Walker, James, 1794-1874

Hide Profile

James Walker (1794-1874) was President of Harvard University from February 10, 1853 to January 26, 1860. Walker was also a Unitarian minister and religious philosopher.

James Walker was born to John Walker and Lucy (Johnson) Walker on August 16, 1794 in what was then Woburn, Massachusetts (later to become a part of Burlington ). Walker attended the Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts (1807-1810) and graduated from Harvard University in 1814. After graduation, Walker taught for one year at the Phillips Exeter Academy and then returned to Harvard University to study at the Divinity School (A.M. 1817).

Walker spent the next twenty years as a Unitarian minister for the Harvard Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts. A well respected preacher, Walker became a leader in the Unitarian movement. He helped organize the American Unitarian Association (1825), contributed to American Unitarian Tracts, and edited the Unitarian movement's journal, the Christian Examiner, from 1831 to 1839. In his writings, Walker discussed various philosophical questions involving ethical theory, natural religion, and phrenology. His most important work was The Philosophy of Man's Spiritual Nature in Regard to the Foundation of Faith (1834), a combination of several philosophical arguments supporting the existence of God.

Walker married in 1829 to Catherine Bartlett (1798-1868). They had no children.

Walker was a Fellow of Harvard University (1834-1853) and a member of the Board of Overseers (1825-1836, 1864-1874). He was appointed the Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity in 1838, serving until 1853. He also acted as the college preacher, speaking in the college chapel.

In 1853, Walker was elected President of Harvard University. His administration of the school was uneventful and no great reforms were instituted by him. The only new subject added to the course curriculum was music. Evening prayers were discontinued in 1855, the Appleton Chapel was completed in 1858, and Boylston Hall was built in 1857. Suffering from various infirmities, Walker resigned in 1860.

After retiring from Harvard University, Walker spent his time writing, lecturing, and preaching. He devoted his studies to philosophy and literature. When the American Civil War started, Walker gave speeches in support of the Union cause.

Walker died on December 23, 1874. At his death, he left his books and the bulk of his estate, $15,000, to the Harvard College Library and a personal reputation of modesty and good humor.

References: Frothingham, Octavius Brooks. Memoir of Rev. James Walker, D.D., LL.D. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, Vol. VI, 1891. Boston: The Society, 1891. 443-468 Morison, S. E. James Walker. In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XIX, New York:Charles Scribner's Sons,1933. Morison, Samuel Eliot.Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936.Cambridge, Massachusetts:Harvard University Press,1936. Walker, James.Sermons Preached Chiefly in the College Chapel. Edited by William Orne White. Vol 1., Reason, Faith, and Duty; Vol. 2, Sermons.Boston: American Unitarian Association,1884.

From the guide to the Papers of James Walker, 1826-1872., (Harvard University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Gannett, Lewis, 1891-1966. Papers, 1681-1966 (bulk 1900-1960) Houghton Library
creatorOf Shattuck, Lemuel, 1793-1859. Papers, 1637-1850 (bulk 1825-1850) The Huntington Library
referencedIn Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits, oversize, ca. 1829-1985 Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Autograph letter signed : Cambridge, 1858 Apr. 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Letters to Charles Eliot Norton and other papers, 1702-1952 Houghton Library
referencedIn Class album, 1873. Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Charlestown Lyceum (Charlestown, Boston, Mass.). Records, 1829-1844. Houghton Library
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Letter of recommendation from James Walker "to the Board of Education" in reference to a scholarship for John Hoag Dillingham, March 22, 1859. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Oliver Wendell Holmes letters from various correspondents, 1820-1894 Houghton Library
creatorOf Everett, Edward, 1794-1865. Autograph letter signed : place not specified, to Dr. [James?] Walker, [1847 Nov.] Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Correspondence, 1815-1859 Andover-Harvard Theological Library
referencedIn Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (inclusive), 1820-1888 (bulk) Houghton Library
creatorOf Huntington, F. D. (Frederic Dan), 1819-1904. [F.D. Huntington : sermons, etc.]. University of Nebraska - Lincoln
referencedIn Bowen, Francis, 1811-1890. Correspondence, 1724-1909 (bulk 1836-1892) Houghton Library
creatorOf Harvard University. Certificate, 1847 November 6, appointing Joel Parker to the post of Royall Professor at the Harvard Law School. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888. Additional correspondence, 1787-1886 Houghton Library
referencedIn Documents relating to Charles Sumner, 1828-1912. Houghton Library
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Letters, 1858. Radcliffe College, Archives
creatorOf Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888. Perry-Clarke Collection, 1761-1923. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Turner, Edward, 1776-1853. Papers, 1711-1873 (inclusive), 1803-1848 (bulk). Harvard University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits, ca. 1852-ca. 2004 Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Harvard University. Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Faculty records: proposed revision of the statutes and laws of the University of Cambridge, prepared by President Edward Everett, 1847. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Allen, Joseph Henry, 1820-1898. Correspondence, 1842-1897 (inclusive). Harvard University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn James Russell Lowell papers, 1835-1919. Houghton Library
referencedIn Loring, Charles G. (Charles Greely), 1794-1867. Papers, 1768-1866 Houghton Library
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Autograph letter signed : Sparks Street [Cambridge, Mass.], to Rev. Dr. [Andrew Preston] Peabody, 1865 Nov. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874. Correspondence, 1829-1874 Houghton Library
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. Note from James Walker to Rev. Mr. Woodbury declining a meeting, Nov. 7, 1860. Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Papers of James Walker, 1826-1872. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Society for Promoting Theological Education. Records, 1815-1977 Andover-Harvard Theological Library
referencedIn Charles Eliot Norton papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Topical pamphlet collection, <1741>-<1996>. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. [Letter, 1869]. Boston Athenaeum
creatorOf Emerson, George B. (George Barrell), 1797-1881. Letters to George Barrell Emerson, 1845-1865. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Kappa Delta Society (Cambridge, Mass.). Records, 1804-1819. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Harvard College Class of 1864. Photographs, [1864]. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson letters from various correspondents, ca. 1814-1882. Houghton Library
referencedIn North American Review papers, 1831-1843 Houghton Library
referencedIn Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884. Papers, 1555-1882 (bulk: 1833-1881) Houghton Library
referencedIn Peabody, Ephraim, 1807-1856. Autograph Book, 1717-1849. Andover-Harvard Theological Library
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, R-Z and unidentified Houghton Library
referencedIn Palfrey family papers, 1713-1915 Houghton Library
creatorOf Walker, James, 1794-1874. James Walker. Correspondence, 1815-1859. Harvard University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence and records, 1832-1944. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith A. Graham person
associatedWith Allen, Joseph Henry, 1820-1898. person
associatedWith American Unitarian Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Bellows, Henry Whitney, 1814-1882 person
associatedWith Bigelow, Andrew. person
associatedWith Blanchard. person
associatedWith Bowen, Francis, 1811-1890 person
associatedWith Bowen, Gray. person
associatedWith Briggs, Charles. person
associatedWith Brigham, Amariah, 1798-1849 person
associatedWith Brooks, Charles, 1795-1872 person
associatedWith Brownson, Orestes Augustus, 1803-1876 person
associatedWith Burnap, George Washington, 1802-1859 person
associatedWith Channing, William Ellery, 1780-1842 person
associatedWith Charlestown Lyceum (Charlestown, Boston, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Christian Examiner. corporateBody
associatedWith Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888. person
associatedWith Cranch, E. P. person
associatedWith Dewey, Orville, 1794-1882 person
associatedWith Dillingham, John H. (John Hoag), 1839-1910. person
associatedWith Dwight, Eliza A. person
associatedWith Ellis, George Edward, 1814-1894 person
associatedWith Emerson, George B. (George Barrell), 1797-1881. person
correspondedWith Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865. person
associatedWith Everett, Stevens. person
associatedWith Flint, James, 1779-1855 person
associatedWith Flint, Timothy. person
associatedWith Foote, Mary W. person
associatedWith Furness, William Henry, 1802-1896 person
associatedWith Gannett, Ezra Stiles, 1801-1871 person
correspondedWith Gannett, Lewis, 1891-1966 person
associatedWith Gilman, Samuel, 1791-1859 person
associatedWith Greenwood, Francis William Pitt, 1797-1843 person
associatedWith Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1864. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard University. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard University. Faculty of Arts and Sciences. corporateBody
associatedWith Hedge, Frederic Henry, 1805-1890 person
associatedWith Henry C. Carey person
associatedWith Henry Giles. person
associatedWith Higginson, Stephen. person
associatedWith Hobbs, Eben. person
associatedWith Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894 person
correspondedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Howard, Bezaleel. person
associatedWith Howard, John R. person
associatedWith James Walker. person
associatedWith John Rogers person
associatedWith Kappa Delta Society (Cambridge, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Lamson, Alvan. person
associatedWith Livermore, Abiel Abbott, 1811-1892 person
correspondedWith Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882 person
associatedWith Loring, Charles G. (Charles Greely), 1794-1867 person
correspondedWith Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891 person
associatedWith May, Samuel Joseph, 1797-1871 person
associatedWith McCrindle, Joseph F., person
associatedWith Merrick, John. person
associatedWith North American Review. corporateBody
associatedWith Norton, Andrews, 1786-1853 person
associatedWith Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908 person
associatedWith Noyes, George Rapall, 1798-1868 person
associatedWith Osgood, Samuel, 1812-1880 person
correspondedWith Palfrey family. family
associatedWith Peabody, Andrew P. (Andrew Preston), 1811-1893, person
correspondedWith Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer, 1804-1894 person
associatedWith Peabody, Ephraim, 1807-1856 person
associatedWith Peabody, Oliver William Bourn, 1799-1848 person
associatedWith Peabody, William Bourn Oliver, 1799-1847 person
correspondedWith Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884 person
associatedWith Prentiss, John, 1799-1861 person
associatedWith Prince, John, 1751-1836 person
associatedWith Rebecca Howe Fisk Merriam. person
associatedWith Ripley, Ezra, 1751-1841 person
associatedWith Robinson, Charles, 1793-1862 person
associatedWith Rogers, John Gray. person
associatedWith Samuel Barrett. person
associatedWith Shattuck, Lemuel, 1793-1859. person
associatedWith Society for Promoting Theological Education. corporateBody
associatedWith Society for the Promotion of Theological Education. corporateBody
associatedWith Sprague, William Buell, 1795-1876 person
associatedWith Stebbins, Rufus Phineas, 1810-1885 person
associatedWith Sullivan, Thomas Russell. person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
associatedWith Towne, E. C. person
associatedWith Turner, Edward. person
associatedWith Turner, Edward, 1776-1853. person
associatedWith Upham, Charles Wentworth, 1802-1875 person
associatedWith Vaughan, J. C. person
associatedWith Walker, Henry A. person
associatedWith Walker, James. person
associatedWith Ware, Henry, 1794-1843 person
associatedWith Whitman, Bernard, 1796-1834 person
associatedWith Whitman, Jason. person
associatedWith Woodbury, Augustus, 1825-1895. person
associatedWith Worcester, Noah, 1758-1837 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Oral interpretation
Unitarian churches


Birth 1794-08-16

Death 1874-12-23


Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6wd45hb

Ark ID: w6wd45hb

SNAC ID: 18737678