On June 30, 1858, abolitionist Parker Pillsbury wrote William Lloyd Garrison and readers of the Liberator that he had “just returned from attending one of the largest and most important Reformatory Conventions ever held in this or any other country.” In his report on the “Free Convention” held at Rutland, Vermont, Parker praised the “character and quality” and the “large brains and full hearts” of the convention participants. “The most numerous class” among these participants, he noted, were Spiritualists. Spiritualism had burst on the American scene a decade earlier, quickly attracting thousands of adherents who believed that communication and communion with the spirits of the dead was now possible. Devotees of the new religion had organized the convention to explore what they considered the pivotal role that it was playing in the various radical, perfectionist reform efforts of the day.

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