Henry Ward Beecher

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Henry Ward Beecher
BirthplaceLitchfield, Connecticut, U.S.
Protestant Clergyman, Abolitionist

Beecher, Henry Ward,

1813–87, American Congregational preacher, orator, and lecturer, b. Litchfield, Conn.; son of Lyman BeecherBeecher, Lyman,
1775–1863, American Presbyterian clergyman, b. New Haven, Conn., grad. Yale, 1797. In 1799 he became pastor at East Hampton, N.Y. While serving (1810–26) in the Congregational Church at Litchfield, Conn.
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 and brother of Harriet Beecher StoweStowe, Harriet Beecher,
1811–96, American novelist and humanitarian, b. Litchfield, Conn. With her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, she stirred the conscience of Americans concerning slavery and thereby influenced the course of American history.
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. He graduated from Amherst in 1834 and attended Lane Theological Seminary, Cincinnati. After two pastorates in Indiana, he accepted a call in 1847 to the newly organized Plymouth Church (Congregational) in Brooklyn, N.Y. There Beecher became famous for his advocacy of an emotional "gospel of love" Christianity instead of the strict Calvinist doctrine that then characterized much of American Protestantism. Every important issue of the day was discussed from his pulpit and in his lectures. He was a leader in the antislavery movement, a proponent of woman suffrage, and an advocate of the theory of evolution. Beecher became editor of the Independent in 1861 and of the Christian Union in 1870. In 1863 he visited England, where his lectures were influential in gaining a more sympathetic understanding of the Union cause. Enthusiasm, imaginative insight, a strong interest in humanity, ready wit, and an easy command of language produced a convincing eloquence. The sensational lawsuit brought against him by Theodore TiltonTilton, Theodore,
1835–1907, American journalist, b. New York City. After working for the New York Observer he was (1863–71) editor in chief of the Independent, a Congregationalist weekly.
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 for adultery ended after a long trial (1875) with disagreement of the jury. Beecher's friends acclaimed him the victor. Despite the trial, Beecher remained influential for the rest of his life. His published works include The Life of Jesus, the Christ (1871) and Evolution and Religion (1885).


See biographies by L. Abbott (1904, repr. 1969), P. Hibben (1942, repr. 1973), and D. Applegate (2006); study by W. G. McLoughlin (1970); R. Shaplen, Free Love and Heavenly Sinners (1954); R. W. Fox, Trials of Intimacy (1999).

Beecher, Henry Ward

(1813–87) Protestant clergyman, reformer; born in Litchfield, Conn. One of 13 children of clergyman Lyman Beecher (one of his sisters was author Harriet Beecher Stowe), he graduated from Amherst in 1834 and studied under his father at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1839 he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Ind., where he developed a forceful, emotional preaching style. Named the first pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1847, he crusaded from the pulpit for temperance and against slavery and became one of the most influential public figures of his time. He supported Free Soil political candidates and, later, Republicans; on the outbreak of the Civil War his church raised and equipped a volunteer regiment. He edited the religious publications The Independent and The Christian Union (later Outlook) during the 1860s and 1870s. He was acquitted on an adultery charge after a sensational trial in 1874. His many books include Evolution and Religion (1885).
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