Robert Green Ingersoll Interviews
The Bible And A Future Life.
QUESTION: Colonel, are your views of religion based upon the Bible?
ANSWER: I regard the Bible, especially the Old Testament, the same as I do most other ancient books, in which there is some truth, a great deal of error, considerable barbarism and a most plentiful lack of good sense.
QUESTION: Have you found any other work, sacred or profane, which you regard as more reliable?
ANSWER: I know of no book less so, in my judgment.
QUESTION: You have studied the Bible attentively, have you not?
ANSWER: I have read the Bible. I have heard it talked about a good deal, and am sufficiently well acquainted with it to justify my own mind in utterly rejecting all claims made for its divine origin.
QUESTION: What do you base your views upon?
ANSWER: On reason, observation, experience, upon the discoveries in science, upon observed facts and the analogies properly growing out of such facts. I have no confidence in anything pretending to be outside, or independent of, or in any manner above nature.
QUESTION: According to your views, what disposition is made of man after death?
ANSWER: Upon that subject I know nothing. It is no more wonderful that man should live again than that he now lives; upon that question I know of no evidence. The doctrine of immortality rests upon human affection. We love, therefore we wish to live.
QUESTION: Then you would not undertake to say what becomes of man after death?
ANSWER: If I told or pretended to know what becomes of man after death, I would be as dogmatic as are theologians upon this question. The difference between them and me is, I am honest. I admit that I do not know.
QUESTION: Judging by your criticism of mankind, Colonel, in your recent lecture, you have not found his condition very satisfactory?
ANSWER: Nature, outside of man, so far as I know, is neither cruel nor merciful. I am not satisfied with the present condition of the human race, nor with the condition of man during any period of which we have any knowledge I believe, however, the condition of man is improved, and this improvement is due to his own exertions. I do not make nature a being. I do not ascribe to nature intention.
QUESTION: Is your theory, Colonel, the result of investigation of the subject?
ANSWER: No one can control his own opinion or his own belief. My belief was forced upon me by my surroundings. I am the product of all circumstances that have in any way touched me. I believe in this world. I have no confidence in any religion promising joys in another world at the expense of liberty and happiness in this. At the same time, I wish to give others all the rights I claim for myself.
QUESTION: If I asked for proofs for your theory, what would you furnish?
ANSWER: The experience of every man who is honest with himself, every fact that has been discovered in nature. In addition to these, the utter and total failure of all religionists in all countries to produce one particle of evidence showing the existence of any supernatural power whatever, and the further fact that the people are not satisfied with their religion. They are continually asking for evidence. They are asking it in every imaginable way. The sects are continually dividing. There is no real religious serenity in the world. All religions are opponents of intellectual liberty, I believe in absolute mental freedom. Real religion with me is a thing not of the head, but of the heart; not a theory, not a creed, but a life.
QUESTION: What punishment, then, is inflicted upon man for crimes and wrongs committed in this life?
ANSWER: There is no such thing as intellectual crime, No man can commit a mental crime. To become a crime it must go beyond thought.
QUESTION: What punishment is there for physical crime?
ANSWER: Such punishment as is necessary to protect society and for the reformation of the criminal.
QUESTION: If there is only punishment in this world, will not some escape punishment?
ANSWER: I admit that all do not seem to be punished as they deserve. I also admit that all do not seem to be rewarded as they deserve; and there is in this world, apparently, as great failures in matter of reward as in manner of punishment. If there is another life, a man will be happier there for acting according to his highest ideal in this. But I do not discern in nature any effort to do justice. —
The Post,Washington,D.C., 1878.
Mrs. Van Cott, The Revivalist.
QUESTION: I see, Colonel, that in an interview published this morning, Mrs. Van Cott the revivalist;, calls you “a poor barking dog.” Do you know her personally?
ANSWER: I have never met or seen her.
QUESTION: Do you know the reason she applied the epithet?
ANSWER: I suppose it to be the natural result of what is called vital piety; that is to say, universal love breeds individual hatred.
QUESTION: Do you intend making any reply to what she says.
ANSWER: I have written her a note of which this is a copy:
Mrs. Van Cott:
Mr dear Madam: — Were you constrained by the love of Christ to call a man who has never injured you “a poor barking dog”? Did you make this remark as a Christian, or as a lady? Did you say these words to illustrate in some faint degree the refining influence upon woman of the religion you preach?
What would you think of me if I should retort, using your language, changing only the sex of the last word?
I have the honor to remain,
yours truly, R.G. Ingersoll.
QUESTION: Well, what do you think of the religious revival system generally?
ANSWER: The fire that has to be blown all the time is a poor thing to get warm by. I regard these revivals as essentially barbaric. I think they do no good, but much harm, they make innocent people think they are guilty, and very mean people think they are good.
QUESTION: What is your opinion concerning women as conductors of these revivals?
ANSWER: I suppose those engaged in them think they are doing good. They are probably honest. I think, however, that neither men nor women should be engaged in frightening people into heaven. That is all I wish to say on the subject, as I do not think it worth talking about. —
The Express,BuffaloNew York, Feb., 1878.
European Trip And Greenback Question
QUESTION: What did you do on your european trip, Colonel?
ANSWER: I went with my family fromNew YorktoSouthampton,England, thence toLondon, and fromLondontoEdinburgh. InScotlandI visited every place where Burns had lived, from the cottage where he was born to the room where he died. I followed him from the cradle to the coffin. I went to Stanford-upon-Avon for the purpose of seeing all that I could in any way connected with Shakespeare; next to London, where we visited again all the places of interest, and thence to Paris, where we spent a couple of weeks in the Exposition.
QUESTION: And what did you think of it?
ANSWER: So far as machinery — so far as the practical is concerned, it is not equal to ours inPhiladelphia; in art it is incomparably beyond it. I was very much gratified to find so much evidence in favor of my theory that the golden age is in front of us; that mankind has been advancing, that we did not come from a perfect pair and immediately commence to degenerate. The modern painters and sculptors are far better and grander than the ancient. I think we excel in fine arts as much as we do in agricultural implements. Nothing pleased me more than the paintings fromHolland, because they idealized and rendered holy the ordinary avocations of life. They paint cottages with sweet mothers and children; they paint homes. They are not much on Ariadnes and Venuses, but they paint good women.
QUESTION: What did you think of the American display?
ANSWER: Our part of the Exposition is good, but nothing to what it should and might have been, but we bring home nearly as many medals as we took things. We lead the world in machinery and in ingenious inventions, and some of our paintings were excellent.
QUESTION: Colonel, crossing the Atlantic back toAmerica, what do you think of the Greenback movement?
ANSWER: In regard to the Greenback party, in the first place, I am not a believer in miracles. I do not believe something can be made out of nothing. The Government, in my judgment, cannot create money; the Government can give its note, like an individual, and the prospect of its being paid determines its value. We have already substantially resumed. Every piece of property that has been shrinking has simply been resuming. We expended during the war — not for the useful, but for the useless, not to build up, but to destroy — at least one thousand million dollars. The Government was an enormous purchaser; when the war ceased the industries of the country lost their greatest customer. As a consequence there was a surplus of production, and consequently a surplus of labor. At last we have gotten back, and the country since the war has produced over and above the cost of production, something near the amount that was lost during the war. Our exports are about two hundred million dollars more than our imports, and this is a healthy sign. There are, however, five or six hundred thousand men, probably, out of employment; as prosperity increases this number will decrease. I am in favor of the Government doing something to ameliorate the condition of these men. I would like to see constructed the Northern and Southern Pacific railroads: this would give employment at once to many thousands, and homes after awhile to millions. All the signs of the times to me are good. The wretched bankrupt law, at last, is wiped from the statute books, and honest people in a short time can get plenty of credit. This law should have been repealed years before it was. It would have been far better to have had all who have gone into bankruptcy during these frightful years to have done so at once.
QUESTION: What will be the political effect of the Greenback movement?
ANSWER: The effect inMainehas been to defeat the Republican party. I do not believe any party can permanently succeed in theUnited Statesthat does not believe in and advocate actual money. I want to see the greenback equal with gold the world round. A money below par keeps the people below par. No man can possibly be proud of a country that is not willing to pay its debts. Several of the States this fall may be carried by the Greenback party, but if I have a correct understanding of their views, that party cannot hold any State for any great length of time. But all the men of wealth should remember that everybody in the community has got, in some way, to be supported. I want to see them so that they can support themselves by their own labor. In my judgment real prosperity will begin with actual resumption, because confidence will then return. If the workingmen of theUnited Statescannot make their living, cannot have the opportunity to labor, they have got to be supported in some way, and in any event, I want to see a liberal policy inaugurated by the Government. I believe in improving rivers and harbors.
I do not believe the trans-continental commerce of this country should depend on one railroad. I want new territories opened. I want to see American steamships running to all the great ports of the world. I want to see our flag flying on all the seas and in all the harbors. We have the best country, and, in my judgment, the best people in the world, and we ought to be the most prosperous nation on the earth.
QUESTION: Then you only consider the Greenback movement a temporary thing?
ANSWER: Yes; I do not believe that there is anything permanent in anything that is not sound, that has not a perfectly sound foundation, and I mean sound, sound in every sense of that word. It must be wise and honest. We have plenty of money; the trouble is to get it. If these Greenbackers will pass a law furnishing all of us with collateral, there certainly would be no trouble about getting the money. Nothing can demonstrate more fully the plentifulness of money than the fact that millions of four Per cent. bonds have been taken in theUnited States. The trouble is, business is scarce.
QUESTION: But do you not think the Greenback movement will help the Democracy to success in 1880?
ANSWER: I think the Greenback movement will injure the Republican party much more than the Democratic party. Whether that injury will reach as far as 1880 depends simply upon one thing If resumption — in spite of all resolutions to the contrary — inaugurates an era of prosperity, as I believe and hope it will, then it seems to me that the Republican party will be as strong in the north as in its palmiest days. Of course I regard most of the old issues as settled, and I make this statement simply because I regard the financial issue as the only living one. Of course, I have no idea who will be the Democratic candidate, but I suppose the South will be solid for the Democratic nominee, unless the financial question divides that section of the country.
QUESTION: With a solid South do you not think the Democratic nominee will stand a good chance?
ANSWER: Certainly, he will stand the best chance if the Democracy is right on the financial question; if it will cling to its old idea of hard money, he will. If the Democrats will recognize that the issues of the war are settled, then I think that party has the best chance.
QUESTION: But if it clings to soft money?
ANSWER: Then I think it will be beaten, if by soft. money it means the payment of one promise with another.
QUESTION: You consider Greenbackers inflationists, do you not?
ANSWER: I suppose the Greenbackers to be the party of inflation. I am in favor of inflation produced by industry. I am in favor of the country being inflated with corn, with wheat, good houses, books, pictures, and plenty of labor for everybody. I am in favor of being inflated with gold and silver, but I do not believe in the inflation of promise, expectation and speculation. I
sympathize with every man who is willing to work and cannot get it, and I sympathize to that degree that I would like to see the fortunate and prosperous taxed to support his unfortunate brother until labor could be found.
The Greenback party seems to think credit is just as good as gold. While the credit lasts this is so; but the trouble is, whenever it is ascertained that the gold is gone or cannot be produced the credit takes wings. The bill of a perfectly solvent bank may circulate for years. Now, because nobody demands the gold on that bill it doesn’t follow that the bill would be just as good without any gold behind it. The idea that you can have the gold whenever you present the bill gives it its value. To illustrate: A poor man buys soup tickets. He is not hungry at the time of the purchase, and will not be for some hours. During these hours the Greenback gentlemen argue that there is no use of keeping any soup on hand with which to redeem these tickets, and from this they further argue that if they can be good for a few hours without soup, why not forever? And they would be, only the holder gets hungry. Until he is hungry, of course, he does not care whether any soup is on hand or not, but when he presents his ticket he wants his soup, and the idea that he can have the soup when he does present the ticket gives it its value, And so I regard bank notes, without gold and silver, as of the same value as tickets without soup. —
The Post,Washington,D.C., 1878.
The Pre-Millennial Conference.
QUESTION: What do you think of THE Pre-Millennial Conference that was held inNew York Cityrecently?
ANSWER: Well, I think that all who attended it were believers in the Bible, and any one who believes in prophecies and looks to their fulfillment will go insane. A man that tries from Daniel’s ram with three horns and five tails and his deformed goats to ascertain the date of the second immigration of Christ to this world is already insane. It all shows that the moment we leave the realm of fact and law we are adrift on the wide and shoreless sea of theological speculation.
QUESTION: Do you think there will be a second coming?
ANSWER: No, not as long as the church is in power. Christ will never again visit this earth until the Freethinkers have control. He will certainly never allow another church to get hold of him.
The very persons who met inNew Yorkto fix the date of his coming would despise him and the feeling would probably be mutual. In his day Christ was an Infidel, and made himself unpopular by denouncing the church as it then existed. He called them liars, hypocrites, thieves, vipers, whited sepulchers and fools. From the description given of the church in that day, I am afraid that should he come again, he would be provoked into using similar language. Of course,I admit there are many good people in the church, just as there were some good Pharisees who were opposed to the crucifixion. —
The Express,Buffalo,New York, Nov. 4th 1878.
The Solid South And Resumption.
QUESTION: Colonel, to start with, what do you think of the solid South?
ANSWER: I think the South is naturally opposed to the Republican party; more, I imagine, to the name, than to the Personnel of the organization. But the South has just as good friends in the Republican party as in the Democratic party. I do not think there are any Republicans who would not rejoice to see the South prosperous and happy. I know of none, at least. They will have to get over the prejudices born of isolation. We lack direct and constant communication. I do not recollect having seen a newspaper from theGulf Statesfor a long time. They, down there, may imagine that the feeling in the North is the same as during the war. But it certainly is not. The Northern people are anxious to be friendly; and if they can be, without a violation of principles, they will be. Whether it be true or not, however, most of the Republicans of the North believe that no Republican in the South is heartily welcome in that section, whether he goes there from the North, or is a Southern man. Personally, I do not care anything about partisan polities. I want to see every man in theUnitedStateguaranteed the right to express his choice at the ballot-box, and I do not want social ostracism to follow a man, no matter how he may vote. A solid South means a solid North. A hundred thousand Democratic majority inSouth Carolinameans fifty thousand Republican majority inNew Yorkin 1880. I hope the sections will never divide, simply as sections. But if the Republican party is not allowed to live in the South, the Democratic party certainly will not be allowed to succeed in the North. I want to treat the people of the South precisely as though the Rebellion had never occurred. I want all that wiped from the slate of memory, and all I ask of the Southern people is to give the same rights to the Republicans that we are willing to give to them and have given to them.
QUESTION: How do you account for the results of the recent elections?
ANSWER: The Republican party won the recent election simply because it was for honest money, and it was in favor of resumption. And if on the first of January next, we resume all right, and maintain resumption, I see no reason why the Republican party should not succeed in 1880. The Republican party came into power at the commencement of the Rebellion, and necessarily retained power until its close; and in my judgment, it will retain power so long as in the horizon of credit there is a cloud of repudiation as large as a man’s hand.
QUESTION: Do you think resumption will work out all right?
ANSWER: I do. I think that on the first of January the greenback will shake hands with gold on an equality, and in a few days thereafter will be worth just a little bit more. Everything has resumed, except the Government. All the property has resumed, all the lands, bonds and mortgages and stocks. All these things resumed long ago — that is to say, they have touched the bottom. Now, there is no doubt that the party that insists on the Government paying all its debts will hold control, and no one will get his hand on the wheel who advocates repudiation in any form. There is one thing we must do, though. We have got to put more silver in our dollars. I do not think you can blame theNew Yorkbanks — any banks — for refusing to take eighty-eight cents for a dollar. Neither can you blame any depositor who puts gold in bank for demanding gold in return. Yes, we must have in the silver dollar a dollar’s worth of silver. —
The Commercial,Cincinnati,Ohio, November, 1878.
The Sunday Laws Of Pittsburgh.
QUESTION: Colonel, what do you think of the course the Mayor has pursued toward you in attempting to stop your lecture?
ANSWER: I know very little except what I have seen in the morning paper. As a general rule, laws should be enforced or repealed; and so far as I am personally concerned, I shall not so much complain of the enforcing of the law against Sabbath breaking as of the fact that such a law exists. We have fallen heir to these laws. They were passed by superstition, and the enlightened people of today should repeal them. Ministers should not expect to fill their churches by shutting up other places. They can only increase their congregations by improving their sermons. They will have more hearers when they say more worth hearing. I have no idea that the Mayor has any prejudice against me personally and if he only enforces the law, I shall have none against him. If my lectures were free the ministers might have the right to object, but as I charge one dollar admission and they nothing, they ought certainly to be able to compete with me.
QUESTION: Don’t you think it is the duty of the Mayor, as chief executive of the city laws, to enforce the ordinances and pay no attention to what the statutes say?
ANSWER: I suppose it to be the duty of the Mayor to enforce the ordinance of the city and if the ordinance of the city covers the same ground as the law of the State, a conviction under the ordinance would be a bar to a prosecution under the State law.
QUESTION: If the ordinance exempts scientific, literary and historical lectures’, as it is said it does, will not that exempt you?
ANSWER: Yes, all my lectures are historical; that is, I speak of many things that have happened. They are scientific because they are filled with facts, and they are literary of course. I can conceive of no address that is neither historical nor scientific, except sermons. They fail to be historical because they treat of things that never happened and they are certainly not scientific, as they contain no facts.
QUESTION: Suppose they arrest you what will you do?
ANSWER: I will examine the law and if convicted will pay the fine, unless I think I can reverse the case by appeal. Of course I would like to see all these foolish laws wiped from the statute books. I want the law so that everybody can do just as he pleases on Sunday, provided he does not interfere with the rights of others. I want the Christian, the Jew, the Deist and the atheist to be exactly equal before the law. I would fight for the right of the Christian to worship God in his own way just as quick as I would for the atheist to enjoy music, flowers and fields. I hope to see the time when even the poor people can hear the music of the finest operas on Sunday. One grand opera with all its thrilling tones, will do more good in touching and elevating the world than ten thousand sermons on the agonies of hell.
QUESTION: Have you ever been interfered with before in delivering Sunday lectures?
ANSWER: No, I postponed a lecture inBaltimoreat the request of the owners of the theater because they were afraid some action might be taken. That is the only case. I have delivered lectures on Sunday in the principal cities of theUnited States, inNew York,Boston,Buffalo,Chicago,San Francisco,Cincinnatiand many other places. I lectured here last winter; it was on Sunday and I heard nothing of its being contrary to law. I always supposed my lectures were good enough to be delivered on the most sacred days. –
The Leader,Pittsburgh,Pa. October 27, 1879.
Political And Religious
QUESTION: What do you think about the recent election, and what will be its effect upon political matters and the issues and candidates of 1880?
ANSWER: I think the Republicans have met with this almost universal success on account, first, of the position taken by the Democracy on the currency question; that is to say, that party was divided, and was willing to go in partnership with anybody, whatever their doctrines might be, for the sake of success in that particular locality. The Republican party felt it of paramount importance not only to pay the debt, but to pay it in that which the world regards as money. The next reason for the victory is the position assumed by the Democracy in Congress during the called session. The threats they then made of what they would do in the event that the executive did not comply with their demands, showed that the spirit of that party had not been chastened to any considerable extent by the late war. The people of this country will not, in my judgment, allow the South to take charge of this country until they show their ability to protect the rights of citizens in their respective States.
QUESTION: Then, as you regard the victories, they are largely due to a firm adherence to principle, and the failure of the Democratic party is due to their abandonment of principle, and their desire to unite with anybody and everything, at the, sacrifice of principle, to attain success?
ANSWER: Yes. The Democratic party is a general desire for office without organization. Most people are Democrats because they hate something, most people a Republicans because they love something.
QUESTION: Do you think the election has brought: about any particular change in the issues that will be involved in the campaign of 1880?
ANSWER: I think the only issue is who shall rule this country.
QUESTION: Do you think, then, the question of State Rights, hard or soft money and other questions that have been prominent in the campaign are practically settled, and so regarded by the people?
ANSWER: I think the money question is, absolutely. I think the question of State Rights is dead, except that it can still be used to defeat the Democracy. It is what might be called a convenient political corpse.
QUESTION: Now, to leave the political field and go to the religious at one jump — since your last visit here much has been said and written and published to the effect that a great change, or a considerable change at least, had taken place in your religious, or irreligious views. I would like to know if that is so?
ANSWER: The only change that has occurred in my religious views is the result of finding more and more arguments in favor of my position, and, as a consequence, if there is any difference, I am stronger in my convictions than ever before.
QUESTION: I would like to know something of the history of your religious views?
ANSWER: I may say right here that the Christian idea that any God can make me his friend by killing mine is about as great a mistake as could be made. They seem to have the idea that just as soon as God kills all the people that a person loves, he will then begin to love the Lord What drew my attention first to these questions was the doctrine of eternal punishment. This was so abhorrent to my mind that I began to hate the book in which it was taught. Then, in reading law, going back to find the origin of laws, I found one had to go but a little way before the legislator and priest united. This led me to study a good many of the religions of the world. At first I was greatly astonished to find most of them better than ours. I then studied our own system to the best of my ability, and found that people were palming off upon children and upon one another as the inspired word of God a book that upheld slavery, polygamy and almost every other crime. Whether I am right or wrong, I became convinced that the Bible is not an inspired book; and then the only the question for me to settle was as to whether I should say what I believed or not. This really was not the question in my mind, because, before even thinking of such a question, I expressed my belief, and I simply claim that right and expect to exercise it as long as I live. I may be damned for it in the next world, but it is a great source of pleasure to me in this.
QUESTION: It is reported that you are the son of a Presbyterian minister?
ANSWER: Yes, I am the son of a New School Presbyterian minister.
QUESTION: About what age were you when you began this investigation which led to your present conventions?
ANSWER: I cannot remember when I believed the Bible doctrine of eternal punishment. I have a dim recollection of hating Jehovah when I was exceedingly small.
QUESTION: Then your present convictions began to form themselves while you were listening to the teachings of religion as taught by your father?
ANSWER: Yes, they did.
QUESTION: Did you discuss the matter with him?
ANSWER: I did for many years, and before he died he utterly gave up the idea that this life is a period of probation. He utterly gave up the idea of eternal punishment, and before he died he had the happiness of believing that God was almost as good and generous as he was himself.
QUESTION: I suppose this gossip about a change in your religious views arose or was created by the expression used at your brother’s funeral, “In the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing”?
ANSWER: I never willingly will destroy a solitary human hope. I have always said that I did not know whether man was or was not immortal, but years before my brother died, in a lecture entitled “The Ghosts,” which has since been published, I used the following words: “The idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear, beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, not of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. It is the rainbow — Hope, shining upon the tears of grief.”
QUESTION: The great objection to your teaching urged by your enemies is that you constantly tear down, and never build up?
ANSWER: I have just published a little book entitled, “Some Mistakes of Moses,” in which I have endeavored to give most of the arguments I have urged against the Pentateuch in a lecture I delivered under that title. The motto on the title page is, “A destroyer of weeds, thistles and thorns is a benefactor, whether he soweth grain or not.” I cannot for my life see why one should be charged with tearing down and not rebuilding simply because he exposes a sham, or detects a lie. I do not feel under any obligation to build something in the place of a detected falsehood. All I think I am under obligation to put in the place of a detected lie is the detection. Most religionists talk as if mistakes were valuable things and they did not wish to part with them without a consideration. Just how much they regard lies worth a dozen I do not know. If the price is reasonable I am perfectly willing to give it, rather than to see them live and give their lives to the defence of delusions. I am firmly convinced that to be happy here will not in the least detract from our happiness in another world should we be so fortunate as to reach another world; and I cannot see the value of any philosophy that reaches beyond the intelligent happiness of the present. There may be a God who will make us happy in another world. If he does, it will be more than he has accomplished in this. I suppose that he will never have more than infinite power and never have less than infinite wisdom, and why people should expect that he should do better in another world than he has in this is something that I have never been able to explain. A being who has the power to prevent it and yet who allows thousands and millions of his children to starve; who devours them with earthquakes; who allows whole nations to be enslaved, cannot in my judgment be implicitly depended upon to do justice in another world.
QUESTION: How do the clergy generally treat you?
ANSWER: Well, of course there are the same distinctions among clergymen as among other people. Some of them are quite respectable gentlemen, especially those with whom I am not acquainted. I think that since the loss of my brother nothing could exceed the heartlessness of the remarks made by the average clergyman. There have been some noble exceptions, to whom I feel not only thankful but grateful; but a very large majority have taken this occasion to say most unfeeling and brutal things. I do not ask the clergy to forgive me, but I do request that they will so act that I will not have to forgive them. I have always insisted that those who love their enemies should at least tell the truth about their friends, but I suppose, after all, that religion must be supported by the same means as those by which it was founded. Of course, there are thousands of good ministers, men who are endeavoring to make the world better, and whose failure is no particular fault of their own, I have always been in doubt as to whether the clergy were necessary or an unnecessary evil.
QUESTION: I would like to have a positive expression of your views as to a future state?
ANSWER: Somebody asked Confucius about another world, and his reply was: “How should I know anything about another world when I know so little of this?” For my part, I know nothing of any other state of existence, either before or after this, and I have never become personally acquainted with anybody that did. There may be another life, and if there is, the best way to prepare for it is by making somebody happy in this. God certainly cannot afford to put a man in hell who has made a little heaven in this world. I propose simply to take my chances with the rest of the folks, and prepare to go where the people I am best acquainted with will probably settle. I cannot afford to leave the great ship and sneak off to shore in some orthodox canoe. I hope there is another life, for I would like to see how things come out in this world when I am dead. There are some people I would like to see again, and hope there are some who would not object to seeing me; but if there is no other life I shall never know it. I do not remember a time when I did not exist; and, if, when I die, that is the end, I shall not know it, because the last thing I shall know is that I am alive, and if nothing is left, nothing will be left to know that I am dead; so that so far as I am concerned I am immortal; that is to say, I cannot recollect when I did not exist, and there never will be a time when I shall remember that I do not exist. I would like to have several millions of dollars, and I may say that I have a lively hope that some day I may be rich, but to tell you the truth I have very little evidence of it. Our hope of immortality does not come from any religion, but nearly all religious come from that hope. The Old Testament, instead of telling us that we are immortal, tells us how we lost immortality. You will recollect that if Adam and Eve could have gotten to the Tree of Life, they would have eaten of its fruit and would have lived forever; but for the purpose of preventing immortality God turned them out of the Garden of Eden, and put certain angels with swords or sabres at the gate to keep them from getting back. The Old Testament proves, if it proves anything — which I do not think it does — that there is no life after this; and the New Testament is not very specific on the subject. There were a great many opportunities for the Savior and his apostles to tell us about another world, but they did not improve them to any great extent; and the only evidence, so far as I know, about another life is, first, that we have no evidence; and secondly, that we are rather sorry that we have not, and wish we had. That is about my position.
QUESTION: According to your observation of men, and your reading in relation to the men and women of the world and of the church, if there is another world divided according to orthodox principles between the orthodox and heterodox, which of the two that are known as heaven and hell would contain, in your judgment, the most good society?
ANSWER: Since hanging has got to be a means of grace, I would prefer hell. I had a thousand times rather associate with the Pagan philosophers than with the inquisitors of the Middle Ages. I certainly should prefer the worst man in Greek or Roman history to John Calvin; and I can imagine no man in the world that I would rather not sit on the same bench with than the Puritan fathers and the founders of orthodox churches. I would trade off my harp any minute for a seat in the other country. All the poets will be in perdition, and the greatest thinkers, and, I should think, most of the women whose society would tend to increase the happiness of man; nearly all the painters, nearly all the sculptors, nearly all the writers of plays, nearly all the great actors, most of the best musicians, and nearly all the good fellows — the persons who know stories, who can sing songs, or who will loan a friend a dollar. They will mostly all be in that country, and if I did not live there permanently, I certainly would want it so I could spend my winter months there. But, after all, what I really want to do is to destroy the idea of eternal punishment. That doctrine subverts all ideas of justice. That doctrine fills hell with honest men, and heaven with intellectual and moral paupers. That doctrine allows people to sin on a credit. That doctrine allows the bassist to be eternally happy and the most honorable to suffer eternal pain. I think of all doctrines it is the most infinitely infamous, and would disgrace the lowest savage; and any man who believes it, and has imagination enough to understand it, has the heart of a serpent and the conscience of a hyena.
QUESTION: Your objective point is to destroy the doctrine of hell, is it?
ANSWER: Yes, because the destruction of that doctrine will do away with all cant and all pretence. It will do away with all religious bigotry and persecution. lt will allow every man to think and to express his thought. It will do away with bigotry in all its slimy and offensive forms.
Chicago Times, November 14, 1879.
Politics And General Grant.
QUESTION: Some people have made comparisons between the late Senators O. P. Morton and Zach Chandler. What did you think of them, Colonel?
ANSWER: I think Morton had the best intellectual grasp of a question of any man I ever saw. There was an infinite difference between the two men. Morton’s strength lay in proving a thing;Chandler’s in asserting it. ButChandlerwas a strong man and no hypocrite.
QUESTION: Have you any objection to being interviewed as to your ideas of Grant, and his position before the people?
ANSWER: I have no reason for withholding my views on that or any other subject that is under public discussion. My idea is that Grant can afford to regard the presidency as a broken toy. It would add nothing to his fame if he were again elected, and would add nothing to the debt of gratitude which the people feel they owe him. I do not think he will be a candidate. I do not think he wants it. There are men who are pushing him on their own account. Grant was a great soldier, He won the respect of the civilized world. He commanded the largest army that ever fought for freedom, and to make him President would not add a solitary leaf to the wreath of fame already on his brow; and should he be elected, the only thing he could do would be to keep the old wreath from fading.
I do not think his reputation can ever be as great in any direction as in the direction of war. He has made his reputation and has lived his great life. I regard him, confessedly, as the best soldier the Anglo-Saxon blood has produced. I do not know that it necessarily follows because he is a great soldier he is great in other directions. Probably some of the greatest statesmen in the world would have made the worst soldiers.
QUESTION: Do you regard him as more popular now than ever before?
ANSWER: I think that his reputation is certainly greater and higher than when he left the presidency, and mainly because he has represented this country with so much discretion and with such quiet, poised dignity all around the world. He has measured himself with kings, and was able to look over the heads of every one of them. They were not quite as tall as he was, even adding the crown to their original height. I think he represented us abroad with wonderful success. One thing that touched me very much was, that at a reception given him by the workingmen ofBirmingham, after he had been received by royalty, he had the courage to say that that reception gave him more pleasure than any other. He has been throughout perfectly true to the genius of our institutions, and has not upon any occasion exhibited the slightest toadyism. Grant is a man who is not greatly affected by either flattery or abuse.
QUESTION: What do you believe to be his position in regard to the presidency?
ANSWER: My own judgment is that he does not care. I do not think he has any enemies to punish, and I think that while he was President he certainly rewarded most of his friends.
QUESTION: What are your views as to a third term?
ANSWER: I have no objection to a third term on principle, but so many men want the presidency that it seems almost cruel to give a third term to anyone.
QUESTION: Then, if there is no objection to a third term what about a fourth?
ANSWER: I do not know that that could be objected to either. We have to admit, after all, that the American people, or at least a majority of them, have a right to elect one man as often as they please. Personally, I think it should not be done unless in the case of a man who is prominent above the rest of his fellow-citizens, and whose election appears absolutely necessary. But I frankly confess I cannot conceive of any political situation where one man is a necessity. I do not believe in the one-man-on- horseback idea, because I believe in all the people being on horseback.
QUESTION: What will be, the effect of the enthusiastic receptions that are being given to General Grant?
ANSWER: I think these ovations show that the people are resolved not to lose the results of the great victories of the war, and that they make known this determination by their attention to General Grant. I think that if he goes through the principal cities of this country the old spirit will be revived everywhere, and whether it makes him President or not the result will be to make the election go Republican. The revival of the memories of the war will bring the people of the North together as closely as at any time since that great conflict closed, not in the spirit of hatred, or malice or envy, but in generous emulation to preserve that which was fairly won. I do not think there is any hatred about it, but we are beginning to see that we must save the South ourselves, and that is the only way we can save the nation.
QUESTION: But suppose they give the same receptions in the South?
ANSWER: So much the better.
QUESTION: Is there any split in the solid South?
ANSWER: Some of the very best people in the South are apparently disgusted with following the Democracy any longer, and would hail with delight any opportunity they could reasonably take advantage of to leave the organization, if they could do so without making it appear that they were going back on Southern interests, and this opportunity will come when the South becomes enlightened, and sees that it has no interests except in common with the whole country. That I think they are beginning to see.
QUESTION: How do you like the administration of President Hayes?
ANSWER: I think its attitude has greatly improved of late. There are certain games of cards — pedro for instance, where you can not only fail to make something, but be set back. I think that Hayes’s veto messages very nearly got him back to the commencement of the game — that he is now almost ready to commence counting, and make some points His position before the country has greatly improved, but he will not develop into a dark horse. My preference, is of course, still forBlaine.
QUESTION: Where do you think it is necessary the Republican candidate should come from to insure success?
ANSWER: Somewhere out ofOhio. I think it will go to Maine, and for this reason: first of all, Blaine is certainly a competent man of affairs, a man who knows what to do at the time; and then he has acted in such a chivalric way ever since the convention at Cincinnati, that those who opposed him most bitterly, now have for him nothing but admiration. I think John Sherman is a man of decided ability, but I do not believe the American people would make one brother President, while the other is General of the Army. It would be giving too much power to one family.
QUESTION: What are your conclusions as to the future of the Democratic party?
ANSWER: I think the Democratic party ought to disband. I think they would be a great deal stronger disbanded, because they would get rid of their reputation without decreasing.
QUESTION: But if they will not disband?
ANSWER: Then the next campaign depends undoubtedly uponNew YorkandIndiana. I do not see how they can very well help nominating a man fromIndiana, and by that I mean Hendricks. You see the South has one hundred and thirty-eight votes, all supposed to be Democratic; with the thirty-five from New York and fifteen from Indiana they would have just three to spare. Now, I take it, that the fifteen fromIndianaare just about as essential as the thirty-five fromNew York. To lack fifteen votes is nearly as bad as being thirty-five short, and so far as drawing salary is concerned it is quite as bad. Mr. Hendricks ought to know that he holds the key toIndiana, and that there cannot be any possibility of carrying this State for Democracy without him. He has tried running for the vice-presidency, which is not much of a place anyhow — I would about as soon be vice-mother-in-law — and my judgment is that he knows exactly the value of his geographical position.New Yorkis divided to that degree that it would be unsafe to take a candidate from that State; and besides,New Yorkhas become famous for furnishing defeated candidates for the Democracy. I think the man must come fromIndiana.
QUESTION: Would the Democracy of New York unite onSeymour?
ANSWER: You recollect whatLincolnsaid about the powder that had been shot off once. I do not remember any man who has once made a race for the presidency and been defeated ever being again nominated.
QUESTION: What about Bayard and Hancock as candidates?
ANSWER: I do not see how Bayard could possibly carryIndiana, while his own State is too small and too solidly Democratic. My idea of Bayard is that he has not been good enough to be popular, and not bad enough to be famous. The American people will never elect a President from a State with a whipping-post. As to General Hancock, you may set it down as certain that the South will never lend their aid to elect a man who helped to put down the Rebellion. It would be just the same as the effort to electGreeley. It cannot be done. I see, by the way, that I am reported as having said that David Davis, as the Democratic candidate, could carryIllinois. I did say that in 1876, he could have carried it against Hayes; but whether he could carryIllinoisin 1880 would depend altogether upon who runs against him. The condition of things has changed greatly in our favor since 1876. –
The Journal,Indianapolis,Ind. 1879.
Politics Religion And Thomas Paine.
QUESTION: you have traveled about this State more or less, lately, and have, of course, observed political affairs here. Do you think that Senator Logan will be able to deliver this State to the Grant movement according to the understood plan?
ANSWER: If the State is really for Grant, he will, and if it is not, he will not.Illinoisis as little “owned” as any State in thisUnion.Illinoiswould naturally be for Grant, other things being equal, because he is regarded as a citizen of this State, and it is very hard for a State to give up the patronage naturally growing out of the fact that the President comes from that State.
QUESTION: Will the instructions given to delegates be final?
ANSWER: I do not think they will be considered final at all; neither do I think they will be considered of any force. It was decided at the last convention, inCincinnati, that the delegates had a right to vote as they pleased; that each delegate represented the district of his State that sent him. The idea that a State convention can instruct them as against the wishes of their constituents smacks a little too much of State sovereignty. The President should be nominated by the districts of the whole country, and not by massing the votes by a little chicanery at a State convention, and every delegate ought to vote what he really believes to be the sentiment of his constituents, irrespective of what the State convention may order him to do. He is not responsible to the State convention, and it is none of the State convention’s business. This does not apply, it may be, to the delegates at large, but to all the others it certainly must apply. It was so decided at theCincinnaticonvention, and decided on a question arising about this samePennsylvaniadelegation.
QUESTION: Can you guess as to what the platform is going to contain?
ANSWER: I suppose it will be a substantial copy of the old one, I am satisfied with the old one with one addition. I want a plank to the effect that no man shall be deprived of any civil or political right on account of his religious or irreligious opinions. The Republican party having been foremost in freeing the body ought to do just a little something now for the mind. After having wasted rivers of blood and treasure uncounted, and almost uncountable, to free the cage, I propose that something ought to be done for the bird. Every decent man in theUnited Stateswould support that plank. People should have a right to testify in courts, whatever their opinions may be, on any subject. Justice should not shut any door leading to truth, and as long as just views neither affect a man’s eyesight or his memory, he should be allowed to tell his story. And there are two sides to this question, too. The man is not only deprived of his testimony, but the commonwealth is deprived of it. There should be no religious test in this country for office; and if Jehovah cannot support his religion without going into partnership with a State Legislature, I think he ought to give it up.
QUESTION: Is there anything new about religion since you were last here?
ANSWER: Since I was here I have spoken in a great many cities, and to-morrow I am going to do some missionary work atMilwaukee. Many who have come to scoff have a remained to pray, and I think that my labors are being greatly blessed, and all attacks on me so far have been overruled for good. I happened to come in contact with a revival of religion, and I believe what they call an “outpouring” atDetroit, under the leadership of a gentleman by the name of Pentecost. He denounced me as God’s greatest enemy. I had always supposed that the Devil occupied that exulted position, but it seems that I have, in some way, fallen heir to his shoes. Mr. Pentecost also denounced all business men who would allow any advertisements or lithographs of mine to hang in their places of business, and several of the gentlemen thus appealed to took the advertisements away. The result of all this was that I had the largest house that ever attended a lecture inDetroit. Feeling that ingratitude is a crime, I publicly returned thanks to the clergy for the pains they had taken to give me an audience. And I may say, in this connection, that if the ministers do God as little good as they do me harm, they had better let both of us alone. I regard them as very good, but exceedingly mistaken men. They do not come much in contact with the world, and get most of their views by talking with the women and children of their congregations. They are not permitted to mingle freely with society. They cannot attend plays nor hear operas. I believe some of them have ventured to minstrel shows and menageries, where they confine themselves strictly to the animal part of the entertainment. But, as a rule, they have very few opportunities of ascertaining what the real public opinion is. They read religious papers, edited by gentlemen who know as little about the world as themselves, and the result of all this is that they are rather behind the times. They are good men, and would like to do right if they only knew it, but they are a little behind the times. There is an old story told of a fellow who had a post-office in a small town inNorth Carolina, and being the only man in the town who could read, a few people used to gather in the post-office on Sunday, and he would read to them a weekly paper that was published inWashington. He commenced always at the top of the first column and read right straight through, articles, advertisements, and all, and whenever they got a little tired of reading he would make a mark of red ochre and commence at that place the next Sunday. The result was that the papers came a great. deal faster than he read them, and it was about 1817 when they struck the war of 1812. The moment they got to that, every one of them jumped up and offered to volunteer. All of which shows that they were patriotic people, but a little slow, and somewhat behind the times.
QUESTION: How were you pleased with the Paine meeting here, and its results?
ANSWER: I was gratified to see so many people willing at last to do justice to a great and a maligned man. Of course I do not claim that Paine was perfect. All I claim is that he was a patriot and a political philosopher; that he was a revolutionist and an agitator; that he was infinitely full of suggestive thought, and that he did more than any man to convince the people of America not only that they ought to separate from Great Britain, but that they ought to found a representative government. He has been despised simply because he did not believe the Bible. I wish to do what I can to rescue his name from theological defamation. I think the day has come when Thomas Paine will be remembered with Washington, Franklin and Jefferson, and that the American people will wonder that their fathers could have been guilty of such base ingratitude.
Chicago Times, February 8, 1880.
The Republican Victory
QUESTION: Do you really think, Colonel, that the country has just passed through a crisis?
ANSWER: Yes; there was a crisis and a great one. The question was whether a Northern or Southern idea of the powers and duties of the Federal Government was to prevail. The great victory of yesterday means that the Rebellion was not put down on the field of war alone, but that we have conquered it in the realm of thought. The bayonet has been justified by argument. No party can ever succeed in this country that even whispers “State Sovereignty.” That doctrine has become odious. The sovereignty of the State means a Government without power, and citizens without protection.
QUESTION: Can you see any further significance in the present Republican victory other than that the people do not wish to change the general policy of the present administration?
ANSWER: Yes; the people have concluded that the lips ofAmericashall be free. There never was free speech in the South, and there never will be until the people of that section admit that the Nation is superior to the State, and that all citizens have equal rights. I know of hundreds who voted the Republican ticket because they regarded the South as hostile to free speech. The people were satisfied with the financial policy of the Republicans, and they feared a change. The North wants honest money — gold and silver. The people are in favor of honest votes, and they feared the practices of the Democratic party. The tissue ballot and shotgun policy made them hesitate to put power in the hands of the South. Besides, the tariff question made thousands and thousands of votes. As long asEuropehas slave labor, and wherever kings and priests rule, the laborer will be substantially a slave. We must protect ourselves. If the world were free, trade would be free, and the seas would be the free highways of the world. The great objects of the Republican party are to preserve all the liberty we have, protect American labor, and to make it the undisputed duty of the Government to protect every citizen at home and abroad. The Republican party intends to civilize this country.
QUESTION: What do you think was the main cause of the Republican sweep?
ANSWER: The wisdom of the Republicans and the mistakes of the Democrats. The Democratic party has for twenty years underrated the intelligence, the patriotism and the honesty of the American people. That party has always looked upon politics as a trade, and success as the last act of a cunning trick. It has had no principles, fixed or otherwise. It has always been willing to abandon everything but its prejudices. It generally commences where it left off and then goes backward. In this campaign English was a mistake, Hancock was another. Nothing could have a been more incongruous than yoking a Federal soldier with a peace-at-any-price Democrat. Neither could praise the other without slandering himself, and the blindest partisan could not like them both. But, after all, I regard the military record of English as fully equal to the views of General Hancock on the tariff. The greatest mistake that the Democratic party made was to suppose that a campaign could be fought and won by slander, The American people like fair play and they abhor ignorant and absurd vituperation. The continent knew that General Garfield was an honest man; that he was in the grandest sense a gentleman; that he was patriotic, profound and learned; that his private life was pure; that his home life was good and kind and true, and all the charges made and howled and screeched and printed and sworn to, harmed only those who did the making and the howling, the screeching and the swearing. I never knew a man in whose perfect integrity I had more perfect confidence, and in less than one year even the men who have slandered him will agree with me.
QUESTION: How about that “personal and confidential letter”? (The Morey letter.)
ANSWER: It was as stupid as devilish, as basely born as godfathered. It is an exploded forgery, and the explosion leaves dead and torn upon the field the author and his witnesses.
QUESTION: Is there anything in the charge that the Republican party seeks to change our form of government by gradual centralization?
ANSWER: Nothing whatever. We want power enough in the Government to protect, not to destroy, the liberties of the people. The history of the world shows that burglars have always opposed an increase of the police. –
New York Harold, November 5, 1880.
Ingersoll And Beecher With Beecher Reply
QUESTION: What is your opinion of Mr. Beecher?
ANSWER: I regard him as the greatest man in any pulpit of the world. He treated me with a generosity that nothing can exceed. He rose grandly above the prejudices supposed to belong to his class, and acted as only a man could act without a chain upon his brain and only kindness in his heart.
I told him that night that I congratulated the world that it had a minister with an intellectual horizon broad enough and a mental sky studded with stars of genius enough to hold all creeds in scorn that shocked the heart of man. I think that Mr. Beecher has liberalized the English-speaking people of the world.
I do not think he agrees with me. He holds to many things that I most passionately deny. But in common, we believe in the liberty of thought.
My principal objections to orthodox religion are two — slavery here and hell hereafter. I do not believe that Mr. Beecher on these points can disagree with me. The real difference between us is — he says God, I say Nature. The real agreement between us is — we both say –Liberty.
QUESTION: What is his forte?
ANSWER: He is of a wonderfully poetic temperament. In pursuing any course of thought his mind is like a stream flowing through the scenery of fairyland. The stream murmurs and laughs while the banks grow green and the vines blossom.
His brain is controlled by his heart. He thinks in pictures. With him logic means mental melody. The discordant is the absurd.
For years he has endeavored to hide the dungeon of orthodoxy with the ivy of imagination. Now and then he pulls for a moment the leafy curtain aside and is horrified to see the lizards, snakes, basilisks and abnormal monsters of the orthodox age, and then he utters a great cry, the protest of a loving, throbbing heart.
He is a great thinker, a marvelous orator, and, in my judgment, greater and grander than any creed of any.
Besides all this, he treated me like a king. Manhood is his forte, and I expect to live and die his friend.
Beecher On Ingersoll.
QUESTION: What is your opinion of Colonel Ingersoll?
ANSWER: I do not think there should be any misconception as to my motive for indorsing Mr. Ingersoll. I never saw him before that night, when I clasped his hand in the presence of an assemblage of citizens, yet I regard him as one or the greatest men of this age.
QUESTION: Is his influence upon the world good or otherwise?
ANSWER: I am an ordained clergyman and believe in revealed religion. I am, therefore, bound to regard all persons who do not believe in revealed religion as in error. But on the broad platform of human liberty and progress I was bound to give him the right hand of fellowship. I would do it a thousand times over. I do not know Colonel Ingersoll’s religious views precisely, but I have a general knowledge of them. He has the same right to free thought and free speech that I have. I am not that kind of a coward who has to kick a man before he shakes hands with him. If I did so I would have to kick the Methodists, Roman Catholics and all other creeds. I will not pitch into any man’s religion as an excuse for giving him my hand. I admire Ingersoll because he is not afraid to speak what he honesty thinks, and I am only sorry that he does not think as I do. I never heard so much brilliancy and pith put into a two hours’ speech as I did on that night. I wish my whole congregation had been there to hear it. I regret that there are not more men like Ingersoll interested in the affairs of the nation. I do not wish to be understood as indorsing skepticism in any form. –
New York Harold, November 7, 1880.
QUESTION: Is it true, as rumored, that you intend to leaveWashingtonand reside inNew York?
ANSWER: No, I expect to remain here for years to come, so far as I can now see. My present intention is certainly to stay here during the coming winter.
QUESTION: Is this because you regardWashingtonas the pleasentest and most advantageous city for a residence?
ANSWER: Well, in the first place, I dislike to move. In the next place, the climate is good. In the third place, the political atmosphere has been growing better of late, and when you consider that I avoid one dislike and reap the benefits of two likes, you can see why I remain.
QUESTION: Do you think that the moral atmosphere will improve with the political atmosphere?
ANSWER: I would hate to say that this city is capable of any improvement in the way of morality. We have a great many churches, a great many ministers, and, I believe, some retired chaplains, so I take it that the moral tone of the place could hardly be bettered. One majority in the Senate might help it. Seriously, however, I think thatWashingtonhas as high a standard of morality as any city in theUnion, And it is one of the best towns in which to loan money without collateral in the world.
QUESTION: Do you know from experience?
ANSWER: This I have been told was the solemn answer.
QUESTION: Do you think that the political features of the incoming administration will differ from the present?
ANSWER: Of course, I have no right to speak for General Garfield. I believe his administration will be Republican, at the same time perfectly kind, manly, and generous. He is a man to harbor no resentment. He knows that it is the duty of statesmanship to remove causes of irritation rather than punish the irritated.
QUESTION: Do I understand you to imply that there will be a neutral policy, as it were, towards the South?
ANSWER: No, I think there will be nothing neutral about it. I think that the next administration will be one-sided — that is, it will be on the right side. I know of no better definition for a compromise than to say it is a proceeding in which hypocrites deceive each other. I do not believe: that the incoming administration will be neutral in anything. The American people do not like neutrality. They would rather a man were on the wrong side than on neither. And, in my judgment, there is no paper so utterly unfair, malicious and devilish, as one that claims to be neutral. No politician is as bitter as a neutral politician. Neutrality is generally used as a mask to hide unusual bitterness. Sometimes it hides what it is — nothing. It always stands for hollowness of head or bitterness of heart, sometimes for both. My idea is — and that is only one reason I have the right to express it — that General Garfield believes in the platform adopted by the Republican party. He believes in free speech, in honest money, in divorce of church and state, and he believes in the protection of American citizens by the Federal Government wherever the flag flies. He believes that the Federal Government is as much bound to protect the citizen at home as abroad. I believe he will do the very best he can to carry these great ideas into execution and make them living realities in theUnited States. Personally, I have no hatred toward the Southern people. I have no hatred toward any class. I hate tyranny, no matter weather it is South or North; I hate hypocrisy, and I hate above all things, the spirit of caste. If the Southern people could only see that they gained as great a victory in the Rebellion as the North did, and some day they will see it, the whole question would be settled. The South has reaped a far greater benefit from being defeated than the North has from being successful, and I believe some day the South will be great enough to appreciate that fact. I have always insisted that to be beaten by the right: is to be a victor. The Southern people must get over the idea that they are insulted simply because they are out-voted, and they ought by this time to know that the Republicans of the North, not only do not wish them harm, but really wish them the utmost success.
QUESTION: But has the Republican party all the good and the Democratic all the bad?
ANSWER: No, I do not think that the Republican party has all the good, nor do I pretend that the Democratic party has all the bad; though I may say that each party comes pretty near it. I admit that there are thousands of really good fellows in the Democratic party, and there are some pretty bad people in the Republican party. But I honestly believe that within the latter are most of the progressive men of this country. That party has in it the elements of growth. It is full of hope. It anticipates. The Democratic party remembers. It is always talking about the past. It is the possessor of a vast amount of political rubbish, and I really believe it has outlived its usefulness. I firmly believe, that your editor, Mr. Hutchins, could start a better organization, if he would only turn his attention to it. Just think for a moment of the number you could get rid of by starting a new party. A hundred names will probably suggest themselves to any intelligent Democrat, the loss of which would almost insure success, Some one has said that a tailor inBostonmade a fortune by advertising that he did not cut the breeches of Webster’s statue. A new party by advertising that certain men would not belong to it, would have an advantage in the next race.
QUESTION: What, in your opinion, were the causes which led to the Democratic defeat?
ANSWER: I think the nomination of English was exceedingly unfortunate.Indiana, being anOctoberState, the best man in that State should have been nominated either for President or Vice- President. Personally, I know nothing of Mr. English, but I have the right to say that he was exceedingly unpopular. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was putting a plank in the platform insisting upon a tariff for revenue only. That little word “only” was one of the most frightful mistakes ever made by a Political party. That little word “only” was a millstone around the neck of the entire campaign. The third mistake was Hancock’s definition of the tariff. It was exceedingly unfortunate, exceedingly laughable, and came just in the nick of time. The fourth mistake was the speech of Wade Hamption, I mean the speech that the Republican papers claim he made. Of course I do not know, personally, whether it was made or not. If made, it was a great mistake.Mistake number five was made inAlabama, where they refused to allow a Greenbacker to express his opinion. That lost the Democrats enough Greenbackers to turn the scale inMaine, and enough inIndianato change that election. Mistake number six was in the charges made against General Garfield. They were insisted upon, magnified and multiplied until at last the whole thing assumed the proportions of a malicious libel. This was a great mistake, for the reason that a number of Democrats in theUnited Stateshad most heartily and cordially indorsed General Garfield as a man of integrity and great ability. Such indorsement had been made by the leading Democrats of the North and South, among them Governor Hendricks and many others I might name. Jere Black had also certified to the integrity and intellectual grandeur of General Garfield, and when afterward he certified to the exact contrary, the people believed that it was a persecution. The next mistake, number seven, was the Chinese letter. While it lostGarfieldCalifornia,Nevadaand probablyNew Jersey, it did him good inNew York. This letter was the greatest mistake made, because a crime is greater than a mistake. These, in my judgment, are the principal mistakes made by the Democratic party in the campaign. Had McDonald been on the ticket the result might have been different, or had the party united on some man inNew York, satisfactory to the factions, it might have succeeded. The truth, however, is that the North to-day is Republican, and it may be that had the Democratic party made no mistakes whatever the result would have been the same, But that mistakes were made is now perfectly evident to the blindest partisan, If the ticket originally suggested, Seymour and McDonald, had been nominated on an unobjectionable platform, the result might have been different. One of the happiest days in my life was the day on which theCincinnaticonvention did not nominateSeymourand did nominate English. I regard General Hancock as a good soldier, but not particularly well qualified to act as President. He has neither the intellectual training nor the experience to qualify him for that place.
QUESTION: You have doubtless heard of a new party, Colonel. What is your idea in regard to it?
ANSWER: I have heard two or three speak of a new party to be called the National party, or National Union party, but whether there is anything in such a movement I have no means of knowing. Any party in opposition to the Republican, no matter what it may be called, must win on a new issue, and that new issue will determine the new party, Parties cannot be made to order. They must grow. They are the natural offspring of national events. They must embody certain hopes, they must gratify, or promise to gratify, the feelings of a vast number of people. No man can make a party, and if a new party springs into existence it will not be brought forth to gratify the wishes of a few, but the wants of the many. It has seemed to me for years that the Democratic party carried too great a load in the shape of record; that its autobiography was nearly killing it all the time, and that if it could die just long enough to assume another form at the resurrection, just long enough to leave a grave stone to mark the end of its history, to get a cemetery back of it, that it might hope for something like success. In other words, that there must be a funeral before there can be victory. Most of its leaders are worn out. They have become so accustomed to defeat that they take it as a matter of course; they expect it in the beginning and seem unconsciously to work for it. There must be some new ideas, and this only can happen when the party as such has been gathered to its fathers. I do not think that the advice of Senator Hill will be followed. He is willing to kill the Democratic party in the South if we will kill the Republican party in the North. This puts me in mind of what the rooster said to the horse “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.”
QUESTION: Your views of the country’s future and prospects must naturally be rose colored?
ANSWER: Of course, I look at things through Republican eyes and may be prejudiced without knowing it. But it really seems to me that the future is full of great promise. The South, after all, is growing prosperous. It is producing more and more every year, until in time it will become wealthy, The West is growing almost beyond the imagination of a speculator, and the Eastern and Middle States are much more than holding their own, We have now fifty millions of people and in a few years will have a hundred, That we are a Nation I think is now settled. Our growth will be unparalleled. I myself expect to live to see as many ships on the Pacific as on the Atlantic, In a few years there will probably be ten millions of people living along the Rocky andSierraMountains. It will not be long untilIllinoiswill find her market west of her. In fifty years this will be the greatest nation on the earth, and the most populous in the civilized world.Chinais slowly awakening from the lethargy of centuries. It will soon have the wants of Europe, andAmericawill supply those wants. This is a nation of inventors and there is more mechanical ingenuity in theUnited Statesthan on the rest of the globe. In my judgment this country will in a short time add to its customers hundreds of millions of the people of theCelestial Empire. So you see, to me, the future is exceedingly bright. And besides all this, I must not forget the thing that is always nearest my heart. There is more intellectual liberty in theUnited Statesto-day than ever before. The people are beginning to see that every citizen ought to have the right to express himself freely upon every possible subject. In a little while, all the barbarous laws that now disgrace the statute books of the “States by discriminating against a man simply because he is honest, will be repealed, and there will he one country where all citizens will have and enjoy not only equal rights, but all rights. Nothing gratifies me so much as the growth of intellectual liberty. After all, the true civilization is where every man gives to every other, every right that he claims for himself. –
The Post,Washington,D.C., November 14, 1880.
Religion In Politics
QUESTION: How do you regard the present political situation?
ANSWER: My opinion is that the ideas the North fought for upon the field have at last triumphed at the ballot-box. For several years after the Rebellion was put down the Southern ideas traveled North. We lostWest Virginia,New Jersey,Connecticut,New Yorkand a great many congressional districts in other States. We lost both houses of Congress and every Southern State. The Southern ideas reached their climax in 1876. In my judgment the tide has turned, and hereafter the Northern idea is going South. The young men are on the Republican side. The old Democrats are dying. The cradle is beating the coffin. It is a case of life and death, and life is ahead. The heirs outnumber the administrators.
QUESTION: What kind of a President willGarfieldmake?
ANSWER: My opinion is that he will make as good a President as this nation ever had. He is fully equipped. He is a trained statesman. He has discussed all the great questions that have arisen for the last eighteen years, and with great ability. He is a thorough scholar, a conscientious student, and takes an exceedingly comprehensive survey of all questions. He is genial, generous and candid, and has all the necessary qualities of heart and brain to make a great President. He has no prejudices. Prejudice is the child and flatterer of ignorance. He is firm, but not obstinate. The obstinate man wants his own way; the firm man stands by the right. Andrew Johnson was obstinate –Lincolnwas firm.
QUESTION: How do you think he will treat the South?
ANSWER: Just the same as the North. He will be the President of the whole country. He will not execute the laws by a compass, but according to the Constitution. I do not speak for General Garfield, nor by any authority from his friends. No one wishes to injure the South. The Republican party feels in honor bound to protect all citizens, white and black. It must do this in order to keep its self-respect. It must throw the shield of the Nation over the weakest, the humblest and the blackest citizen. Any other course is suicide. No thoughtful Southern man can object to this, and a Northern Democrat knows that it is right.
QUESTION: Is there a probability that Mr. Sherman will be retained in the Cabinet?
ANSWER: I have no knowledge upon that question, and consequently have nothing to say. My opinion about the Cabinet is, that General Garfield is well enough acquainted with public men to choose a Cabinet that will suit him and the country. I have never regarded it as the proper thing to try and force a Cabinet upon a President. He has the right to be surrounded by his friends, by men in whose judgment and in whose friendship he has the utmost confidence, and I would no more think of trying to put some man in the Cabinet than I would think of signing a petition that a man should marry a certain woman. General Garfield will, I believe, select his own constitutional advisers, and he will take the best he knows.
QUESTION: What, in your opinion, is the condition of the Democratic party at present?
ANSWER: It must get a new set of principles, and throw away its prejudices. It must demonstrate its capacity to govern the: country by governing the States where it is in power. In the presence of rebellion it gave up the ship. The South must become Republican before the North will willingly give it power; that is, the great ideas of nationality and Federal protection must be absolutely accepted. Ideas are greater than parties, and if our flag is not large enough to protect every citizen, we must add few more stars and stripes. Personally I have no hatreds in this matter. The present is not only the child of the past, but the necessary child. A statesman must deal with things as they are. He must not be like Gladstone, who divides his time between foreign wars and amendments to the English Book of Common Prayer.
QUESTION: How do you regard the religious question in Politics?
ANSWER: Religion is a personal matter — a matter that each individual soul should be allowed to settle for itself. No man shod in the brogans of impudence should walk into the temple of another’s soul. While every man should be governed by the highest possible considerations of the public weal, no one has the right to ask for legal assistance in the support of his particular sect. If Catholics oppose the public schools I would not oppose them because they are Catholics, but because I am in favor of the schools. I regard the public school as the intellectual bread of life. Personally I have no confidence in any religion that can be demonstrated only to children. I suspect all creeds that rely implicitly on mothers and nurses. That religion is the best that commends itself the strongest to men and women of education and genius. After all, the prejudices of infancy and the ignorance of the aged are a poor foundation for any system of morals or faith. I respect every honest man, and I think more of a liberal Catholic than of an illiberal Infidel. The religious question should be left out of politics. You might as well decide questions of art and music by a ward caucus as to govern the longings and dreams of the soul by law. I believe in letting the sun shine whether the weeds grow or not. I can never side with Protestants if they try to put Catholics down by law, and I expect to oppose both of them until religious intolerance is regarded as a crime.
QUESTION: Is the religious movement of which you are the chief exponent spreading?
ANSWER: There are ten times as many Freethinkers this year as there were last. Civilization is the child of freethought. The new world has drifted away from the rotting wharf of superstition. The politics of this country are being settled by the new ideas of individual liberty; and parties and churches that cannot accept the new truths must perish. I want it perfectly understood that I am not a politician. I believe in liberty and I want to see the time when every man, woman and child will enjoy every human right.
The election is over, the passions aroused by the campaign will soon subside, the sober judgment of the people will, in my opinion, indorse the result, and time will indorse the indorsement.
The Evening Express,New York City, November 19, 1880.
Miracles And Immorality
QUESTION: you have seen some accounts of the recent sermon of Dr. Tyng on “Miracles,” I presume, and if so, what is your opinion of the sermon, and also what is your opinion of miracles?
ANSWER: From an orthodox standpoint, I think the Rev. Dr. Tyng is right. If miracles were necessary eighteen hundred years ago, before scientific facts enough were known to overthrow hundreds and thousands of passages in the Bible, certainly they are necessary now. Dr. Tyng sees clearly that the old miracles are nearly worn out, and that some new ones are absolutely essential. He takes for granted that, if God would do a miracle to found his gospel, he certainly would do some more to preserve it, and that it is in need of preservation about now is evident. I am amazed that the religious world should laugh at him for believing in miracles. It seems to me just as reasonable that the deaf, dumb, blind and lame, should be cured atLourdesas atPalestine. It certainly is no more wonderful that the law of nature should be broken now than that it was broken several thousand years ago. Dr. Tyng also has this advantage. The witnesses by whom he proves these miracles are alive. An unbeliever can have the opportunity of a cross- examination. Whereas, the miracles in the New Testament are substantiated only by the dead. It is just as reasonable to me that blind people receive their sight inFranceas that devils were made to vacate human bodies in the holy land.
For one I am exceedingly glad that Dr. Tyng has taken this position. It shows that he is a believer in a personal God, in a God who is attending a little to the affairs of this world, and in a God who did not exhaust his supplies in the apostolic age. It is refreshing to me to find in this scientific age a gentleman who still believes in miracles. My opinion is that all thorough religionists will have to take the ground and admit that a supernatural religion must be supernaturally preserved.
I have been asking for a miracle for several years, and have in a very mild, gentle and loving way, taunted the church for not producing a little one. I have had the impudence to ask any number of them to join in a prayer asking anything they desire for the purpose of testing the efficiency of what is known as supplication. They answer me by calling my attention to the miracles recorded in the New Testament. I insist, however, on a new miracle, and, personally, I would like to see one now. Certainly, the Infinite has not lost his power, and certainly the Infinite knows that thousands and hundreds of thousands, if the Bible is true, are now pouring over the precipice of unbelief into thegulfofHell. One little miracle would save thousands. One little miracle inPittsburgh, well authenticated, would do more good than all the preaching ever heard in this sooty town. The Rev. Tyng clearly sees this, and he has been driven to the conclusion, first, that God can do miracles; second, that he ought to, third, that he has. In this he is perfectly logical. After a man believes the Bible; after he believes in the flood and in the story of Jonah, certainly he ought not to hesitate at a miracle of to-day. When I say I want a miracle, I mean by that, I want a good one. All the miracles recorded in the New Testament could have been simulated. A fellow could have: pretended to be dead or blind, or dumb, or deaf, I want to see a good miracle I want to see a man with one leg, and then I want to see the other leg grow out.
I would like to see a miracle like that performed inNorth Carolina. Two men were disputing about the relative merits of the salve they had for sale. One of the men, in order to demonstrate that his salve was better than any other, cut off a dog’s tail and applied a little of the salve to the stump and, in the presence of the spectators, a new tail grew out. But the other man, who also had salve for sale, took up the piece of tail that had been cast away, put a little salve at the end of that, and a new dog grew out, and the last heard of those parties they were quarrelling as to who owned the second dog. Something like that is what I call a miracle.
QUESTION: What do you believe about the immortality of the soul? Do you believe that the spirit lives as an individual after the body is dead?
ANSWER: I have said a great many times that it is no more wonderful that we should live again than that we do live. Sometimes I have thought it not quite so wonderful for the reason that we have a start. But upon that subject I have not the slightest information. Whether man lives again or not I cannot pretend to say. There may be another world and there may not be. If there is another world we ought to make the best of it after arriving there. If there is not another world, or if there is another world, we ought to make the best of this. And since nobody knows, all should be permitted to have their opinions, and my opinion is that nobody knows.
If we take the Old Testament for authority, man is not immortal. The Old Testament shows man how he lost immortality. According to Genesis, God prevented man from putting forth his hand and eating of the Tree of Life. It is there stated, had he succeeded, man would have lived forever. God drove him from the garden, preventing him eating of this tree, and in consequence man became mortal; so that if we go by the Old Testament we are compelled to give up immortality. The New Testament has but little on the subject. In one place we are told to seek for immorality. If we are already immortal, it is hard to see why we should go on seeking for it. In another place we are told that they who are worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection of the dead, are not given in marriage. From this one would infer there would be some unworthy to be raised from the dead. Upon the question of immortality, the Old Testament throws but little satisfactory light. I do not deny immortality, nor would I endeavor to shake the belief of anybody in another life. What I am endeavoring to do is to put out the tires of hell. If we cannot have heaven without hell. I am in favor of abolishing heaven. I do not want to go to heaven if one soul is doomed to agony. I would rather be annihilated.
My opinion of immortality is this:
Fist. — I live, and that of itself is infinitely wonderful.
Second. — There was a time when I was not, and after I was not, I was. Third. — that I am, I may be again; and it is no more wonderful that I may be again, if I have been, than I am, having once been nothing. If the churches advocated immortality, if they advocated eternal justice, if they said that man would be rewarded and punished according to deeds; if they admitted that some time in eternity there would be an opportunity given to lift up the souls, and that throughout all the ages the angels of progress and virtue would beckon the fallen upward and that some time, and no matter how far away they might put off the time, all the children of men would be reasonably happy, I never would say a solitary word against the church, but just as long as they preach that the majority of mankind will suffer eternal pain, just so long I shall oppose them; that is to say, as long as I live.
QUESTION: Do you believe in a God; and, if so, what kind of a God?
ANSWER: Let me, in the first place, lay a foundation for an answer.
First. — Man gets all food for thought through the medium of the senses. The effect of nature upon the senses, and through the senses upon the brain, must be natural. All food for thought, then, is natural. As a consequence of this there can be no supernatural idea in the, human brain whatever idea there is must have been a natural product. If, then, there is no supernatural idea in the human brain. then there cannot be in the human brain an idea of the supernatural. If we can have no idea of the supernatural, and if the God of whom you spoke is admitted to be supernatural, then, of course, I can have no idea of him, and I certainly can have no very fixed belief on any subject about which I have no idea.
There may he a God for all I know. There may be thousands of them. But the idea of an infinite Being outside and independent of nature is inconceivable. I do not know of any word that would explain my doctrine or my views upon that subject. I suppose Pantheism is as near as I could go, I believe in the eternity of matter and in the eternity of intelligence, but I do not believe in any Being outside of nature. I do not believe in any personal Deity. I do not believe in any aristocracy of the air. I know nothing about origin or destiny, Between these two horizons I live, whether I wish to or not, and must be satisfied with what I find between these two horizons, I have never heard any God described that I believe in. I have never heard any religion explained that I accept. To make something out of nothing cannot be more absurd than that an infinite intelligence made this world, and proceeded to fill it with crime and want and agony, and then, not satisfied with the evil he had wrought, made a hell in which to consummate the great mistake.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the world and all that is in it came by chance?
ANSWER: I do not believe anything comes by chance I regard the present as the necessary child of a necessary past. I believe matter is eternal; that it has eternally existed and eternally will exist. I believe that in all matter, in some way, there is what we call force; that one of the forms of force is intelligence. I believe that whatever is in the universe has existed from eternity and will forever exist.
Secondly. — I exclude from my philosophy all ideas of chance. Matter changes eternally its form, never its essence. You cannot conceive of anything being created. No one can conceive of anything existing without a cause or with a cause. Let me explain; a thing is not a cause until an effect has been produced; no that, after all, cause and effect are twins coming into life at precisely the same instant, born of the womb of an unknown mother. The Universe is the only fact, and everything that ever has happened, is happening, or will happen, are but the different aspects of the one eternal fact. –
The Dispatch,Pittsburgh,Pa. December 11, 1880.
The Political Outlook.
QUESTION: What phase will the Southern question assume in the next four years?
ANSWER: The next Congress should promptly unseat ever member of Congress in whose district there was not a fair and honest election. That is the first hand work to be done. Let notice, in this way, be given to the whole country, that fraud cannot succeed. No man should be allowed to hold a seat by force or fraud. Just as soon as it is understood that fraud is useless it will be abandoned. In that way the honest voters of the country can be protected.
An honest vote settles the Southern question, and Congress has the power to compel an honest vote, or to leave the dishonest districts without representation. I want this policy adopted, not only in the South, but in the North No man touched or stained with fraud should be allowed to hold his seat. Send such men home, and let them stay there until sent back by honest votes. The Southern question is a Northern question, and the Republican party must settle it for all time. We must have honest elections, or the Republic must fall. Illegal voting must be considered and punished as a crime.
Taking one hundred and seventy thousand as the basis of representation, the South, through her astounding increase of colored population, gains three electoral votes while the North and East lose three.Garfieldwas elected by the thirty thousand colored votes cast inNew York.
QUESTION: Will the negro continue to be the balance of power, and if so, will it inure to his benefit?
ANSWER: The more political power the colored man has the better he will be treated, and if he ever holds the balance of power he will be treated as well as the balance or our citizens. My idea is that the colored man should stand on an equality with the white before the law; that he should honestly be protected in all his rights; that he should be allowed to vote, and that his vote should be counted. It is a simple question of honesty. The colored people are doing well; they are industrious; they are trying to get an education, and, on the whole, I think they are behaving fully as well as the whites. They are the most forgiving people in the world, and about the only real Christians in our country. They have suffered enough, and for one I am on their side. I think more of honest black people than of dishonest whites, to say the least of it.
QUESTION: Do you apprehend any trouble from the Southern leaders in this closing session of Congress, in attempts to force pernicious legislation?
ANSWER: I do not. The Southern leaders know that the doctrine of State Sovereignty is dead. They know that they cannot depend upon the Northern Democrat, and they know that the best interests of the South can only be preserved by admitting that the war settled the questions and ideas fought for and against. They know that this country is a Nation, and that no party can possibly succeed that advocates anything contrary to that. My own opinion is that most of the Southern leaders are heartily ashamed of the course pursued by their Northern friends, and will take the first opportunity to say so.
QUESTION: In what light do you regard the Chinaman?
ANSWER: I am opposed to compulsory immigration, or cooley or slave immigration. If Chinamen are sent to this country by corporations or companies under contracts that amount to slavery or anything like or near it, then I am opposed to it. But I am not prepared to say that I would be opposed to voluntary immigration. I see by the papers that a new treaty has been agreed upon that will probably be ratified and be satisfactory to all parties. We ought to treatChinawith the utmost fairness. If our treaty is wrong, amend it, but do so according to the recognized usage of nations. After what has been said and done in this country I think there is very little danger of any Chinaman voluntarily coming here. By this timeChinamust have an exceedingly exalted opinion of our religion, and of the justice and hospitality born of our most holy faith.
QUESTION: What is your opinion of making ex-Presidents Senators for life?
ANSWER: I am opposed to it. I am against any man holding office for life. And I see no more reason for making ex-Presidents Senators, than for making ex-Senators Presidents. To me the idea is preposterous. Why should ex-Presidents be taken care of? In this country labor is not disgraceful, and after a man has been President he has still the right to be useful. I am personally acquainted with several men who will agree, in consideration of being elected to the presidency, not to ask for another office during their natural lives. The people of this country should never allow a great man to suffer. The hand, not of charity, but of justice and generosity, should be forever open to those who have performed great public service.
But the ex-Presidents of the future may not all be great and good men, and bad ex-Presidents will not make good Senators. If the nation does anything, let it give a reasonable pension to ex- Presidents. No man feels like giving pension, power, or place to General Grant simply because he was once President, but because he was a great soldier and led the armies of the nation to victory. Make him a General, and retire him with the highest military title. Let him grandly wear the laurels he so nobly won, and should the sky at any time be darkened with a cloud of foreign war, this country will again hand him the sword. Such a course honors the nation and the man.
QUESTION: Are, we not entering upon the era of our greatest prosperity?
ANSWER: We are just beginning to be prosperous. The Northern Pacific Railroad is to be completed. Forty millions of dollars have just been raised by that company, and new States will soon be born in the great Northwest. The Texas Pacific will be pushed toSan Diego, and in a few years we will ride in a Pullman car fromChicagoto the City of Mexico. The gold and silver mines are yielding more and more, and within the last ten years more than forty million acres of land have been changed from wilderness to farms. This country is beginning to grow. We have just fairly entered upon what I believe will be the grandest period of national development and prosperity. With the Republican party in power; with good money; with unlimited credit; with the best land in the world; with ninety thousand miles of railway; with mountains of gold and silver; with hundreds of thousands of square miles of coal fields; with iron enough for the whole world; with the best system of common schools; with telegraph wires reaching every city and town, so that no two citizens are an hour apart; with the telephone, that makes everybody in the city live next door, and with the best folks in the world, how can we help prospering until the continent is covered with happy homes?
QUESTION: What do you think of civil service reform?
ANSWER: I am in favor of it. I want such civil service reform that all the offices will be filled with good and competent Republicans. The majority should rule, and the men who are in favor of the views of the majority should hold the offices. I am utterly opposed to the idea that a party should show its liberality at the expense of its principles. Men holding office can afford to take their chances with the rest of us. If they are Democrats, they should not expect to succeed when their party is defeated. I believe that there are enough good, honest Republicans in this country to fill all the offices, and I am opposed to taking any Democrats until the Republican supply is exhausted.
Men should not join the Republican party to get office, Such men are contemptible to the last degree. Neither should a Republican administration compel a man to leave the party to get a Federal appointment. After a great battle has been fought I do not believe that the victorious general should reward the officers of the conquered army. My doctrine is, rewards for friends. –
The Commercial,Cincinnati,Ohio, December 6, 1880.
Mr Beecher Moses And The Negro.
QUESTION: Mr. Beecher is here. Have you seen him?
ANSWER: No, I did not meet Mr. Beecher. Neither did I hear him lecture. The fact is, that long ago I made up my mind that under no circumstances would I attend any lecture or other entertainment given at Lincoln Hall. First, because the hall has been denied me, and secondly, because I regard it as exceedingly unsafe. The hall is up several stories from the ground, and in case of the slightest panic, in my judgment, many lives would be lost. Had it not been for this, and for the fact that the persons owning it imagined that because they had control, the brick and mortar had some kind of holy and sacred quality, and that this holiness is of such a wonderful character that it would not be proper for a man in that hall to tell his honest thoughts, I would have heard him.
QUESTION: Then I assume that you and Mr. Beecher have made up?
ANSWER: There is nothing to be made up so far as I know. Mr. Beecher has treated me very well, and, I believe, a little too well for his own peace of mind. I have been informed that some members ofPlymouthChurchfelt exceedingly hurt that their pastor should so far forget himself as to extend the right hand of fellowship to one who differs from him upon what they consider very essential points in theology. You see I have denied with all my might, a great many times, the infamous doctrine of eternal punishment. I have also had the temerity to suggest that I did not believe that a being of infinite justice and mercy was the author of all that I find in the Old Testament. As, for instance, I have insisted that God never commanded anybody to butcher women or to cut the throats of prattling babes. These orthodox gentlemen have rushed to the rescue of Jehovah by insisting that he did all these horrible things. I have also maintained that God never sanctioned or upheld human slavery; that he never would make one child to own and beat another.
I have also expressed some doubts as to whether this same God ever established the institution of polygamy. I have insisted that that institution is simply infamous; that it destroys the idea of home; that it turns to ashes the most sacred words in our language, and leaves the world a kind of den in which crawl the serpents of selfishness and lust.
I have been informed that after Mr. Beecher had treated me kindly a few members of his congregation objected, and really felt ashamed that he had so forgotten himself. After that, Mr. Beecher saw fit to give his ideas of the position I had taken. In this he was not exceedingly kind, nor was his justice very conspicuous. But I cared nothing about that, not the least. As I have said before, whenever Mr. Beecher says a good thing I give him credit. Whenever he does an unfair or unjust thing I charge it to the account of his religion. I have insisted, and I still insist, that Mr. Beecher is far better than his creed. I do not believe that he believes in the doctrine of eternal punishment. Neither do I believe that he believes in the literal truth of the Scriptures. And, after all, if the Bible is not true, it is hardly worth while to insist upon its inspiration. An inspired lie is no better than an uninspired one. If the Bible is true it does not need to be inspired. If it is not true, inspiration does not help it.
So that after all it is simply a question of fact. Is it true? I believe Mr. Beecher stated that one of my grievous faults was that I picked out the bad things in the Bible. How an infinitely good and wise God came to put bad things in his book Mr. Beecher does not explain. I have insisted that the Bible is not inspired, and, in order to prove that, have pointed out such passages as I deemed unworthy to have been written even by a civilized man or a savage. I certainly would not endeavor to prove that the Bible is uninspired by picking out its best passages. I admit that there are many good things in the Bible. The fact that there are good things in it does not prove its inspiration, because there are thousands of other books containing good things, and yet no one claims they are inspired. Shakespeare’s works contain a thousand times more good things than the Bible; but no one claims he was an inspired man. It is also true that there are many bad things in Shakespeare — many passages which I wish he had never written. But I can excuse Shakespeare, because he did not rise absolutely above his time. That is to say, he was a man; that is to say, he was imperfect. If anybody claimed now that Shakespeare was actually inspired, that claim would be answered by pointing to certain weak or bad or vulgar passages in his works. But every Christian will say that it is a certain kind of blasphemy to impute vulgarity or weakness to God, as they are all obliged to defend the weak, the bad and the vulgar, so long as they insist upon the inspiration of the Bible.
Now, I pursued the same course with the Bible that Mr. Beecher has pursued with me. Why did he want to pick out my bad things? Is it possible that he is a kind of vulture that sees only the carrion of another? After all has he not pursued the same method with me that he blames me for pursuing in regard to the Bible? Of course he must pursue that method. He could not object to me and then point out passages that were not objectionable. If he found fault he had to find faults in order to sustain his ground. That is exactly what I have done with the Scriptures — nothing more and nothing less. The reason I have thrown away the Bible is that in many places it is harsh, cruel, unjust, coarse, vulgar, atrocious, infamous. At the same time, I admit that it contains many passages of an excellent and splendid character — many good things, wise sayings, and many excellent and just laws.
But I would like to ask this: Suppose there were no passages in the Bible except those upholding slavery, polygamy and wars of extermination; would anybody then claim that it was the word of God? I would like to ask if there is a Christian in the world who would not be overjoyed to find that every one of these passages was an interpolation? I would also like to ask Mr. Beecher if he would not be greatly gratified to find that after God had written the Bible the Devil had got hold of it, and interpolated all these passages about slavery, polygamy, the slaughter of women and babes and the doctrine of eternal punishment? Suppose, as a matter of fact, the Devil did get hold of it; what part of the Bible would Mr. Beecher pick out as having been written by the Devil? And if he picks out these passages could not the Devil answer him by saying, “You, Mr. Beecher, are like a vulture, a kind of buzzard, flying through the tainted air of inspiration, and pouncing down upon the carrion. Why do you not fly like a dove, and why do yon not have the innocent ignorance of the dove, so that you could light upon a carcass and imagine that you were surrounded by the perfume of violets?” The fact is that good things in a book do not prove that it is inspired, but the presence of bad things does prove that it is not.
QUESTION: What was the real difficulty between you and Moses, Colonel, a man who has been dead for thousands of years?
ANSWER: We never had any difficulty. I have always taken pains to say that Moses had nothing to do with the Pentateuch. Those books, in my judgment, were written several centuries after Moses had become dust in his unknown sepulchre. No doubt Moses was quite a man in his day, if he ever existed at all.
Some people say that Moses is exactly the same as “law-giver;” that is to say, as Legislature, that is to say as Congress. Imagine some body in the future as regarding the Congress of theUnited Statesas one person! And then imagine that somebody endeavoring to prove that Congress was always consistent. But, whether Moses lived or not makes but little difference to me. I presume he filled the place and did the work that he was compelled to do, and although according to the account God had much to say to him with regard to the making of altars, tongs, snuffers and candlesticks, there is much left for nature still to tell.
Thinking of Moses as a man, admitting that he was above his fellows that he was in his day and generation a leader, and, in a certain narrow sense, a patriot, that he was the founder of the Jewish people; that he found them barbarians and endeavored to control them by thunder and lightning, and found it necessary to pretend that he was in partnership with the power governing the universe; that he took advantage of their ignorance and fear, just as politicians do now, and as theologians always will, still, I see no evidence that the man Moses was any nearer to God than his descendants, who are still warring against the Philistines in every civilized part of the globe. Moses was a believe in slavery, in polygamy, in wars of extermination, in religious persecution and intolerance and in almost every thing that is now regarded with loathing, contempt and scorn. Jehovah of whom he speaks violated, or commands the violation of at least nine of the Ten Commandments he gave. There is one thing, however, that can be said of Moses that cannot be said of any person who now insists that he was inspired, and that is, he was in advance of his time.
QUESTION: What do you think of the Buckner Bill for the colonization of the negroes in Mexico?
ANSWER: Where does Mr. Buckner propose to colonize the white people, and what right has he to propose the colonization of six millions of people? Should we not have other bills to colonize the Germans, the Swedes, the Irish, and then, may be, another bill to drive the Chinese into the sea? Where do we get the right to say that the negroes must emigrate?
All such schemes will, in my judgment, prove utterly futile. Perhaps the history of the world does not give an instance of the emigration of six millions of people. Notwithstanding the treatment thatIrelandhas received fromEngland, which may be designated as a crime of three hundred years, the Irish still loveIreland. All the despotism in the world will never crush out of the Irish heart the love of home — the adoration of the old sod. The negroes of the South have certainly suffered enough to drive them into other countries; but after all, they prefer to stay where they were born. They prefer to live where their ancestors were slaves, where fathers and mothers were sold and whipped; and I don’t believe it will be possible to induce a majority of them to leave that land. Of course, thousands may leave, and in process of time millions may go, but I don’t believe emigration will ever equal their natural increase. As the whites of the South become civilized the reason for going will be less and less.
I see no reason why the white and black men cannot live together in the same land, under the same flag. The beauty of liberty is you cannot have it unless you give it away, and the more you give away the more you have. I know that my liberty is secure only because others are free.
I am perfectly willing to live in a country with such men as Frederick Douglas and Senator Bruce. I have always preferred a good, clever black man to a mean white man, and I am of the opinion that I shall continue in that preference. Now, if we could only have a colonization bill that would get rid of all the rowdies, all the rascals and hypocrites, I would like to see it carried out, though some people might insist that it would amount to a repudiation of the national debt and that hardly enough would be left to pay the interest. No, talk as we will, the colored people helped to save this Nation. They have been at all times and in all places the friends of our flag; a flag that never really protected them. And for my part, I am willing that they should stand forever beneath that flag, the equal in rights of all other people. Politically, if any black men are to be sent away, I want it understood that each one is to be accompanied by a Democrat. so that the balance of power, especially inNew York, will not be disturbed.
QUESTION: I notice that leading Republican newspapers are advising General Garfield to cut loose from the machine in politics; what do you regard as the machine?
ANSWER: All defeated candidates regard the persons who defeated them as constituting a machine, and always imagine that there is some wicked conspiracy at the bottom of the machine. Some of the recent reformers regard the people who take part in the early stages of a political campaign — who attend caucuses and primaries, who speak of politics to their neighbors, as members and parts of the machine, and regard only those as good and reliable American citizens who take no part whatever, simply reserving the right to grumble after the work has been done by others. Not much can be accomplished in politics without an organization, and the moment an organization is formed, and, you might say, just a little before, leading spirits will be developed. Certain men will take the lead, and the weaker men will in a short time. unless they get all the loaves and fishes, denounce the whole thing as a machine. and, to show how thoroughly and honestly they detest the machine in politics, will endeavor to organize a little machine themselves. General Garfield has been in politics for many years. He knows the principal men in both parties. He knows the men who have not only done something, but who are capable of doing something, and such men will not, in my opinion, be neglected. I do not believe that General Garfield will do any act calculated to divide the Republican party. No thoroughly great man carries personal prejudice into the administration of public affairs. Of course, thousands of people will be prophesying that this man is to be snubbed and another to be paid; but, in my judgment, after the 4th of March most people will say that General Garfield has used his power wisely and that he has neither sought nor shunned men simply because he wished to pay debts — either of love or hatred. –
Washington correspondent, Brooklyn Eagle, January 31, 1881.
Hades Delaware And Freethought
QUESTION: Now that a lull has come in politics, I thought I would come and see what is going on in the religious world?
ANSWER: Well, from what little I learn, there has not been much going on during the last year. There are five hundred and twenty-six Congregational Churches inMassachusetts, and two hundred of these churches have not received a new member for an entire year, and the others have scarcely held their own. In Illinois there are four hundred and eighty-three Presbyterian Churches, and they have now fewer members than they had in 1879, and of the four hundred and eighty-three, one hundred and eighty-three have not received a single new member for twelve mouths. A report has been made, under the auspices of the Pan- Presbyterian Council, to the effect that there are in the whole world about three millions of Presbyterians. This is about one- fifth of one per cent, of the inhabitants of the world. The probability is that of the three million nominal Presbyterians, not more than two or three hundred thousand actually believe the doctrine, and of the two or three hundred thousand, not more than five or six hundred have any true conception of what the doctrine is. As the Presbyterian Church has only been able to induce one- fifth of one percent. of the people to even call themselves Presbyterians, about how long will it take, at this rate, to convert mankind? The fact is, there seems to be a general lull along the entire line, and just at present very little is being done by the orthodox people to keep their fellow-citizens out of hell.
QUESTION: Do you really think that the orthodox people now believe in the old doctrine of eternal punishment, and that they really think there is the kind of hell that our ancestors so carefully described?
ANSWER: I am afraid that the old idea is dying out, and that many Christians are slowly giving up the consolations naturally springing from the old belief. Another terrible blow to the old infamy is the fact that in the revised New Testament the consoling word hell has been left out. I am informed that in the revised New Testament the word Hades has been substituted. As nobody knows exactly what Hades means, it will not be quite so easy to frighten people at revivals by threatening them with something that they don’t clearly understand. After this, when the impassioned orator cries out that all the unconverted will be sent to Hades, the poor sinners, instead of getting frightened, will begin to ask each other what and where that is. It will take many years of preaching to clothe that word in all the terrors and horrors, pains and penalties and pangs of hell. Hades is a compromise. It is a concession to the philosophy of our day. It is a graceful acknowledgment to the growing spirit of investigation, that hell, after all, is a barbaric mistake. Hades is the death of revivals. It cannot be used in song. It won’t rhyme with anything with the same force that hell does. It is altogether more shadowy than hot. It is not associated with brimstone and flame. It sounds somewhat indistinct, somewhat lonesome, a little desolate, but not altogether uncomfortable. For revival purposes, Hades is simply useless, and few conversions will be made in the old way under the revised Testament.
QUESTION: Do you really think that the church is losing ground?
ANSWER: I am not, as you probably know, connected with any orthodox organization, and consequently have to rely upon them for my information. If they can be believed, the church is certainly in an extremely bad condition. I find that the Rev. Dr. Cuyler, only a few days ago, speaking of the religious condition of Brooklyn — and Brooklyn, you know, has been called the City ofChurches– stated that the great mass of that Christian city was out of Christ, and that more professing Christians went to the theatre than to the prayer meeting. This, certainly, from their standpoint, is a most terrible declaration. Brooklyn, you know, is one of the great religious centers of the world — a city in which nearly all the people are engaged either in delivering or in hearing sermons; a city filled with the editors of religious periodicals; a city of prayer and praise; and yet, while prayer meetings are free, the theatres, with the free list entirely suspended, catch more Christians than the churches; and this happens while all the pulpits thunder against the stage, and the stage remains silent as to the pulpit. At the same meeting in which the Rev. Dr. Cuyler made his astounding statements the Rev Mr. Pentecost was the bearer of the happy news that four out of five persons living in the city of Brooklyn were going down to hell with no God and with no hope. If he had read the revised Testament he would have said “Hades,” and the effect of the statement would have been entirely lost. If four-fifths of the people of that great city are destined to eternal pain, certainly we cannot depend upon churches for the salvation of the world. At the meeting of theBrooklynpastors they were in doubt as to whether they should depend upon further meetings, or upon a day of fasting and prayer for the purpose of converting the city.
In my judgment, it would be much better to devise ways and means to keep a good many people from fasting inBrooklyn. If they had more meat, they could get along with less meeting. If fasting would save a city, there are always plenty of hungry folks even in that Christian town. The real trouble with the church of to-day is, that it is behind the intelligence of the people. Its doctrines no longer satisfy the brains of the nineteenth century; and if the church proposes to hold its power, it must lose its superstitions. The day of revivals is gone. Only the ignorant and unthinking can hereafter be impressed by hearing the orthodox creed. Fear has in it no reformatory power, and the more intelligent the world grows the more despicable and contemptible the doctrine of eternal misery will become. The tendency of the age is toward intellectual liberty, toward personal investigation. Authority is no longer taken for truth. People are beginning to find that all the great and good are not dead — that some good people are alive, and that the demonstrations of to-day are fully equal to the mistaken theories of the past.
QUESTION: How are you getting along with Delaware?
ANSWER: First rate. You know I have been wondering where Comegys came from, and at last I have made the discovery. I was told the other day by a gentleman fromDelawarethat many years ago Colonel Hazelitt died; that Colonel Hazelitt was an old Revolutionary officer, and that when they were digging his grave they dug up Comegys. Back of that no one knows anything of his history. The only thing they know about him certainly, is, that he has never changed one of his views since he was found, and that he never will. I am inclined to think, however, that he lives in a community congenial to him. For instance, I saw in a paper the other day that within a radius of thirty miles aroundGeorgetown,Delaware, there are about two hundred orphan and friendless children. These children, it seems, were indentured toDelawarefarmers by the managers of orphan asylums and other public institutions in and aboutPhiladelphia. It ia stated in the paper, that:
Many of these farmers are rough task-masters. and if a boy fails to perform the work of an adult, he is almost certain to be cruelly treated, half starved, and in the coldest weather wretchedly clad. If he does the work, his life is not likely to be much happier, for as a rule he will receive more kicks than candy. The result in either case is almost certain to be wrecked constitutions, dwarfed bodies, rounded shoulders, and limbs crippled or rendered useless by frost or rheumatism. The principal diet of these boys is corn pone. A few days ago, Constable W.H. Johnston went to the house of Rouben Taylor, and on entering the sitting room his attention was attracted by the moans or its only occupant. a little colored boy, who was lying on the hearth in front of the fireplace. The boy’s head was covered with ashes from the fire, and he did not pay the slightest attention to the visitor, untilJohnstonasked what made him cry. Then the little fellow sat up and drawing an old rag off his foot said, “Look there.” The sight that metJohnston’s eye was horrible beyond description. The poor boy’s feet were so horribly frozen that the flesh had dropped off the toes until the bones protruded. The flesh on the sides, bottoms and tops or his feet was swollen until the skin cracked in many places, and the inflamed flesh was sloughing off in great flakes. The frost-bitten flesh extended to his knees, the joints of which were terribly inflamed. The right one had already begun suppurating. This poor little black boy, covered with nothing but a cotton shirt, drilling pants, a pair of nearly worn out brogans and a battered old hat, on the morning of December 30th, the coldest day of the season, when the mercury was seventeen degrees below zero, in the face of a driving snowstorm, was sent half a mile from home to protect his master’s unshucked corn from the depredations of marauding cows and crows. He remained standing around in the snow until four o’clock, then he drove the cows home, received a piece of cold corn pone, and was sent out in the snow again to chop stove wood till dark. Having no bed, he slept that night in front of the fireplace, with his frozen feet buried in the ashes. Dr. C.H. Richards found it necessary to cut off the boy’s feet as far back aa the ankle and the instep.
This was but one case in several. Personally, I have no doubt that Mr. Rubin Taylor entirely agrees with Chief Justice Comegys on the great question of blasphemy, and probably nothing would so gratify Mr. Rubin Taylor as to see some man in a Delaware jail for the crime of having expressed an honest thought. No wonder that in the State ofDelawarethe Christ of intellectual liberty has been crucified between the pillory and the whipping-post. Of course I know that there are thousands of most excellent people in that State — people who believe in intellectual liberty, and who only need a little help — and I am doing what I can in that direction — to repeal the laws that now disgrace the statute book of that little commonwealth. I have seen many people from that State lately who really wish that Colonel Hazelitt had never died.
QUESTION: What has the press generally said with regard to the action of Judge Comegys? Do they, so far as you know, justify his charge?
ANSWER: A great many papers having articles upon the subject have been sent to me. A few of the religious papers seem to think that the Judge did the best he knew, and there is one secular paper called the Evening News, published at Chester, Pa., that thinks “that the rebuke from so high a source of authority will have a most excellent effect, and will check religious blasphemers from parading their immoral creeds before the people.” The editor of this paper should at once emigrate to the State ofDelaware, where he probably belongs. He is either a native ofDelaware, or most of his subscribers are citizens of that country; or, it may be that he is a lineal descendant of some Hessian, who deserted during the Revolutionary war. Most of the newspapers in theUnited Statesare advocates of mental freedom. Probably nothing on earth has been so potent for good as an untrammeled, fearless press. Among the papers of importance there is not a solitary exception. No leading journal in theUnited Statescan be found upon the side of intellectual slavery. Of course, a few rural sheets edited by gentlemen, as Mr. Greeley would say, “whom God in his inscrutable wisdom had allowed to exist,” may be found upon the other side, and may be small enough, weak enough and mean enough to pander to the lowest and basest prejudices of their most ignorant subscribers. These editors disgrace their profession and exert about the same influence upon the heads as upon the pockets of their subscriber, that is to say, they get little and give less.
QUESTION: Do you not think after all, the people who are in favor of having you arrested for blasphemy, are acting in accordance with the real spirit of the Old and New Testaments?
ANSWER: Of course, they act in exact accordance with many of the commands in the Old Testament, and in accordance with several passages in the New. At the same time, it may be said that they violate passages in both. If the Old Testament is true, and if it is the inspired word of God, of course, an Infidel ought not to be allowed to live; and if the New Testament is true, an unbeliever should not be permitted to speak. There are many passages, though, in the New Testament, that should protect even an Infidel. Among them this: “Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.” But that is a passage that has probably had as little effect upon the church as any other in the Bible. So far as I am concerned, I am willing to adopt; that passage, and I am willing to extend to every other human being every right that I claim for myself. If the churches would act upon this principle, if they would say — every soul, every mind, may think and investigate for itself; and around all, and over all, shall be thrown the sacred shield of liberty, I should be on their side.
QUESTION: How do you stand with the clergymen, and what is their opinion of you and of your views?
ANSWER: Most of them envy me; envy my independence; envy my success; think that I ought to starve; that the people should not hear me; say that I do what I do for money, for popularity; that I am actuated by hatred of all that is good and tender and holy in human nature; think that I wish to tear down the churches, destroy all morality and goodness, and usher in the reign of crime and chaos. They know that shepherds are unnecessary in the absence of wolves, and it is to their interest to convince their sheep that they, the sheep, need protection. This they are willing to give them for half the wool. No doubt, most of these ministers are honest, and are doing what they consider their duty. Be this as it may, they feel the power slipping from their hands. They know that they are not held in the estimation they once were. They know that the idea is slowly growing that they are not absolutely necessary for the protection of society. They know that the intellectual world cares little for what they say, and that the great tide of human progress flows on careless of their help or hindrance. So long as they insist on the inspiration of the Bible, they are compelled to take the ground that slavery was once a divine institution; they are forced to defend cruelties that would shock the heart of a savage, and besides, they are bound to teach the eternal horror of everlasting punishment.
They poison the minds of children; they deform the brain and pollute the imagination by teaching the frightful and infamous dogma of endless misery. Even the laws ofDelawareshock the enlightened public of to-day. In that State they simply fine and imprison a man for expressing his honest thoughts; and yet, if the churches are right, God will damn a man forever for the same offence. The brain and heart of our time cannot be satisfied with the ancient creeds. The Bible must be revised again. Most of the creeds must be blotted out. Humanity must take the place of theology. Intellectual liberty must stand in every pulpit. There must be freedom in all the pews, and every human soul must have the right to express its honest thought. –
Washington Correspondent,Brooklyn Eagle, March 19, 1881.
A Reply To The Rev Mr Lansing.
Rev. Isaac J. Lansing of Meriden, Conn., recently denounced Col. Robert G. Ingersoll from the pulpit of the Meriden Methodist Church, and had the Opera House closed against him. This led a Union reporter to show Colonel Ingersoll what Mr. Lansing had said and to interrogate him with the following results.
QUESTION: Did you favor the sending of obscene matter through the mails as alleged by the Rev. Mr. Lansing?
ANSWER: Of course not, and no honest man ever thought that I did. This charge is too malicious and silly to be answered. Mr. Lansing knows better. He has made this charge many times and he will make it again.
QUESTION: Is it a fact that there are thousands of clergymen in the country whom you would fear to meet in fair debate?
ANSWER: No; the fact is I would like to meet them all in one. The pulpit is not burdened with genius. There are a few great men engaged in preaching, but they are not orthodox. I cannot conceive that a Freethinker has anything to fear from the pulpit, except misrepresentation. Of course, there are thousand of ministers too small to discuss with — ministers who stand for nothing in the church — and with such clergymen I cannot afford to discuss anything. If the Presbyterians, or the Congregationalists, or the Methodists would select some man, and endorse him as their champion, I would like to meet him in debate. Such a man I will pay to discuss with me. I will give him most excellent wages, and pay all the expenses of the discussion besides. There is but one safe course for ministers — they must assert. They must declare. They must swear to it and stick to it, but they must not try to reason.
QUESTION: You have never seen Rev. Mr. Lansing. To the people ofMeridenand thereabouts he is well-known. Judging from what has been told you of his utterances and actions, what kind of a man would you take him to be?
ANSWER: I would take him to be a Christian. He talks like one, and he acts like one. If Christianity is right,Lansingis right. If salvation depends upon belief, and if unbelievers are to be eternally damned, then an Infidel has no right to speak. He should not be allowed to murder the souls of his fellow-men.Lansingdoes the best he knows how. He thinks that God hates an unbeliever, and he tries to act like God.Lansingknows that he must have the right to slander a man whom God is to eternally damn.
QUESTION: Mr. Lansing speaks of you as a wolf coming with fangs sharpened by three hundred dollars a night to tear the lambs of his flock. What do you say to that?
ANSWER: All I have to say is, that I often get three times that amount, and sometimes much more. I guess his lambs can take care of themselves. I am not very fond of mutton anyway. Such talk Mr. Lansing ought to be ashamed of. The idea that he is a shepherd — that he is on guard — is simply preposterous. He has few sheep in his congregation that know as little on the wolf question as he does. He ought to know that his sheep support him — his sheep protect him; and without the sheep poorLansingwould be devoured by the wolves himself.
QUESTION: Shall you sue the Opera House management for breach of contract?
ANSWER: I guess not; but I may payLansingsomething for advertising my lecture. I suppose Mr. Wilcox (who controls the Opera House) did what he thought was right. I hear that he is a good man. He probably got a little frightened and began to think about the day of judgment, He could not help it, and I cannot help laughing at him.
QUESTION: Those inMeridenwho most strongly oppose you are radical Republicans. Is it not a fact that you possess the confidence and friendship of some of the most respected leaders of that party?
ANSWER: I think that all the respectable ones are friends of mine. I am a Republican because I believe in the liberty of the body, and I am an Infidel because I believe in the liberty of the mind. There is no need of freeing cages. Let us free the birds. If Mr. Lansing knew me, he would be a great friend. He would probably annoy me by the frequency and length of his visits.
QUESTION: During the recent presidential campaign did any clergymen denounce you for your teachings, that you are aware of?
ANSWER: Some did, but they would not if they had been running for office on the Republican ticket.
QUESTION: What is most needed in our public men?
ANSWER: Hearts and brains.
QUESTION: Would people be any more moral solely because of a disbelief in orthodox teaching and in the Bible as an inspired book, in your opinion?
ANSWER: Yes; if a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion’s sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker. and this belief has raised the devil with Mr. Lansing.
QUESTION: Do you believe there will ever be a millennium, and if so how will it come about?
ANSWER: It will probably start inMeriden, as I have been informed thatLansingis going to leave.
QUESTION: Is there anything else bearing upon the question at issue or that would make good reading, that I have forgotten, that you would like to say?
ANSWER: Yes. Good-bye. –
The Sunday Union,New Haven,Conn.April 10, 1881.
Beaconsfield, Lent And Revivals.
QUESTION: What have you to say about the attack of Dr. Buckley on you, and your lecture?
ANSWER: I never heard of Dr. Buckley until after I had lectured inBrooklyn. He seems to think that it was extremely ill bred in me to deliver a lecture on the “Liberty of Man, Woman and Child, “during Lent. Lent is just as good as any other part of the year, and no part can be too good to do good. It was not a part of my object to hurt the feelings of the Episcopalians and Catholics. If they think that there is some subtle relation between hunger and heaven, or that faith depends upon, or is strengthened by famine, or that veal, during Lent, is the enemy of virtue, or that beef breeds blasphemy, while fish feeds faith — of course, all this is nothing to me. They have a right to say that vice depends on victuals, sanctity on soup, religion on rice and chastity on cheese, but they have no right to say that a lecture on liberty is an insult to them because they are hungry. I suppose that Lent was instituted in memory of the Savior’s fast. At one time it was supposed that only a divine being could live forty days without food. This supposition has been overthrown.
It has been demonstrated by Dr. Tanner to be utterly without foundation. What possible good did it do the world for Christ to go without food for forty days? Why should we follow such an example? As a rule, hungry people are cross, contrary, obstinate, peevish and unpleasant. A good dinner puts a man at peace with all the world — makes him generous, good natured and happy. He feels like kissing his wife and children. The future looks bright. He wants to help the needy. The good in him predominates, and he wonders that any man was ever stingy or cruel. Your good cook is a civilizer, and without good food, well prepared, intellectual progress is simply impossible. Most of the orthodox creeds were born of bad cooking. Bad food produced dyspepsia, and dyspepsia produced Calvinism, and Calvinism is the cancer of Christianity. Oatmeal is responsible for the worst features of Scotch Presbyterianism. Half cooked beans account for the religion of the Puritans. Fried bacon and saleratus biscuit underlie the doctrine of State Rights. Lent is a mistake, fasting is a blunder, and bad cooking is a crime.
QUESTION: It is stated that you went toBrooklynwhile Beecher and Talmage were holding revivals, and that you did so for the purpose of breaking them up. How is this?
ANSWER: I had not the slightest idea of interfering with the revivals. They amounted to nothing. They were not alive enough to be killed. Surely one lecture could not destroy two revivals. Still, I think that if all the persons engaged in the revivals had spent the same length of time in cleaning the streets, the good result would have been more apparent. The truth is, that the old way of converting people will have to be abandoned. The Americans are getting hard to scare, and a revival without the “scare” is scarcely worth holding. Such maniacs as Hammond and the “Boy Preacher” fill asylums and terrify children. After saying what he has about hell, Mr. Beecher ought to know that he is not the man to conduct a revival. A revival sermon with hell left out — with the brimstone gone — with the worm that never dies, dead, and the Devil absent is the broadest farce. Mr. Talmage believes in the ancient way. With him hell is a burning reality. He can hear the shrikes and groans. He is of that order of mind that rejoices in these things. If he could only convince others, he would be a great revivalist. He cannot terrify, he astonishes, He is the clown of the horrible — one of Jehovah’s jesters, I am not responsible for the revival failure inBrooklyn. I wish I were. I would have the happiness of knowing that I had been instrumental in preserving the sanity of my fellow-men.
QUESTION: How do you account for these attacks?
ANSWER: It was not so much what I said that excited the wrath of the reverend gentlemen as the fact that I had a great house. They contrasted their failure with my success. The fact is, the people are getting tired of the old ideas. They are beginning to think for themselves. Eternal punishment seems to them like eternal revenge. They see that Christ could not atone for the sins of others; that belief ought not to be rewarded and honest doubt punished forever; that good deeds are better than bad creeds, and that liberty is the rightful heritage of every soul.
QUESTION: Were you an admirer of Lord Beaconsfield?
ANSWER: In some respects. He was on our side during the war, and gave it as his opinion that theUnionwould be preserved. Mr. Gladstone congratulated Jefferson Davis on having founded a new nation. I shall never forgetBeaconsfieldfor his kindness, norGladstonefor his malice.Beaconsfieldwas an intellectual gymnast, a political athlete, one of the most adroit men in the world. He had the persistence of his race. In spite of the prejudices of eighteen hundred years, he rose to the highest position that can be occupied by a citizen. During his administrationEnglandagain became a Continental power and played her game of European chess. I have never regardedBeaconsfieldas a man controlled by principle, or by his heart. He was strictly a politician. He always acted as though he thought the clubs were looking at him. He knew all the arts belonging to his trade. He would have succeeded anywhere, if by “succeeding” is meant the attainment of position and power. But after all, such men are splendid failures. They give themselves and others a great deal of trouble — they wear the tinsel crown of temporary success and then fade from public view. They astonish the pit, they gain the applause of the galleries, but when the curtain falls there is nothing left to benefit mankind.Beaconsfieldheld convictions somewhat in contempt. He had the imagination of the East united with the ambition of an Englishman. With him, to succeed was to have done right.
QUESTION: What do you think of him as an author?
ANSWER: Most of his characters are like himself — puppets moved by the string of self-interest. The men are adroit, the women mostly heartless. They catch each other with false bait. They have great worldly wisdom. Their virtue and vice are mechanical. They have hearts like clocks — filled with wheels and springs. The author winds them up. In his novels Disraeli allows us to enter the greenroom of his head. We see the ropes, the pulleys and the old masks. In all things, in politics and in literature, he was cold, cunning, accurate, able and successful. His books will, in a little while, follow their author to their grave. After all, the good will live longest. —
Washington Correspondent,Brooklyn Eagle, April 24, 1881.
Answering The New York Ministers.
Ever since Colonel Ingersoll began the delivery of his lecture called The Great Infidels, the ministers of the country have made him the subject of special attack. One week ago last Sunday the majority of the leading ministers in New York made replies to Ingersoll’s last lecture. What he has to say to these replies will be found in a interview with Colonel Ingersoll. No man is harder to pin down for a long talk than the Colonel. He is so beset with visitors and eager office seekers anxious for his help, that he can hardly find five minutes unoccupied during an entire day. Through the shelter of a private room and the guardianship of a stout colored servant, the Colonel was able to escape the crowd of seekers after his personal charity long enough to give him time to answer some of the ministerial arguments advanced against him in New York.
Interview Answering The New York Ministers.
QUESTION: Have you seen the attacks made upon you by certain ministers ofNew York, published in the Harold last Sunday?
ANSWER: Yes, I read, or heard read, what was in Monday’s Harold. I do not know that you could hardly call them attacks. They are substantially a repetition of what the pulpit has been saying for a great many hundred years, and what the pulpit will say just so long as men are paid for suppressing truth and for defending superstition. One of these gentlemen tells the lambs of his flock that three thousand men and a few women — probably with quite an emphasis on the word “Few” — gave one dollar each to hear their Maker cursed and their Savior ridiculed. Probably nothing is so hard for the average preacher to bear as the fact that people are not only willing to hear the other side, but absolutely anxious to pay for it. The dollar that these people paid hurt their feelings vastly more than what was said after they were in. Of course, it is a frightful commentary on the average intellect of the pulpit that a minister cannot get so large an audience when he preaches for nothing, as an infidel can draw at a dollar a head. If I depended upon a contribution box, or upon passing a saucer that would come back to the stage enriched with a few five cent pieces, eight or ten dimes, and a lonesome quarter, these gentlemen would, in all probability, imagine infidelity was not to be feared.
The churches were all open on that Sunday, and all could go who desired. Yet they were not full, and the pews were nearly as empty of people as the pulpit of ideas. The truth is, the story is growing old, the ideas somewhat moss-covered, and everything has a wrinkled and withered appearance. This gentleman says that these people went to hear their Maker cursed and their Savior ridiculed. Is it possible that in a city where so many steeples pierce the air, and hundreds of sermons are preached every Sunday, there are three thousand men, and a few women, so anxious to hear “their Maker cursed and their Savior ridiculed” that they are willing to pay a dollar each? The gentleman knew that nobody cursed anybody’s Maker. He knew that the statement was utterly false and without the slightest foundation. He also knew that nobody had ridiculed the savior of anybody, but, on the contrary, that I had paid a greater tribute to the character of Jesus Christ than any minister inNew Yorkhas the capacity to do. Certainly it is not cursing the Maker of anybody to say that the God described in the Old Testament is not the real God. Certainly it is not cursing God to declare that the real God never sanctioned slavery or polygamy, or commanded wars of extermination, or told a husband to separate from his wife if she differed with him in religion. The people who say these things of God — if there is any God at all — do what little there is in their power, unwittingly of course, to destroy his reputation. But I have done something to rescue the reputation of the Deity from the slanders of the pulpit. If there is any God, I expect to find myself credited on the heavenly books for my defence of him. I did say that our civilization is due not to piety, but to Infidelity. I did say that every great reformer had been denounced as an Infidel in his day and generation. I did say that Christ was an Infidel, and that he was treated in his day very much as the orthodox preachers treat an honest man now. I did say that he was tried for blasphemy and crucified by bigots. I did say that he hated and despised the church of his time, and that he denounced the most pious people ofJerusalemas thieves and vipers. And I suggested that should he come again he might have occasion to repeat the remarks that he then made. At the same time I admitted that there are thousands and thousands of Christians who are exceedingly good people. I never did pretend that the fact that a man was a Christian even tended to show that he was a bad man. Neither have I ever insisted that the fact that a man is an Infidel even tends to show what, in other respects, his character is. But I always have said, and I always expect to say, that a Christian who does not believe in absolute intellectual liberty is a curse to mankind, and that an Infidel who does believe in absolute intellectual liberty is a blessing to this world. We cannot expect all Infidels to he good, nor all Christians to be bad, and we might make some mistakes even if we selected these people ourselves. It is admitted by the Christians that Christ made a great mistake when he selected Judas. This was a mistake of over eight per cent.
Chaplain Newman takes pains to compare some great Christians with some great Infidels. He comparesWashingtonwith Julian, and insists, I suppose, thatWashingtonwas a great Christian. Certainly he is not very familiar with the history ofWashington, or he never would claim that he was particularly distinguished in his day for what is generally known as vital piety. That he went through the ordinary forms of Christianity nobody disputes. That he listened to sermons without paying any particular attention to them, no one will deny. Julian, of course, was somewhat prejudiced against Christianity, but that he was one of the greatest men of antiquity no one acquainted with the history ofRomecan honestly dispute. When he was made emperor he found at the palace hundreds of gentlemen who acted as barbers, hair-combers, and brushers for the emperor. He dismissed them all, remarking that he was able to wash himself. These dismissed office-holders started the story that he was dirty in his habits, and a minister of the nineteenth century was found silly enough to believe the story. Another thing that probably got him into disrepute in that day, he had no private chaplains. As a matter of fact, Julian was forced to pretend that he was a Christian in order to save his life. The Christians of that day were of such a loving nature that any man who differed with them was forced to either fall a victim to their ferocity or seek safety in subterfuge. The real crime that Julian committed, and the only one that has burned itself into the very heart and conscience of the Christian world, is, that he transferred the revenues of Christian churches to heathen priests. Whoever stands between a priest and his salary will find that he has committed the unpardonable sin commonly known as the sin against the Holy Ghost.
This gentleman also compares Luther with Voltaire. If he will read the life of Luther by Lord Brougham, he will find that in his ordinary conversation he was exceedingly low and vulgar, and that no respectable English publisher could be found who would soil paper with the translation. If he will take the pains to read an essay by Macaulay, he will find that twenty years after the death of Luther there were more Catholics than when he was born. And that twenty years after the death of Voltaire there were millions less than when he was born. If he will take just a few moments to think, he will find that the last victory of Protestantism was won inHolland; that there has never been one since, and will never be another. If he would really like to think, and enjoy for a few moments the luxury of having an idea, let him ponder for a little while over the instructive fact that languages having their root in the Latin have generally been spoken in Catholic countries; and that those languages having their root in the ancient German are now mostly spoken by people of Protestant proclivities. It may occur to him, after thinking of this a while, that there is something deeper in the question than he has as yet perceived. Luther’s last victory, as I said before, was inHolland; but the victory of Voltaire goes on from day to day. Protestantism is not holding its own with Catholicism, even in theUnited States. I saw the other day the statistics, I believe, of the city ofChicago, showing that, while the city had increased two or three hundred per cent., Protestantism had lagged behind at the rate of twelve per cent. I am willing for one, to have the whole question depend upon a comparison of the worth and work of Voltaire and Luther. It may be, too, that the gentleman forgot to tell us that Luther himself gave consent to a person high in office to have two wives, but prudently suggested to him that he had better keep it as still as possible. Luther was, also, a believer in a personal Devil. He thought that deformed children had been begotten by an evil spirit. On one occasion he told a mother that, in his judgment, she had better drown her child; that he had no doubt the Devil was its father. This same Luther made this observation: “Universal toleration is universal error, and universal error is universal hell.” From this you will see that he was an exceedingly good man, but mistaken upon many questions. So, too, he laughed at the Copernican system, and wanted to know if these fool astronomers could undo the work of God. He probably knew as little about science as the reverend gentlemen does about history.
QUESTION: Does he compare any other Infidels with Christians?
ANSWER: Oh, yes; he compares Lord Bacon with Diderot. I have never claimed that Diderot was a saint. I have simply insisted that he was a great man; that he was grand enough to say that “incredulity is the beginning of philosophy;” that he had sense enough to know that the God described by the Catholics and Protestants of his day was simply an impossible monster; and that he also had the brain to see that the little selfish heaven occupied by a few monks and nuns and idiots that they had fleeced, was hardly worth going to; in other words, that he was a man of common sense, greatly in advance of his time, and that he did what he could to increase the sum of human enjoyment to the end that there might be more happiness in this world.
The gentleman compares him with Lord Bacon, and yet, if he will read the trials of that day — I think in the year 1620 — he will find that the Christian Lord Bacon, the pious Lord Bacon, was charged with receiving pay for his opinions, and, in some instances, pay from both sides; that the Christian Lord Bacon, at first upon his honor as a Christian lord, denied the whole business; that afterward the Christian Lord Bacon, upon his honor as a Christian lord, admitted the truth of the whole business, and that, therefore, the Christian Lord Bacon was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of forty thousand pounds, and rendered infamous and incapable of holding any office. Now, understand me, I do not think Bacon took bribes because he was a Christian, because there have been many Christian judges perfectly honest; but, if the statement of the reverend gentleman, ofNew Yorkis true, his being a Christian did not prevent his taking bribes. And right here allow me to thank the gentleman with all my heart for having spoken of Lord Bacon in this connection. I have always admired the genius of Bacon, and have always thought of his fall with an aching heart, and would not now have spoken of his crime had not his character been flung in my face by a gentleman who asks his God to kill me for having expressed my honest thought.
The same gentleman comparesNewtonwith Spinoza. In the first place, there is no ground of parallel.Newtonwas a very great man and a very justly celebrated mathematician. As a matter of fact, he is not celebrated for having discovered the law of gravitation. That was known for thousands of years before he was born; and if the reverend gentleman would read a little more he would find that Newton’s discovery was not that there is such a law as gravitation, but that bodies attract each other “with a force proportional directly to the quantity of matter they contain, and inversely to the squares of their distances.” I do not think he made the discoveries on account of his Christianity.Laplacewas certainly in many respects as great a mathematician and astronomer, but he was not a Christian.
Descartes was certainly not much inferior toNewtonas a mathematician, and thousands insist that he was his superior; yet he was not a Christian.Euclid, if I remember right, was not a Christian, and yet he had quite a turn for mathematics. As a matter of fact, Christianity got its idea of algebra from the Mohammedans, and, without algebra, astronomical knowledge of to-day would have been impossible. Christianity did not even invent figures. We got those from the Arabs. The very word “algebra” is Arabic. The decimal system, I believe, however, was due to a German, but whether he was a Christian or not, I do not know.
We find that the Chinese calculated eclipses long before Christ was born; and, exactness being the rule at that time, there is an account of two astronomers having been beheaded for failing to tell the coming of an eclipse to the minute; yet they were not Christians. There is another fact connected withNewton, and that is that he wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation. The probability is that a sillier commentary was never written. It was so perfectly absurd and laughable that some one — I believe it was Voltaire — said that whileNewtonhad excited the envy of the intellectual world by his mathematical accomplishments, it had gotten even with him the moment his commentaries were published. Spinoza was not a mathematician, particularly. He was a metaphysician, an honest thinker, whose influence is felt and will be felt so long as these great questions have the slightest interest for the human brain.
He also compares Chalmers with Hume. Chalmers gained his notoriety from preaching what are known as the astronomical sermons, and, I suppose, was quite a preacher in his day.
But Hume was a thinker, and his works will live for ages after Mr. Chalmers’ sermons will have been forgotten. Mr. Chalmers has never been prominent enough to have been well known by many people. He may have been an exceedingly good man, and derived, during his life, great consolation from a belief in the damnation of infants.
Mr. Newman also compares Wesley with Thomas Paine. When Thomas Paine was in favor of human liberty, Wesley was against it. Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called “Common Sense,” urging the colonies to separate themselves fromGreat Britain. Wesley wrote a treatise on the other side. He was the enemy of human liberty; and if his advice could have been followed we would have been the colonies ofGreat Britainstill. We never would have had a President in need of a private chaplain. Mr. Wesley had not a scientific mind. He preached a sermon once on the cause and cure of earthquakes, taking the ground that earthquakes were caused by sins, and that the only way to stop them was to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He also laid down some excellent rules for rearing children, that is, from a Methodist standpoint. His rules amounted to about this:
First. Never give them what they want.
Second. Never give them what you intend to give them, at the time they want it.
Third. Break their wills at the earliest possible moment. Mr. Wesley made every family an inquisition, every father and mother inquisitors, and all the children helpless victims. One of his homes would give an exceedingly vivid idea of hell. At the same time, Mr. Wesley was a believer in witches and wizards, and knew all about the Devil. At his request God performed many miracles. On several occasions he cured his horse of lameness. On others, dissipated Mr Wesley’s headaches. Now and then he put off rain on account of a camp meeting, and at other times stopped the wind blowing at the special request of Mr. Wesley. I have no doubt that Mr. Wesley was honest in all this, — just as honest as he was mistaken. And I also admit that he was the founder of a church that does extremely well in new countries, and that thousands of Methodists have been exceedingly good men. But I deny that he ever did anything for human liberty. While Mr. Wesley was fighting the Devil and giving his experience with witches and wizards, Thomas Paine helped to found a free nation. helped to enrich the air with another flag. Wesley was right on one thing, though. He was opposed to slavery, and, I believe, called it the sum of all villainies. I have always been obliged to him for that. I do not think he said it because he was a Methodist; but Methodism, as he understood it, did not prevent his saying it, and Methodism as others understood it, did not prevent men from being slaveholders, did not prevent them from selling babes from mothers, and in the name of God beating the naked hack of toil. I think, on the whole, Paine did more for the world than Mr. Wesley. The difference between an average Methodist and an average Episcopalian is not worth quarreling about. But the difference between a man who believes in despotism and one who believes in liberty is almost infinite. Wesley changed Episcopalians into Methodists; Paine turned lickspittles into men. Let it be understood, once for all, that I have never claimed that Paine was perfect. I was very glad that the reverend gentleman admitted that he was a patriot and the foe of tyrants; that he sympathized with the oppressed, and befriended the helpless; that he favored religious toleration, and that he weakened the power of the Catholic Church. I am glad that he made these admissions. Whenever it can be truthfully said of a man that he loved his country, hated tyranny, sympathized with the oppressed, and befriended the helpless, nothing more is necessary. If God can afford to damn such a man, such a man can afford to be damned. While Paine was the foe of tyrants, Christians were the tyrants. When he sympathized with the oppressed, the oppressed were the victims of Christians. When he befriended the helpless, the helpless were the victims of Christians. Paine never founded an inquisition; never tortured a human being; never hoped that anybody’s tongue would be paralyzed, and was always opposed to private chaplains.
It might be well for the reverend gentleman to continue his comparisons, and find eminent Christians to put, for instance, along with Humboldt, the Shakespeare of science; somebody by the side ofDarwin, as a naturalist; some gentleman inEnglandto stand with Tyndall, or Huxley; some Christian German to stand with Haeckel and Helmholtz. May-be he knows some Christian statesman that he would compare with Gambetta. I would advise him to continue his parallels.
QUESTION: What have you to say of the Rev. Dr.Fulton?
ANSWER: TheRev. Dr.Fultonis a great friend of mine. I am extremely sorry to find that he still believes in a personal Devil, and I greatly regret that he imagines that this Devil has so much power that he can take possession of a human being and deprive God of their services. It is in sorrow and not in anger, that I find that he still believes in this ancient superstition. I also regret that he imagines that I am leading young men to eternal ruin. It occurs to me that if there is an infinite God, he ought not to allow anybody to lead young men to eternal ruin. If anything I have said, or am going to say, has a tendency to lead young men to eternal ruin, I hope that if there is a God with the power to prevent me, he will use it. Dr. Fulton admits that in politics I am on the right side. I presume he makes this concession because he is a Republican. I am in favor of universal education, of absolute intellectual liberty. I am in favor, also, of equal rights to all. As I have said before we have spent millions and millions of dollars and rivers of blood to free the bodies of men; in other words, we have been freeing the cages. My proposition now is to give a little liberty to the birds. I am not willing to stop where a man can simply reap the fruit of his hand. I wish him, also, to enjoy the liberty of his brain. I am not against any truth in the New Testament. I did say that I objected to religion because it made enemies and not friends. TheRev. Dr.says that is one reason why he likes religion. Dr. Fulton tells me that the Bible is the gift of God to man. He also tells me that the Bible is true, and that God is its author. If the Bible is true and God is its author, then God was in favor of slavery four thousand years ago. He was also in favor of polygamy and religious intolerance. In other words, four thousand years ago he occupied the exact position the Devil is supposed to occupy now. If the Bible teaches anything it teaches man to enslave his brother, that is to say, if his brother is a heathen. The God of the Bible always hated heathens. Dr. Fulton also says that the Bible is the basis of all law. Yet, if the Legislature of New York would re-enact next winter the Mosaic code, the members might consider themselves lucky if they were not hung upon their return home. Probably Dr. Fulton thinks that had it not been for the Ten Commandments, nobody would ever have thought that stealing was wrong. I have always had an idea that men objected to stealing because the industrious did not wish to support the idle; and I have a notion that there has always been a law against murder, because a large majority of people have always objected to being murdered. If he will read his Old Testament with care, he will find that God violated most of his own commandments except that “Thou shalt worship no other God before me,” and, may- be, the commandment against work on the Sabbath day. With these two exceptions I am satisfied that God himself violated all the rest. He told his chosen people to rob the Gentiles: that violated the commandment against stealing. He said himself that he had sent out lying spirits; that certainly was a violation of another commandment. He ordered soldiers to kill men, women and babes; that was a violation of another. He also told them to divide the maidens among the soldiers; that was a substantial violation of another. One of the commandments was that you should not covet your neighbor’s property. In that commandment you will find that a man’s wife is put on an equality with his ox. Yet his chosen people were allowed not only to covet the property of the Gentiles, but to take it. If Dr. Fulton will read a little more, he will find that all the good laws in the Decalogue had been in force inEgypta century before Moses was born. He will find that like laws and many better ones were in force inIndiaandChina, long before Moses knew what a bulrush was. If he will think a little while, he will find that one of the Ten Commandments, the one on the subject of graven images, was bad. The result of that was thatPalestinenever produced a painter, or a sculptor, and that no Jew became famous in art until long after the destruction ofJerusalem. A commandment that robs a people of painting and statuary is not a good one The idea of the Bible being the basis of law is almost too silly to be seriously refuted. I admit that I did say that Shakespeare was the greatest man who ever lived; and Dr. Fulton says in regard to this statement, “What foolishness! He then proceeds to insult his audience by telling them that while many of them have copies of Shakespeare’s works in their houses, they have not read twenty pages of them. This fact may account for their attending his church and being satisfied with that sermon. I do not believe to-day that Shakespeare is more influential than the Bible, but what influence Shakespeare has, is for good. No man can read it without having his intellectual wealth increased. When you read it, it is not necessary to throw away your reason. Neither will you be damned if you do not understand it. It is a book that appeals to everything in the human brain. In that book can be found the wisdom of all ages. Long after the Bible has passed out of existence, the name of Shakespeare will lead the intellectual roster of the world. Dr. Fulton says there is not one word in the Bible that teaches that slavery or polygamy is right. He also states that I know it. If language has meaning — if words have sense, or the power to convey thought, — what did God mean when he told the Israelites to buy of the heathen round about, and that the heathen should be their bondmen and bondmaids forever?
What did God mean when he said, If a man strike his servant so that he dies, he should not be punished, because his servant was his money. Passages like these can be quoted beyond the space that any paper is willing to give. Yet theRev. Dr.Fultondenies that the Old Testament upholds slavery. I would like to ask him if the Old Testament is in favor of religious toleration? If God wrote the Old Testament and afterward came upon the earth as Jesus Christ, and taught a new religion, and the Jews crucified him was this not in accordance with his own law, and was he not, after all, the victim of himself?
QUESTION: What about the other ministers?
ANSWER: Well, I see in the Harold that some ten have said they would reply to me. I have selected the two, simply because they came first. I think they are about as poor as any; and you know it is natural to attack those who are the easiest answered. All these ministers are now acting as my agents, and are doing me all the good they can by saying all the bad things about me they can think of. They imagine that their congregations have not grown, and they talk to them as though they were living in the seventeenth instead of the nineteenth century. The truth is, the pews are beyond the Pulpit, and the modern sheep are now protecting the shepherds.
QUESTION: Have you noticed a great change in public sentiment in the last three or four years?
ANSWER: Yes, I think there are ten times as many Infidels to-day as there were ten years ago. I am amazed at the great change that has taken place in public opinion. The churches are not getting along well. There are hundreds and hundreds who have not had a new member in a year. The young men are not satisfied with the old ideas. They find that the church, after all, is opposed to learning; that it is the enemy of progress; that it says to every young man, “Go slow. Don’t allow your knowledge to puff you up. Recollect that reason is a dangerous thing. You had better be a little ignorant here for the sake of being an angel hereafter, than quite a smart young man and get damned at last.” The church warns them against Humboldt and Darwin, and tells them how much nobler it is to come from mud than from monkeys; that they were made from mud. Every college professor is afraid to tell what he thinks, and every student detects the cowardice. The result is that the young men have lost confidence in the creeds of the day and propose to do a little thinking for themselves. They still have a kind of tender pity for the old folks, and pretend to believe some things they do not, rather than hurt grandmother’s feelings. In the presence of the preachers they talk about the weather and other harmless subjects, for fear of bruising the spirit of their pastor. Every minister likes to consider himself as a brave shepherd leading the lambs through the green pastures and defending them at night from Infidel wolves. All this he does for a certain share of the wool. Others regard the church as a kind of social organization, as a good way to get into society. They wish to attend sociables, drink tea, and contribute for the conversion of the heathen. It is always so pleasant to think that there is somebody worse than you are, whose reformation you can help pay for. I find, too, that the young women are getting tired of the old doctrines, and that everywhere, all over this country, the power of the pulpit wanes and weakens. I find in my lectures that the applause is just in proportion to the radicalism of the thought expressed. Our war was a great educator, when the whole people of the North rose up grandly in favor of human liberty. For many years the great question of human rights was discussed from every stump. Every paper was filled with splendid sentiments. An application of these doctrines — doctrines born in war — will forever do away with the bondage of superstition. When man has been free in body for a little time, he will become free in mind, and the man who says, “I have an equal right with other men to work and reap the reward of my labor,” will say, “I have, also, an equal right to think and reap the reward of my thought.”
In old times there was a great difference between a clergyman and a layman. The clergyman was educated; the peasant was ignorant. The tables have been turned. The thought of the world is with the laymen. They are the intellectual pioneers, the mental leaders, and the ministers are following on behind, predicting failure and disaster, signing for the good old times when their word ended discussion. There is another good thing, and that is the revision of the Bible. Hundreds of passages have been found to be interpolations, and future revisers will find hundreds more. The foundation crumbles. That book, called the basis of all law and civilization, has to be civilized itself. We have outgrown it. Our laws are better; our institutions grander; our objects and aims nobler and higher.
QUESTION: Do many people write to you upon this subject; and what spirit do they manifest?
ANSWER: Yes, I get a great many anonymous letters — some letters in which God is asked to strike me dead, others of an exceedingly insulting character, others almost idiotic, others exceedingly malicious, and others insane, others written in an exceedingly good spirit, winding up with the information that I must certainly be damned. Others express wonder that God allowed me to live at all, and that, having made the mistake, he does not instantly correct it by killing me. Others prophesy that I will yet be a minister of the gospel; but, as there has never been any softening of the brain in our family, I imagine that the prophecy will never be fulfilled. Lately, on opening a letter and seeing that it is upon this subject, and without a signature, I throw it aside without reading. I have so often found them to be so grossly ignorant, insulting and malicious, that as a rule I read them no more.
QUESTION: Of the hundreds of people who call upon you nearly every day to ask your help, do any of them ever discriminate against you on account of your Infidelity?
ANSWER: No one who has asked a favor of me objects to my religion, or, rather, to my lack of it. A great many people do come to me for assistance of one kind and another. But I have never yet asked a man or woman whether they were religious or not, to what church they belonged, or any questions upon the subject. I think I have done favors for persons of most denominations. It never occurs to me whether they are Christians or Infidels. I do not care. Of course, I do not expect that Christians will treat me the same as though I belonged to their church. I have never expected it. In some instances I have been disappointed. I have some excellent friends who disagree with me entirely upon the subject of religion. My real opinion is that secretly they like me because I am not a Christian, and those who do not like me envy me the liberty I enjoy. –
New York correspondent, Chicago Times, May 29, 1881.
Guiteau And His Crime.
Our “Royal Bob” was found by The Gazette, in the gloaming of a delicious evening, during the past week, within the open portals of his friendly residence, dedicated by the gracious presence within to a simple and cordial hospitality, to the charms of friendship and the freedom of an abounding comradeship. With intellectual and untrammered life, a generous, wise and genial host, whoever enters finds a welcome, seasoned with kindly wit and Attic humor, a poetic insight and a delicious frankness which renders an evening there a veritable symposium. The wayfarer who passes is charmed, and he who comes frequently, goes always away with delighted memories.
What matters it that we differ? such as he and his make our common life the sweeter. An hour or two spent in the attractive parlors of the Ingersoll homestead, amid the rare group, lends a newer meaning to the idea of home and a more secure beauty of the fact of family life. During the past exciting three weeks Colonel Ingersoll has been a busy man. He holds no office. No position could lend him an additional crown and even recognition is no longer necessary. But it has been well that amid the first fierce fury of anger and excitement, and the subsequent more bitter if not as noble outpouring of fiction’s suspicions and innuendoes, that so manly a man, so sagacious a counsellor, has been enabled to hold so positive a balance. Cabinet officials, legal functionaries, detectives, citizens — all have felt the wise, humane instincts, and the capacious brain of this marked man affecting and influencing for this fair equipoise and calmer judgement.
Conversing freely on this evening of this visit, Colonel Ingersoll, in the abundance of his pleasure at the White House news, submitted to be interviewed, and with the following results.
QUESTION: By-the-way, Colonel, you knew Guiteau slightly, we believe. Are you aware that it has been attempted to show that some money loaned or given him by yourself was really what he purchased the pistol with?
ANSWER: I knew Guiteau slightly; I saw him for the first time a few days after the inauguration. He wanted a consulate, and asked me to give him a letter to Secretary Blaine. I refused, on the ground that I didn’t know him. Afterwards he wanted me to lend him twenty-five dollars, and I declined. I never loaned him a dollar in the world. If I had, I should not feel that I was guilty of trying to kill the President. On the principle that one would hold the man guilty who had innocently loaned the money with which he bought the pistol, you might convict the tailor who made his clothes. If he had had no clothes he would not have gone to the depot naked, and the crime would not have been committed. It is hard enough for the man who did lend him the money to lose that, without losing his reputation besides. Nothing can exceed the utter absurdity of what has been said upon this subject.
QUESTION: How did Guiteau impress you and what have you remembered, Colonel, of his efforts to reply to your lectures?
ANSWER: I do not know that Guiteau impressed me in any way. He appeared like most other folks in search of a place or employment. I suppose he was in need. He talked about the same as other people, and claimed that I ought to help him because he was fromChicago. The second time he came to see me he said that he hoped I had no prejudice against him on account of what he had said about me. I told him that I never knew he had said anything against me. I suppose now that he referred to what he had said in his lectures. He went about the country replying to me. I have seen one or two of his lectures. He used about the same arguments that Mr. Black uses in his reply to my article in the North American Review, and denounced me in about the same terms. He is undoubtedly a man who firmly believes in the Old Testament, and has no doubt concerning the New. I understand that he puts in most of his time now reading the Bible and rebuking people who use profane language in his presence.
QUESTION: You most certainly do not see any foundation a for the accusations of preachers like Sunderland, Newman and Power, et al, that the teaching of a secular liberalism has had anything to do with the shaping of Guiteau’s character or the actions of his vagabond life or the inciting to his murderous deeds?
ANSWER: I do not think that the sermon of Mr. Power was in good taste. It is utterly foolish to charge the “Stalwarts” with committing or inciting the crime against the life of the President. Ministers, though, as a rule, know but little of pubic affairs, and they always account for the actions of people they do not like or agree with, by attributing to them the lowest and basest motives. This is the fault of the pulpit — always has been, and probably always will be. The Rev. Dr. Newman of New York, tells us that the crime of Guiteau shows three things: First, that ignorant men should not be allowed to vote; second, that foreigners should not be allowed to vote; and third, that there should not be so much religious liberty.
It turns out, first, that Guiteau is not an ignorant man; second, that he is not a foreigner; and third, that he is a Christian. Now, because an intelligent American Christian tries to murder the President, this person says we ought to do something with ignorant foreigners and Infidels. This is about the average pulpit logic. Of course, all the ministers hate to admit that Guiteau was a Christian; that he belonged to the Young Men’s Christian Association, or at least was generally found in their rooms; that he was the follower of Moody and Sankey, and probably instrumental in the salvation of a great many souls. I do not blame them for wishing to get rid of this record. What I blame them for is that they are impudent enough to charge the crime of Guiteau upon Infidelity. Infidels and Atheists have often killed tyrants. They have often committed crimes to increase the liberty of mankind; but the history of the world will not show an instance where an Infidel or an Atheist has assassinated any man in the interest of human slavery. Of course, I am exceedingly glad that Guiteau is not an Infidel. I am glad that he believes the Bible, glad that he has delivered lectures against what he calls Infidelity, and glad that he has been working for years with the missionaries and evangelists of theUnited States. He is a man of small brain, badly balanced. He believes the Bible to be the word of God. Be believes in the reality of heaven and hell. He believes in the miraculous. He is surrounded by the supernatural, and when a man throws away his reason, of course no one can tell what he will do. He is liable to become a devotee or an assassin, a saint or a murderer; he may die in a monastery or in a penitentiary.
QUESTION: According to your view, then, the species of fanaticism taught in sectarian Christianity, by which Guiteau was led to assert that Garfield dead would be better off than living — being in Paradise — is more responsible than office seeking or political factionalism for his deed?
ANSWER: Guiteau seemed to think that the killing of the President would only open the gates ofParadiseto him, and that, after all, under such circumstances, murder was hardly a crime. This same kind of reasoning is resorted to in the pulpit to account for death. If Guiteau had succeeded in killing the President, hundreds of ministers would have said, “After all, it may be that the President has lost nothing; it may be that our loss is his eternal gain; and although it seems to us cruel that Providence should allow a man like him to be murdered, still, it may have been the very kindest thing that could have been done for him.” Guiteau reasoned in this way, and probably convinced himself, judging from his own life, that this world was, after all, of very little worth. We are apt to measure others by ourselves. Of course, I do not think that Christianity is responsible for this crime. Superstition may have been, in part — probably was. But no man believes in Christianity because he thinks it sanctions murder. At the same time, an absolute belief in the Bible sometimes produces the worst form of murder. Take that of Mr. Freeman, of Poeasset, who stabbed his little daughter to the heart in accordance with what he believed to be the command of God. This poor man imitated Abraham; and, for that matter, Jehovah himself. There have been in the history of Christianity thousands and thousands of such instances, and there will probably be many thousands more that have been and will be produced by throwing away our own reason and taking the word of some one else — often a word that we do not understand.
QUESTION: What is your opinion as to the effect of praying for the recovery of the President, and have you any confidence that prayers are answered?
ANSWER: My opinion as to the value of prayer is well known. I take it that every one who prays for the President shows at least his sympathy and good will. Personally, I have no objection to anybody’s praying. Those who think that prayers are answered should pray. For all who honestly believe this, and who honestly implore their Deity to watch over, protect, and save the life of the President, I have only the kindest feelings.
It may be that a few will pray to be seen of men; but I suppose that most people on a subject like this are honest. Personally, I have not the slightest idea of the existence of the supernatural. Prayer may affect the person who prays. It may put him in such a frame of mind that he can better bear disappointment than if he had not prayed; but I cannot believe that there is any being who hears and answers prayer.
When we remember the earthquakes that have devoured, the pestilences that have covered the earth with corpses, and all the crimes and agonies that have been inflicted upon the good and weak by the bad and strong, it does not seem possible that anything can be accomplished by prayer. I do not wish to hurt the feelings of anyone, but I imagine that I have a right to my own opinion. If the President gets well it will be because the bullet did not strike an absolutely vital part; it will be because he has been well cared for; because he has had about him intelligent and skillful physicians, men who understood their profession. No doubt he has received great support from the universal expression of sympathy and kindness. The knowledge that fifty millions of people are his friends has given him nerve and hope. Some of the ministers, I see, think that God was actually present and deflected the ball. Another minister tells us that the President would have been assassinated in a church, but that God determined not to allow so frightful a crime to be committed in so sacred an edifice. All this sounds to me like perfect absurdity — simple noise. Yet, I presume that those who talk in this way are good people and believe what they say. Of course, they can give no reason why God did not deflect the ball whenLincolnwas assassinated. The truth is, the pulpit first endeavors to find out the facts, and then to make a theory to fit them. Whoever believes in a special providence must, of necessity, be illogical and absurd; because it is impossible to make any theological theory that some facts will not contradict.
QUESTION: Won’t yon give us, then, Colonel, your analysis of this act, and the motives leading to it?
ANSWER: I think Guiteau wanted an office and was refused. He became importunate. He was, substantially, put out of the White House. He became malicious. He made up his mind to be revenged. This, in my judgment, is the diagnosis of his case. Since he has been in jail he has never said one word about having been put out of the White House; he is lawyer enough to know we must not furnish any ground for malice He is a miserable, malicious and worthless wretch, infinitely egotistical, imagines that he did a great deal toward the election of Garfield, and upon being refused the house a serpent of malice coiled in his heart, and he determined to be revenged. That is all!
QUESTION: Do you, in any way, see any reason or foundation for the severe and bitter criticisms made against the Stalwart leaders in connection with this crime. As you are well known to be a friend of the administration, while not unfriendly to Mr. Conkling and those acting with him, would you mind giving the public your opinion on this point?
ANSWER: Of course, I do not hold Arthur, Conkling and Platt responsible for Guiteau’s action. In the first excitement a thousand unreasonable things were said; and when passion has possession of the brain, suspicion is a welcome visitor.
I do not think that any friend of the administration really believes Conkling, Platt and Arthur responsible in the slightest degree. Conkling wished to prevent the appointment of Robertson. The President stood by his friend. One thing brought on another, Mr. Conkling petulantly resigned, and made the mistake of his life. There was a good deal of feeling, but, of course, no one dreamed that the wretch, Guiteau, was lying in wait for the President’s life. In the first place, Guiteau was on the President’s side, and was bitterly opposed to Conkling. Guiteau did what he did from malice and personal spite. I think the sermon preached last Sunday in theCampbelliteChurchwas unwise, ill advised, and calculated to make enemies instead of friends. Mr. Conkling has been beaten. He has paid for the mistake he made. If he can stand it, I can; and why should there be any malice on the subject? Exceedingly good men have made mistakes, and afterward corrected them.
QUESTION: Is it not true, Colonel Ingersoll, that the lesson of this deed is to point the real and overwhelming need of re- knitting and harmonizing the factions?
ANSWER: There is hardly faction enough left for “knitting.” The party is in harmony now. All that is necessary is to stop talking. The people of this country care very little as to who holds any particular office. They wish to have the Government administrated in accordance with certain great principles, and they leave the fields, the shops, and the stores once in four years, for the purpose of attending to that business. In the meantime, politicians quarrel about offices. The people go on. They plow fields, they build homes, they open mines, they enrich the world, they cover our country with prosperity, and enjoy the aforesaid quarrels. But when the time comes, these gentlemen are forgotten.
Principles take the place of politicians, and the people settle these questions for themselves. –
Sunday Gazette,Washington,D.C., July 24, 1881.
QUESTION: You have heretofore incidentally expressed yourself on the matter of local suffrage in theDistrict of Columbia. Have you any objections to giving your present views of the question?
ANSWER: I am still in favor of suffrage in the District. The real trouble is, that before any substantial relief can be reached, there must be a change in the Constitution of theUnited States. The mere right to elect aldermen and mayors and policemen is of no great importance. It is a mistake to take all political power from the citizens of the District. Americans want to help rule the country. The District ought to have at least one Representative in Congress, and should elect one presidential elector. The people here should have a voice. They should feel that they are a part of this country. They should have the right to sue in all Federal courts, precisely as though they were citizens of a State. This city ought to have half a million of inhabitants. Thousands would come here every year from every part of theUnion, were it not for the fact that they do not wish to become political nothings. They think that citizenship is worth something, and they preserve it by staying away fromWashington. This city is a “flag of truce” where wounded and dead politicians congregate; theMeccaof failures, the perdition of claimants, the purgatory of seekers after place, and the heaven only of those who neither want nor do anything. Nothing is manufactured, no solid business is done in this city, and there never will be until energetic, thrifty people wish to make it their home, and they will not wish that until the people of the District have something like the rights and political prospects of other citizens. It is hard to see why the right to representation should be taken from citizens living at the Capital of the Nation. The believers in free government should believe in a free capital.
QUESTION: Are there any valid reasons why the constitutional limitations to the elective franchise in theDistrict of Columbiashould not be removed by an amendment to that instrument?
ANSWER: I cannot imagine one. If our Government is founded upon a correct principle there can be no objection urged against suffrage in the District that cannot, with equal force, be urged against every part of the country. If freedom is dangerous here, it is safe nowhere. If a man cannot be trusted in the District, he is dangerous in the State. We do not trust the place where the man happens to be; we trust the man. The people of this District cannot remain in their present condition without becoming dishonored. The idea of allowing themselves to be governed by commissioners, in whose selection they have no part, is monstrous. The people here beg, implore, request, ask, pray, beseech, intercede, crave, urge, entreat, supplicate, memorialize and most humbly petition, but they neither vote nor demand. They are not allowed to enter theTempleofLiberty; they stay in the lobby or sit on the steps.
QUESTION: They sayParisisFrance, because her electors or citizens control that municipality. Do you foresee any danger of centralization in the full enfranchisement of the citizens ofWashington?
ANSWER: There was a time when the intelligence ofFrancewas inParis. The country was besotted, ignorant, Catholic;Pariswas alive, educated, Infidel, full of new theories, of passion and heroism. For two hundred yearsPariswas an athlete chained to a corpse. The corpse was the rest ofFrance. It is different now, and the whole country is at last filling with light. Besides,Parishas two millions of people. It is filled with factories. It is not only the intellectual center, but the center of money and business as well. Let the Corps Legislatif meet anywhere, andPariswill continue to be in a certain splendid sense –France. Nothing like that can ever happen here unless you expectWashingtonto outstripNew York,PhiladelphiaandChicago. If allowing the people of theDistrict of Columbiato vote was the only danger to the Republic, I should be politically the happiest of men. I think it somewhat dangerous to deprive even one American citizen of the right to govern himself.
QUESTION: Would you have Government clerks and officials appointed to office here given the franchise in the District? and should this, if given, include the women clerks?
ANSWER: Citizenship should be determined here as in the States. Clerks should not be allowed to vote unless their intention is to make the District their home. When I make a government I shall give one vote to each family. The unmarried should not be represented except by parents. Let the family be the unit of representation Give each hearthstone a vote.
QUESTION: How do you regard the opposition of the local clergy and of the Bourbon Democracy to enfranchising the citizens of the District?
ANSWER: I did not know that the clergy did oppose it. If, as you say, they do oppose it because they fear it will extend the liquor traffic, I think their reason exceedingly stupid. You cannot make men temperate by shutting up a few of the saloons and leaving others wide open. Intemperance must be met with other weapons. The church ought not to appeal to force. What would the clergy ofWashingtonthink should the miracle ofCanabe repeated in their day? Had they been in that country, with their present ideas, what would they have said? After all there is a great deal of philosophy in the following: “Better have the whole world voluntarily drunk then sober on compulsion.” Of course the Bourbons object. Objecting is the business of a Bourbon. He always objects. If he does not understand the question he objects because he does not, and if he does understand he objects because he does. With him the reason for objecting is the fact that he does.
QUESTION: What effect, if any, would the complete franchise to our citizens have upon real estate and business inWashington?
ANSWER: If the people here had representation according to numbers — if the avenues to political preferment were open — if men here could take part in the real government of the country, if they could bring with them all their rights, this would be a great and splendid Capital. We ought to have here a University, the best in the world, a library second to none, and here should be gathered the treasures of American art. The Federal Government has been infinitely economical in the direction of information. I hope the time will come when our Government will give as much to educate two men as to kill one. –
The Capital,Washington,D.C., December 18, 1881.