George Bethune English

George Bethune English

George Bethune English (March 7, 1787 – Washington, D.C., September 20, 1828) was a critic of traditional Christianity and an adventurer.

He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Penelope Bethune (d. Dec 1819) and Thomas English (1759 - Sep 6, 1839), the oldest of four children and was baptized on April 1, 1787 in Trinity Church. He completed Boston Latin School in 1797. He subsequently graduated from Harvard College in 1807, and received the highest academic award, the Bowdoin Prize for his dissertation, and then was subsequently awarded a Masters in theology in 1811. In 1805, English was made a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, for his skills as a poet. During his theology studies at Harvard, he began to doubt the truth of the Christian religion, which he critiqued in a book entitled " [ The Grounds of Christianity Examined] " (Boston, 1813) that drew a great deal of attention at that time. On November 4, 1814, the Church of Christ in Cambridge excommunicated him for this work. He wrote a second book "A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Cary," as a result of criticism of his first work and the controversy that it provoked. At this time he also published replies to the Unitarian leader William Ellery Channing's (1780-1842) "Two Sermons on Infidelity." Subsequently he edited a country newspaper, during which time he may have learned the Cherokee language.

English was nominated by President James Madison on [ February 27th, 1815] and commissioned on March 1, 1815 as [ a second lieutenant] in the United States Marine Corps during the War of 1812 and assigned to Marine Corps headquarters. He then sailed to the Mediterranean, and was among the first citizens of the United States known to have visited Egypt. Shortly after arriving in Egypt he resigned his commission, converted (albeit only as a matter of form so as to serve in the Ottoman military) to Islam and joined Isma'il Pasha in an expedition up the Nile River against Sennar 1820, winning distinction as an officer of artillery. He published his " [ Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar] " (London 1822) regarding his exploits. [Alan Moorehead, The Blue Nile, revised edition (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 203] A colleague from Harvard, Edward Everett, published a rejoinder to English's book "The Grounds of Christianity Examined," to which English responded with his 1824 book [ "Five Smooth Stones out of the Brook."]

After his work for Isma'il Pasha, English worked in the Diplomatic Corps of the United States in the Levant, where he worked to secure a trade agreement between the United States and the Ottoman Empire, which had trade valued at nearly $800,000 in 1822. In 1827, he returned to the United States and died in Washington the next year.


* Disputing Christianity, by Richard H. Popkin, with Jeremy D. Popkin; Prometheus books ISBN: 1-59102-384-X

External links

*gutenberg author| id=George+Bethune+English | name=George Bethune English

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