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Darwin Correspondence Project

From M. D. Conway   18 November 1878

Hamlet House | Hammersmith | Lond.

Nov. 18 ’78

Dear Dr. Darwin,

Our Comtee., whose names you will find on another page, has been from the first very desirous of having the honour of your name and sympathy in the work they propose; but they have also felt that before asking for the same they ought to have something more definite and hopeful to submit to you. We have felt that in this first attempt ever made to unite those interested in the moral welfare and religious enlightenment of mankind on a plane above all dogmatic tenets, our main duty was to the representatives of Science who have incurred odium for their pursuit of Truth.1 We have concluded therefore to raise the stone rejected by theological builders into the head of the corner, and I am happy to say that for this we have secured the cordial cooperation of Professors Huxley & Tyndall,2—the former of whom will inaugurate the Assocn. with an address in some public hall early next year. We have elected as Vice Presidents Prof. Tyndall, Prof. Clifford, Dr. Kalisch, Dr. Martineau, G. J. Holyoake,3 and we trust you will allow us to place your name at the head of this list,—of course knowing well that the state of your health forbade us to ask of you any practical service. We have among us Jews, Moslems, Brahmans, Brahmos,4 as well as Christians, and there is fair prospect of establishing a scholarly periodical for the discussion of Comparative Mythology and Religion.5

With cordial remembrances to your family, Ever faithfully yours Moncure D Conway

Association of Liberal Thinkers.

Constitution, as adopted June 14, 1878.

1. This organisation shall be called the Association of Liberal Thinkers.

2. Its objects shall be:—The scientific study of religious phenomena; the collection and diffusion of information concerning religious developments throughout the world; the emancipation of mankind from the spirit of superstition; fellowship among liberal thinkers of all classes; the promotion of the culture, progress, and moral welfare of mankind; and of whatever in any form of religion may tend towards that end.

3. Membership in this Association shall leave each individual responsible for his own opinion alone, and in no degree affect his relations with other Associations.6

Provisional Committee.

rev. richard armstrong (Nottingham).

rev. goodwyn barmby (Wakefield).

rev. william binns (Birkenhead).

miss julie braun (Manchester).

professor j. estlin carpenter (London).

moncure d. conway, Hon. Sec. (London).

miss helena downing (London).

v. k. dhairyaban (Bombay and London).

rev. robert drummond (Edinburgh).

a. j. ellis, f.r.s. (London).

edwin ellis (Guildford).

h. garrod (London).

j. s. stuart glennie (London).

mrs. harriet law (London).

george l. lyon (London).

miss sarah marshall (London).

k. n. mitra (Calcutta and London).

alfred preston (London).

h. w. smith (Edinburgh).

rev. j. hirst smyth (London).

rev. j. c. street (Belfast).

rev. frank walters (Glasgow).

george j. wild, ll.d. (London).


Conway had founded the Association of Liberal Thinkers in June 1878 following a congress attended by around 400 persons in London (Conway 1904, 2: 352–6).
John Tyndall. Thomas Henry Huxley was president of the association (Conway 1904, 2: 353).
Brahmoism: a reformed Hinduism of a theistic character founded in 1830 (OED).
The periodical was not established. Conway had edited an anthology of religious writings (Conway 1874; see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from M. D. Conway, 10 September [1873]).
The provisional committee of the association was composed of representatives of different religions, science and free-thought. Four members have not been further identified: V. K. Dhairyaban, H. Garrod, K. N. Mitra, and H. W. Smith. For the others, see the Biographical register.


Conway, Moncure Daniel. 1874. The sacred anthology: a book of ethnical scriptures. London: Trübner & Co.

Conway, Moncure Daniel. 1904. Autobiography: memories and experiences of Moncure Daniel Conway. 2 vols. London: Cassell.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Invites CD to join the Association of Liberal Thinkers and encloses information on its constitution. Huxley and Tyndall are co-operating.

Letter details

Letter no.
Moncure Daniel Conway
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 221
Physical description
ALS 1p encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11746,” accessed on 25 July 2024,