1860s Footnotes

Butler's Analogy

Joseph Butler (1692-1752) wrote his infamous Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature in 1736. Butler was born and educated in England as a Presbyterian but became ordained in the Church of England in 1718, and eventually became the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral and later Bishop of Durham. He studied Locke, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson, philosophers who all influenced his writing. In his Analogy, Joseph Butler discusses his views on morality and how, under normal circumstances, humans are designed to follow moral lives. The work impressed Hume and Wesley and became widely read, first in Scotland during the end of the eighteenth century before making its way to Oxford. It eventually spread to American universities and colleges during the early part of the nineteenth century when many such institutions were heavily influenced by Scottish philosophy.

The Analogy was not popular with students. In September 1850 at Dickinson College (according to the Encyclopedia Dickensonia),

A group of students buried a copy of Butler in full ceremony, accompanied by much noise, lighting, and firing of pistols. Peck [the College president] punished the students involved, but only by scolding them in a public meeting, where he reprimanded them for their rude behavior of “boisterous hallooing, the firing of pistols, ringing of the bell, and thus disturbing families, exciting public resentment and bringing odium upon the college.” The following year, Peck was to admit final defeat and resigned as President.

Despite this display of disapproval, Butler's Analogy continued to haunt seniors for forty-five more years. Its overall influence waned at the end of the nineteenth century after it fell under the eye of critics like Leslie Stephen and last appears in student catalogues at Dickinson in 1895-96 academic year.