CLARKE, JAMES FREEMAN (4 April 1810. Hanover. NH-8 June 1888,
Boston, MA). Education: A.B., Harvard, 1829; graduated. Harvard Divinity
School, 1833. Career: Unitarian minister, Louisville, KY. 1833-40; editor,
Western Messenger, 1836-39; minister, Church of the Disciples, Boston, 1841-50; convalescence and ministry, Meadville, PA. 1850-53; minister, Church of
the Disciples, Boston, 1854-88.
James Freeman Clarke was one of the most important churchmen in nineteenth-century Unitarianism and can be thought of as the most representative figure among the Unitarian clergy and leadership. His enunciation of the "Five Points of the New Theology" stands as a classic summation of late nineteenth-century Unitarian values: "1. the Fatherhood of God; 2. the Brotherhood of man; 3. the Leadership of Jesus; 4. Salvation by Character, and 5. the Continuity of Human Development . . or, the Progress of Mankind, onward and upward forever" (Vexed Questions, pp. 10-16). Clarke was educated at Harvard and the Harvard Divinity School and took a pastorate in Louisville in 1833, looking on the position as a great opportunity to spread the liberal message in the West. During his years at Harvard he had developed a love for German literature and shared that enthusiasm with Frederic Henry Hedge* and Margaret Fuller.* But in Louisville, Clarke found himself in comparative intellectual isolation and worked hard to combat it through correspondence but especially through his editorship of the Western Messenger. It was the earliest Transcendentalist periodical, in that it defended Ralph Waldo Emerson* and published his poetry, but it was also a vehicle for expounding more traditional Unitarian views. Clarke returned to Boston in 1841 to found the Church of the Disciples, a free church that Clarke formed with the hope of bringing together those with common practical goals rather than common theological opinions. This pragmatic strand in Clarke's thinking distanced him from Emersonian Transcendentalism and the later Free Religion movement, because Clarke felt strongly the necessity of church building and organized ethical activity. This aligned him with Hedge and Henry W. Bellows* as the leaders of the 'Broad Church" movement in the denomination. Clarke's career in Boston was interrupted in 1850 by poor health, but after recuperating in Meadville at the home of his father-in-law, Harm Jan Huidekoper,* he returned to Boston and resumed his pastorate in 1854. Thereafter came the period of his greatest leadership in denominational affairs, in which he served as American Unitarian Association general secretary, editor of the Unitarian, and a leader in the formation of the National Conference. He was also a prolific author in those years, expounding what could be called a practical theology for daily life and writing a study in comparative religion, Ten Great Religions (1871-73). Few Unitarians of his day or after have made a larger contribution to Unitarianism.
A. Orthodoxy: Its Truths and Errors (Boston, 1886); Steps of Belief (Boston, 1870); Ten Great Religions 2 vols. (Boston, 1871-73); Self Culture: Physical. Intellectual, Moral, and Spiritual (Boston, 1880); Manual of Unitarian Belief (Boston, 1884); Vexed Questions in Theology (Boston, 1886).
B. DAB 4, 153-54; DARB, 100-102; DLB 1,27-28; Heralds 3, 67-75; Edward Everett Hale, ed., James Freeman Clarke: Autobiography, Diary, and Correspondence (Boston, 1891); John W. Thomas, James Freeman Clarke: Apostle of German Culture in America (Boston, 1949); Arthur S. Bolster, Jr., James Freeman Clarke (Boston, 1954).