To James Freeman

    Philadelphia        8 April 1792

    My dear Sir—

    It is probable that before this time you are more particularly informed of the steps taken by our Unitarian friends at Portland than I am; But because no man can express the sentiments of another so well as he can himself I shall inclose you a Letter# I recieved, by the last mail, from my friend Thos. B. Waite. If you have any acquaintance with him you will see it is a just picture of himself. He always thinks quick, & with great ardency; And real seriousness sometimes naturally puts on the appearance of humour.

    If they succeed in forming a Unitarian Church at Portland I shall, from principles that are the result of many years enquiry, most certainly join them; And I have wrote them to that effect.1 As to my being present at their organization, tho I should like it, and admit the force of my friend Waite’s general Remark, yet I do not lay quite so much stress upon it as he seems to do. Perhaps if they were to go on & form themselves in a plain and simple manner, and the circumstances of solemnity alluded to, were to take place, some time afterwards, by being considered in the light of an acquisition to a pre-existing Church, the Society will thereby gain more respect & dignity than if these were to take place in the first instance of their formation.

    However I shall make it a point to attend their first meeting if it shall be in my power. But this depends on so many contingencies that I cannot give you or them any certainty thereon.

    I cannot say when we shall rise, tho I am, at present, of opinion it will be on some day not far from the 24th instant; In which case I shall be at Boston about the fifth of May—But my family is in such circumstances that I cannot engage to leave home, for the short space of twenty four hours—Yet if I can do it, I shall certainly accompany you to Portland with unspeakable satisfaction—

    I am, my dear Sir, with the warmest sentiments of friendship yours

    # See the foregoing copy—

    [Enclosure: Thomas B. Waite to George Thatcher, Portland, 21 March]

    My dear friend,

    Two or three hours ago, I wrote you a line, & have given it to the Post—since which I have spent an hour at Mr. [Samuel] Waldo’s with the Unitarian society—At which it was proposed to meet as soon as possible and worship publickly. I took the liberty, altho not a member, to object to the proposal—And suggested the following Ideas—

    First—that it was not known how large the number of the Society is, or rather, how small—and consequently, that those who are wavering, on the idea that the profession has not yet become fashionable, will be much more likely to join it, than if they knew it did not in reality consist of more than twelve or fourteen members—

    Secondly—That it would give time to circulate copies of the late epistle, and to use all other conciliatory measures—measures calculated to silence the clamours which had been raised—refute any false representations which might have been made, and persuade the Episcopalians to an union, or at least to divide them once more, by convincing the moderate part of them that the Unitarians had nothing in view but the promotion of their interest as well as their own—

    And thirdly—That I would write to you and request you to be present at the first meeting; and also to bring with you our friend [Jeremiah] Hill, Dr. Emerson,2 Stacey3 &c And further I proposed that the Reverend Mr Freeman should be written to and requested also to be present; and that the first meeting be attended with all the solemnity and dignity which could possibly be given it. You are well enough acquainted with human nature, my friend, to know the importance of first impressions; and so was the Society. The idea was instantly adopted—And Mr. T. Oxnard has engaged to write to Mr. Freeman.4 In fulfillment of my promise I am now writing to you; and I wish you would answer it by the first post—and let us know precisely when you will be here. Write also to Hill and the other Gentlemen, and inform them of the measures which are concerted; and that they must hold themselves in readiness. Above all do you write to our friend Freeman—Tell him when you will be in Boston, and that you will accompany him to Portland. He must positively be here—every thing depends on his being present; and on the discourse which he shall deliver—It must be full of cander and benevolence. It must be pious. It must be founded on, and supported by, Scripture, and arguments drawn from Scripture. A Sermon of this kind, I must repeat it, would be of the utmost importance; not only to those who might hear it delivered, but to others—for it should be printed—I, myself, would contribute largely towards the expence of it. It is not an uncommon thing, you know, to publish sermons preached at the opening and dedication of Churches—It would not, therefore, look like crouding Unitarianism on the public. Besides (this is a new thought, however) why might not our friend Oxnard be ordained, or publickly chosen by the Society, at the same time? Do think of this. At any rate, tell Mr. Freeman to make preparation, and that he must be as wise as a Serpent & as harmless as a Dove5

    Yours in the Lord

    * * *

    FC, TFP. The enclosure, a copy in Thatcher’s hand and in the same collection, includes the following annotation: “The original of which the foregoing is a copy came to hand April 6, 1792 from my friend Thos. B. Waite—inclosed in a wrapper—with the following—

    ‘The enclosed Letter was written upon a canter. you must read it in the same manner. And when you pass a spot of bad English, you must Gallop’—”