being the divinely appointed Messiah was a strictly human being. Of course a storm of criticism burst upon him from the conservative wing; and for a time he felt so much estranged that he even was tempted to consider whether he should seek a more congenial religious home in America. But as long as Manchester New College continued at Manchester, Martineau continued teaching in it; and even after it removed to London in 1853 he went up once a fortnight for four years to deliver two weeks' lectures on two successive days. In 1857 the resignation of the Principal called for a reorganization of the teaching, and the Committee appointed Martineau to the vacant chair. Strong opposition, however, arose among conservative supporters of the College, who objected to Martineau as an innovator and an unsound mystical teacher. Dissentients on the Committee together with other ministers and laymen, sixty-five in all, published a formal protest against the appointment; whereupon Martineau refused to accept the appointment without a decisive vote of confidence from the whole Board. A special meeting was held, an overwhelming vote of confidence was cast, and he entered upon his duties without further molestation. Thus ended a conflict which was the nearest approach ever made to a doctrinal split in the denomination. On the surface the question at issue had appeared to be about a difference of doctrinal views; but at bottom it was a question of fundamental principle, whether any test of theological belief, expressed or implied, should limit the freedom of teachers.15
From this time on Martineau exercised increasing influence from his chair as a teacher during the 28 years until his retirement in 1885, having succeeded Tayler as Principal in 1869; and from having been suspected or feared as a dangerous heretic he came to be honored by all as perhaps the ablest living champion of spiritual religion in face of the attacks then being made by a new school of physical or natural science. In one respect Martineau had long felt, as did Tayler, the Principal of the College, that the denomination was organized on too narrow a basis. While unwavering in his personal adherence to Unitarian doctrines, he felt that stress had been laid more on temporary items of theology than on the deeper principle of freedom: the position of the Unitarians was thus too sectarian. He felt that common worship should be founded not on common theological beliefs but upon a common purpose to nourish Christian life. Some things that he had said at a public meeting in London in 1858 gave rise to an exchange of letters (later published) between him and the Rev. S. F. MacDonald of Chester,16 which powerfully set forth his contention, and roused a storm of criticism. Though controversy was not prolonged, personal opinions kept quietly developing. On the one hand there was a desire for a wider and more generous fellowship, and on the other a demand for more definite teaching. At the annual meeting of the Association in 1866 an attempt was made to commit the churches to a definite support of the Unitarian doctrines as to God and Christ, but the motion was overwhelmingly rejected. In 1867, however, the custom of having congregations represented by delegates was abandoned, and thus the objection that congregations were bound by the action of the Association was annulled. The way was now open for forming a broad inclusive union among all liberal churches on a spiritual basis regardless of differences of doctrinal belief. As a sequel to this action, steps were a few days later taken toward forming a Free Christian Union, inviting the adherence of all Christians without regard to doctrine. Organization was completed later in the year, but though a few men of great distinction joined, and a large public meeting was held in 1869, no enthusiasm was generated, only a handful of scattered congregations sought fellowship, the denominational press was hostile, and the Union was dissolved at the end of 1870, to Martineau’s lasting disappointment. He had felt very deeply on what was to him a matter of vital principle; and, convinced Unitarian though he was in belief, he would yet never consent to join, as member or minister, a church whose very name committed it to a specific doctrine. He had, however, one more opportunity to set forth his ideal when he was invited in 1888 to contribute a paper on it at a meeting of the Triennial Conference at Leeds. Here he presented and with masterly skill advocated an elaborate scheme of church organization of the Presbyterian type, designed to embrace all the 300 or more liberal congregations of various names in Great Britain and Ireland, to be included under the non-doctrinal name of Presbyterian. He was respectfully listened to; but after two years' consideration his proposal was rejected.17
After this trying period of internal tension, the affairs of the denomination went on smoothly, during the years of peace, unmarked by startling events. The weaker congregations were aided by modest grants, and when regular ministers could not be had their pulpits were often supplied by the faithful services of lay-preachers. Missionary efforts led to the establishment of causes in promising new centres, though for want of adequate funds no extensive operations could be undertaken. Many of the old congregations still showed a singular reluctance to join effectually in support of the common cause, and some thirty of the larger and wealthier ones made no contribution to the work of the Association. Nevertheless its income slowly increased, and the number of grants in aid grew; while the organization of local Associations in various parts of the kingdom much increased local interest in missionary efforts, and cooperated with the general Association in administering and supporting them. The institution in 1883 of an annual Association Sunday, on which all the congregations were asked to take up collections for the common cause, led to a healthy increase in public support; while in 1889 the bequest of Mr. William McQuaker of Glasgow left nearly £30,000 for the promotion of the cause in Scotland. Series of popular lectures on religious subjects were held in several large towns in 1883 and the following years, attracting large audiences; and the institution of an annual Essex Hall Lecture in 1893 brought before the public distinguished scholars in discussion of important themes of religion or allied subjects. The denomination had long suffered from the lack of adequate and convenient headquarters, and had been forced to occupy rented quarters that were cramped and outgrown. But in 1885Lindsey's old Essex Street Chapel, which was now to be abandoned as its congregation removed to a place of worship newly built in Kensington, was acquired by a Trust formed for the purpose, and (at an expense of £25,000) was reconstructed so as to provide a central hall for Unitarian and other assemblies, offices for the British and Foreign Unitarian Association and the Sunday-school Association, and book-rooms for both Associations. It served thus as the focal point for all Unitarian causes for 59 years until July, 1944, when the premises were destroyed by enemy action, and its occupants found temporary accommodations at University Hall in Gordon Square. In 1882, upon the initiative of the national Association, an important action was taken in the organizing of the National Conference o f Unitarian, Liberal Christian, Free Christian, Presbyterian and other Non-subscribing or Kindred Congregations, which was intended primarily as a deliberative body, but also did invaluable service in forwarding various projects and in promoting cooperation in supporting them.18 The Conference held triennial meetings. Working in harmony with the Association it inspired various new activities until at length it became increasingly clear that it would be a great economy of effort and a great gain in efficiency if the Association and the Conference were amalgamated into one. Hence after ample deliberation it was voted by both societies in 1926 to merge into a General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, on a representative basis: The merger was accomplished with great heartiness and enthusiasm; and its work has been supplemented by intensive effort among the women by the British League of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women (founded 1908), and among men by the Unitarian and Free Christian Men's League (founded 1920).
While these important developments were taking place in the home field during the last third of the century, the progress of liberal Christianity in other lands was followed with eager interest and active sympathy. The state of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania was watched with fraternal interest, and each year one selected student from there was provided for at Manchester College (and from 1911 on another was elected to study at the Unitarian College, Manchester), to return home and be influential leaders in schools or colleges there, while generous aid was given toward establishing a new church at the Hungarian capital in Budapest. Communications were maintained with the Pratestanten Verein in which the liberals in Germany were sustaining a new movement against strong orthodox opposition, and with the similar Protestantenbond in the Netherlands, and delegates were often sent to their annual gatherings or received from them. Similar relations were had with the liberals of the Reformed Church in France, where the Coquerels, father and son, were suffering persecution or exclusion; and with the progressive wing of the Reformed Church in Switzerland, which had left Calvin far behind; and with a rising Free Christian Church at Brussels under the Rev. J. Hocart, and a lone champion of Unitarianism at Milan, where Professor Ferdinando Bracciforti for many years led a little band of Unitarians and published a paper for them. Correspondence was also cultivated with scattered leaders of progressive religion in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, and encouragement was given to their efforts to promote a more liberal Christianity; and beginning with 1888 some part was taken in cooperation with a new mission that the American Unitarian Association had undertaken with much promise in Japan. Relations with the American Association grew steadily more intimate and cordial, and reciprocal exchanges of delegates at annual meetings became frequent, while the home churches fostered as intimate relations as possible with the younger generation of churches in distant Colonies. Thus we have followed the development of the Unitarian movement in England from its scattered beginnings, through devious channels and manifold persecutions and oppressions, down to a time at the end of the nineteenth century where it embraces the civilized world in its extent, and is matured in its organization. It is not the design here to follow up the history to its latest phases, still less to try to forecast its future. In the twentieth century it has continued to pursue its broad mission, has along with the rest of the religious world been bound to meet the searching test of the two most exhausting wars in history, and though sorely shaken has yet survived both with stedfast fidelity. It is still undergowing the slow changes in thought and spirit that are involved in normal life and growth; but while these are in progress they do not yet belong to history.
It remains now only to make a brief summary of the progress achieved in this section of our history toward fully realizing the principles that we took at the outset to be most characteristic of the movement; and then to note how far the movement in England has justified itself by its contributions to human betterment through the institutions of society. English Unitarianism did not have to wage a long struggle in order to realize freedom from ancient creeds or modern confessions. Indeed from the first rise of the movement, it looked for its knowledge of religious truth only to the Scriptures, whose meaning each Protestant claimed liberty to determine for himself. Moreover, these in themselves offered so broad a charter of freedom from the creeds that had been forsaken, that it was long before it was realized that they too set some limits to entire freedom of religious thought. But beginning with Priestley's handling of the text, and continuing with the influence of German criticism, the leaders of Unitarian thought gradually came well before the end of the nineteenth century to realize that the Bible was to be read and interpreted like any other book. The consequence of this judgment was the recognition that the ultimate foundations of religion are within the human soul, and hence that the highest court to which any question in religion may resort is found in the reason and conscience of man.
The last step to take, and the hardest one to achieve in religious progress, is that of tolerance. In the stress of feeling toward the middle of the nineteenth century, when the conservative majority were still relying on the supernatural elements in the Gospels as furnishing the ultimate proofs of the truth of the Christian religion, while the leading spirits in the progressive wing were ceasing to attach any importance to these, religious tolerance was certainly put to a severe test; but as there was no accepted method by which a free church could expel members for a matter of doctrinal opinion, nothing could be done beyond an appeal to reason. Patience was reluctantly preserved, and self restraint was exercised, time wrought its own cure, and tolerance remained intact.
The final judgment upon the work and worth of a religious movement must be based on its influence upon individual lives and its effect upon the institutions of men in society. In this respect the English Unitarian churches have left a worthy mark upon personal characters and public institutions. Their constituency has on the whole been composed of an active, energetic element of the population, alive to public causes and heartily interested in social welfare. They were urgent for parliamentary reform, were almost or quite unanimously Whigs in politics, and foremost in the long uphill struggle for full legal and social rights for not only Protestant Dissenters, but Catholics and Jews as well. In the movement for the Dissenters’ Chapel Law they had thirteen members in Parliament when the other Dissenting bodies had none; indeed, it was noted that they were long the most over-represented body of any in Parliament. They were deeply involved in the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, foremost in movements for improving the condition of the poor, for promoting public health, popular education, university education, charity organization, prison reform, and numberless other projects local or national. To attempt even to mention the names of all Unitarians that have become prominent through their activity in worthy public causes, as well as in government, education, science and literature, would be to transform pages of history into a mere catalogue list.19 It would be far within the truth instead to say simply that in all these matters they have taken a part quite out of proportion to their relatively small numbers, and to no small degree have done this as a normal expression of a spirit that has been rooted in their religion, and stimulated by its ministers.
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