Francis Ellingwood Abbot, 1836 - 1903

Francis Ellingwood Abbot was a second-generation Transcendentalist, minister, and author.  In 1868, facing controversy over his radical views, he was forced to leave the pulpit of his Unitarian church in Dover, New Hampshire, and attempted to establish a more liberal society of worshipers instead.  Bitter fighting continued, however, as he was taken to court over his use of the meeting house for this purpose.  Eventually the New Hampshire Supreme Court forbade Abbot from preaching in any Unitarian church in the state unless all the members approved.  He then went to Toledo, Ohio, where he founded the Independent Society--with the stipulation that this church would dissolve all connection with larger Unitarian organizations.  Abbot established and edited the Free Religious Index, which appeared in 1870 and quickly became the national organ of the movement.  He was an extremely devoted husband and father and died at his wife's grave on the tenth anniversary of her death.
Before Amos Bronson Alcott grew dissatisfied with the Free Religious Association, he was pleased that it provided beneficent change and progress, promoted a renewal and an extension of transcendental enthusiasm, and yielded another weapon with which to fight the churchly tradition and dogma that distorted the true word of God.  Free Religionists like Abbot were committed to a universal faith--a faith common to all human beings and transcending denominational bounds.