A Second Visit to Britain
The outbreak of the Civil War caused the suspension of the Herald of the Kingdom. Dr. Thomas was residing in the North while a very large portion of his followers resided in the South. In the circumstances it was impossible to carry on.
Britain, however, was at peace, and the brethren there saw an opportunity to secure another visit by the Doctor, and with that possibility letters were written inviting him to visit the country. Two of the letters were printed in the last number of the Herald, one of them being signed Robert Roberts and Jane Roberts. The letter was characteristic of the former; its opening sentence was, “I have just heard that you contemplate paying a visit to this country, and I write this hasty line to urge you by all means to come. The prospect has filled us with great joy. We can conceive of no event in this mortal life of ours that would give us so much real unmingled delight.” Robert Roberts was then residing in Huddersfield, where a small lightstand had been established.
A second letter was written from Edinburgh and signed by six brethren. In a further letter Robert Roberts said that committees were being formed to adopt such measures as were necessary. “Tell us frankly and unreservedly what you think necessary to be done, and I can assure you an effort will be made to accomplish it.” The invitation was accepted, and the Doctor landed in Liverpool in May, 1862, to undertake what he described as “a very arduous tour.”
Robert Roberts was only 23 years old at the time, and he met the Doctor at Huddersfield Station, wondering how he and his wife would entertain such a man. Any fears they had were soon dispelled; they found him to be a charming visitor; quiet, courteous, and well informed. Having formed their anticipations of the man from his polemical writings in the Herald, they were the more happy in the duty they had undertaken.
Owing to the cessation of the Herald, and to the fact that there was then no similar publication in England, the details of this visit and its activities are scanty. In addition to Huddersfield, visits were paid to Halifax, Leeds, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Nottingham, London, and a number of other places. On the whole the Doctor seems to have been somewhat discouraged with the result, yet there was one result of outstanding and permanent value. In the course of their conversations, Dr. Thomas, who had evidently summed up the character of his young host, made two suggestions; the first was that Birmingham would be a much better centre from which the activities of the Truth could be carried on; the second, that it was desirable that a magazine should be established in England with Robert Roberts as Editor—and he was then as already mentioned only 23 years of age. Results have shown that Dr. Thomas must have been a good judge of character and attainments.
In an address given in Birmingham some years later, Dr. Thomas told the story of these events. He said, “When I was in Nottingham I saw brother Roberts who had come from Huddersfield on a visit to meet me there. I suggested to brother Roberts that it would be much better for him to come to Birmingham than to waste his sweetness on the desert air of Huddersfield . . . I also suggested he should commence a periodical. You know the rest.” The removal took place, the periodical was started and has continued without interruption to the present time. The first number appeared in July, 1864, under the title “The Ambassador of the Coming Age”—afterwards changed, at the Doctor’s suggestion, to The Christadelphian.
On this visit Dr. Thomas remained in Britain about nine months; returning to America by the S.S. Idaho in February, 1863.
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