William Henry Channing (1810-1884) was the son of Francis Dana Channing and Susan Higginson Channing, and the nephew of the renowned Unitarian clergyman, William Ellery Channing. William Henry's father died shortly after his birth; he was raised by his mother and maternal grandfather, Stephen Higginson. After attending Boston Latin School and Harvard College (class of 1829), Channing entered Harvard Divinity School, where he began his successful career as a reform-minded minister. He married Julia Allen of Rondout, New York, in 1836; they had three children. In 1837, he founded a free church in New York City that served the poor. The church failed to thrive in the community and closed. He then moved his family west and served as a minister in the First Congregational Church of Cincinnati from 1838-1841. During this time, he was also an editor for the Western Messenger, a publication "devoted to religion, life, and literature." A skeptic of some Unitarian tenets, Channing left the Cincinnati church and lived with his mother in Brattleboro, Vermont, from 1841-1842. Over the next decade he focused his energies on writing about and preaching for social reform, and believed that religious institutions should guide these changes. He edited two journals: The Present (1843-1844) and The Spirit of the Age (1849-1850), while contributing to The Phalanx (1843-1845) and The Harbinger (1845-1849).
From 1852 to 1854, Channing worked as a minister of Unitarian society of Rochester, New York, before moving to England with his family. He served as a minister to the Unitarian churches at Renshaw Street (1854-1857) and Hope Street Chapels (1857-1861) in Liverpool; the New Oakfield Road Church in Clifton (1865-1866?); and the Free Christian Church and Notting Hill in Kensington (1867-1869?). While in England he continued to write, edit, and publish essays and monographs. He moved to Washington D.C. during the early years of the Civil War, but could not find permanent work and returned to England. Though he lectured in America after the Civil War, his permanent home remained in England. Channing died in London in 1884.