A Biographical Appreciation of
Robert Green Ingersoll
WAS HE ‘A MERE ICONOCLAST’?
Did He ‘Tear Down without Building Up’?
There is another criticism that is even more frequently made than the one to which the preceding chapter is devoted. It holds, season after season, a conspicuous place in the repertoire of every itinerant polemic and of every zealous and sensational pulpiteer. To change the figure, it is the handiest arrow in the quiver of your orthodox warrior. Scores of times has the reader heard it; for it is on the lips of nearly every believer, who either thoughtlessly repeats it after another, or who, fancying it to be as profound and convincing as it is convenient, and knowing nothing of the basic truths and principles of rationalism, has coined it from his own crude mental ore. There is not an active advocate, nor even a passive friend, of Ingersollian principles to whom it is not as ‘a twice told tale vexing the ears.’ You have stood by some fountain, as in a landscape-garden, and watched the frequent playful spray fall on the sturdy face of a bronze Triton.
Scarcely need I explain that the criticism alluded to is, that Ingersoll, wholly unlike the other great reformers who have carved their names in the marble of memory, was ‘a mere iconoclast’; that he was not constructive, but destructive; that (to echo the words of the multitude) “he tore down without building up”; that “he took away all and gave nothing in return.”
It was stated by Ingersoll himself, that “truth is the relation between things and thoughts, and between thoughts and thoughts.” In order, therefore, to decide as to the justness of the criticism in question, it will be necessary to ascertain: first, the “things” or the “thoughts” represented by the word “iconoclast”; second, the “things” or the “thoughts” represented in the life-work of Ingersoll. And if we find a “relation,” — if we find that he was an iconoclast, — it will be necessary to ascertain, further, in what way, if any, and to what extent, he differed from other great men whose theories and work ran counter to the popular tendencies of their day.
Now, what is an “iconoclast”? The word is from the Greek icon, an image, and klastes, one who breaks or destroys — one who breaks or destroys images. That is its literal meaning. But we are concerned with its figurative meaning; for it is with that meaning only that it is now employed. What, then, figuratively, is an iconoclast? “One who destroys or exposes shams, delusions, etc.; one who attacks cherished beliefs,” says a standard dictionary. Have we found a “relation” — was Ingersoll an iconoclast? For once, we are obliged to agree with his critics: he was.
But was iconoclasm all for which he stood? Was it his sole ambition? Was his life a negation? Is a cipher, woven of the withering vines of faith and fable, the only wreath that can be laid upon his tomb? Let us see.
To begin with: Robert G. Ingersoll came into this world endowed as few men ever have been endowed. He came with the analytic and synthetic powers of the logician, the intuitive insight and astronomic scope of the philosopher, and the vision of the poet. Moreover, he had in his composition what few men of great intellect have had, — the “touch of nature” that “makes the whole world kin,” — a heart absolutely sincere, — a heart incapable of wilful wrong, — a heart filled with divine enthusiasm for our race.
With such a native dowry, he would have become great as a humanitarian, even without any advantages of youthful environment. I say, “even without any advantages of youthful environment,” because Ingersoll the boy, viewed as the prospective Voltaire of the nineteenth century, did have an advantageous environment. In the first place, he was poor — “nursed at the sad and loving breast of poverty”; and, in the second place, he was the son of an orthodox clergyman. These circumstances kept him close to nature, and assured him of at least a few books — things which all boys did not have. And, what was doubly advantageous, those few books were the very ones that a prospective Voltaire should read. They were the Bible, the commentators Adam Clark, Scott, Henry and MacKnight, Cruden’s Concordance, Calvin’s Institutes, Paley’s Evidences, Edwards on The Will, Jenkyn on the Atonement, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Yopung’s Night Thoughts, Pollok’s Curse of Time, “many volumes of orthodox sermons,” the Book of Martyrs, the History of the Wildenses, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Baxter’s Call of the Unconverted, and Butler’s Analogy. And Ingersoll read them — read them, each and all, throughout his youth.
And besides the circumstances just mentioned, there was another advantage: his daily life and surroundings were purely, profoundly, absolutely religious. Therefore, when he reached the years of early manhood, he possessed, in addition to a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the basic principles of Christian theology, an intimate knowledge of its workings. The latter knowledge, be it noted, was not theoretical but practical, — gained at first hand.
The natural sequence of all this was, that, when Ingersoll discovered the falsity of what he had learned and experienced, the effect upon him was doubly strong. It was not merely a mental transition: it was a mental and moral revulsion. The theology of his youth became a hideous and melancholy vision, or rather, a background of mental night, on which, shining from the realm of the ideal, appeared the fair figures of freedom and Science, beneath “the seven-hued arch” of hope. His horizon grew wide and grand. He became a circumnavigator of the intellectual globe, — a mental Magellan. Like the latter, he had seen the shadow on the moon, — the theological moon, — and he believed, in spite of the warnings and admonitions of the stupidly wise and timid, that the world of mind is round. And he demonstrated the reasonableness of his belief. Starting with the idea that there were, in the dim and far- off seas of thought, lands fairer and grander than the narrow, barren, rock-bound island of Christian theology, he returned with his views confirmed, and even strengthened. He visited the sublime continents, — the archipelagoes and coral reefs, — the enchanted isles where fountains play and sirens sing and mental gems lie gleaming on sun-steeped “sands of gold.” He crossed the desert of theology, — that vast and verdureless expanse of desolation’s waste without a palm, — pressed onward and upward, climbed the Everest of thought, and, with the philosophers, poets, and dreamers, saw the topmost peaks grow purple and tremulous in the morning light.
He went even further. Believing, with Max Muller, that “he who knows but one religion knows none,” he studied, in comparison with Christianity, the other religions of the world. And he learned, that, barring the accident of environment, — the trappings of circumstance, — all were substantially alike; that they had a common origin; that they were born of the insatiable desire of man to account for his surroundings, — to unravel the web of existence — born of the efforts of a childlike race to wrest from mother nature the secrets of whence and whither. He found that the story of one religion is essentially the story of all; and the more stories he read, the more firmly convinced he became that all were essentially false.
Moreover, he found these stories inextricably woven into the warp and woof of human history. He found that the various religions, directly or indirectly, by fear, — by threat of punishment here and hereafter, — had destroyed the liberties of man. He saw that these religions, by fear, had manacled the brain, and that, exerting the same influence through the instrumentality of civil government, they had manacled the body. He saw that religion is the very fountain-head from which, since man was man, has flowed the blood-dyed stream of oppression. “In all ages, hypocrites, called priests, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called kings.” Religion, he perceived, can maintain a passive existence without the temporal tyrant, because it can go to the skies for authority; but take away the foundation, the germinal idea, of religion, that is, an infinite tyrant in the skies, and not only every spiritual but every temporal throne must crumble. But while Ingersoll recognized this, he also recognized, as already indicated, that, as a matter of history, religion had never sought to exist wholly apart from the state, but that, on the contrary, the two had vied with each other in the work of oppression; and so he said: —
“The church and the state — two vultures — have fed upon the liberties of man.”
And it was with all these facts vividly before his mind; with the thought of man’s slow and painful journey toward the light; with memories of the Middle Ages, of the Crusades, of the Inquisition’s horrid night, of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, of the murder of the Huguenots, of the expulsion of the Jews and the Moors from Spain; it was with tear-dimmed eyes upon the flames that clothed in fadeless raiment the forms of Serviettes and Bruno; it was while groping his way, with the noblest of our race, through the dark and earless gloom of the Inquisition, — over the blood- stained stones, — that he wrote this incomparable passage: —
“And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain — for the freedom of labor and thought — to those who fell on the fierce fields of war — to those who died in dungeons bound with chains — to those who proudly mounted scaffolds, stairs — to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn — to those by fire consumed — to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. AND THEN I VOWED TO GRASP THE TORCH THAT THEY HAD HELD, AND HOLD IT HIGH, THAT LIGHT MIGHT CONQUER DARKNESS STILL.” [Capital letters are added for emphasis by editor.]
Whoever would form a just estimate of Ingersoll’s work and worth, — whoever would pronounce the final declaration as to whether Ingersoll was a reformer or an iconoclast, — must bear in mind these grateful words, this lofty resolution. He must understand Ingersoll’s ideals, and the conditions that he encountered. He must consider the “images” which Ingersoll sought to break, and his reasons for seeking to break them, — whether for the sake of mere destruction, or to clear the ground, that those to come might ‘build more stately.’
Studying the factors that influenced or determined the career of Ingersoll, we naturally turn to a part of his century’s theological history. The great religious revival of 1857 arrests our attention. The deprivations and sufferings incident to the serious business reverses, during the latter part of that year, resulted, as such conditions invariably result, in a profound and far-reaching “spiritual” awakening. Localities the most conspicuous in business and financial failure, naturally became the most conspicuous in religious enthusiasm. In New York City, noonday prayer-meetings were numerous, Christian themes were topics of conversation, and the leading dailies reported, by columns and pages, the news of revivals. The interest was intense; and what was true of New York was true of every village and hamlet in the land. That this unusual and widespread zeal was dependent upon the prevailing “hard times” seems indubitably proven, particularly in view of the fact that very few itinerant evangelists were abroad in the land.
The whole country was orthodox to the core — a juxtaposition which, if it did not inspire, amply justified, this epigram of Ingersoll: “He who eats a crust wet with his own tears worships.”
The succeeding years of civil war, although they necessarily inhibited the growth and prosperity of the churches, do not appear permanently to have weakened the hold that superstition had secured upon the masses. The appalling spectacle of every sect of the Southern church declaring, as a unit, for the “divine” institution of human slavery, [NOTE: To give an example: In 1863, the Presbyterian Church, South, passed in general synod the following resolutions: “Resolved, That slavery is a divine institution. Resolved, That God raised up the Presbyterian Church, South, to protect and perpetuate that institution.”] and supporting by passages of Scripture their arrogant declarations, did not prompt any considerable number of even the friends of liberty in the North to take a look under their own pulpits. Neither the Northern nor the Southern Christian could see the inconsistency of offering to the same God the same prayer for victory. And I may here be allowed digression to the extent of observing, that, although the South still adheres alike to the justice of her God and of her cause, she has never explained why her prayers were not answered. However, the North triumphed: physical slavery perished: intellectual slavery remained. The country was still orthodox. The seeds of superstition which had been so widely sown by the hand of want, during 1857, and subsequently, and which, for the most part, had lain fallow throughout the years of strife, now burst into the bud and blossom of religious enthusiasm. Revivals were even more frequent than in ante-bellum days. The people of the North, in some inconceivable way, saw that the sword of victory had been wielded by the arm of Providence, while those of the South, strangers still to reason, humbly submitted to the inscrutable ways of the same Power. Industrial and agricultural resumption, particularly in the North, gave bountifully to the reconstruction of the vast and complex religious mechanism; and the church was soon again arrogant, powerful, and cruel.
During the great struggle, the insolence of Catholicism was not mitigated; and in December, 1864, the pope, in his famous encyclical, not only condemned absolutely everything that is grand and ennobling in modern civilization and culture, but (in the accompanying syllabus) enumerated and anathematized all of the rational theories and philosophical principles upon which science had placed her stamp of approval. And as though determined to break the back of the theological camel, he proclaimed, six years later, infallibility for Pius IX and his predecessors.
When, therefore, Ingersoll reached the stage of physical and intellectual maturity and took a view of his surroundings, what did he behold? His country, the Great Republic that he loved, in theological bondage. He beheld a people that had been grand enough to strike the physical manacles from four million human beings, themselves lying prostrate in mental manacles. He beheld the withering blight and sear of orthodox superstition, with only here and there a spot of verdant sod; and he knew, that, if the church could have its way, even those few spots would soon be withered or charred. He knew that thousands of homes were simply penitentiaries for wives and children; that the public school was still an instrumentality for disseminating the doctrines of a particular religion at general expense; that there was scarcely an educational institution where thought was free; that the statute-books of many states were disgraced by cruel, ignorant, and barbaric laws, passed by pious stupidity, concerning “blasphemy” and the rights of unbelievers; that in some states an “infidel” would not be allowed to testify to the fact that he had witnessed the murder of his wife and children.’ He saw the real thinkers, — the intellectually honest and fearless, — derided, scorned, ostracized, and even imprisoned, by the educated ignorance, — the respectable inanity, — of the time. He heard the memories of the noblest, — the mental and moral heroes of the race, — slandered and maligned by orthodox malice. He knew that the infamy of corporal punishment was still practiced by the state, and in the school and the home; that the gallows and the whipping-post still cast their shadows — hideous shades from the midnight of savagery — in a land where should fall only the glad sunlight of intelligence; that in many states, citizens were mobbed, tortured, and murdered, despite the Constitution which they had fought to preserve; that politics and the press lived in a kind of shuddering fear under the frown of the pulpit; and that art, literature, and even science herself, were tainted with the touch of superstition.
These, in brief, are the conditions which Ingersoll beheld when, at maturity, he critically surveyed his surroundings; and these conditions it was that, appealing to his intense love of liberty and humanity, — his profound and overmastering sense of justice, — forced him into an aggressive anti-theological, humanitarian crusade. Indeed, this is buT mildly stated. for whoever has read, with tolerable intelligence, even one of Ingersoll’s rationalistic discourses knows that it was the unnatural and absurd, the narrow and bigoted, the cruel and heartless, in theology, that made him what he was. His earliest lecture, Progress, first delivered when he was only twenty-seven years of age, furnishes abundant proof of this; but it is in the commencement of Some Mistakes of Moses, — that chart and compass for the unwary through the mist-bound sea of Jewish tradition, — that we find the most concise statement of his purpose. He says: —
“I want to do what little I can to make my country truly free, to broaden the intellectual horizon of our people, to destroy the prejudices born of ignorance and fear, to do away with the blind worship of the ignoble past, with the idea that all the great and good are dead, that the living are totally deprived, that all pleasures are sins, that sighs and groans are alone pleasing to God, that thought is dangerous, that intellectual courage is a crime, that cowardice is a virtue, that a certain belief is necessary to secure salvation, that to carry a cross in this world will give us a palm in the next, and that we must allow some priest to be our pilot of our souls.”
Fifteen years later, answering the query of a member of the British press as to how he came to assume the aggressive with reference to Christianity, he stated: —
“We call this America of ours free, and yet I found it was very far from free. Our writers and our speakers declared that here in America church and state were divorced. I found this to be untrue. I found that the church was supported by the state in many ways, that people who failed to believe certain portions of the creeds were not allowed to testify in courts or to hold office. It occurred to me that some one ought to do something toward making this country intellectually free, and after a while I thought that I might as well endeavor to do this as wait for another.”
The question of Ingersoll’s purpose having been answered, the next question naturally is, What course did he pursue? Vividly conscious of the conditions that I have indicated; thoroughly familiar with superstition’s motley brood, and longing for the freedom of mankind therefrom, What procedure did be adopt? Was he a destroyer or a builder? Unhesitatingly I answer: He was neither, exclusively: he was both — the very circumstance that made him the truest and greatest reformer of his day. If at times he was more destructive than constructive, more of an iconoclast than of a builder, it was because, in the necessity of things, he could not be otherwise. He knew that the first essential to reform is dissatisfaction. He knew that doubt is the womb of investigation, and that investigation is the Hermes, the winged messenger, of the goddess of freedom. He was acquainted with nature — understood her requirements and methods. He knew better than to sow grain in a jungle, or to undertake the erection of a palace above a bed of mire. He knew that every sunlit field with flower starred verdure clad was once a tangled forest-wild; that where the marble arteries of the metropolis now pulse and throb was once the untroubled haunt of the savage and the beast. And he saw that what is true of the physical realm must hold good in the realm of mind. He realized that if the mental slopes of mankind are ever billowed with golden wheat, it will be after the brush and briers, the thistles and poison-ivy, of ignorance are cut and burned away. He knew that if to intellectual liberty there ever rises a temple whose dome companions the stars, it will rest upon the hard-pan of reason, not upon the muck of some decadent faith. He knew that if this earth ever becomes a throne whereon sits justice with the balanced scales, — if it ever realizes the cherished dream of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” — it will be after the lifeless ashes of the monster superstition are given to the winds. And so he sought, with all his strength, the death of that monster, not failing, however, to plant, wherever he could, the blessed seeds which shall some day fill the land with fruitage and fragrance.
It has often been asserted, that his method of attacking what is called religion cannot be justified; that however profoundly convinced of its falsity he may have been, his course was altogether unwarranted. It has been claimed (to quote Gladstone as typical of the critics), that many of the subjects with which Ingersoll dealt “can only be approached in a deep reverential calm,” and that, therefore, his witticisms and jokes, his sarcasm and satire, his irony and ridicule, were inconsiderate of the finer feelings and sensibilities of others. In this connection, Ingersoll himself has said: —
“It is claimed by many that anything, the best and holiest, can be ridiculed. As a matter of fact, he who attempts to ridicule the truth, ridicules himself. He becomes the food of his own laughter.
“The mind of man is many-sided. Truth must be and is willing to be tested in every way, tested by all the senses.
“But in what way can the absurdity of the ‘real presence’ be answered, except by banter, by raillery, by ridicule, by persiflage? How are you going to convince a man who believes that when he swallows the sacred wafer he has eaten the entire Trinity, and that a priest drinking a drop of wine has devoured the Infinite? How are you to reason with a man who believes that if any of the sacred wafers are left over they should be put in a secure place, so that mice should not eat God?
“What effect will logic have upon a religious gentleman who firmly believes that a God of infinite compassion sent two bears to tear thirty or forty children in pieces for laughing at a bald- headed prophet?
“How are such people to be answered? How can they be brought to a sense of their absurdity? They must feel in their flesh the arrows of ridicule.”
Now, what in the Christian system, it may be asked, did Ingersoll ridicule? What was it that he failed to approach “in a deep reverential calm”? Can it be shown that he ridiculed anything which conduces to the real and permanent welfare of mankind?
Did he ridicule the Ten Commandments? There are two sets; and of them, he kept, and advised others to keep, all that are of the slightest value.
Did he ever make of Christ a subject of ridicule? —
“And let me say here, once for all, that for the man Christ I have infinite respect. Let me say, once for all, that the place where man has died for man is holy ground. And let me say, once for all, that to that great and serene man I gladly pay, I gladly pay, the tribute of my admiration and my tears. He was a reformer in his day. He was an infidel in his time. He was regarded as a blasphemer, and his life was destroyed by hypocrites, who have, in all ages, done what they could to trample freedom and manhood out of the human mind. Had I lived at that time I would have been his friend, and should he come again he will not find a better friend than I will be. * * *
” * * * Back of the theological shreds, rags and patches, hiding the real Christ, I see a genuine man.”
Did he ridicule the mother of the great Nazarene? — did he despise maternity? —
“The holiest word is mother.”
In what way did he ridicule the Sermon on the Mount? By accepting, with sincere gratitude, all of it that is good, all that is of value to mankind.
To what words of derision did he expose the Golden Rule? To these: —
“Give to every other human being ever right that you claim for yourself.”
What, then, did Ingersoll ridicule? He ridiculed the ridiculous.
It is here necessary to take a broad and ample view of our reformer, — the full measure of the man. Robert G. Ingersoll, at the noon of life, was the physical, mental, and moral ideal — the embodiment of the highest possibilities of his race. By this I do not mean that he was wholly a god, nor a manlike god, nor even a godlike man — he was a man, — absolutely human. He was of this world worldly, worldly in the noblest sense. Of the now and the here, he made the most and best. “Every moment was s melody,” every hour a harmony, every day a symphony. There was inexpressible delight in the mere fact of being, — a joy in every pulse and breath. Buoyant with health, prodigal of optimism and cheerfulness, which welled up to spontaneous overflow in every channel of expression, his name, to all who really knew him, was a reassurance, his handclasp an exaltation, his smile sunshine, his voice a caress, his presence a benediction. However small, however large the circle that he might chance to enter, he was always, by nature’s decree, the farthest from the circumference: he filled and held the center. He loved and trusted humanity with the childlike simplicity of true greatness. He never lost his faith. He was ever hopeful, proclaiming in life’s storm and winter the bow upon the clouds, the harbingers of spring.
And even this characterization, adequate as it may seem, entirely ignores one of the most notable manifestations of his nature. Indeed, love of beauty was a characteristic that at once distinguished him from the rest of the world’s great reformers. A delicate sense of the esthetics, — an unusual impressionableness to beauty, — permeated his very being and shed its refining influence throughout his life. In the work of no other reformer, — religious, political, or social, — do we find the love of universal liberty and justice, — of humanity, — so indissolubly mingled with the love of proportion, of symmetry, of harmony, — of the beautiful, — “in nature, art, and conduct.” In fact, in the work of nearly all others who have wrought with tongue and pen the miracles and oracles of progress, we perceive, with regret, a lack of the esthetics sense. In the work of Ingersoll, quite to the contrary, we behold the lover and creator of beauty, as well as the lover of humanity — the full-rounded, ideal man. Other reformers, for the most part, appeal to the head alone. Ingersoll appealed to the head and the heart together, and not only to them, but to the deepest, the highest, the finest esthetics sensibilities, elevating and ennobling by indirection while he enlightened and convinced. Most reformers, at best, are only oaks, sufficient, perhaps, in height and arboreal amplitude, but with trunks here and there exposed from the asymmetry of deficient or too well-gnarled limbs. But Ingersoll was an oak that rose sturdy and stately, symmetrical and grand, beneath the sun and blue, — an oak round which the vine of beauty twined fragrant with the flowers of love, flowers that seemed ever wet with dew.
Let us now turn to the alleged result of Ingersoll’s iconoclasm. Let us consider the sweeping assertion, that he ‘took away everything and gave nothing in return.’ According to his critics, the effect of his work was to destroy the loftiest ideals and aspirations, the noblest and tenderest hopes, leaving the soul to struggle forever in the rayless depths of despair. In other words, Ingersoll waved the wand of persuasiveness, — of eloquence, — and the reader or hearer, an orthodox Christian, — sustained, comforted, and guided by his faith, — became, presto! a full- fledged, or rather, a fledgeless rationalist, sinking, as he wallowed, in the fathomless mire of infidelity.
Now, we willingly admit, that, to change in a twinkling an orthodox or even a nominal believer to a person with no ideals or hopes, would indeed constitute a phenomenon to be deplored. But is such a phenomenon, — such a transition, — possible? It must be remembered, that the mind, as Ingersoll says, is many-sided. It subsists neither wholly upon affirmations nor wholly upon negations, — is neither wholly positive nor wholly negative. Quite differently, in connection with every question that can concern it, there is, between these two antithetic extremes, a series of almost inappreciable gradations. Between affirmation and denial stretches, without a missing rung, the psychological ladder. Conviction does not pass up and down this ladder by leaps and bounds: it goes rung by rung. It may go quite rapidly for a rung or two, in either direction, and it may fancy that it has traveled the entire length without touching a rung, whereas, in reality, it has rested, if for only an inappreciable time, on each.
Furthermore, we know, if we know anything, that there is in the realm of reason a law of compensation, — an insistence on reciprocity. Indeed, the minds of the world may be likened to so many countries among which there is commercial intercourse. By virtue of agreement whereby one country exchanges with another those articles of which it produces a superabundance for those of which it produces few or none, and vice versa, mutual satisfaction results. So it is, in effect, in the realm of reason. In every mind, there is what we will call the ideal; and this ideal must be satisfied, and always is satisfied, — always sees to it that there is compensation, reciprocity. Nothing is ‘taken away’ without giving something “in return” — nothing ‘torn down’ without “building” something “up.”
The truth is, that, however well it may be established by usage, the term “iconoclast,” exclusively applied to men of Ingersoll’s class, is an utter misnomer. Candidly speaking, reform without iconoclasm is impossible. The greatest reformers have been the greatest iconoclasts. An individual’s iconoclasm is directly proportional to his knowledge. The more he knows, the more he is unlike his fellows, and consequently the more he disagrees with them; that is to say, the more “images” he is obliged to break, if he is mentally honest, and makes known to them his ideas and ideals of reform. “Iconoclast” is one of the missiles which the rabble hurl at the true reformer. It is a jagged fragment of the discredited idol which the latter has thrown to the ground. In other words, to make room for a palace of moral and esthetics grandeur, the true reformer, — the intellectual architect, — razes the mental hovel, whereupon the ignorant and superstitious multitude grab the shattered remnants, cry “Iconoclast” and endeavor to bludgeon him into subjection.
The greatest reformers, I repeat, have been the greatest iconoclasts. The scriptural Christ, if he existed, was an iconoclast: he sought to destroy Judaism. Columbus and Magellan were iconoclasts: they upset the mental images of the patristic geographers. Copernicus and Kepler, Galilei and Bruno, were iconoclasts. Shakespeare was an iconoclast: he violated the unities of the Greek drama; but he was “the most intellectual of the human race.” Thomas Paine was an iconoclast: he shattered the tyrannical idols of “divine right,” and sowed the seeds of the Declaration of Independence. Darwin was an iconoclast, — one of the very greatest: he broke the images of biological science, though they were worshiped by the most eminent scientists of his day. Wagner was an iconoclast: he disregarded the rules of composition, and — wrote the sublimest music of this world. Whitman was another iconoclast — Whitman, the uncouth Samson who pulled down the pillars of the temple of prosody, scorned the prison-walls and barred cages, hurled aside the strait-jackets of osteological poetry, ignored every rule of English verse, and — “wrote a liturgy for mankind.”
To the charge of iconoclasm, every one of these men was required, in his turn, to plead. That Ingersoll was required to do likewise is not surprising to the student of intellectual progress. And while he might have answered, with justification, in the language of Voltaire — “What? I have delivered you from the jaws of a wild beast that was devouring you, and you ask me what I will give you in its place!” — these terse, laconic words by no means served as his reply.
What did so serve? What did Ingersoll say to the charge that he was a ‘mere iconoclast’? — that his teachings were ‘negative,’ ‘destructive’? — that ‘he tore down without building up’? — that ‘hie took away everything and gave nothing in return’? Or, more pointedly, what did he give ‘in return’ for what, as his critics correctly state, he took away’? Well, to begin with, he gave this:
“To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember benefits — to love truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words, to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms, to love wife and child and friend, to make a happy home, to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world, to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy, to fill life with the splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words, to discover error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then be resigned — this is the religion of reason, the creed of science. This satisfies the brain and heart.”
He gave what he here terms — and let us repeat it — “the religion of reason, the creed of science,”and what he elsewhere so variously and so insistently proclaims as “the gospel of this world.” “the gospel of good health,” “the religion of body,” “the evangel of health and joy.” He gave “the gospel of the fireside,” “the religion of the home.” He gave “the gospel of good living,” and “the gospel of good fellowship.” “the religion of usefulness,” “the religion of humanity.”
And all this, they tell us, is the work of ‘a mere iconoclast’! Think of it! — of the impossible critical monstrosity thus brought before our gaze!
Here is a man who spent his lifelong years in the defense and championship, the exaltation — the glorification and immortalization — of love, liberty, truth, reason, justice, mercy, generosity, honesty, patriotism, virtue, marriage, maternity, beauty, art, genius; and he is termed ‘a mere iconoclast’! Why? Is it because to defend, champion, exalt, glorify, and immortalize their opposites is to be ‘a builder’?
But let us go a little deeper. Let us definitely and specifically examine Ingersoll in some of the great fundamental subjects the attitude toward which inevitably and finally determines the worth and standing of a reformer. By universal agreement, truth is one of those subjects. A majority of Ingersoll’s critics profess to regard it as the first.
Now, Ingersoll not only dealt with truth, here and there, in all his discourses, but, as indicated in Chapter 9, he devoted an entire lecture to The Truth. What did he say? —
“Truth is the relation between things and thoughts, and between thoughts and thoughts. The perception of this relation bears the same relation to the logical faculty in man, that music does to some portions of the brain — that is to say, it is a mental melody. This sublime strain has been heard by a few, and I am enthusiastic enough to believe that it will be the music of the future.”
“Nothing is greater, nothing is of more importance, than to find amid errors and darkness of this life, a shinning truth.
“Truth is the intellectual wealth of the world.
“The noblest of occupations is to search for truth.
“Truth is the foundation, the superstructure, and the glittering dome of progress.
“Truth is the mother of joy. Truth civilizes, ennobles, and purifies. The grandest ambition that can enter the soul is to know the truth.
“Truth gives man the greatest power for good. Truth is sword and shield. It is the sacred light of the soul.
“The man who finds a truth lights a torch.”
“Every man should be true to himself — true to the inward light.”
“He should preserve as his most precious jewel the perfect veracity of his soul.” “Each man, in the laboratory of his own mind, and for himself alone, should test the so-called facts — the theories of all the world. Truth, in accordance with his own reason, should be his guide and master.”
Do these definitions, conclusions, and teachings make Ingersoll a ‘destroyer’? Yes: a destroyer of untruth. Do they make him ‘a mere iconoclast’? No: not unless the teaching of untruth makes a true reformer; not unless falsehood “is the intellectual wealth of the world”; not unless falsehood, “in accordance with his “superstition, “should be” the true reformer’s “guide and master.”
Ingersoll lectured for twenty years on The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child. What did he say? —
“By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think right and the right to think wrong, provided you do your best to think right.”
“Liberty sustains the same relation to mind that space does to matter.”
“What light is to the eyes, what love is to the heart, Liberty is to the soul of man.”
“Without liberty, the brain is a dungeon and the soul a convict.”
“To preserve liberty is the only use for government. There is no other excuse for legislatures, or presidents, or courts, for statutes or decisions. Liberty is not simply a means — it is an end. Take from our history, our literature, our laws, our hearts — that word, and we are nought but molded clay. Liberty is the one priceless jewel. It includes and holds and is the weal and wealth of life. Liberty is the soil and light and rain — it is the plant and bud and flower and fruit — and in that sacred word lie all the seeds of progress, love and joy.”
“Liberty, a word without which all other words are vain.”
Do these definitions, conclusions, and teachings make Ingersoll a ‘destroyer’? yes: a destroyer of slavery. Do they make him ‘a mere iconoclast’? No: not unless their exact opposite makes a true reformer; not unless slavery is “a word without which all other words are vain.”
What were Ingersoll’s ideas of justice? —
“The rights of all are equal: Justice, poised and balanced in eternal calm, will shake from the golden scales in which are weighed the acts of men, the very dust of prejudice and caste: No race, no color, no previous condition, can change the rights of men.”
” * * * when the sword of justice becomes a staff to support the weak, it bursts into blossom. * * * “
“Justice is the only worship.”
Need I ask whether these are the words of ‘a mere iconoclast’? If they are, then human speech has lost all meaning, and become “the babbling gossip of the air.”
Nor are we, by any means, forced to conclude our examination here: we might continue almost indefinitely, receiving like answers on each and every one of the great fundamentals. And even then we should have covered only one side; for the following questions would remain: Did Ingersoll ever oppose, for a single instant, any of the things of which he thus far appears to have been the steadfast defender and champion? Did he ever utter or write one word against love, liberty, truth, reason, justice, mercy, generosity, honesty, patriotism, virtue, marriage, maternity, beauty, art, genius? Is there extant a speech, address, essay, lecture, oration, or poem of his which fails to favor one or all of the latter in the most positive terms? Each of these questions must be answered with an emphatic No! Why, then, was he called ‘a mere iconoclast’? Because he would not compromise. And he would not compromise, because he was absolutely honest, — because he knew that —
“A compromise is a bargain in which each party defrauds the other and himself.”
Far from ‘a mere iconoclast,’ or ‘the great iconoclast,’ it would be more nearly just to term him “the great builder.” For, despite the iconoclasm with which he is so rightly, so nobly, so gloriously charged, there is in his teachings more of the truly constructive, the truly progressive, the truly ethical, than in those of any of the many other reformers who have addressed themselves to the brain and heart of the English-speaking world. There is no need to take my word for this: read his works and theirs.
But as this invitation imposes a task too extensive to be in furtherance of our immediate purpose, I shall here lay before the reader some of Ingersoll’s reformative teachings. Deferring, for consideration in the two succeeding chapters, the charge that the tendency of his work was to destroy the foundation of law and morality and the hope of immortality, and deferring also, for presentation in still later chapters, his constructive teaching (and practical exemplifications) in domestic and political fields, I shall here give some indication of the way in which he sought to apply the ideas of truth, liberty, justice, etc. of which the preceding paragraphs show him to have been so firmly convinced.
In so doing, let me first indicate, in his own words, his understanding of what is “positive” and what “negative” in reformative values: —
“There is an idea that Christianity is positive, and Infidelity is negative. If this be so, then falsehood is positive and truth is negative. What I contend is that Infidelity is a positive religion; that Christianity is a negative religion. Christianity denies and Infidelity admits. Infidelity stands for facts; it demonstrates by the conclusions of the reason. Infidelity does all it can to develop the brain and the heart of man. That is positive. Religion asks man to give up this world for one he knows nothing about. That is negative. I stand by the religion of reason. I stand by the dogmas of demonstration.”
Again, more comprehensively: —
“The object of the Freethinker is to ascertain the truth — the conditions of well-being — to the end that this life will be made of value. This is the affirmative, positive, and constructive side.
“Without liberty there is no such thing as real happiness.
“All religious systems enslave the mind. Certain things are demanded — certain things must be believed — certain things must be done — and the man who becomes the subject or servant of this superstition must give up all idea of individuality or hope of intellectual growth and progress.
“The religionist informs us that there is somewhere in the universe an orthodox God, who is endeavoring to govern the world, and who for this purpose resorts to famine and flood, to earthquake and pestilence * * * . That is called affirmative and positive.
“The man of sense knows that no such God exists, and thereupon he affirms that the orthodox doctrine is infinitely absurd. This is called a ‘negation.’ But to my mind it is an affirmation, and is a part of the positive side of Freethought.
“A man who compels this Deity to abdicate his throne renders a vast and splendid service to the human race.
“It will thus be seen that there is an affirmative, a positive, a constructive side to Freethought.
“What is the positive side?
“First: A denial of all orthodox falsehoods — an exposure of all superstitions, * * * then comes another phase — another kind of work. The Freethinker knows that the universe is natural — That there is no room, even in infinite space, for the miraculous, for the impossible. * * * He feels that all in the universe are conditioned beings, and that only those are happy who live in accordance with the conditions of happiness. * * *
“The positive side is this: That every good action has good consequences — that it bears good fruit forever — and that every bad action has evil consequence, and bears bad fruit. The Freethinker also asserts that every man must bear the consequences of his action — that he must reap what he sows, and that he cannot be justified by the goodness of another, or damned for the wickedness of another. * * *
“The positive side of Freethought is to find out the truth — the facts of nature — to the end that we may take advantage of those truths, of those facts — for the purpose of feeding and clothing and educating mankind.
“In the first place, we wish to find that which will lengthen human life — that which will prevent or kill disease — that which will do away with pain — that which will preserve or give good health.
“We also want to go in partnership with these forces of nature, to the end that we may be well fed and clothed — that we may have good houses that protect us from heat and cold. And beyond this — beyond these simple necessities — there are still wants and aspirations; and Freethought will give us the highest possible in art — the most wonderful and thrilling in music — the greatest paintings, the most marvelous sculpture — in other words, Freethought will develope the brain to its utmost capacity. Freethought is the mother of art and science, of morality and happiness. * * *
“Freethought has given us all we have of value. It has been the great constructive force. It is the only discoverer, and every science is its child.”
And again: —
“I understand that the word Secularism embraces everything that is of any real interest or value to the human race. I take it for granted that everybody will admit that well-being is the only good; that is to say, that it is impossible to conceive of anything of real value that does not tend either to preserve or increase the happiness of some sentient being. Secularism, therefore, covers the entire territory. It fills the circumference of human knowledge and of human effort. It is, you may say, the religion of this world; but if there is another world, it is necessarily the religion of that, as well. * * *
“Secularism teaches us to be good here and now. I know nothing better than goodness. Secularism teaches us to be just here and now. It is impossible to be juster than just.
“Man can be as just in this world as in any other, and justice must be the same in all worlds. Secularism teaches a man to be generous, and generosity is certainly as good here as it can be anywhere else. Secularism teaches a man to be charitable, and certainly charity is as beautiful in this world and in this short life as it could be were man immortal.
“But orthodox people insist that there is something higher than Secularism; but, as a matter of fact, the mind of man can conceive of nothing better, nothing higher, nothing more spiritual, than goodness, justice, generosity, charity. Neither has the mind of man been capable of finding a nobler incentive to action than human love.”
And just here, it is important to know what it is, according to Ingersoll’s understanding, to be “really spiritual”: —
“The spiritual man lives to his ideal. He endeavors to make others happy. He does not despise the passions that have filled the world with art and glory. He loves his wife and children — home and fireside. He cultivates the amenities and refinements of life. He is the friend and champion of the oppressed. His sympathies are with the poor and the suffering. He attacks what he believes to be wrong, though defended by the many, and he is willing to stand for the right against the world. He enjoys the beautiful. In the presents of the highest creations of Art his eyes are suffused with tears. When he listens to the great melodies, the divine harmonies, he feels the sorrows and the raptures of death and love. He is intensely human. He carries in his heart the burdens of the world. He searches for the deeper meanings. He appreciates the harmonies of conduct, the melody of a perfect life.
“He loves his wife and children better than any god. He cares more for the world he lives in than for any other. He tries to discharge the duties of this life, to help those that he can reach. He believes in being useful — in making money to feed and clothe and educate the ones he loves — to assist the deserving and to support himself. He does not wish to be a burden on others. He is just, generous and sincere. * * *
“The spiritually-minded man is a poet. If he does not write poetry, he lives it. He is an artist. If he does not paint pictures or chisel statues, he feels them, and their beauty softens his heart. He fills the temple of his soul with all that is beautiful, and he worships at the shrine of the ideal.”
It will accordingly be seen, that the precepts and doctrines of which Ingersoll was the foremost advocate, and which are so variously denominated “Infidelity,” “Freethought,” “Secularism,” etc., are not, in his opinion, ‘merely negative and destructive’; that, taking ‘truth, in accordance with reason, as the only guide and master’ in the realm of intellect, they ‘merely negative’ what is intellectually wrong, while affirming all that is intellectually right; that, taking happiness, well-being, as the “only guide and master” in the realm of morals, they ‘merely negative’ what is morally wrong, while affirming all that is morally right; and that, therefore, they are not only affirmative, positive, and constructive, but ethical, and even spiritual, — that they are, ever have been, and ever must be, the one coherent, unified, and truly reformative force. This will become more undeniably apparent as we proceed.
Thus, answering the great question, “How can we reform the world?” Ingersoll said: —
“Ignorance being darkness, what we need is intellectual light. The most important things to teach, as the basis of all progress, are that the universe is natural; that man must be the providence of man; that, by the development of the brain, we can avoid some of the dangers, some of the evils, overcome some of the obstructions, and take advantage of some of the facts and forces of nature; that, by invention and industry, we can supply, to a reasonable degree, the wants of the body, and by thought, study and effort, we can in part satisfy the hunger of the mind. * * *
“Being satisfied that the supernatural does not exist, man should turn his entire attention to the affairs of this world, to the facts in nature.”
And one of the first things which Ingersoll would have man do, in so ‘turning his attention,’ was to stop the useless and inhuman waste of energy and wealth. He would do this, in great part, by appealing to reason and justice in settling all national and international disputes. For just as intense as Ingersoll’s abhorrence of falsehood and his love of truth, were his abhorrence of war and his love of peace. He said: —
“No man has imagination enough to paint the agonies, the horrors and cruelties of war. Think of sending shot and shell crashing through the bodies of men! Think of the widows and orphans! Think of the maimed, the mutilated, the mangled!”
In the following, he manifests the diagnostic insight of the true reformer: —
“As long as nations meet on the fields of war — as long as they sustain the relations of savages to each other — as long as they put the laurel and the oak on the brows of those who kill — just so long will citizens resort to violence, and the quarrels of individuals be settled by dagger and revolver.”
Painfully conscious, therefore, of this useless waste, — this cruelty, — this perpetual excuse for individual violence and crime, — he addressed to the brain and the heart of mankind the following appeal: —
“Every good man, every good woman, should try to do away with war, to stop the appeal to savage force. Man in a savage state relies upon his strength, and decides for himself what is right and what is wring. Civilized men do not settle their differences by a resort to arms. They submit the quarrel to arbitrators and courts. This is the great difference between the savage and the civilized. Nations, however, sustain the relations of savages to each other. There is no way of settling their disputes. Each nation decides for itself, and each nation endeavors to carry its decision into effect. This produces war. Thousands of men at this moment  are trying to invent more deadly weapons to destroy their fellow- men. For eighteen hundred years peace has been preached, and yet the civilized nations are the most warlike of the world. There are in Europe to-day between eleven and twelve millions of soldiers, ready to take to the field, and the frontiers of every civilized nation are protected by breastwork and fort. The sea is covered with steel-clad ships, filled with missiles of death. The civilized world has impoverished itself, and the debt of Christendom, mostly for war, is now nearly thirty thousand million dollars. The interest on vast sum has to be paid; it has to be paid by labor, much of it by the poor, by those who are compelled to deny themselves almost the necessities of life. This debt is growing year by year. There must come a change, or Christendom will become bankrupt.
“The interest on this debt amounts at least to nine hundred million dollars a year; and the cost of supporting armies and navies, of repairing ships, of manufacturing new engines of death, probably amounts, including the interest on the debt, to at least six million dollars a day. Allowing ten hours for a day, that is for a working-day, the waste of war is at least six hundred thousand dollars an hour, that is to say, ten thousand dollars a minuets.
“Think of all this being paid for the purpose of killing and preparing to kill our fellow-men. Think of the good that could be done with this vast sum of money; the schools that could be built, the wants that could be supplied. Think of the homes it would build, the children it would clothe.
“If we wish to do away with war, we must provide for the settlement of national differences by an international court. This court should be in perpetual session; its members should be selected by the various governments to be affected by its decisions, and, at the command and disposal of this court, the rest of Christendom being disarmed, there should be a military force sufficient to carry its judgement into effect. There should be no other excuse, no other business for an army or a navy in the civilized world.”
Another great waste of energy and wealth which Ingersoll would have man avoid is indicated in the following: —
“Man should cease to expect any aid from any supernatural source. By this time he should be satisfied that worship has not created wealth, and that prosperity is not the child of prayer. He should know that the supernatural has not succored the oppressed, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, shielded the innocent, stayed the pestilence, or freed the slave.”
That is to say, man should stop giving to the unknown and unknowable the product of his toil. The vast river of glittering gold which, like Niagara, ceaselessly pours into the abyss of ignorance, should be diverted into channels of enlightenment and utility.
From the enormous properties and expenditures of denominational Christendom, — the value of the first, in our own country (in 1896), being “at least one thousand million dollars,” and the last, with interest, amounting to about two million dollars a week, or five hundred dollars a minute, during every working-day of ten hours, — “the returns,” Ingersoll points out, “are remarkably small. The good accomplished does not appear to be great. There is no great diminution in crime. The decrease of immorality and poverty is hardly perceptible.” He would therefore apply, with the view of reducing this expenditure to the minimum, the principle of amalgamation, of centralization. He says: —
“In many of our small towns — towns of three or four thousand people — will be found four or five churches, sometime more, These churches are founded upon immaterial differences * * * .”
Now, it seems to me that it would be far better for thee people of a town, having a population of four or five thousand, to have one church, and the edifice should be of use, not only on Sunday, but on every day of the week. In this building should be the library of the town. It should be the clubhouse of the people, where they could find the principal newspapers and periodicals of the world. Its auditorium should be like a theater. Plays should be presented by home talent; an orchestra formed, music cultivated. The people should meet there at any time they desire. The women carry their knitting and sewing; and connected with it should be rooms for the playing of games, billiards, cards, and chess. Everything should be made as agreeable as possible. The citizens should take pride in this building. They should adorn its niches with statues and its walls with pictures. It should be the intellectual center. They could employ a gentleman of ability,
possible a genius, to address them on Sundays, on subjects that would be of real interest, of real importance. They could say to this minister:
“‘We are engaged in business during the week, while we are working at our trades and professions, we want you to study, and on Sunday tell us what you have found out.’
“* * * Let them have a Sunday-school in which the children shall be made acquainted with the facts of nature; with botany, entomology, something of geology and astronomy.
“Let them be made familiar with the greatest of poems, the finest paragraphs of literature, with stories of the heroic, the self-denying and generous.
“Now, it seems to me that such a congregation in a few years would become the most intelligent people in the United States.”
Thus would he not only conserve the wealth and the energy of Christendom: he would divert them into channels of enlightenment and utility. He would employ them in seeking the aid of the natural, — in real education and real morality, — in obtaining happiness, well-being, here and now.
Another positive and constructive reform which he advocated for many years, and which is even more important than either of the two preceding, is here logically presentable. Knowing that “the home is the unit of the nation”; that “If we are to change the conduct of men, we must change their conditions”; that “the virtues grow about the holy hearth of home,” he would employ every practicable means for the security of the latter — every practicable means “to keep this from being a nation of tenants.” “I want, if possible,” he says, “to get the people out of the tenements, out of the gutters of degradation, to homes where there can be privacy, where these people can feel that they are in partnership with nature; that they have an interest in good government.” To this end he continues: —
“I would exempt a homestead of a reasonable value, say of the value of two or three thousand dollars” * * * “not only from levy and sale, but from every kind of taxation, State and National — so that these poor people would feel * * * that some of the land was absolutely theirs, and that no one could drive them from their home — so that mothers could feel secure. If the home increased in value, and exceeded the limit, then taxes could be paid on the excess [it being one of Ingersoll’s economic doctrines that those who are best able should bear the expense of government]; and if the home were sold, I would have the money realized exempt for a certain time in order that the family should have the privilege of buying another home.”
Not only would he thus secure and protect existing homes; he would endeavor to increase their number, through the instrumentality of what is known as “the right of eminent domain.” This is already invoked by governments and corporations whenever it is believed to be for the public good. Ingersoll would extend the same right to every individual who desired to build a home, and who had met with the refusal of sufficient or suitable land for the purpose, providing, of course, such individual possessed the necessary means with which to purchase. In this connection, he would fix the amount of land that a single owner might hold in exemption from the right of the home-builder: —
“Let me suppose that the amount of land that may be held by a farmer for cultivation has been fixed at one hundred and sixty acres — and suppose that A has several thousand acres. B wishes to buy one hundred and sixty acres or less of this land, for the purpose of making himself a home. A refuses to sell. Now, I believe that the law should be so that B can invoke this right of eminent domain, and file his petition, have the case brought before a jury, or before commissioners, who shall hear the evidence and determine the value, and on the payment of the amount the land shall belong to B.
“I would extend the same law to lots and houses in cities and villages. * * * “
While, therefore, Ingersoll would take no property, even in the interest of the fireside, without just compensation, he felt it to be a principle of humanity, that no one should be allowed to hold more land than he could use. —
“We need not repeat the failures of the old world. To divide lands among successful generals, or among favorites of the crown, to give vast estates for services rendered in war, is no worse than to allow men of great wealth to purchase and hold vast tracts of land.”
He believed that “those who cultivate the land should own it.” and that the babe of to-day should not be compelled to beg of the babe of yesterday the privilege of tilling the soil. Here, again, he applied the doctrine so often asserted elsewhere, that “every child should be sincerely welcomed.” He said: —
“Nature invites into this world every baby that is born. And what would you think of me, for instance, to-night, if I had invited you here — nobody had charged you anything, but you had been invited — and when you got here you had found one man pretending to occupy a hundred seats, another fifty, and another seventy-five, and thereupon you were compelled to stand up — what would you think of the invitation?”
And in so saying, he also applied, in a characteristic way, those distinctively Iigersollian ideas of liberty and justice to which attention has already been called.
Not less significant than what has anywhere preceded were his ideas of education: —
“Real education is the hope of the future. The development of the brain, the civilization of the heart, will drive want and crime from the world. The schoolhouse is the real cathedral, and science the only possible savior of the human race. Education, real education, is the friend of honesty, of morality, of temperance.”
Should we place in two groups Ingersoll’s ideas of the school, the one group representing what should, the other what should not be taught, we should again find, to the surprise of those who are fond of regarding him as ‘merely negative,’ that he was capable of some very positive ideas. Indeed, we should find that he expressed a dozen positive ideas to one negative, — positive ideas which, moreover, seem very hard to confute.
According to him, there should prevail in the school the spirit of absolute honesty and of perfect liberty. “Nothing should be taught in any school that the teacher does not know. Beliefs and superstitions should not be treated like demonstrated facts.” Children should not be browbeaten by authority. They should be allowed to grow mentally, as well as physically. If they attempt to leave the intellectual cradle, they should not be beaten back with the bones of the dead. “What I insist upon,” he says, “is that children should not he poisoned — should not be taken advantage of — that they should be treated fairly, honestly — that they should be allowed to develop from the inside instead of being crammed from the outside — that they should be taught to reason, not to believe — to think, to investigate and to use their senses, their minds.” They should be taught that nature is the only possible authority; that they should therefore put to her the question, and trust implicitly her answer. “All should be taught that there is nothing too sacred to be investigated — too holy to be understood. Each mind has the right to lift all curtains, withdraw all veils, scale all walls, explore all recesses, all heights, all depths for itself, in spite of church or priest, or creed or book.”
Although the school-house was Ingersoll’s cathedral, and was reverenced by him as devoutly as the cathedral of worship is reverenced by communicants, there were in the popular gospel of education many features far from his ideal. Nor did the shortcomings and deficiencies here implied have any necessary connection with theology. They were quite apart from those ideas and practices to which he has just been shown to have vigorously objected.
Ingersoll insisted that every child should be so trained as ultimately to be capable of self-support. This would, at the same time, make him capable of self-respect. Our reformer had little sympathy with the old idea (by no means yet extinct!), that the educated should work only with their heads. He could not countenance the false and ignoble standard of those who, ashamed of honest toil, — of felling forests, plowing fields, gathering grain, — prefer “the garret and the precarious existence of an unappreciated poet, borrowing their money from their friends, and their ideas from the dead.” To do away with such classes, he would make education real — the unified and harmonious training of all the faculties. He would not, as is now so often done, train the brain without the hands, and the hands without the brain. He would teach the child to mingle thought with labor, mind with muscle, — to use the hands in perfect unison with the head, — and thus equip their owner for self-support. He believed that any training which failed to accomplish this was unworthy of the name education. So far as the welfare of the child was concerned, education was usefulness. One idea practically applied was worth a thousand that merely made motions in the brain. He deplored the fact, that, in lieu of an educational system conducted on these general lines, — founded on the basic idea of utility, — we have s system much of whose teaching “simply unfits men successfully to fight the battle of life.” “Thousands,” he said, “are to-day studying things that will be of exceedingly little importance to them or to others.” He declared that many priceless years are wasted in filling the minds of students with the dates of great battles, and the names of kings; in the acquisition of languages that long ago were dead; and in “the study of history which, for the most part, is a detailed account of things that never occurred.” All this, in his opinion, should be changed: —
“In all the schools children should be taught to work in wood and iron, to understand the construction and use of machinery, to become acquainted with great the forces that man is using to do his work. The present system of education teaches names not things. It is as though we should spend years in learning the names of cards, without playing a game.
“In this way boys would learn their aptitudes — would ascertain what they were fitted for — what they could do. It would not be a guess, or an experiment, but a demonstration. Education should increase a boy’s chances of getting a living. The real good of it is to get food and roof and raiment, opportunity to develope the mind and the body and live a full and ample life.”
It hardly seems necessary to explain, that, notwithstanding Ingersoll’s belief in “real education,” he was far from deprecating the so-called “higher education.” For, as elsewhere stated, it was one of his most earnest contentions, that the horizon of the student should be bounded by none but nature, — by the student’s own capacity for intellectual achievement or artistic production. What Ingersoll would do, under present social conditions would he to make “higher education” secondary to the capacity for self- support. He would have every human being taught, “that his first duty is to take care of himself”; that, just as he “would shun death,” just so should he “avoid being a burden on others.” With Ingersoll, therefore, the question was, primarily, economic, — ethical; secondarily, esthetics. His quarrel with the classics was wholly conditional. He had no objection to pupils’ learning the odes of Pindar and Horace, if the simple songs of industry were learned first but he did think it better to be able to sing the songs of industry joyously and well under the open sky, or even in a factory, than to garble the odes of Pindar in a penitentiary, or the odes of Horace in an almshouse.
From these views of “real education,” by means of which Ingersoll proposed to “drive want and crime from the world,” we naturally pass to his views of want and crime themselves. And here, we fancy, a surprise may be in store for some. Indeed, what would be the surprise of, we will say, an orthodox clergyman, who, having come to look, as though intuitively, with mingled pity and disdain, upon Ingersoll and his work, should suddenly meet with the following passage? —
“I sympathize with the wonderers; with the vagrants out of employment; even with the sad and weary men who are seeking bread but not work. When I see one of these men, poor and friendless — no matter how bad he is — I think that somebody loved him once; that he was once held in the arms of a mother; that he slept beneath her loving eyes, and wakened in the light of her smile. I see him in the cradle, listening to lullabies sung soft and low, and his little face is dimpled as though touched by the rosy fingers of Joy. And then I think of the strange and winding paths, the weary roads he has traveled, from that mother’s arms to misery and want and aimless crime.” (from Prose-Poems and Selections.)
The truth is, — however anomalous, — that Ingersoll was the one man of his day who consistently and insistently advocated in sociology in general, and in criminology and penology in particular, all that is highest, noblest, and tenderest in the teachings of Christ. While Christian governors, legislators, reformers, philanthropists, humanitarians, and theologians, shocked by what they termed his “infidel blasphemies,” were advocating, as a remedy for crime, the Mosaic doctrine of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” — the doctrine of revenge, degradation, and hate — Ingersoll was, in effect, repeating the marvelous words of “the Savior.” “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” Indeed, Ingersoll was perhaps even more exacting than this concerning the moral fitness of the would-be judges and executioners; for he once said to an audience: —
“The next time you look with scorn upon a convict, let me beg of you to do one thing. Maybe you are not as bad as I am, but do one thing: think of all the crime you have wanted to commit; think of all the crime you would have committed if you had had the opportunity; think of all the temptations to which you would have yielded had nobody been looking; and then put your hand on your heart and say whether you can justly look with contempt even upon a convict.”
As Ingersoll himself remarked of Whitman, “he sympathized with the imprisoned and despised, and even on the brow of crime he was great enough to place the kiss of human sympathy.” That is, Ingersoll was (and, too, by self-confession) a sentimentalist. But his sentiment was not maudlin: it was mingled with the highest intelligence. For here, again, “his brain took counsel of his heart.” It is more accurate to say, that his heart took counsel of his brain, since, as a matter of fact, all his sympathies, however ardent, were supported by the firmest of intellectual convictions. Such sympathies, I repeat, are not maudlin. There is, to be sure, a sympathy that is nothing more than maudlin; but the sympathy that extends to the lowest wretch a pardon born of the keenest intellectual perception, — the profoundest conviction, — of his blamelessness as a victim of uncontrollable conditions, — of inexorable forces, — is the most exalted of which we can conceive, and robes its possessor in moral grandeur. Such was the sympathy of Ingersoll.
His cardinal opinions and teachings concerning the criminal were based upon the belief that every individual, good or bad, invariably does precisely as he or she must do. He never wandered far into the maze of metaphysics in search of a foundation for that belief: rather did he seek and find such foundation in physical science, particularly in physiological psychology. Without undertaking, therefore, a lengthy journey in the realm of metaphysics, or even in that of psychology, but without hesitating to enter, if need be, the realms of both, let us endeavor to understand his position.
As elsewhere stated, Ingersoll accepted the great fundamental truths of physical science, drawing therefrom such inferences, and only such, as accorded with reason and logic. He believed in nature — that this universe of substance and energy — indestructible, uncreated, eternal — infinite in both time and space — this universe of which humanity is a part — is all there is. He believed that all is natural and necessary — necessarily natural, naturally necessary — that the necessarily natural and the naturally necessary are naturally and necessarily all. He believed that by no possibility could even a single infinitesimal atom have been non-existent or otherwise than as it is; that, from this infinitesimal atom to the largest planet, every part of the universe, including, of course, all sentient beings, is in the grasp of immutable force; that every atom, itself a necessity, constantly and necessarily acts upon, and is constantly and necessarily acted upon by, every other atom. He believed that precisely the same is true of every aggregation of atoms — of every man — that it is true of the human brain. The fact that the brain was apparently distinguished from all other masses of matter, by the possession of what is called consciousness, did not alter the case. The circumstance that the brain could cognize its being acted upon, and its own action, was of no moment. The cognizing faculty was not itself a potency behind the phenomena cognized: it was an impotent, if deeply interested, witness on this side of the phenomena. It was not as the sunlight that made the coal, as the coal itself burning under the boiler, as the steam moving the pistons, nor even as the engineer in the cab, pulling the throttle: it was as the man who stands beside the track and watches the train go by. A closer parallel: If the man boards the train, and it moves in the direction he desires or “wills” to go, and he observes and says that it so moves, he does not thereby change the source or the nature of the force that moves the train — that moves himself: he merely establishes the fact that he boarded a train moving in the direction he desired or “willed” to go. The question still is, What caused him to desire or “will” to take the train, — to move in that direction? Could he, by any possibility, have desired or “willed” to move in another direction? Idealizing the immutability of forces and conditions, Ingersoll believed that the man could not. He believed that to assert the contrary was to deny causation, the universality of force, the integrity of nature. He believed that if the man could have desired or “willed” to move in another direction, he necessarily would have done so. “All that has been possible has happened, all that is possible is happening, and all that will be possible will happen.” Therefore, man does as he must do, regardless of what (in the rightful or wrongful judgment of others) he should do. In other words, Ingersoll could readily conceive of an individuals doing as he should and must, or as he should not, but must; but by no possibility could he conceive of one’s doing as he should not and must not. Hence, in his opinion, all alleged acts of “willing,” or volition, amount, on analysis, to no more than this: consciousness of agreeable action. The real cause of the “willing,” or volition, — the vis a tergo of the action, — instead of being our servant, was our master; and “free will” and “free moral agency” were simply expressions of philosophical and theological ignorance.
In refutation of the argument for “free moral agency,” Ingersoll once used the following illustration, — itself an argument as clear as it is unanswerable: —
“It is insisted that man is free, and is responsible, because he knows right from wrong. But the compass does not navigate the ship; neither does it in any way, of itself, determine the direction that is taken. When wend and waves are too powerful, the compass is of no importance. The pilot may read it correctly, and may know the direction the ship ought to take, but the compass is not a force. So men, blown by the rempests of passion, may have the intellectual conviction that they should go another way; but of what use, of what force, is the conviction?”
Asked for his opinion concerning the moral and legal responsibility of the alcoholic, he said: —
“Personally, I regard the moral and legal responsibility of all persons as being exactly the same. * * *
“We are beginning to find that there is no effect without a cause, and that the conduct of individuals is not an exception to this law. Every hope, every fear, every dream, every virtue, every crime, has behind it an efficient cause. Men do neither right nor wrong by chance. * * *
“* * * Believing as I do that all persons act as they must, it makes not the slightest difference whether the person so acting is what we call inebriated, or sane, or insane — he acts as he must.”
In reaching this necessarian conclusion, Ingersoll, true to his philosophic nature, gave, of course due consideration to all the facts, forces, and conditions affecting human conduct, — to heredity, the form, size, and quality of the brain, bodily health, environment, example, education. It was perfectly plain to him that A, having a certain brain, and being placed in a certain environment, would necessarily act in a certain way; that B, in precisely the same environment, would necessarily act in another way; and that either A or B, in a different environment, would necessarily act in still other ways. Whether their acts might be good or bad, they would be as necessary as any other phenomena in nature — as absolutely necessary and inevitable as the reflection of light from an opaque body — the form of a snowflake — the motions of a planet.
In the production of that bountiful crop called crime, nature, in Ingersoll’s opinion, ploughs the ground, sows the seeds, cultivates, waters, husbands, and harvests with as much skill as the most competent farmer in the production of wheat or corn. Indeed, it seemed almost as though nature sometimes resorts to irrigation and artificial rain in raising failures. And why did nature raise failures? Simply because, contrary to the wholly assumptive teachings of philosophers and theologians, nature was without design, object, or purpose — because she was deaf, dumb, and blind with reference to man. She produced a literal “Bluebeard” with the same satisfaction that she did a Florence Nightingale; that is, with none. In other words, the most devilish of men, like the most saintly of women, was a natural and necessary product; and all of his acts, under the conditions and circumstances of his environment, were natural and necessary acts.
But Ingersoll did not stop here. A true reformer, a wise moral physician, he was not content merely with having indicated the nature of the malady — with a skilful diagnosis: he turned his attention to treatment, both preventive and curative.
Let us consider first the preventive treatment which he proposed. After pointing to the well known fact, that, for thousands of years, men and women had sought in various ways to reform mankind; that they had “created gods and devils, heavens and hells”; had “tortured and imprisoned, flayed alive and burned”; had preached and taught and coaxed without result, he asked, “Why have the reformers failed?” And he answered: —
“* * * I will tell you why.
“Ignorance, poverty and vice are populating the world. The gutter is a nursery. People unable even to support themselves fill the tenements, the huts and hovels with children. They depend on the Lord, on luck and charity. They are not intelligent enough to think about consequences or to feel responsibility. At the same time they do not want children, because a child is a curse, a curse to them and to itself. The baby is not welcome, because it is a burden. These unwelcome children fill the jails and prisons, the asylums and hospitals, and they crowd the scaffolds. A few are rescued by chance or charity, but the great majority are failures. They become vicious, ferocious. They live by fraud and violence, and bequeath their lives to their children.”
He then continued: —
“The real question is, can we prevent the ignorant, the poor, the vicious, from filling the world with children?
“Can we prevent this Missouri of ignorance and vice from emptying into the Mississippi of civilization?”
And without waiting for an answer, he himself declared: —
“To accomplish this there is but one way. Science must make woman the owner, the mistress of herself. Science, the only possible savior of mankind, must put it in the power of woman to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.
“This is the solution of the whole question. This frees woman. The babes that are then born will be welcome. They will be clasped with glad hands to happy breasts. They will fill homes with light and joy.”
Loath as most professional reformers would be to acknowledge the wisdom of advice so radical, it would seem to require much less of the poetic faculty than its giver displays in its expression to picture in one’s mind the mental, moral, and physical benefits which society would realize from its acceptance.
Several other definite reforms which were advocated by Ingersoll, and which would necessarily tend to the prevention of crime, should here be recalled or mentioned. They are: The abolition of war, both within and between nations, war being a perpetual excuse for mobs and individual violence; the enactment of legislation favorable to an increase of the number of home-builders and home-owners, thereby decreasing the number of tenants; the instituting of a public educational curriculum whose first aim should be to make every pupil ultimately capable of self-support (all of these having been presented in the present chapter); the rearing of children with affection, reason, and justice (to be treated of in Chapter 16); and the repeal or modification of the absurd, unjust, and immoral statutes and laws which, in many states, restrict or withhold the natural right to divorce.’
Passing now from Ingersoll’s suggestions for preventing the production of criminals, let us glance at his suggestions for the treatment of criminals already existing.
In his opinion, society possessed one right, and was morally charged with one duty, with reference to this class: It was society’s undeniable right to protect itself; it was its unmistakable duty to reform the criminal if possible. As the exercise of this right and the performance of this duty must proceed conjointly, must alike involve, in most cases, the restriction of the liberties of the wrongdoer, it will be understood that that which follows relates to the treatment of the convict in penitentiaries and prisons.
First, as to confinement itself, Ingersoll would give to the convict every liberty consistent with achieving the purpose for which the convict was confined — the safety of society. And why? Because society had no moral right to deprive any individual of more of his liberties than was absolutely necessary for the preservation of its own.
Second, as to the treatment of the confined, Ingersoll advocated, as we should naturally expect, some very radical and revolutionary methods. And yet he advocated nothing impracticable, nothing that could not be put into effect at once, if society but had the wisdom and the goodness to do so. As the only object of confinement, other than the protection of society, was the reformation of the convict, there should be absolutely no punishment. And why? Because experience had demonstrated that punishment was a failure, both as a deterrent and as a reforming force. No punishment that ingenious cruelty had ever devised was great enough, — terrible enough, — either to prevent crime or to reform the criminal. Therefore, its infliction. — the infliction of useless pain and suffering, — was itself a crime as great, in many cases, as the crime of the convict himself. His may have been a crime of passion: this was a crime of deliberation, of calculating cruelty — cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Ingersoll believed that its effect was to harden and degrade not only the convict, but the person, the institution, the state, the society that inflicted the punishment; that it was itself a potent influence for crime. Was it not an example set by society and the state? If the individual should not follow them, whom or what should he follow? In Ingersoll’s opinion, society was without right to place upon one of its members an additional stain. The convict should suffer no degradation that he did not (apparently) put upon himself. There should be manifested toward him no heartless air of superiority. There should be no exhibition of arbitrary power. The lion of authority should not needlessly stalk before the cur of obedience. But of all of Ingersoll’s objections to punishment proper, the most profound is this: —
“* * * I am opposed to any punishment that cannot be inflicted by a gentleman * * *.”
This is the final word. If the state required that all of its punishments should be inflicted by gentlemen, no punishment per se would be inflicted because no gentleman would knowingly cause useless suffering.
Every penitentiary and prison, in Ingersoll’s opinion, should be a real reformatory. Only the noblest, the wisest, and the best should be in charge. All officials and employees, from the warden to the lowest in authority, should be filled with enthusiasm for humanity. They should be such as have shown as much genius for virtue as the criminal has shown for vice. They should be of the precious few who, having steadfastly gazed in the mirror of conscience, have never felt the impulse to “cast the first stone.” They should be selected with as great care as are physicians who are to be placed in charge of hospitals and asylums, and with precisely the same object, — to cure the inmates if possible. These officials should employ their superior intelligence and virtue in elevating their moral and intellectual inferiors; or rather they should be so intelligent and virtuous that they could not refrain from so doing. The penitentiary should be a mental and moral almshouse, — a laboratory in which humanitarians, with the zeal of discovery, would seek in every heart the seeds of good. From the moment of his entrance, the convict should be made to realize, if possible, that the government was his friend; that its only object, beyond the protection of society, was to make him a better man, mentally, morally, and physically. Those in charge should address themselves to his brain and to his heart. Knowing that, in the pursuit of happiness, the common goal of humanity, every man takes what he thinks is the easiest road, and that the convict simply has made a mistake, — has taken the wrong road, — they should try to convince him of his mistake, and to place him, with intelligence and sympathy, in the right road. He should be instructed in the science and art of conduct. He should be taught that only the self-supporting can be self-respecting, and that the self-respecting has taken at least the first step toward real happiness and well-being.
But if Ingersoll would teach convicts the necessity of honest labor, he would not, with the next breath, teach them that the product of their labor belonged to others, — to the state. He was wise enough to know that convicts on entering the penitentiary lost no right which had really been theirs on the outside. One of their rights on the outside was to receive the market value of their labor. He therefore insisted that the convict should be credited with what he earned, minus the cost of his maintenance. “He should neither be degraded nor robbed. The state should set the highest and noblest example,” said Ingersoll. He could not see the social or economic wisdom of robbing, or of keeping in idleness, the married convicts while their wives and children shivered and hungered in tenement or poorhouse. He would send the earnings to the families. With reference to convicts that had no families, he asked: —
“Would it not be far better * * * to lay aside their earnings from day to day, from month to month, and from year to year — to put this money at interest, so that when the convict is released after five years imprisonment he will have several hundred dollars of his own — not mere money enough to pay his way back to the place from which he was sent, but enough to make it possible for him to commence business on his own account, enough to keep the wolf of crime from the door of his heart?
“Suppose the convict comes out with five hundred dollars. This would be to most of his class a fortune. It would form a breastwork, a fortress, behind which the man could fight temptation. This would get him food and raiment, enable him to go to some other State or country where he could redeem himself. If this were done, thousands of convicts would feel under immense obligation to the Government. They would think of the penitentiary as a place in which they got saved — in which they were redeemed — and they would feel that the verdict of guilty rescued them from the abyss of crime. Under these circumstances, the law would appear beneficent, and the heart of the poor convict, instead of being filled with malice, would overflow with gratitude.”
Nor were convicts and their immediate families, as Ingersoll pointed out, the only ones to suffer because of the state’s withholding the just wages of those who labor for it: —
As “the men in the penitentiaries do not work for themselves; … they have no interest in their toil — no reason for doing the best they can — the … product of their labor is poor. This product comes in competition with the work of mechanics, honest men, who have families to support, and the cry is that convict labor takes the bread from the mouths of virtuous people” … “If the convict worked for himself, he would do the best he could, and the wares produced in the penitentiaries would not cheapen the labor of other men.”
Ingersoll knew that if these “other men” were in fact “honest men,” — if, with him, they believed in universal justice, — they could not possibly object to paying for his toil a man whom nature, the mother of us all, had made less honest and virtuous than themselves.
To capital punishment, Ingersoll offered precisely the same objections that he did to punishment of every other kind, and at least two more objections. Briefly, the first of these, — based upon a profound knowledge of human nature and the law, and upon long technical legal experience, — was: —
“The tendency of the extreme penalty is to prevent conviction. In the presence of death it is easy for a jury to find a doubt. * * * If the penalty were imprisonment for life, the jury would feel that if any mistake were made it could be rectified; but where the penalty is death a mistake is fatal. A conscientious man takes into consideration the defects of human nature — the uncertainty of testimony, and the countless shadows that dim and darken the understanding, and refuses to find a verdict that, if wrong, cannot be righted.”
The second objection was: —
“The death penalty, inflected by the Government, is a perpetual excuse for mobs.
“The greatest danger in a Republic is a mob, and as long as States inflict the penalty of death, mobs will follow the example. If the State does not consider life sacred, the mob, with ready rope, will strangle the suspected. The mob will say: ‘The only difference is in the trial; the State does the same — we know the man is guilty — why should time be wasted in technicalities?’ In other words, why may not the mob do quickly that which the State does slowly?”
It would seem that any doubt of the wisdom of this objection might be dispelled by perusing the dispatches which almost daily appear in our public press.
And after advocating not only the preceding but many other equally positive and constructive measures, the consideration of which would lead us far beyond the limits of the present volume, Ingersoll said: —
“The reforms that I have mentioned cannot be accomplished in a day, possibly not for many centuries; and in the meantime there is much crime, much poverty, much want, and consequently something must be done now.
“Let each human being, within the limits of the possible be self-supporting; let every one take intelligent thought for the morrow; and if a human being supports himself and acquires a surplus, let him use a part of that surplus for the unfortunate; and let each one to the extent of his ability help his fellow-men. Let him do what he can in the circle of his own acquaintance to rescue the fallen, to help those who are trying to help themselves, to give work to the idle. Let him distribute kind words of wisdom, of cheerfulness and hope. In other words, let every human being do all the good he can, and let him bind up the wounds of his fellow- creatures, and at the same time put forth every effort to hasten the coming of a better day.
“This, in my judgement, is real religion. To do all the good you can is to be a saint in the highest and in the noblest sense. To do all the good you can; this is to be really and truly spiritual. To relieve suffering, to put the star of hope in the midnight of despair, this is true holiness. This is the religion of science.”
It would be impossible to close this chapter with more fitting and illuminating words than the ones with which Ingersoll himself painted on a fadeless canvas the past, the present, and the future. But in adapting those words to my purpose, I wish to invite attention to two facts which they indisputably prove: First, that even the orthodox Christian of to-day is an iconoclast; second, that it was absolutely necessary for Ingersoll to be a far more advanced one, if he would be a true reformer, — if he would hasten the coming of that ideal state for which he so devotedly, so heroically labored, and which he so hopefully, so incomparably, so gloriously predicted: —
“I look. In gloomy caves I see the sacred serpents coiled, waiting for their sacrificial prey. I see their open jaws, their restless tongues, their glittering eyes, their cruel fangs. I see them seize and crush, in many horrid folds, the helpless children given by mothers to appease the Serpent-God.
“I look again. I see temples wrought of stone and gilded with barbaric gold. I see altars red with human blood. I see the solemn priests thrust knives in the white breasts of girls.
“I look again. I see other temples and their altars, where greedy flames devour the flesh and blood of babes. I see other temples and other priests and other altars dripping with the blood of oxen, lambs, and doves. I see other temples and other priests and other altars, on which are sacrificed the liberties of man. I look: I see the cathedrals of God, the huts of peasants; the robes of kings, the rags of honest men.
“I see a world at war — the lovers of God are the haters of men. I see dungeons filled with the noblest and the best. I see exiles, wanderers, outcasts — millions of martyrs, widows, and orphans. I see the cunning instruments of torture, and hear again the shrieks and sobs and moans of millions dead. I see the prisons gloom, the fagot’s flame. I see a world beneath the feet of priests; Liberty in chains; every virtue a crime, every crime a virtue; the white forehead of honor wearing the brand of shame; intelligence despised, stupidity sainted, hypocrisy crowned; and bending above the poor earth, religion’s night without a star. This was.
“I look again, and in the East of Hope, the first pale light shed by the herald star gives promise of another dawn. I look, and from the ashes, blood, and tears, the countless heroes leap to bless the future and avenge the past. I see a world at war, and in the storm and chaos of the deadly strife thrones crumble, altars fall, chains break, creeds change. The highest peeks are touched with holy light. The dawn has blossomed. It is day.
“I look. I see discoverers sailing mysterious seas. I see inventors cunningly enslave the blind forces of the world. Schools are built, teachers slowly take the place of priests. Philosophers arise. Thinkers give the world their wealth of brain, and lips grow rich with words of truth. This is.
“I look again. The popes and priests and kings are gone. The altars and the thrones have mingled with the dust. The aristocracy of land and cloud have perished from the earth and air. The gods are dead. A new religion sheds its glory on mankind. It is the gospel of this world, the religion of the body, the evangel of health and joy. I see a world at peace, a world where labor reaps its true reward. A world without prisons, without workhouse, without asylums — – a world on which the gibbet’s shadow does not fall; a world where the poor girl, trying to win bread with needle — the needle that has been called “the asp for the breast of the poor” — is not driven to the desperate choice of crime or death, of suicide or shame. I see a world without the beggar’s outstretched palm, the miser’s heartless, stony stare, the piteous wail of want, the pallid face of crime, the livid lips of lies, the cruel eyes of scorn. I see a race without disease of flesh or brain — shapely of form and function.
“And as I look, life lengthens, Joy deepens, Love intensifies, Fear dies, — Liberty at last is God, and Heaven is here. This shall be.”