William Ellery Channing, D. D., an American clergyman and author, brother of the preceding, born at Newport, R. I., April 7, 1780, died at Bennington, Vt., Oct. 2, 1842. His physical organization was at once delicate and vigorous; his appearance was grave and reflective; his mind was early occupied by religious and poetic conceptions, and he sometimes startled his associates by the vehemence with which he would repress any injustice that was attempted. The lessons of his mother had developed his religious sensibility, and the doctrinal conversations then in vogue had turned his attention to theology, when at the age of 12 he was sent to New London, Conn., to prepare for college. His father soon afterward died, and to the impression of the funeral and the influence of a revival which then swept over New England he attributed the commencement of his decidedly religious life. Esteemed by his friends for diligence and scholarship, for fine powers and pure habits, he entered the freshman class of Harvard college in 1794. In no single study superior to all of his classmates, he surpassed them all in versatility of talent and the wide range of his accomplishments, and especially in his power of written composition.
As his character matured, he devoted himself more and more intently to aspirations after moral greatness. He studied the Stoics, and was profoundly moved by the stern purity which they taught. In reading Hutcheson's essays on "Beauty and Virtue," in which virtue is defined as self-devotion to the absolute good, and the universe described as a system of progressive order and beauty in which there are infinite possibilities of spiritual destiny, he attained that sublime view of the dignity of human nature which he ever after maintained. The work of Ferguson on "Civil Society" also concentrated his energies on the thought of social progress. The study of Shakespeare gave him a powerful intellectual impulse, and through life one of his chief intellectual pleasures was furnished by recitations from his plays. The interest which he took in prevalent social agitations appears from the subject of the oration, "The Present Age," which he delivered at the graduation of his class. Having selected the profession of divinity, he spent 18 months after leaving college as tutor in a private family at Richmond, Va., where his time was passed in agreeable social relations and in study, chiefly of political and theological subjects.
His health suffered severely from his anxious examination of speculative doctrines, and in 1800 he returned to Newport to continue his studies. There he used to alternate between the public library and the seashore, on which he afterward affirmed that he had passed his hardest spiritual struggles. In 1801 he removed to Cambridge, having been elected regent in the university, and devoted himself to theological study and spiritual discipline, He was intimately connected with Dr. Samuel Hopkins, the disciple of Jonathan Edwards, whom he warmly esteemed; and when in 1802 he received from the Cambridge association the usual approbation to preach, it was supposed by many of the ministers that he would enlist on the side of extreme orthodoxy. Yet, as he subsequently stated, he was at this time an Arian, though tinged with ethical opinions derived from Dr. Hopkins. His preaching at once attracted attention for its fervor and solemnity, and both the Brattle street and Federal street societies in Boston sought to obtain him for their pastor.
Diffident both of his health and abilities, he chose to settle over the smaller society in Federal street, and was ordained June 1, 1803. His congregation increased with his reputation for eloquence and devotion, till in 1809 the old church was taken down to give place to one larger. His whole spiritual energy became concentrated in his labors as pastor, in sermons so exhausting that lie was nearly prostrated at their close, in attending prayer meetings and Sunday schools, and in ministering to the sick and mourning. By the custom of exchanging with other clergymen he became widely known throughout New England, and it was said of him and his friend, the younger Buckminster, that they had introduced a new era in preaching. When the disagreement in doctrine between the "liberal'1 and the "orthodox" Congregationalists burst forth into the Unitarian controversy, Dr. Chan-ning was the acknowledged head of the liberal party, and took an active part in its defence. Opposed to the Calvinistic scheme and the doctrine of the Trinity, he was even more at variance with the views of Priestley and Bel-sham. He blended in his system views which have generally been deemed discordant; and without checking himself by dialectic difficulties, he threw over his complex theology the charms of imagination and sentiment, and linked it with schemes of moral and social reform.
During the period of most vehement debate his pure and earnest character won the constant admiration of his opponents. In 1814 he married, and soon after obtained some acquaintance with the master minds of Germany. From Kant's doctrine of the reason he derived deeper reverence for the essential powers of man; by Schelling's intimations of the divine | life everywhere manifested, he was made more devoutly conscious of the universal agency of Cod; and he was especially delighted with the heroic stoicism of Fichte and his assertion of the grandeur of the human will. But for his greatest pleasure and best discipline he was now indebted to Wordsworth, whom he esteemed next to Shakespeare. From this time he began to engage more actively in political and philanthropic movements. He delivered, June 15, 1814, a discourse on the overthrow of Napoleon and the "goodnessof God in delivering the Christian world from military despotism." He early gave his sympathy and support to the peace movement in this country; and in 1816 he preached a discourse on war before the convention of the Congregational ministers of Massachusetts, which was printed and widely circulated, and prepared the way for the for--mation of peace societies in several of the states.
Temperance, reform in penitentiary discipline and punishments, missions, and Bible distribution all received his encouragement. His church was always thronged when he preached, and by various public discourses, among which were sermons occasioned by political crises, a sermon on the Unitarian controversy delivered at Baltimore in 1819, and his Dudleian lecture on the "Evidences of Christianity," delivered at Cambridge in 1821, his celebrity was extended throughout the country. In 1822 he made a European tour, saw Wordsworth and Coleridge in England, the latter of whom wrote of him, "He has the love of wisdom and the wisdom of love," and visited France, Switzerland, and Italy. On his return he resumed his pastoral labors with more than his former energy, till in 1824 he received as colleague the Rev. Ezra Stiles Gannett; and from this time his efforts were more in the general field of literature and reform. His remarks on the character and writings of Milton, his two articles on the life and character of Bonaparte, and an article on Fenelon, published between 182(5 and 1829, ; attained a very wide celebrity, and brought him into correspondence with several of the most eminent literary persons in England and America. His writings are most characteristic and effective when treating questions of Christian philanthropy and social reform.
In behalf of peace, temperance, education, and freedom, he repeatedly came before the public, and he examined with sympathizing respect and anxious i scrutiny every movement which promised more happy social relations. Without accepting absolutely the doctrine of non-resistance, he remonstrated against war, reviewing its crimes and miseries, in 1835, when there was danger of a rupture with France, and in 1839, when there was a prospect of conflict with Great Britain. The wide scope which he gave to education is seen in some of the most valuable of his lectures, especially that on "Self-Culture,'" delivered in 1839, and the series on the " Elevation of the Laboring Classes," in 1840. His attention was specially turned to the subject of slavery by a winter's residence on the island of Santa Cruz in 1830. His first efforts were to arouse the moral feeling against slavery, and it was not till 1837 that he deemed special political action needful. In that year, by addressing a public meeting in Faneuil Hall, he became closely identified before the public with the abolition movement, into which he sought to infuse his own spirit of calmness and candor.
His work on "Slavery," published in 1841, had a wide circulation, and the last public act of his life was to deliver an address at Lenox, Mass., Aug. 1, 1842, on the anniversary of the emancipation in the West Indies. During the latter years of his life he resided in winter in Boston and in summer in Newport, and his death was caused by an attack of typhus fever while pursuing a mountain excursion. Dr. Channing belonged to the poetic order of philosophic minds. His words as well as his opinions were usually chosen from among those which express the sunny, hopeful, and possible view of things, He was buried at Mount Auburn, where a monument designed by his friend Washington Allston was dedicated to his memory. - The most complete edition of his works was published in Boston in 1848, in 6 vols. 12mo, and between 1870 and 1872 200,000 copies were issued by the American Unitarian association. In England a selection of his works appeared in 1849 under the title, "Beauties of Channing." Many of his essays have been translated into German at various times, and a more complete selection from his works was translated by Sydow and Schulze (15 vols., Berlin, 1850-'53). His nephew, the Rev. William Henry Channing, prepared "Memoirs of William Ellery Channing, with Extracts from his Correspondence and Manuscripts " (3 vols., Boston, 1848). Edouard Laboulaye published Œuvres societies de W. E. Channing, precedees d'un essai sur sa vie et ses doctrines (Paris, 1854); and the translations, De l;esclavage (1855), and Traites reli-gicux, also preceded by introductions (1857), were favorably reviewed in the leading French periodicals.
In 1857 appeared, from the pen of an English lady, a French work founded upon the "Memoirs" by the Rev. W. II. Channing, and entitled Channing, sarie etses centres, with a preface by M. Charles de Remusat, of which an enlarged edition was published in 18C1. "The Perfect Life, in Twelve Discourses," edited from Channing's MS. by his nephew and biographer, was published in 1873. The French academy of moral and political sciences ottered a prize for the best essay or etude on Channing, for which in 1873 there were three competitors.
William Ellery Channing, an American author, son of Dr. Walter Channing, born in Boston, June 10, 1818. He was sent in his 8th year to the Round Hill school at Northampton, and afterward to the Boston Latin school, where Charles Sumner was one of his instructors. On leaving the Latin school he entered Harvard college, but did not remain there sufficiently long to graduate. In 1839 he removed to Illinois, and lived for a year and a half in a log hut built by himself on a prairie. In 1840 he went to Cincinnati, and was for a short time connected with the "Gazette." In 1842 he returned to Massachusetts, and having soon after married a sister of Margaret Fuller, established his home in Concord, where with short intervals of absence he has since continued to reside. In 1844-'5 he was employed on the editorial staff of the New York "Tribune." In 184G he made a brief visit to Europe. In 1855-'6 he was one of the editors of the New Bedford "Mercury," and lived for a while in that city. Mr. Channing began at the age of 18 to contribute verses to the Boston "Journal," in which he also published a series of essays on Shakespeare. He wrote much in prose and verse for the "Dial" (1841-'4), including an unfinished romance entitled " The Youth of the Poet and Painter." In 1843 he published a volume of poems; a second volume in 1847; a third, "The Woodman," in 1849; and two other volumes of verse, " Near Home " (1858), and "The Wanderer" (1872). He has also published two prose volumes, "Conversations in Rome" (1847), and "Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist" (1873).