NORTON, ANDREWS (31 December 1786, Hingham, MA-18 September
1853, Newport, RI). Education: A.B., Harvard College, 1804; A.M., Harvard
College, 1809. Career: lecturer and librarian, Harvard College, 1813-19; Dexter
professor of Sacred Literature, Harvard College, 1819 30; independent scholar,
Andrews Norton was a man destined to play two distinctly different roles in Unitarian history during his career as a biblical scholar and Harvard professor. In his early career he was among the young liberals like Joseph Stevens Buckminster who sought to sweep away Calvinist orthodoxy through a rational interpretation of the Bible, and he authored an important polemical tract against Trinitarianism. But in his later career he became an agent of conservative reaction against Transcendentalism, remembered chiefly for his attacks on George Ripley and Ralph Waldo Emerson. His attack on Emerson's Divinity School Address, which he thought was heretical, was the nub of the Transcendentalist controversy. Norton S appointment as Dexter professor of Sacred Literature in 1819 was an important step in his rise to scholarly prominence among Unitarians. From that position he worked toward the completion of what became his life's work, The Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels (1837-44) characterized by Perry Miller as the perfect summation of Unitarian scholarship" (p.205). When Ripley and Emerson, with their doctrine of religious intuition, rejected not only the miracles but the need for any empirical justification for religious ideas, they threw Norton's entire program out the window. His reaction to Transcendentalism was thus connected with his own quest for religious certitude. For Norton, the self and its intuitions were ~~trustworthy bases for a religious faith, and he saw in Transcendentalism the danger of self taking precedence over things of deeper importance.
A. A Statement of Reasons for Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians Respecting the Nature of God and the Person of Christ (Boston, 1819); A Discourse on the Latest Form of Infidelity (Cambridge, MA, 1839); The Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, 3 vols. (Boston, 1837-44).
B. AAUP, 430-35; DAB 13, 568-69; DARB, 334-35; Heralds 2, 193-98; William Newell, "Andrews Norton," Christian Examiner, 55 (November 1953), 425-52; Perry Miller, The Transcendentalists: An Anthology (Cambridge, 1950); William Hutchison, The Transcendentalist Ministers: Church Reform in the New England Renaissance (New Haven, 1959); Daniel Walker Howe, The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805-1861 (Cambridge, 1970).