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Tractarianism

The name given to that stage of the Oxford Movement* when the Tracts for the Times were being issued. The first three Tracts were four-page leaflets published anonymously in 1833. In the first, J.H. Newman* sounded a clarion call to the clergy of the Church of England to exalt their office because of its “Apostolical Descent.” The disciples of the Tract writers personally distributed the Tracts widely up and down the country vicarages. The Tracts began to change in character when E.B. Pusey* began to write in 1834. He produced longer theological documents, like Tract 18 on fasting which was signed with his initials. As the Tracts continued, they also included reprints of selections from the writings of the Caroline Divines,* with whom the Tractarians claimed affinity. The Tract writers included R.H. Froude,* R.I. Wilberforce, R.W. Church,* J.B. Mozley,* and I. Williams,* as well as the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Characteristic of their approach to religious teaching was the expression in two of the Tracts of “reserve in communicating religious knowledge.” The Tracts came to a sudden end in 1841 with Tract 90 by J.H. Newman. His attempt to interpret the Thirty-Nine Articles in a “catholic” direction brought a storm of protest and forced the closure of the series.