Ann Lee Bressler's Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 is one of the finest works on the subjects I know. This thought, from page 42, is vital to our understanding of the movement -- as a social movement -- in conjunction with Unitarianism.
The rise of restorationism during the second quarter of the [nineteenth] century helped ensure the common characterization of Universalism would be Unitariarianism's poor relation, a form of liberalism that shared Unitarianism's view of benevolent divinity and perfectible humanity but lacked its intellectual base and social standing.
What would have been the alternative? Ultra-Universalists (infers Bressler) which disavowed a temporary period of punishment after death and thus avoided the moralism that gives most religions in America their particular flavor and ferver. Ultra-Universalism was more concerned with a common humanity, the consciousness of which -- among other things -- overcame fear and self-centeredness.
ButÂ ultra-Universalism was too easily painted with the brush of lax morals and the early impulse that way was quenched, leading to the quotation above.