FROTHINGHAM, OCTAVIUS BROOKS (28 November 1822, Boston, MA-27 November 1895, Boston, MA). Education: A.B., Harvard College, 1843; graduated from Harvard Divinity School, 1846. Career: Minister, North Church, Salem, MA, 1847-55; Jersey City, NJ, 1854-59; Third Unitarian Society, later the Independent Liberal Church, New York, I 859-79; independent writer and scholar, 1879-95.
0. B. Frothingham was a leader of the radical wing of late nineteenth-century Unitarianism and a founder of the Free Religious Association. He was raised in the heart of Boston Unitarianism. His father, Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham, was a Boston Unitarian minister, and the younger Frothingham completed studies at Harvard College and Divinity School, where he was taught a conservative version of Unitarianism. But his own intellectual inclinations were toward the Transcendentalist theology and reformist politics of Theodore Parker, and he came to know Parker well during his ministry in Salem. In 1854 he set the radical course of his career by preaching an antislavery sermon strongly critical of the church's complicity with that institution, especially in the case of the return of escaped slave Anthony Burns to bondage, a man whom Parker had defended. After the war he emerged as a leader of the radical faction, critical of Henry W. Bellows's organization of the National Conference. He was instrumental in the formation and continuance of the Free Religious Association and led his own congregation in New York to the status of an 'Independent Liberal Church." His Religion of Humanity (1873) was a central statement of modernist thinking in theology, and he also made important contributions to the early historiography of the Transcendentalist movement, notably in his Transcendentalism in New England (1876).
A. The Religion of Humanity (New York. 1873); Life of Theodore Parker (New York, 1874); Transcendentalism in New England (New York, 1876); Recollections and Impressions, 1822-1891 (autobiographical) (New York, 1891).
B. DAB 7,44; Heralds 3, 120-27; Recollections and Impressions (see above); Stow Persons, Free Religion: An American Faith (New Haven. 1947); William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Cambridge. 1976); J. Wade Caruthers, Octavius Brooks Frothingham: Gentle Radical (University. AL. 1977).