The Adorable Trinity
: Old Columbia Seminary’s Stand for Trinitarianism in the Nineteenth-Century American South

  • Mantle Nance

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


Scholarship devoted to Old Columbia Seminary and its individual theologians has covered a variety of topics, but has not focused on the efforts of the Old Columbia divines to counteract Unitarianism and stand for historic Trinitarianism in the nineteenth-century American South. This dissertation asserts that understanding the debate between the Old Columbia Trinitarians
over against the Unitarians is crucial for any adequate interpretation of nineteenth-century Southern religious history and that within that debate the Old Columbians successfully turned the tide against Unitarian advances. These conclusions are reached by examining the three main “theatres” of the conflict between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism in the nineteenth-century
American South: the theatre of Columbia, South Carolina, where Columbia theologian James Henley Thornwell (1812–1862) laboured to reverse the Unitarian advancements made there by Thomas Cooper (1759–1839), the president of South Carolina College; the theatre of Charleston, South Carolina, where Columbia pastor-scholar Thomas Smyth (1808–1873) sought to repel the Unitarian movement led by Samuel Gilman (1791–1858), the minister of the Unitarian Church of Charleston; and the theatre of New Orleans, Louisiana, where Columbia divine Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818–1902) attempted to counteract the Unitarianism popularized there by Theodore Clapp (1792–1866), the pastor of the Unitarian Church of New Orleans. The
contemporary relevance of the Old Columbians’ efforts is also demonstrated.
Date of Award12 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SupervisorNick Needham (Supervisor) & Robert Shillaker (Supervisor)

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