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people's hearts. No audience on earth will travel very far on the track of an idea or a principle; for nothing is feebler in the average man, at the present stage of human development, than the sense of rational continuity or logical necessity. Whoever taxes this capacity too severely from the pulpit will find few to follow him; he will defeat his own object. Potter made no such failure. The strength of his preaching was its large general intelligence, its sobriety of speech, its elevation of tone, its profound religiousness of spirit. His eloquence was that of a whole man appealing to the whole humanity of his hearers, and making them conscious of a wider horizon, a purer atmosphere, a less beclouded sky; his strongest appeal of all was the simple fact of his own presence and his own spirit, as one with the Eternal whom he interpreted. Strong, self-contained, and self-consecrated to the best, he delivered his message in all simplicity and self-forgetfulness; and the loyal adhesion of the New Bedford society to their minister for a whole generation, in these days of short pastorates, was the highest tribute of appreciation and gratitude which they could possibly have paid to this incorruptible servant of whatever truth he saw.
But Potter was more than a preacher he was a citizen. He took the utmost interest in the welfare of the city and of the general community, and extended his influence for good far beyond the narrow limits of his parish. Bold and free of speech as he
was, the benignity of his nature and his complete freedom from the spirit of antagonism- he was a true man of peace, like his ancestors - rendered him a favorite with the other ministers of the place, and it was said at the time that every minister in New Bedford attended his funeral. Among the topics of his sermons came often those most closely connected with local affairs, the business interests of the city, political issues, not only during the war, but to the end of his life. He was alive to everything that concerned the higher interests of the people, and took part in all promising reforms, if not with very active participation, at least with words of open and hearty sympathy. Temperance, woman suffrage, civil service reform, the rights and wrongs of the freedmen and the Indians and the Chinese and the oppressed of every name, the cause of education and the young-all these things and more of the same kind enlisted his earnest efforts for the betterment of the world. Particularly deserving of mention in this connection is the active part he took in the establishment of the Swain Free School, one of the most important institutions of New Bedford. I owe to the kindness of Mr. Andrew Ingraham, the accomplished and successful principal of this School, the following extracts on this subject from Ellis's "History of New Bedford and Vicinity: "
"In 1880, Charles W. Clifford, William J. Potter, Charles H. Peirce, and Edmund Grinnell were chosen members of the Board of Trustees."
"What should the Trustees do? Fortunately the testator himself, by the very terms of the will, and
more particularly by the codicil of April 26, 1858, had shown his foresight of changed conditions. Indeed, the courts of Massachusetts have favored that interpretation of the language of public bequests which recognizes that testators have some knowledge of human affairs. Twenty years had passed since the death of Mr. Swain. The city schools had reached a high degree of efficiency, and there were flourishing private schools. The field seemed to be already occupied. What was to be done?
"The solution of this problem was due to the sagacity of the Rev. William J. Potter. He conceived the idea of university extension before that phrase was heard among us, or rather of something that contained the essential element of university extension of something that competent judges pronounced better than university extension of something, however, that may be worked in harmony with university extension : of a permanent local institution for higher education, not a fitting school, necessarily, to prepare the young to pass a definite examination, not a training-school, necessarily, where constant practice for many hours a day and for many days in a year must be enforced to insure quickness and accuracy in doing something useful. These things might be secured incidentally, but the main purpose should be to furnish opportunities of culture to those who either had or wished to have the sentiment and the idea of culture.
"With ages ranging from fifteen to sixty; with no other occupation than school work or with the cares of household and business; attending constantly or
unable to attend except at rare intervals; studying for a livelihood or for enlarged experience; both men and women and girls and boys have appreciated the efforts that have been put forth to meet their wants, and have helped to make the school a monument to its founder."
With all this varied and successful activity as a preacher and a citizen, however, Potter exerted the deepest, widest, and most lasting influence of his life through the Free Religious Association. One of its three original founders in 1867, from its foundation to his own death, a period of twenty-six years, he was pre-eminently the directing mind of this Association, serving it for fifteen years as Secretary and for eleven years as President; and his connection with it has made his name historic. For no history of the development of religious thought and life in America, from the close of the Civil War, in 1865, to the Columbian Exposition and the World's Parliament of Religions, in 1893, can possibly be written, unless the intellectual movement from CHRISTIANITY to FREE AND UNIVERSAL RELIGION, represented by the Free Religious Association, shall be made its fundamental theme. This intellectual movement, it is true, has been very much larger than any visible activities of the Association; but the Association. remained during that period its chief social expression, while "The Index," so closely connected with the Association, remained for the greater part of that period, from 1870 until 1887, its chief literary
expression. The movement itself, in general, was the intellectual advance from Transcendentalism or Mysticism to Scientific Method in religious philosophy, and from Christianity to Universal Religion in ethics and social organization. These two great transitions, which in truth are co-extensive with the religious movement of the whole civilized world, are still very far from being completed; we are still in the midst of them; and the Free Religious Association itself, as their most advanced representative or exponent, has lapsed since Potter's death, and mainly because of the loss of his sagacious leadership, into a state of arrested development.
For, after a year's experience on 'the Pacific coast as the free missionary of free religion, and after the powerful stimulus to thought imparted by presence and participation in the great religious Parliament at Chicago, Potter returned to the East with a deep and clear conviction of the necessity of what he called a "new departure" in the work of religious reform. At first he was inclined to believe that this "new departure" must be made independently of the Free Religious Association, which perhaps had already fulfilled its mission and might now gracefully give way to a new society, founded on perception of the practical as well as theoretical impossibility of reconciling the principles of Universal Religion with the mutually exclusive claims of the various historical religions, and devoted to the enterprise of organizing local congregations, in "avowed independence" of all historical religions, on the basis of Universal Religion alone. This was his own un