Leonard Bacon

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Leonard Bacon (February 19, 1802 – December 24, 1881) was an American Congregational preacher and writer.


Leonard Bacon was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was the son of David Bacon (1771-1817), a missionary among the Indians in Michigan and founder of the town of Tallmadge, Ohio.

Leonard Bacon son prepared for college at grammar school in Hartford, Connecticut; he graduated from Yale University in 1820 and from the Andover Theological Seminary in 1823. From 1825 until his death he was pastor of the First Church (Congregational) in New Haven, Connecticut, occupying a pulpit which was one of the most conspicuous in New England, and which had been rendered famous by his predecessors, Moses Stuart and Nathaniel W. Taylor. In 1866, however, though never dismissed by a council from his connection with that church, he gave up the active pastorate; still, in 1868 he was president of the American Congregational Union.[1]

From 1826 to 1838, he was an editor of the Christian Spectator (New Haven). In 1843 he was one of the founders of the New Englander (later the Yale Review), and in 1848, with Richard Salter Storrs, Joshua Leavitt, Joseph Parrish Thompson, and Henry C. Bowen, he founded the Independent, a magazine designed primarily to combat slavery extension; he was an editor of the Independent until 1863. From 1866 until his death he taught at Yale: first, until 1871, as acting professor of didactic theology in the theological department; and from 1871 as lecturer on church polity and American church history.

Bacon was buried at Grove Street Cemetery, as was his sister Delia Bacon. Four of his six sons became Congragational pastors:[2] Edward Woolsey Bacon (in New London, Connecticut[3]), Leonard Woolsey Bacon,[4] George B. Bacon (in Orange, New Jersey[5]), and Thomas Rutherford Bacon (in New Haven, Connecticut[6][7]).

Convictions and influence

In his own theological views, Bacon was broad-minded and an advocate of liberal orthodoxy. In all matters concerning the welfare of his community or the nation, moreover, he took a deep and constant interest, and was particularly identified with the temperance and anti-slavery movements, his services to the latter constituting perhaps the most important work of his life. In this, as in most other controversies, he took a moderate course, condemning the apologists and defenders of slavery on the one hand and the Garrisonian extremists on the other. His Slavery Discussed in Occasional Essays from 1833 to 1846 (1846) exercised considerable influence upon Abraham Lincoln, and in this book appears the sentence, which, as rephrased by Lincoln, was widely quoted: "If that form of government, that system of social order is not wrong — if those laws of the Southern States, by virtue of which slavery exists there, and is what it is, are not wrong — nothing is wrong."

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