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Secular Union

Robert Green Ingersoll

                          ****     ****

            CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION.

                Albany, N.Y., September 13, 1885.

     LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: While I have never sought any place in
any organization, and while I never intended to accept any place in
any organization, yet as you have done me the honor to elect me
president of the American Secular Union, I not only accept the
place, but tender to you each and all my sincere thanks.

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                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               18

            CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION.

     This is a position that a man cannot obtain by repressing his
honest thought. Nearly all other positions he obtains in that way.
But I am glad that the time has come when men can afford to
preserve their manhood in this country. Maybe they cannot be
elected to the Legislature, cannot become errand boys in Congress,
cannot be placed as weather-vanes in the presidential chair, but
the time has come when a man can express his honest thought and be
treated like a gentleman in the United States. We have arrived at
a point where priests do not govern, and have reached that stage of
our journey where we, as Harriet Martineau expressed it, are "free
rovers on the breezy common of the universe." Day by day we are
getting rid of the aristocracy of the air. We have been the slaves
of phantoms long enough, and, a new day, a day of glory, has dawned
upon this new world -- this new world which is far beyond the old
in the real freedom of thought.

     In the selection of your officers, without referring to
myself, I think you have shown great good sense. The first man
chosen as vice-president, Mr. Charles Watts, is a gentleman of
sound, logical mind; one who knows what he wants to say and how to
say it; who is familiar with the organization of Secular societies,
knows what we wish to accomplish and the means to attain it. I am
glad that he is about to make this country his home, and I know of
no man who, in my judgment, can do more for the cause of
intellectual liberty.

     The next vice-president, Mr. Remsburg, has done splendid work
all over the country. He is an absolutely fearless man, and tells
really and truly what his mind produces. We need such men
everywhere.

     You know it is almost a rule, or at any rate the practice, in
political parties and in organizations generally, to be so anxious
for success that all the offices and places of honor are given to
those who will come in at the eleventh hour. The rule is to hold
out these honors as bribes for new-comers instead of conferring
them upon those who have borne the heat and burden of the day. I
hope that the American Secular Union will not be guilty of any such
injustice. Bestow your honors upon the men who stood by you when
you had few friends, the men who enlisted for the war when the
cause needed soldiers. Give your places to them, and if others want
to join your ranks, welcome them heartily to the places of honor in
the rear and let them learn how to keep step.

     In this particular, leaving out myself as I have said, you
have done magnificently well. Mrs. Mattie Krekel, another vice-
president, is a woman who has the courage to express her opinions,
and she is all the more to be commended because, as you know, women
have to suffer a little more punishment than men, being amenable to
social laws that are more exacting and tyrannical than those passed
by Legislatures.

     Of Mr, Wakeman it is not necessary to speak. You all know him
to be an able, thoughtful, and experienced man, capable in every
respect; one who has been in this organization from the beginning,

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               19

            CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION.

and who is now president of the New York society. Elizur Wright,
one of the patriarchs of Freethought, who was battling for liberty
before I was born, and who will be found in the front rank until he
ceases to be. You have honored yourselves by electing James Parton,
a thoughtful man, a scholar, a philosopher, and a philanthropist --
honest, courageous, and logical -- with a mind as clear as a
cloudless sky. Parker Pillsbury, who has always been on the side of
liberty, always willing, if need be, to stand alone -- a man who
has been mobbed many times because he had the goodness and courage
to denounce the institution of slavery -- a man possessed of the
true martyr spirit. Messrs. Algie and Adams, our friends from
Canada, men of the highest character, worthy of our fullest
confidence and esteem -- conscientious, upright, and faithful.

     And permit me to say that I know of no man of kinder heart, of
gentler disposition, with more real, good human feeling toward all
the world, with a more forgiving and tender spirit, than Horace
Seaver. He and Mr. Mendum are the editors of the Investigator, the
first Infidel paper I ever saw, and I guess the first that any one
of you ever saw -- a paper once edited by Abner Kneeland, who was
put in prison for saying, "The Universalists believe in a God which
I do not." The court decided that he had denied the existence of a
Supreme Being, and at that time it was not thought safe to allow a
remark of that kind to be made, and so, for the purpose of keeping
an infinite God from tumbling off his throne, Mr. Kneeland was put
in jail. But Horace Seaver and Mr. Mendum went on with his work.
They are pioneers in this cause, and they have been absolutely true
to the principles of Freethought from the first day until now.

     If there is anybody belonging to our Secular Union more
enthusiastic and better calculated to impart something of his
enthusiasm to others than Samuel P. Putnam, our secretary, I do not
know him. Courtlandt Palmer, your treasurer, you all know, and you
will presently know him better when you hear the speech he is about
to make, and that speech will speak better for him than I possibly
can. Wait until you hear him, as he is now waiting for me to get
through that you may hear him. He will give you the definition of
the true gentleman, and that definition will be a truthful
description of himself.

     Mr. Reynolds is on our side if anybody is or ever was, and Mr.
Macdonald, editor of The Truth Seeker, aiming not only to seek the
truth but to expose error, has done and is doing incalculable good
in the cause of mental freedom.

     All these men and women are men and women of character, of
high purpose; in favor of Freethought not as a peculiarity or as an
eccentricity of the hour, but with all their hearts, through and
through, to the very center and core of conviction, life, and
purpose.

     And so I can congratulate you on your choice, and believe that
you have entered upon the most prosperous year of your existence.
I believe that you will do all you can to have every law repealed
that puts a hypocrite above an honest man. We know that no man is
thoroughly honest who does not tell his honest thought. We want the
Sabbath day for ourselves and our families. Let the gods have the
heavens. Give us the earth. If the gods want to stay at home

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
                               20

            CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION.

Sundays and look solemn, let them do it; let us have a little
wholesome recreation and pleasure. If the gods wish to go out with
their wives and children, let them go. If they want to play
billiards with the stars, so they don't carom on us, let them play.

     We want to do what we can to compel every church to pay taxes
on its property as other people pay on theirs. Do you know that if
church property is allowed to go without taxation, it is only a
question of time when they will own a large per cent. of the
property of the civilized world? It is the same as compound
interest; only give it time. If you allow it to increase without
taxing it for its protection, its growth can only be measured by
the time in which it has to grow. The church builds an edifice in
some small town, gets several acres of land. In time city rises
around it. The labor of others has added to value of this property,
until it is worth millions. If this property is not taxed, the
churches will have so much in their hands that they will again
become dangerous to the liberties of mankind. There never will, be
real liberty in this country until all property is put upon a
perfect equality. If you want to build a Joss House, pay taxes. If
you want to build churches, pay taxes. If you want to build a hall
or temple in which Freethought and science are to be taught, pay
taxes. Let there be no property untaxed. When you fail to tax any
species of property, you increase the tax of other people owning
the rest. To that extent, you unite church and state. You compel
the Infidel to support the Catholic. I do not want to support the
Catholic Church. It is not worth supporting. It is an unadulterated
evil. Neither do I want to reform the Catholic Church. The only
reformation of which that church or any orthodox church is capable,
is destruction. I want to spend no more money on superstition.
Neither should our money be taken to support sectarian schools. We
do not wish to employ any chaplains in the navy, or in the army, or
in the Legislatures, or in Congress. It is useless to ask God to
help the political party that happens to be in power. We want no
President, no Governor "clothed with a little brief authority," to
issue a proclamation as though he were an agent of God, authorized
to tell all his loving subjects to fast on a certain day, or to
enter their churches and pray for the accomplishment of a certain
object. It is none of his business. When they called on Thomas
Jefferson to issue a proclamation, he said he had no right to do
it, that religion was a personal, individual matter, and that the
state had no right, no power, to interfere.

     I now have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Courtlandt Palmer,
who will speak to you on the "Aristocracy of Freethought," in my
judgment the aristocracy not only of the present, but the
aristocracy of the future.

                          ****     ****

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The Historical Library is provided for those doing research into the history of nontheism. It is not intended to be--and should not be used as--a source of modern, up-to-date information regarding atheistic issues. DO NOT CONTACT US ABOUT THESE DOCUMENTS. Please read the full Historical Library Disclaimer
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