Daniel Conway was an American clergyman and author.
was born of an old Virginia family in Stafford County, Virginia.
His father was a wealthy gentleman farmer, a slaveholder, and
county judge whose home still stands in Falmouth, Virginia along
the Rappahannock River. Conway's mother was a homemaker and homeopathic
physician. Both parents were Methodists, his father having left
the Episcopal church, his mother the Presbyterian. Moncure's opposition
to slavery came from his mother and from his boyhood experiences.
His father and three brothers remained staunchly pro-slavery.
graduated at Dickinson College in 1849, studied law for a year,
and then became a Methodist minister in his native state. In 1852,
thanks largely to the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson, his religious
and political views underwent a radical change, and he entered
the Harvard University school of divinity, where he graduated
in 1854. Here he fell under the influence of "transcendentalism,"
and became an outspoken abolitionist. After graduation from Harvard
University, Conway accepted a call to the First Unitarian Church
of Washington, D.C., where he was ordained in 1855, but his anti-slavery
views brought about his dismissal in 1856.
his return to Virginia, his abolitionist stance and his rumoured
connection with the attempt to rescue the fugitive slave, Anthony
Burns, in Boston, Massachusetts, aroused the bitter hostility
of his old neighbours and friends. In consequence, he left the
state. From 1856 to 1861 he was a Unitarian minister in Cincinnati,
Ohio, where, also, he edited a short-lived liberal periodical
called The Dial.
in Cincinnati, Conway married Ellen Davis Dana. Ellen was a member
of the Unitarian faith, a feminist and an abolitionist. The couple
had four children. Despite the previous tension with his family
over slavery issues, Conway nevertheless brought his bride to
meet his family. His wife broke a Southern social constraint by
hugging and kissing a young slave girl in front of family members.
After this, it would take seventeen years before Conway reconciled
with his family.
he became editor of the Commonwealth in Boston, and wrote The
Rejected Stone (1861) and The Golden Hour (1862), both powerful
pleas for emancipation. In 1862, after spending more and more
time away from his church advancing the abolitionist cause, Conway
left its ministry. He had grown dissatisfied with the theological,
liturgical, and social conservatism of mainstream Unitarianism.
After that, he maintained an uneasy and uncertain relationship
with Unitarianism, in America and subsequently in England, until
he made a clean break.
1863, Conway was asked by American abolitionists to go to London
to convince the United Kingdom that the American Civil War was
a war of abolition. Under English influence, Conway eventually
contacted the Confederate States of America "on behalf of
the leading antislavery men of America," offering the preservation
of the Confederacy after the war's end in exchange for emancipation
of the slaves. His support by his sponsors was quickly and angrily
withdrawn. Rather than go back to America, where he no longer
felt welcome, he went briefly to Venice, Italy, where he was reunited
with his wife and children.
return to London, he became the minister of the South Place Chapel,
Finsbury, London. The congregation and Conway soon left fellowship
with the Unitarian Church. During this time, Conway wrote frequently
for the London press. The congregation today is called the South
Place Ethical Society.
1864, he abandoned theism after one of his sons died. His thinking
continued to move from Emersonian transcendentalism toward a more
humanistic "freethought". In 1868 Conway was one of
four speakers at the first open public meeting in support of women's
suffrage in Great Britain. Conway's many literary and intellectual
friends included Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle,
Charles Lyell, and Charles Darwin.
the 1870s and 1880s, he returned on and off to the United States.
In 1875, he reconciled with his family. In 1897, Conway and his
wife returned from London to New York City. Ellen, terminally
ill, wished to die in the United States of America. She died on
Christmas Day. As the Spanish American War approached, Conway
became disaffected with his countrymen. He moved to France to
devote much of the rest of his life to the peace movement and
writing. Conway died alone in his Paris apartment on November
addition to those publications mentioned above, Conway's publications
for To-day (1858)
The Natural History of the Devil (1859)
Testimonies Concerning Slavery (1864)
The Earthward Pilgrimage (1870)
Republican Superstitions (1872)
Idols and Ideals (1871)
Demonology and Devil Lore (2 vols., 1878)
A Necklace of Stories (1879)
Thomas Carlyle (1881)
The Wandering Jew (1881)
Emerson at Home and Abroad (1882)
Pine and Palm (2 vols., 1887)
Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (1888)
The Life of Thomas
Paine with an unpublished sketch of Paine by
William Cobbett (2 vols., 1892)
Solomon and Solomonic Literature (1899)
his Autobiography (2 vols, 1900)
My Pilgrimage to the Wise Men of the East (1906).