April 24, 1876 Letter to unidentified recipient

The Free Religious Association was founded by liberals who broke away from the Unitarians in 1866. Both Francis Ellingwood Abbot and Octavius B. Frothingham, the other members of the Committee of Arrangements on behalf of which Higginson writes, helped found the Free Religious Association in 1867. Frothingham also wrote the first history of the Transcendentalist movement, titled Transcendentalism in New England, published in 1876 and giving some discussion to Higginson as part of this movement.

The FRA promoted liberty of religious thought, humanitarian action, and the scientific study of theology. Higginson was also active from the founding of the organization and attended its first convention in 1867. After he left the liberal church in Worchester, Higginson never took another position as minister. His ideas about religion were increasingly ecumenical and more directed at humanitarianism than theology. This 1876 letter lining up an unnamed "liberal-minded lawyer" as a speaker for the annual convention indicates Higginson's continued interest and involvement with the Free Religious Association.

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Newport, R.I.

Apr. 24, 1876

Dear Sir

I am one of the
Committee of Arrangements for the
Annual Free Religious Convention
to be held in Boston on the last
Friday in May. We are desirous
of securing a brief & clear statement
of the points where existing laws
violate freedom of conscience & need
mending; & this we should rather
have from some liberal—minded
lawyer than from any other man.
Remember your disenting[dissenting]
opinion at the time of Mr.
Abbot's Dover Trial, we have

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thought that you might be willing
to prepare & read for us such a
statement. We should like to
begin the meeting with it, as
a basis for all argument
discussion. Excuse me if I am
taking a liberty or asking for
something out of the line of
your sympathies. We shall
be very glad to pay your expenses
to, from & in Boston. Should
you be able thus to aid us.
An early answer will oblige

Yours very respectfully

Thos. Wentworth Higginson

for the committee
(consisting also of mems.
O.B. Frothingham & F.E. Abbot)