24 February 1821|
|Died||30 November 1876
Kings Norton, Birmingham, England
|Resting place||Key Hill Cemetery, Birmingham|
|Education||Marischal College, Aberdeen|
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
In 1843 Dawson accepted a call to the pastorate of the Baptist church at Rickmansworth. He moved in 1844 to become minister of Mount Zion Baptist Chapel, Birmingham, where his eloquence and the beliefs he expressed attracted large congregations. However he left the Baptist church in 1847 to become minister of the Church of the Saviour, a Unitarian church erected for him by his supporters. Here he exercised a stimulating and varied ministry for nearly thirty years, gathering round him a congregation of all types, especially those who were attracted by a non-dogmatic form of Christianity.
Dawson did not consider himself to be a Unitarian, although modern Unitarians count him as one of their own (he is listed by the Midland Unitarian Union as a great nineteenth century Unitarian ). He left the Baptist Church to be free of any definite creed or doctrinal rigidity. His sermons were unconventional for the time and inspiring. Members of his Church included Joseph Chamberlain (who took Sunday School and oversaw the accounts, Fraser, 1966), Jesse Collings, and the Kenrick family, all of whom played an important part in local affairs (Briggs, 1963: Plant, 2000).
In the Church of the Saviour he developed the concept of the Civic Gospel (Briggs, 1963: Marsh, 1994). From his pulpit and in public lectures and articles, Dale advised Christians (particularly people experienced in business) to become councillors and help transform the City (Hunt, 2004): he was very close to Joseph Chamberlain in his work on the Birmingham Council (Marsh, 1994). His idea of the civic gospel and his advocacy of free education was strongly supported by the Congregational spokesman Dr. R. W. Dale, and by J. T. Bunce, editor of The Birmingham Daily Post (Dale et al., 1899). Both Dawson and Dale were disqualified as ministers from seats on the town council, but both served on the Birmingham school board. Dawson strongly advocated to the worshippers in his Church and in Birmingham the idea of service in politics as a civic duty and as service to God.
Other interests 
Dawson was a friend of Carlyle and Emerson. He did a great deal to popularize their teachings, especially in his demand for a high ethical standard in everyday life and his insistence that citizenship needed a specifically Christian approach. Plant (2000) sees him, like other radical unitarians, as an early proponent of male:female equality.
Dawson also lectured on English literature at the Birmingham and Midland Institute and helped to found the Shakespeare Memorial Library in Birmingham. His address at the opening of the Birmingham Reference Library  gives a flavour of what the civic gospel meant to the Victorian municipal activists:
the opening of this glorious library, the first fruits of a clear understanding that a great town exists to discharge towards the people of that town the duties that a great nation exists to discharge towards the people of that nation - that a town exists here by the grace of God, that a great town is a solemn organism through which should flow, and in which should be shaped, all the highest, loftiest, and truest ends of man's intellectual and moral nature... We are a Corporation, who have undertaken the highest duty that is possible to us; we have made provision for our people - for all our people - and we have made a provision of God's greatest and best gifts unto Man.
He died suddenly at Kings Norton on 30 November 1876, and is buried at Key Hill Cemetery next to Marie Bethell Beauclerc who recorded many of his sermons and lectures. Four volumes of Sermons, two of Prayers and two of Biographical Lectures were published after his death.
A statue of Dawson formerly stood in Victoria Square, Birmingham (and latterly in Edmund Street, near there). It is currently in store at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's Museum Collections Centre, awaiting restoration and repair.
A bust of Dawson is on the second floor of Birmingham Central Library.
See also 
Life by H. W. Crosskey (1876) and an article by R. W. Dale in The Nineteenth Century (August 1877).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Records: Church of the Saviour Founded and built 1847-95; Birmingham RL (258925; 259532; 260167 George Dawson Collection; 264036).
- Briggs, A. (1963) Victorian Cities, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
- Dale, A. W. W., Fairbairn A. M., Rogers, J. G. (1899) The Life of RW Dale, of Birmingham, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
- Hunt T. (2004) Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson pp 232–265.
- Marsh, P. (1994) Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics, New Haven, Mass: Yale University Press.
- Plant, H (2000) Ye Are All One In Christ Jesus: Aspects Of Unitarianism And Feminism In Birmingham, c. 1869–90, Women's History Review, Vol 9, 4
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