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Edward John Higgins was born on November 21st 1864 at Highbridge, Somerset. He surrendered himself to Christ at the age of fourteen after hearing the local Methodist preacher, Thomas Perrett. Drawn by the courageous Christianity of Salvationists who had ‘invaded’ Reading, Edward’s father joined The Salvation Army. Eventually, father and son attended a meeting at Bristol, led by William Booth, and Edward joined his father in the ranks of The Salvation Army.

In March 1882 he moved to Reading and became a Soldier of the Corps there. In May of the same year he journeyed to London’s newly opened Clapton Congress Hall and Training Home. He had received God’s call to Officership, but on account of his age and inexperience he was at first rejected. His persistence however, won the day, and three weeks later he commenced training as an Officer.

After thirteen weeks, newly commissioned Lieutenant Higgins received his first appointment to Durham Corps. Later he was to serve as Corps Officer at Darlington, Ballymacarrett and Oldham. Just prior to his twentieth birthday he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and appointed to the Leicester and Northampton Division. Whilst he was serving as Divisional Officer for South West London he met, and later married, Captain Catherine Price. In 1896, with the rank of Colonel, he was appointed Chief Secretary of the United States of America. An appointment that lasted more than nine years.

1905 saw a move to International Headquarters as Assistant Foreign Secretary. During his tenure of office, he twice visited Japan, also visiting China and Korea, paving the way for wide extensions of the Army’s work in the Far East.

Six years later he was promoted to the rank of Commissioner and appointed Territorial Commander of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. When in 1919, Commissioner T. Henry Howard retired, General Bramwell Booth appointed Commissioner Higgins to be his successor as Chief of the Staff. A position he held for the next ten years.

In the late 1920’s, because of the illness of General Bramwell Booth, a time of difficulty and uncertainty arose, and in 1920 the first High Council assembled to elect a successor. In due course Commissioner Higgins, the lad from Somerset, became the first elected General of The Salvation Army. Following the election there was an anxious time over the future of The army, but The Salvation Army Act of 1931 calmed much of the anxiety and confusion.

It was a time for repairing relationships, and General Higgins' gift as peacemaker was tried to its limits. Higgins had already acted as peacemaker as long ago as 1896, when Ballington Booth resigned from The Army, but the American public's confidence was soon restored.

Higgins und Horace Rumbold

General Edward J. Higgins (right), with the British Ambassador in Germany Sir Horace Rumbold, after the visit to the German Reich President, September 1932.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Secretary Select Committee in connection with the 1931 Act, General Higgins said ‘I have been asked for some idea of the work of a General and find that last year I had campaigns in Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, South Africa and Rhodesia. I conducted 240 public meetings in the largest halls that were available, and had 71 meetings with Officers of The Salvation Army. I travelled nearly 40,000 miles, and at Headquarters, had a thousand interviews of more or less difficulty. I have the final responsibility affecting the finance, property, appointments and administration of The Army generally, and am required to give a lead to The Army in the spirit of aggression and sacrifice’.

One prominent medical man said, ‘This position requires a superman.’ Sir Lynden Macassey, K.B.E., K.C. said ‘Had it not been for his conspicuous honesty and integrity of purpose the bill would never have been passed, his courage and resolution were amongst the most impressive things I have seen’.

When one thinks of the difficulty of transport in those times, no flights, no fast vehicles, and so on, it is almost unbelievable that any five persons could have accomplished all that this General did.

His term as General was not an easy one, as the worldwide financial disasters of 1929 triggered off similar ones in succeeding years, in turn causing universal immense unemployment and abject poverty on a scale rarely seen before or since. The Army suffered, Training Colleges, Corps and Social Works were closed in many countries. But The Army weathered the storm, and its Social Services played a large part in warding off starvation, particularly in Britain, Holland, France, Germany, the US, Japan, the West Indies and Australia. Yet, in spite of this worldwide turmoil, during General Higgins’ five years and nine months in charge, The Army’s Corps and outposts increased by over 1,200, the number of Social Institutions by 79, and the number of Officers and Cadets by just under 1,000.

As he had long decided, the General from active service at the age of 70, and in November 1934 he and Mrs. Higgins left England for the United States. There, until advancing years and failing strength prevented them, they lived a life of unobtrusive but ceaseless activity in the service of the Lord they loved. He was promoted to glory December 14, 1947 at the age of 83.

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