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A History Of The British Secular Movement

A History Of The British Secular Movement

by John Edwin McGee

edited by E. Haldeman-Julius



Chapter I – ORIGINS


Basic Features

A Masterful Convert



Advancing Secularist Doctrines

Attacking the Churches

Opposition to Secularism








Furthering the Principles of Secularism

Anti-Church Activities

The Attack upon Secularism

Association with Organized International Freethought


Proportions of the Secular Movement

Administrative Affairs

Printed Matter

Public Occasions

Propagation of Secular Teachings

Fighting the Religious Interests

The Campaign against Secularism




Despite the significant part which the British Secular Movement has played in bringing about many of the ideas and institutions which are of fundamental importance in the Great Britain of today, the public has not had ample opportunities for acquiring information concerning the Movement. To begin with, the history of the undertaking has never been written. Added to this is the fact that while many comments have been made on the Secular Movement, they almost always have been tinged with the emotion of Partisanship, and have departed widely from the detached and impartial observations associated with the careful historian. Finally, though biographies have been written of the most prominent of the Secularist leaders, the authors of these books have magnified the persons whose lives they treated at the expense of the Secular Movement itself. These facts seemed to me to provide ample justification for the writing of a sound history of the Secular Movement, and inspired me to attempt to produce such a history.

The entire manuscript was read with much care by Professor Preston Slosson, of the University of Michigan. Professor Slosson offered many valuable suggestions for the improvement of the work. I am grateful indeed for the advice which Professor Slosson gave me.

My debt to my late wife is simply limitless. For many laborious months she worked along with me in the libraries, helping me to gather the raw materials for the book from the almost inexhaustible list of sources — mainly pamphlets and magazines — which contain them. Besides all this she offered valuable suggestions and helped solve knotty problems in connection with the preparation of the manuscript. I wish to acknowledge my deep appreciation for her assistance.

John Edwin McGee

April, 1948.


No phase of the history of Great Britain is more stirring than the organized efforts, in the years after the middle of the 19th century, to achieve a less harsh and cruel existence for the great masses of the British common people; and of the numerous campaigns for popular reform which marked the post mid-19th century period none, was more impressive than the British Secular Movement. The Secularists, as those who carried on the Secular Movement were called, labored for their cause with a zeal which at times was almost fanatical. They waged their fight, too, simultaneously on many fronts. And, though often discriminated against socially for their efforts, they persevered in their undertaking almost from the very beginning of the second half of the 19th century right down to the present time.

Except for a few of the leaders, who, because of being, say, journalists or small shopkeepers, belonged to the lower middle class, the Secularists were virtually all members of the workings, classes; and the Secular Movement was undertaken to bring to an end a set of conditions which from the working class point of view was provokingly unsatisfactory. When the Secularists began their work these unfavorable conditions were in evidence throughout every sphere of British society. In the political realm the laboring masses of men and women counted for little indeed. The monarchy itself, though a strictly limited one. was identified with the traditions and interests of the aristocracy, while the cost of its upkeep (which was considerable) fell upon the people as a whole. The House of Lords was composed of Church dignitaries and hereditary peers whose associations, tastes, and outlook were these of the privileged classes. The Members of the House of Commons were elected by voters drawn from the middle and upper classes, and belonged themselves to these groups. Government was really an affair of, by, and for the higher classes.

The economic and social setup, too, was unfavorable to the welfare of The laboring masses. Thanks to the enclosure of lard in the country and to the application of machinery to industry in the towns, fewer workers were needed by the employing classes than were available. In consequence, low wages were paid in cases where employment was granted. while in many instances work was not to be had on any terms. Poverty thus dogged the heels of the working classes, and with poverty went crowded, unwholesome living conditions. Then, too, no systematic provision was made for the care of those who became destitute, or for those who lingered on a while on earth after they were no longer able to work. Added to all this was the fact, that there were almost no opportunities available to the poor, especially in urban districts, for wholesome recreation and entertainment. Week-end pleasure trips, for example, even to nearby places, could not be afforded. Wide and varied social contacts were out of the question. The museums, libraries, and art galleries were all closed on Sunday, the one day of the week when workingmen might have visited them. Even Sunday music in the parks was nonexistent. Bleak indeed were the lives of those whose lot it was to toil.

The schools of the day served the lower classes inadequately. No state-controlled school system providing universal, secular education was in existence, and the private (denominational, usually Anglican), state-added schools that constituted such a system as did exist not only failed to extend any educational training whatever, to more than half of the common people but did not make available even to the remainder a strictly secular education.

Operative, in effect, primarily against the unprivileged classes were various obstructions and dangers to the free expression of opinion. There was, to begin with, the matter of free speech as exemplified at public meetings in the parks and other open spaces. Theoretically, the right to hold such meeting was assured. Actually, however, they were from time to time interfered with by the public authorities. The situation in regard to the freedom of the press, too, was not satisfactory. Though supposedly free, the press was subjected to restrictions which amounted to serious loss of liberty. For one thing, there were occasional instances of governmental interference with the right of publication. Then, too, indirect expedients were resorted to for regulating the press. Taxes were levied on newspapers, on advertisements, and on paper, and enactments — the so-called Security Laws — calling upon newspapers to provide security against blasphemous or seditious utterances were sometimes invoked. Finally, various arrangements and regulations existed which prevented equality before the Law for all forms of speculative opinion. First, there were the provisions concerning oath-taking. As the situation stood, the taking of an oath ordinarily accompanied legal testimony. Quakers and other religious persons who had conscientious scruples against oath-taking were, however, allowed simply to make an affirmation. But no such privilege was extended to the non-religious. These had either to take the oath or to lose the right to testify. Indeed, they might be deprived of the right of testimony even though willing to take the oath, if interested parties chose to have the state of their religious opinions brought to light. Secondly, there was a State Church — a church endowed and supported by the state and therefore by the citizens as a whole irrespective of their religious beliefs or church affiliations. And thirdly, there was the situation as to blasphemy. What was called blasphemy was punishable as a crime, alike under a statute which had been enacted during the reign of William III and subsequently amended so as not to apply to the Unitarians, and under the common law. And in both cases blasphemy was narrowly conceived as a denial or reproach of the Christian religion regardless of the tone of such condemnation. Thus, the statute, as it now stood, declared as guilty of blasphemy “any person or persons having been educated in, or at any time having made profession of, the Christian religion within this realm who shall, by writing, printing, teaching, or advised speaking … assert or maintain that there are more Gods than one, or shall deny the Christian doctrine to be true, or the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be of divine authority”; and under the common law, according to the pronouncement (1675) of Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, whose interpretation was still the generally accepted one, it was blasphemous “to speak in reproach of the Christian religion.” It was true that no prosecution had ever taken place under the statute, but there was no assurance that such would always be the case; and under the common law numerous prosecutions down through the years had occurred.

In the face of all these conditions a course of action looking to the promotion of mass welfare might logically have been undertaken by organized Christianity. As a matter of fact there were Churchmen here and there who engaged in such a task. In the Church of England the “Christian Socialists” — Maurice, Kingsley, and other — expressed sympathy for the working classes and furthered industrial cooperation. And in the Nonconformist Churches there were undoubtedly active friends of such causes as democracy, social legislation, secular education, and Church disestablishment. But the Churches as organized bodies did not rise to the occasion; nor, for that matter, did the bulk of their responsible representatives as individuals. Officially and unofficially the tendency was to support the existing conditions. To this end, clergymen and prominent laymen (who themselves generally belonged to the middle and upper classes) expressed themselves in speeches, sermons, and publications. They not only propagated an otherworldly attitude calculated to divert attention from the hardships and injustices of this life, but made frequent use of biblical texts which were of a reactionary cast — such texts as “The Powers that be are Ordained by God,” and “Meddle not with them that are given to change.” As Professor Faulkner summed up the situation, “Organized Christianity deliberately refused the leadership in political and social reformation…” [Harold Underwood Faulkner, “Chartism and the Churches” (1916), pp. 119-120.] Thus, from the point of view of the working classes, the Church itself was objectionable.

it was these conditions — political, social, intellectual, and religious — that produced not only the British Secular Movement but the many other reforming enterprises already referred to in these pages; and it was these conditions which inspired, in almost every case, persons who were both able and earnest to assume positions of leadership in such undertakings. Such a person was George Jacob Holyoake, the founder of the British Secular Movement, and, in the earliest years of the enterprise, the most conspicuous figure among the Secularists. A frail little man with weak eyes and a thin voice, Holyoake was nevertheless by nature a crusader. Yet, in his crusading efforts he ordinarily manifested pronounced courtesy and restraint towards opponents of his aims. In fact, his manner of dealing with persons in the opposite camp was so agreeable that they themselves often referred to it as praiseworthy. On the other hand, Holyoake was sharply critical of most of the Secular leaders, and at times even tended to side with “the enemy” against them. Especially was this the case after he ceased to be the controlling influence in the Secular Movement. Whatever the justification may have been for his attitude toward his colleagues, it was resented by them, all the more so because it stood out in contrast with his manner toward the opponentes of Secularism; and when he finally died they expressed little regret. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to assume either that Holyoake did not possess superior personal qualities or that he was not of great value to the Secular Movement. His qualities as an individual, as we have already intimated, were of a high order. Perhaps Spencer placed a true estimate on them when he said: “Not dwelling upon his intellectual capacity, which is high, I would emphasize my appreciation of his courage, sincerity, truthfulness, philanthropy, and unwavering perseverance. Such a combination of qualities it will I think, be difficult to find.” [Quoted in David Duncan, “Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer” (1908), p. 468.] As for Holyoake’s services to the Secular Movement, though it is true that he was not altogether successful in his efforts at organizing and consolidating the enterprise, he gave the undertaking its initial impetus and played a truly important part in Secularist activity, especially in the earlier years of the Secular Movement, both as a forceful journalist and pamphleteer and (despite his physical handicaps) as an effective speaker. And his work in the Secular Movement was merely a part of what, from first to last, he was able to do. As we shall see, he lectured and wrote in the interest of Owenism, and was for a time one of the Chartist leaders. He rendered distinguished service as a champion and historian of the Cooperative Movement. He helped the Rationalist Press Association to get started. No one will deny that Holyoake served well the cause of popular reform.

Holyoake was born at Birmingham on April 13, 1817. He early became conscious of the problem of poverty; for, though the wages of his father, who was an employee in a Birmingham foundry, were supplemented for a time by profits from a button-making shop operated by the boy’s mother, the income of the family was scarcely sufficient for more than the bare necessities.

Holyoake’s father had “a pagan mind” and was indifferent to religion; but his mother was a woman of piety and imbued her son so effectively with religious fervor that he assiduously attended various nonconformist places of worship and was spoken of as the “angel child.”

The, educational training which Holyoake received was definitely limited. He attended a dame’s school for a period, but was compelled to spend much of his time in a tinner’s shop attaching handles to lanterns; and inasmuch as at the age of 9 he began a 13-year period of full-time work as a whitesmith in the foundry that employed his father, his opportunities for educational pursuits became still more restricted. Nevertheless, in 1833, he entered the Birmingham Mechanics’ Institute, where he remained for five years, and where, through persistent night study, he made an impressive record.

Certain of Holyoake’s professors and fellow-students at the Mechanics’ Institute were staunch disciples of Robert Owen, who, having abandoned the technique he originally followed of trying to achieve reform through the aid of upper-class persons, was now conducting one of his working class movements; and one of these academic associates of Holyoake, Frederick Hollick, a student, endeavored to win Holyoake to the cause of Owenism, but was not even able to persuade him to attend a single Owenite meeting. The prospective convert did, however, attend such a meeting, though most unintentionally. Upon hearing from his associates that a clergyman whom he greatly admired, Robert Hall, was to speak on a certain date, Holyoake put in an appearance, only to learn, to his astonishment, that he had misunderstood the name of the speaker, who was not Robert Hall, but Robert Owen. Owen proved to be less scandalizing than Holyoake had supposed, and the young man, desiring to become better acquainted with Owenism so that he might defend it against what he conceived to be the false comments of certain of his friends, began to attend Owenite meetings. The upshot was that in 1840 he definitely affiliated himself with the Movement.

Early in 1839 Holyoake had abandoned his employment at the Birmingham foundry. Later in the same year he had worked for a brief period as a guide at an exhibition of machinery which was being held at Birmingham. In the early autumn of 1839 he had become an instructor at the Birmingham Mechanics’ Institute, but had surrendered his position under pressure, in January, 1840, after having been denounced by religious persons for Owenite leanings. In the course of the next few months he had taught in a private school, served as bookkeeper for a venetian blind maker, written advertisements, and given private lessons in mathematics. At the time when he joined the Owenite Movement he was unemployed, and he promptly began to devote his entire time to its service.

Holyoake’s experiences as one of the disciples of Robert Owen were certainly not lacking in variety. At the outset he accepted a lectureship with the Branch at Worcester. After he had served in this capacity for several months, the Congress of 1841 appointed him “Station Lecturer” and sent him to take up his duties at Sheffield. His services as lecturer were soon, however, brought temporarily to a close, thanks to the interference of the clergy with the Owenite Movement. Owen’s plans for reform had always met with a certain opposition from the clergy, but beginning in 1846 their hostility took a new and more powerful form, inasmuch as they now sought to strike at the Movement by crippling its revenues. Seeing that the “Socialists,” as the Owenites were popularly called, took money at their meeting-house doors on Sunday, they invoked Parliamentary legislation forbidding any but religious bodies from doing so, and demanded that the Owenite lecturers either desist or make profession, on oath, of the Protestant religion. The Central Board of the Movement favored making the declaration, and some of the lecturers did so. Holyoake, however, along with certain others, refused to take the oath. The result to Holyoake was that the Owenite authorities requested and secured his resignation. Inasmuch as at this time his fellow-Owenite, Charles Southwell, who, with other followers of Owen, had defiantly started the anti-theological Oracle of Reason, was in prison for a provocative article he had written in the fourth number of that paper, Holyoake took over the editorship of the periodical, and, throwing off the last vestiges of his religious belief, carried the paper forward in a militantly rationalist fashion. But he did not do so for long, as he soon met a fate similar to that which had befallen Southwell. Upon completing a lecture at Cheltenham he was goaded by a clerical member of his audience into making what was construed as a blasphemous remark, [Holyoake made the remark upon being told that he had spoken of our duty to man but had said nothing about our duty to God. His words were: “I appeal to your heads and your pockets if we are not too poor to have a God. If poor men cost the state so much, they would be put, like officers, upon half pay. I think that while our distress lasts it would be wise to do the same with the Deity.”] and was consequently compelled to serve a sentence of six months in the Gloucester jail. After his release he was permitted to resume lecturing — at Worcester. But he soon went to London, where he became Secretary to “Branch 53” and where, in December, 1843, he founded, with his fellow-Owenite, M.Q. Ryall, the freethought Movement. After 15 months the Movement failed, however, from an inadequate circulation, and Holyoake accepted the post of lecturer to the disciples of Owen in Glasgow. But he resigned shortly afterwards and returned to London, where he founded, in 1846, the ‘Reasoner’ as an Owenite organ.

In the course of time Holyoake became dissatisfied with the Owenite Movement as a medium for his activity. For one thing, the enterprise assumed what he came to conceive as an unsatisfactory character. When Holyoake joined the undertaking, it was partly concerned with promoting the establishment of a network of cooperative communities. But it was also, in some measure, an ethical movement. Not only did it endeavor to imbue the public with the social morality requisite to the introduction of the utopian villages; it looked forward to the time when the ideal neighborhoods would themselves provide an environment conducive to the further improvement of morals. Finally, when Holyoake became connected with the Owenite enterprise, the movement was in an incidental way fighting the churches as forces impeding the achievement of its aims. As the years passed, however, the Owenite crusade took on an altered character. When the clergy carried their opposition to Owenism to the point of interfering with its revenue, the Movement began to devote pronounced attention to anti-religious agitation. And when, in 1845, Queenwood, the embodiment of one of the utopian communities to which the Socialists looked forward, failed, blasting all hope for an early achievement of their social goal, the Owenites virtually allowed the community ideal to lapse, while at the same time they permitted the ethical aspects of their program, with which it was associated, to fall into the background; so that the Movement became primarily an anti-religious endeavor. Now Holyoake contributed to the altered character of the Socialist enterprise, first by plunging into the freethought campaign and later by abandoning the community ideal and its attendant ethical program. Nevertheless, he came to feel that the modified program was inadequate.

But there was another reason why Holyoake ceased to be satisfied with the Owenite Movement. In the five or six years following the abandonment of the Queenwood experiment, the Movement declined alarmingly. It broke up into its constituent bodies, and the individual societies either actually ceased to exist or suffered a perilous thinning of their ranks.

As the Owenite Movement became less satisfactory, Holyoake began to devote a good deal of attention to Chartism. For a good many years he had been a Chartist in an incidental sort of way, and now he became active in the Chartist cause. In 1848, for a time, he served with W.J. Linton as coeditor of a short-lived Chartist paper — the Cause of the People — and subsequently served on the executive body of the Chartist Union. But organized Chartism itself turned out to be unsatisfactory. It, too, began rapidly to decline, and, in addition, Holyoake fell into disagreement with certain of the leaders over matters of policy.

Under this combination of circumstances Holyoake cast about for new reformist opportunities. In doing so, though he naturally borrowed from his past, he utilized not primarily his Chartist experience (though Chartism, as we shall see, did influence one item in the program he formulated), but his experience, with Owenism. Here is the way he proceeded. Starting with the realization that in its best days the Owenite Movement was essentially an ethical and social enterprise and accordingly was primarily constructive rather than critical in character, he moved on to the conception that freethought itself had a positive as well as a negative aspect — that in fact it could serve as the basis of a system of ethics under which the natural order of the freethinker would be the proper sphere of ethical goals, and the improvement of man’s life here on earth by rational means the sum and substance of man’s duty.

The point of view that Holyoake thus hit upon satisfied him as the thing he had felt the need of, and he determined to make it the central impulse in a fresh start toward a powerful, organized undertaking. Accordingly, giving it the name “Secularism,” rather than some anti-religions term, in order to emphasize its constructive character, he took steps, at the end of 1851, toward the inauguration of a new movement. In doing so, he published a statement of the doctrines of Secularism, announced the formation of a “Central Secular Society” in London, the mission of which was the promotion of concerted action, and invited persons desirous of forming, promoting, or constituting Secular societies to communicate with the “Secretary” of the Central Secular Society, in the person of himself.

Holyoake’s action led to concrete results. In the course of the year 1852, scattered “Owenite” societies, to which Holyoake had long lectured, styled themselves “Secular” bodies, and interested individuals formed Secular societies here and there; so that the British Secular Movement was brought into existence. [G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), I, 10-225; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), I, 16 and 211-245; Joseph McCabe, “life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908) I, 1-118 and 211; “Reasoner,” June 17, 1846, to December 29, 1852, passim.]



In the period extending from 1852 to 1866 the organization of the Secular Movement was incomplete. There were, of course, the various organized local Secular societies, and there were, as we shall see, certain factors which tended to bind the Secularists together nationally in a psychological sense. But there was no successful or enduring national organization. In this respect the Secular Movement of these early years stood over in contrast with organized Secularism in the decades that followed. Such being the case it seems appropriate to discuss this period of loose association as a unit in itself.

Because of Secularist dissension, the nature of which will later be explained, every effort made during these early years in the interest of a national union of Secularists ended in failure. Nothing whatever in this direction was accomplished by the “Central Secular Society,” which soon disappeared from the scene. Secularist Conferences, meeting in 1852, 1855, and 1860, were able to establish respectively a “preliminary” constitution, a “provisional” committee, and a “central” committee, but all these proved abortive. A “Propagandist Committee,” which was formed in 1856, and a “College of Propaganda,” which was matured in 1857, both faded out after simply offering a few suggestions. In 1861 a “National Secular Association” was actually proclaimed; but it never became operative, and after some three months it disappeared in a cloud of bitterness. [“Reasoner,” 1852-1857, passim. “National Reformer,” 1860-1862, passim.]

Though lacking a national organization, the early Secularists were in some measure bound together. The “British Secular Institute,” a publishing and printing concern operated in London by Holyoake, and spoken of by him as the Secularist headquarters, was to a certain extent a unifying factor, as were the periodical and other publications associated with the Secular Movement. Then, too, the outstanding Secularist personalities, such as Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, identified as they were with the Secular Movement as a whole, were in some measure a binding force. Above all, however, the Secularists were bound together — in so far as they were bound — by their common devotion to Secularist principles.

The various local societies were effectively organized. Each had its body of elected officials. In general, there were the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer, along with a Committee. A considerable number of these local Secular societies existed. They were located in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leicester, Edinburgh, and other towns and cities in various parts of the country. [NOTE: The following societies (and possibly others) were in existence during a part or all of the early period of Secularist history:

London societies:

Deptford and Greenwich Secular Society; East End Branch of the London Secular Society; East London Secular Society; Frances Street Society; Hackney Hall Society; Hoxton Class Room Society; Independent Secular Society; John Street Branch of the London Secular Society; King’s Cross secular Society; London Secular Society; Marleybone and Paddington Secular Society; North London Secular Institute; Paddington Branch of the London Secular Society; Philpot Street Society; St, George’s Hall Society; South london Institute: Temple, Secular Society; West End Branch of the London Secular Society; Woolwich Branch of the London Secular Society.

Provincial societies:

Abergavenny Secular Society; Ashton- under-Lyne Secular Society; Bedlington Secular Society; Birmingham Secular Society; Blackburn Secular Society; Bolton Secular Society; Bradford Secular Society; Brighton Secular Society; Bristol Secular Society; Burnley Branch of the Secular Society; Bury Secular Society; Colne Branch of the Secular Society; Dewsbury Secular Association; Doncastle Secular Society; Durham Secular Society; Edinburgh Secular Society; Huddersfield Secular Society; Hull Secularist Society; Keighley Secular Society; leeds Secular Society; Leicester Secular Society; Leigh Secular Society; Liverpool Secular Society; Manchester Secular Society; Newcastle Secular Society; Northampton Secular Society; Nottingham Secular Society; Oldham Secular Society; Over Darwen Secular Society; Plymouth and Devenport Secular Society; Preston Society; Redditch Secular Society; Rochdale Secular Society; Sheffield Secular Association; Stafford Society; Stepney Society; Sunderland Secular Society; Todmorden Secular Society; Wigin Secular Society; Yarmouth Secular Society. “Reasoner,” passim; “National Reformers,” passim; “Investigator,” passim.]

A set or doctrines for the early Secularists was proclaimed by Holyoake, as we have seen, when he announced the formation of the “Central Secular Society and urged the founding of a network of local Secular bodies in affiliation with it. Inasmuch as it was in response to this utterance, and the announcement and invitation accompanying it, that bodies calling themselves “Secular” societies sprang into existence, the statement may be accepted as an expression of the views held by the early Secularists.

The “Principle” of the society is defined as “the recognition of the ‘Secular’ sphere as the province of man,” and its “Aims” are said to be:

  1. “To explain that science is the sole Providence of Man — a truth which is calculated to enable a man to become master of his own Fate, and protects him from dependencies that allure him from his duty, unnerve his arm in difficulty, and betray him in danger.
  2. “To establish the proposition that Morals are independent of Christianity; in other words, to show that wherever there is a moral end proposed, there is a secular path to it.
  3. “To encourage men to trust Reason throughout, and to trust nothing that Reason does not establish — to examine all things hopeful, respect all things probable, but rely upon nothing without precaution which does not come within the range of science and experience.
  4. “To teach men that the universal fair and open discussion of opinion is the highest guarantee of public truth — that only that theory which is submitted to that ordeal is to be regarded, since only that which endures it can be trusted.
  5. “To claim for every man the fullest liberty of thought and action compatible with the possession of like liberty by every other person.
  6. “To maintain — that, from the uncertainty as to whether the inequalities of human condition will be compensated for in another life — It is the business of intelligence to rectify them in this world; and consequently, that instead of indulging in speculative worship of supposed superior beings, a generous man will devote himself to the patient service of known inferior natures, and the mitigation of harsh destiny, so that the ignorant may be enlightened and the low elevated.” [G.J. Holyoake, “Organization of Freethinkers” (1852)]

From what has been said earlier in these pages, it will be observed that the foregoing program had its roots in the organized movement founded by Robert Owen, and that it basically resembled the philosophy of Owenism in being essentially ethical in character and having for its purpose the improvement of man’s well-being on earth by natural means.

While Secularism was indebted primarily to the Owenite Movement, its conception of morality owed something to Utilitarianism, Thanks largely to the efforts of James Mill and others, notably John Stuart Mill, the Benthamite doctrine that all behavior is moral which is conducive to “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” had created a considerable stir by the time of the founding of the Secularist Movement, and Holyoake was one of those who had felt its influence, as is indicated by the fact that from 1846 to 1848 he published a “Utilitarian Record” in connection with the Reasoner. In recognition of the debt of Secularism to Utilitarianism, Holyoake, at the end of 1851, referred to the persons composing the “Central Secular Society” as “Utilitarians.” [“Reasoner,” 1846-1848 and January 14, 1852.]

Despite the striking similarity between the fundamental Secularist doctrines and Auguste Comte’s conception of a positive, or scientific, morality devoted to the promotion of human progress on earth, Secularism apparently owes nothing directly to Comte. Holyoake seems to have gained a first-hand acquaintanceship with Comte’s writings, from “the early sheets” of Harriet Martineau’s condensed English version of Comte’s Cours de philosophie positive, in 1853 — several months after the launching of the Secular Movement. In an indirect sense, Holyoake may have owed something to Positivism, inasmuch as Positivist ideas (unacknowledged as Comte’s) were circulating in England when Secularism was being worked out. Holyoake’s reference to the subject, in May, 1853, when he announced the forthcoming publication of Miss Martineau’s treatise, is suggestive. “I find Comte’s ideas,” he says, “cropping up wherever I look on the surface of our field of knowledge; but it is a rare thing to hear his name. It is time that there should be an end to this. The book and the man are too remarkable to be ignored; and we should decline the shame of benefiting by his ideas, and taking the credit of them.” [“Reasoner,” May 25, 1853. See also the “Reasoner” for November 2, 1853.] Whatever the facts may be as to Holyoake’s indebtedness to the Positive philosophy, he freely acknowledged the similarity between Secularism and Positivism, In November, 1853, when announcing the appearance of the Martineau volumes, he declared, “The ‘Positive Philosophy of M. Comte’ is … a scientific Bible of Secularism.” [Ibid., November 30, 1853.] And from July 6, 1856, to December 30, 1857, he used as a subtitle for the Reasoner, which, as we shall see, he was then editing as a Secularist periodical, the words “Journal of Freethought and Positive Philosophy.” [Ibid., for period mentioned.]


Almost at the outset organized Secularism attracted to its banner a man who was of profound significance both in shaping the policy of the Secular Movement and in furthering its aims. Charles Bradlaugh was indeed a powerful and impressive figure. Large in stature, big-boned, and solidly built, be possessed, in his best years, such amazing physical strength that he could grapple successfully with three or four ordinary men. He had, too, a rather large head, solemn, resolute features, and a strong, masculine voice. Sincerity, earnestness, and strength of character shone in his face, and his mind, though not original, was a keen one. Combined in him with these characteristics and qualities were a strong dislike for oppression, obscurantism, and intolerance, and an unwavering sympathy for the downtrodden masses. At the same, time, he possessed distinguished qualities of leadership, and was a truly great orator. In fact, his oratorical ability was probably greater than that of any of his contemporaries with the exception of Gladstone. Under favorable conditions he could sway an audience almost at will, arousing in it the wildest enthusiasm for whatever he was advocating. As a statesman and Member of Parliament, too, Bradlaugh was distinguished, not merely because of his actual legislative achievements, but because of his integrity and his almost unbelievable industry; and the House of Commons, which for more than five years refused to permit him to take his seat, eventually expunged its exclusion proceedings from the record. Bradlaugh’s great powers of oratory, his simple sincerity, and his talents as a leader gave him a hold upon his followers such as few men have ever had. Many ordinary workmen not distinguished for courage or bravery stood ready, if need be, to risk life and limb for him, and on more than one occasion might have done so had they not been restrained by Secularist leaders. Yet, Bradlaugh was no demagogue, but a conscientious exponent of what he believed to be genuine reform. And it should not be overlooked (despite opinions to the contrary) that in his advocacy of reform he followed a constructive as well as a destructive course, promoting the positive principles of Secularism as well as engaging in negative criticism. Indeed, if the phrase “Bradlaugh the Iconoclast” might be correctly applied to him, he might just as properly be designated as “Bradlaugh the Republican,” or “Bradlaugh the Educational Reformer,” or “Bradlaugh, Friend of the Masses,” or, as was done a few years ago by some of his admirers, “Bradlaugh, Champion of Liberty.” [Centenary Committee, “Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh” (1933).] It is not strange that, in the light of such an extraordinary array of qualities and interests, Gladstone described Bradlaugh as “a distinguished man,” [Quoted in John Morley, “Life of William Ewart Gladstone” (1903), III, 21.] or that Bernard Shaw declared of him, “He was a hero, a giant who dwarfed everything around him, a terrific personality.” [Quoted in Centenary Committee, “Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh” (1933), P. 50.]

The son of a law clerk who married a nursemaid, Bradlaugh was born in impoverished circumstances on September 26, 1833, in Hoxton, London. His formal schooling came to an end when he was but 11 years of age, and the education that he subsequently received was secured through his own unaided efforts. Shortly after leaving school Bradlaugh obtained work as an office boy at the law offices where his father was employed; but, at the age of 14, he procured more lucrative employment as wharf clerk and cashier with a firm of coal merchants.

The boy’s religious evolution was, to say the least, an impassioned one. At the Church of St. Peter’s, in Hackney Road, where the Rev. John Graham Packer was the incumbent, young Bradlaugh started out as an eagerly responsive pupil, and soon became a, Sunday-school teacher. Difficulties, however, arose. In studying, at Packer’s request, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England and the four Gospels, in anticipation of being confirmed by the Bishop of London, the young scholar found discrepancies which troubled him. He asked for advice and assistance in the matter from the Rev. Packer, but Packer, instead of aiding the boy, wrote a letter to Charles Bradlaugh, Senior, denouncing his son’s inquiries as atheistical, and then suspended young Bradlaugh for three months from his duties as teacher. In the midst of his religious perplexities Bradlaugh began, in 1848, to visit open-air meetings in Bonner’s Fields, where anti-theological discourses were delivered and discussed. At first he replied to speakers with arguments in support of Christianity; but in time he came to admit that his opponents made out the best case, and ultimately began to give freethought lectures himself.

While still doubtful on certain points concerning religion, Bradlaugh sent to Packer a copy of Robert Taylor’s Diegesis. Whereupon, in conjunction with the boy’s father, Packer informed the young heretic that unless he recanted within three days the clergyman and the father would have him deprived of his situation at the coal dealer’s establishment. Believing, rightly or wrongly, that the threat would be carried out, Charles Bradlaugh, Junior, on the third day, packed his few belongings and left both his employment and his home.

For several months young Bradlaugh endeavored to earn a living by selling first coal and then braces, but finding himself unable to do so he enlisted in the 7th Dragoon Guards and was sent to Ireland. He grew tired of army life, however, and in 1853, he used a portion of a legacy from his great-aunt to purchase his release. Upon returning to London, the ex-soldier obtained work from a solicitor, originally as an errand boy and later as a clerk.

As a result of his activities in connection with open-air freethought meetings in the period before he joined the army, Bradlaugh had met and become a friend of Holyoake’s brother, Austin, and through him had made the acquaintance of the more widely-known George Jacob. Now that he was a civilian once more his propagandist impulses again had an opportunity to assert themselves; and, recalling the old days, he moved in the direction of these men. Finding at hand the newly-begun Secular Movement, with which they were identified, he took his place in its ranks.

For a period of about 16 years, Bradlaugh’s services to the Movement were usually on a part-time basis; but finally, beginning in 1870, after a number of disappointing connections as a law clerk and business associate, he devoted undivided attention to the cause for a prolonged period.

In the earlier stages of his Secularist career Bradlaugh wrote and spoke as “Iconoclast.” He began publicly to use his true name upon becoming a candidate for parliament in 1868. [Hypitia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894). I, 1-301; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), pp. 1-20; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 1-132; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography’, (1873), pp. 1-9.]


The early Secularists endeavored to further their cause by issuing and distributing various publications. Their activities in this direction included, for one thing, the patting out of a number of periodicals. The first of these in the field was the Reasoner, which, as has been seen, was founded by Holyoake in 1846 as a journal of Owenism. Holyoake’s changing outlook in the period from 1846 to the end of 1851 was paralleled by a corresponding change in the character of the Reasoner, so that when the Secular Movement got under way in 1852 the paper easily took its place as a Secularist organ. As such, under the continued editorship of Holyoake, it placed primary emphasis upon the direct propagation of Secularist principles, although articles often appeared in its pages condemning theological ideas and institutions as the major impediments to Secularism. The Reasoner was issued weekly. In 1861, because of financial difficulties, it went out of existence. [“Reasoner,” all numbers.]

The second periodical to make its appearance within the Secularist Movement was the ‘Investigator,’ which was founded in 1854. Edited successively by Robert Cooper, who had gone through the Owenite Movement, “Anthony Collins” (W.H. Johnson), and Bradlaugh, the Investigator devoted primary attention to attacking the Churches, on the ground of their constituting the most formidable barriers to Secularism. The paper was issued once a month until March, 1859, after which it appeared twice monthly. From the first to last financial losses were incurred in the conduct of the journal, and in 1859 it ceased to exist. [“Investigator,” all number.]

The year 1860 saw the inauguration of the National Reformer, a weekly journal which was destined to serve the Secularist cause for more than 30 years. Although Bradlaugh founded the paper, he was at first simply the largest shareholder, inasmuch as he launched the enterprise through the formation of a joint-stock company; but when, in 1862, as a result of financial difficulties, the company was liquidated, he assumed complete financial responsibility. The editorship of the National Reformer was in the beginning shared by Bradlaugh and Joseph Barker, a forceful ex-clergyman, but between the two men there speedily arose bitter antagonism — centering in the dislike which Barker felt for Bradlaugh’s advocacy of birth control — which threatened the interests of the journal and suggested the desirability of a single editor. In consequence, the shareholders, on August 26, 1861, dismissed both coeditors and then bestowed the editorship solely on Bradlaugh, In 1863, when beset by ill health, Bradlaugh turned over the editorship to his sub-editor, John Watts, but in 1866, when the health of Watts broke down, he took over the editorial duties again. The National Reformer strove directly to advance the principles of Secularism, but it did more; it fought indirectly for the Secularist cause by waging continuous warfare against organized theology as the chief obstacle that stood in the way of Secularism. [“National Reformer,” all numbers.]

Still other periodicals appeared on the scene. In 1861 the ‘Counsellor,’ a monthly journal similar to the Reasoner, was started by Holyoake; but upon the completion, near the end of 1861, of an arrangement by which Holyoake was to furnish three pages of copy each week to the ‘National Reformer the newly- founded paper was brought to a close. [“Counsellor,” all numbers; Charles Bradlaugh, “Secular Prospects,” “National Reformer,” November 16, 1861.]

In 1863 another paper was launched by Holyoake, the undertaking being occasioned by the termination of the arrangement by which Holyoake was to supply copy for the National Reformer. The new periodical, which followed along the lines of the Reasoner and the Counsellor, bore the name at first of the ‘Secular World’ and subsequently of the ‘Reasoner.’ It appeared at varying intervals and came to an end after only about two years of apparently impoverished existence.” [The conditions under which the arrangement between Holyoake and the “National Reformer,” were brought to an end are not clear. “National Reformer,” March 8, 1862, to September 26, 1863, passim; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 1, 343-344; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 1, 129-130; G.J. Holyoake, “Warpath of Opinion” (189?), pp. 21-26.]

Besides bringing out periodical literature, the early Secularists published great numbers of books and pamphlets. These included works enunciating Secularist principles and treatises containing doctrines of an anti-theological character. The books and pamphlets which the Secularists published were ordinarily written by persons within the Secularist Movement, but from time to time masterpieces were issued which were from the pens of other secular-minded writers. A number of the Secularist publications will be mentioned in connection with our discussion of the propagandist activity carried on by the Secularists. [For typical references to Secularist efforts in producing and disseminating books and pamphlets see the “Reasoner December 7, 1853, and the “Investigator,” October 1, 1858.]

Various concerns for the sale, or the printing and sale, of literature considered helpful to the secularist cause were operated in London by Secularists of the early years. At the outset a publishing firm was conducted by the veteran reformer James Watson. In the spring of 1853 Holyoake set up a news and book agency, and later in the same year made an arrangement with Watson through which Watson retired from business and Holyoake purchased the Watson concern. The two businesses were now merged by Holyoake into a book-selling and publishing enterprise at 147 Fleet Street — a pretentious establishment usually referred to as the “Fleet Street House.” The venture was not financially successful, however, despite assistance from numerous Secularists, and in 1861 was terminated. During the remaining years of the early period of Secularist history Holyoake’s brother, Austin, who had been connected with the Fleet Street House, carried on a printing and publishing business, under the name of “Austin and Company” [“Reasoner,” May 11, 1853 – May 19, 1861, passim; William Kent, “London for Heretics” (1932), pp. 72-73; George Sexton, “John Watts,” “National Reformer,” November 11, 1866.

The publishing and book-selling establishment conducted by G.J. Holyoake at 147 Fleet Street, and referred to by him at one time or another as the “Fleet Street Secular Institution” or the “British. Secular Institute” on the ground that it served as a center of Secularist propaganda, evoked criticism from various Secularists as being operated ostensibly in the interest of the Secularist cause but actually for private gain. “Reasoner,” May 11, 1853 – May, 19, 1861, passim; ” Investigator,” November, 1857 – June 16, 1858, passim; Charles Bradlaugh, “Freethought Propaganda,” “National Reformer.” August 30, 1862; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake (1908), passim; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), II, 160-166; G.J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), p. 51.]


The aims of the early Secularists were fostered likewise by oral means. These took the form simply of meetings of one sort or another. There were, to begin with, regular Sunday meetings in the Secularist halls. Each of these exercises began with a lecture and ended with a free-for-all discussion — often an animated one — of the lecture. In discussing the various phases of the Secular Program, the Secularist lectures really ranged over a wide variety of subjects, including morals, public affairs, biography, history, and science. This is abundantly clear from the titles they selected, a few of which are: “The Nature of Secularism and the Duties of Secularists”; “The Reform Bill, Judged from the, Secular Stand-point”; “Women’s Right to the Franchise”; “Poverty and Its Relation to the Political Condition of the People”; “The Sunday, What It is and What It Might Be”; “A Plea for Secular Education”; “Free Enquiry and Free Speech”; “Life and Character of Thomas Paine“; “The New Testament, Who Wrote It and What It Is Worth”; and “Science, the Providence of Life.” Among the Secularists who took a prominent part in the work of lecturing at these meetings were the following: Charles Bradlaugh, G.J. Holyoake, Mrs. Harriet Law, John Maughan, and John Watts. Often the lectures at the meetings were delivered by local speakers of the various societies; but sometimes an interchange of lecturers was effected between societies, and frequently such better-known London speakers as Holyoake and Bradlaugh went on lecturing tours to the various societies or prospective societies throughout the country.”

There were also meetings centering in debates. Public discussions between Secularists and persons who rejected the principles of Secularism were persistently sought by Secularist leaders; and, while Secularist challenges to debate were usually ignored (especially by individuals in positions of high authority), a considerable number of debates were held, Those who debated with the Secularists were usually clergymen, though such was by no means always the case. Among the Secularists who participated in the debates were Charles Bradlaugh (who easily outdistanced other Secularists in respect to the number of debates engaged in), Robert Cooper, G.J. Holyoake, and John Watts. Those who took part in debate against the Secularists included the Rev. W. Barker; the Rev. Joseph Baylee; the Rev. Dr. Brindley; Mr. Court, representing the Glasgow Protestant Association; Thomas Cooper, an ex-freethinking “Lecturer on Christianity”; the Rev. Brewin Grant; W. Hutchins, the subeditor of the Wigan Examiner; the Rev. T. Lawson; Mr. Mackie, editor of the Warrington Guardian; Robert Maholm, a representative of the Irish Church Mission at Birmingham; the Rev. T.D. Matthias; the Rev. J. Sinclair; Mr. Smart, a teacher at the Neilson Institute in Paisley; and the Rev. Woodville Woodman. The Secularist debates ordinarily hinged upon the question of the merit of Secularism, or the merit of Christianity, or the relative merit of Secularism and Christianity. Such titles as: “Is Secularism inconsistent with Reason and the Moral Sense, and condemned by experience?” and “Are the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, as taught in the New Testament, calculated to benefit humanity?” and “Whether is Christianity or Secularism best calculated to promote human happiness?” are typical. Though many of the debates were one-night affairs, some lasted four, five, or even six nights. Secularist debates attracted much attention, as they were often lively occasions. Large crowds were frequently in attendance, and Holyoake tells us that a published report of a debate held at London in 1853 between himself and the Rev. Brewin Grant sold to the number of 45,900 copies.” [G. J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), p. 50. For examples of debates in the earlier years of the Secular Movement see the following: G.J. Holyoake and the Rev. Brewin Grant, “Discussion on Secularism’ (1854); Charles Bradlaugh and the Rev. T. Lawson, “Discussion on the Question, Has Man A Soul?” (1861); and J.P. Adams, “Discussion Between the Rev. J. Sinclair and Mr. J. Watts,” “National Reformer,” May 15, 1862. Many references to debates appear in Secularist periodicals of the period, especially in the “Reasoner.”]

Finally, during the mild seasons of the year a few open-air meetings were held by the early Secularists in parks or other unoccupied spaces of London and one or two other cities. On such occasions a Secularist speaker delivered a discourse and engaged in controversy with challengers. The Secularist outdoor meetings were held on the strength of the belief that persons who would object to entering a Secular hall would listen to Secularist messages uttered in a square or field. The persons who conducted the outdoor meetings were minor lecturers in the Secular Movement. [See issues of the “Reasoner” and of the “National Reformer” published during the early period of the Secularist Movement for references to outdoor meeting. Examples of such references are: “Reasoner,” September 17, 1854, and “National Reformer,” June 16,1860.]


The Secularists of the early years carried on a persistent campaign for the purpose of promoting the diffusion and application of Secularist principles. For one thing, they endeavored assiduously to promote a wide acceptance of the doctrines indispensably associated with Secularism as a philosophy. Carrying on in this respect a work similar to the strictly ethical labors of the Utilitarians, the Owenites, and the English Positivists, they frequently asserted, on the platform and in articles and pamphlets, that it is man’s duty to promote the well-being of man upon earth; that, indeed, the very essence of morality is the improvement of human conditions in the present life; and that such improvement is possible only by natural means. [See, as examples, the following: G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism, the Practical Philosophy of the People” (1854); Charles Bradlaugh. “Secularism,” “National Reformer,” August 24, 1861; and John Watts, “Secularism and Christianity,” “National Reformer,” March 26, 1864.]

The propagation of Secularism as a conception by no means exhausted the activity of the Secularists in the early years of the Secular Movement. In fact, it constituted a small portion of their endeavors. Not content with talking in general terms about the advancement of human happiness, they sought to promote the welfare of themselves and their fellows by working for the achievement of specific goals in various departments of life. They possessed, it is true, no synthetic scheme for the complete organization of society in all its parts; but they did occupy themselves with the improvement of various aspects of the social order.

One of the things they did was to advocate governmental reform. The arrangement by which the middle and upper classes of the period, through the retention of hereditary elements in the government and the exclusion of the majority from participation in the suffrage, controlled matters essentially in their own interests, was unsatisfactory to the Secularists, inasmuch as they were among the despoiled. Under these circumstances Secularist speakers and writers carried on a two-fold agitation.

In the first place they embraced the tradition associated most conspicuously with Thomas Paine and the French Revolution and advocated the removal from the government of hereditary institutions and the establishment of a, republic — encouraged in their effort, no doubt, by the inglorious reputation of the first four Georges, by the popular apathy toward Queen Victoria growing out of the Queen’s secluded manner of living in the years following the death (1861) of the prince consort, and by the hatred of English liberals for the French Emperor Napoleon III. Bradlaugh took the lead in the Secularist republican agitation, and he condemned the undemocratic monarchy in no uncertain terms:

“We attack the Crown,” he declared, “because, denying hereditary rights to monarchs, we contend that the chief of a nation should be voluntarily elected by the nation, and that the national chieftainship should not be considered as a family heritage. We affirm that the people form the only rightful source of any authority, and that no monarch can be entitled to wield any authority which is not derived from the people.

“We declare that any prince governing a nation without having had the reins of government entrusted to him by the will of the people, is a usurper of the nation’s power. We attack the Crown as long as it makes a pretense to exist ‘by the Grace of God,’ instead of by the desire of the nation. [Charles Bradlaugh, “Our Politics,” “National Reformer,” May 6, 1866. See also the following: G.J. Holyoake, “Warpath of Opinion” (189?) pp. 73-74; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), pp. 36-37; Geoffrey Dennis, “Coronation Commentary” (1937), pp. 13-16.]

At the same time, combining the doctrine of manhood suffrage, which had come down from the 18th century and which had found a place in the program of the Chartists (with whom Holyoake had been associated), with the doctrine of woman suffrage, which itself was an 18th century product, leading Secularists labored to secure the vote for all mature persons without regard to sex. To this end they gave aid, for one thing, to societies interested in a less-thoroughgoing extension of the franchise than that favored by the Secularists. In this connection, Holyoake served on the executive council of the National Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association, and both Holyoake and Bradlaugh, at still later dates, not only supported the Northern Reform Union but served as offerers in the National Reform League. Along with all this, the Secularists were in some measure active under their own banner. Bradlaugh, Holyoake, and Mrs. Harriet Law all wrote and spoke on the subject (or some phase of it), and Holyoake, as a special aid to the claims of women in the matter, issued as a pamphlet Mrs. John Stuart Mill’s articles entitled “Are Women Fit for Politics?” and “Are Politics Fit for Women?” [“Reasoner,” March 10, 1853, April 24, 1856, and March 3, 1857; Joseph McCabe, “life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 12; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 120 and 128, and II (by J.M, Robertson), 168-169; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), pp. 36-37; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), I, 225; G.J. Holyoake, “Working Class Representation: Its Conditions and Consequences” (1868), p. 3.

In 1958 Holyoake, took up a position somewhat at variance with that indicated above. He came out in favor of an “intelligence franchise” which would be extended to those men and women who had passed a public examination in political economy and English constitutional history. Holyoake’s proposal was endorsed, among the Secularists, by Joseph Barker. “Reasoner,” December 12, 1858, and March 4, 1860; Joseph Baker, “The Fitness Franchise,” “National Reformer,” May 12, 1860.

Holyoake manifested an interest, inherited from Robert Owen, in women’s rights in general. As early as 1847 he suggested the desirability of systematic Feminist agitation by women, and in the course of the early period of Secularist history he occasionally wrote and spoke in advocacy of the rights of women. Mrs. Harriet Law also advocated women’s rights. “Reasoner,” August 11, 1847, November 16, 1856, and May 31, June 7, June 14, and June 21, 1857; John Watts, “Freethought in England,” “National Reformer,” November 5, 1964.]

The early Secularists were also active in the reform of living conditions among the toiling masses. As laborers they were greatly distressed by the poverty, insecurity, and monotony which characterized the lives of the working masses of that day, and they sought to effect an improvement.

In this connection, one of the things they undertook to achieve was a “free and rational use of the Sunday,” to the end that those whose work kept them occupied for six days in the week might not be prevented from securing needed recreation and enlightenment on the one day of leisure, In their work of broadening the use of the Sunday the Secularists exerted themselves both as Secularists and as supporters of the National Sunday League, which shared their aims in regard to the enlarged use of the Sunday.

One way in which the Secularists endeavored to make the Sunday more helpful to those who toiled was by an effort to procure the opening on that day of such institutions of public enlightenment and recreation as art galleries, museums, and libraries. They wrote and spoke on the subject and on three occasions sent petitions to Parliament for the opening on Sunday of the British Museum, Crystal Palace, the National Gallery, and similar buildings. [“Reasoner,” December 22, 1852, to May 13, 1855, passim; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), II, 44; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), II, 108.]

As a further means of enriching the Sunday for the working classes, the Secularists worked for Sunday music in the parks. Their actions in this specific aspect of their Sunday program began in 1856 when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, on the appeal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, countermanded an order he had previously given for government bands to play on Sunday in the London parks. Incensed at the reversal of policy, the Secularists resolutely asserted themselves. Holyoake wrote public letters on the subject to both the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Secularists not only wrote and spoke in protest against the removal of the bands, but attended great indignation meetings arranged by the Sunday League. When all of this led to no results, the Secularists aided the League in putting into effect an arrangement by which private bands, financed by popular subscription and by the sale of programs and seats, provided music on Sunday during the summer months in the parks of London and other cities. [“Reasoner,” April 27, 1856, to October 9, 1859, passim; “The Sunday Bands,” “National Reformer,” May 28, 1865; W. Palmer, “Sunday Music in the Parks,” “National Reformer,” May 21, 1865; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), I, 284.

In still another way the Secularists endeavored to make the Sunday a brighter day for themselves and others of the laboring masses. During the holiday season they held excursions from time to time on that day Sometimes a Secularist excursion was conducted by a single society; but often a number of societies would combine to arrange a trip to some designated point. Secularist excursions were occasions for a variety of outdoor games and diversions. Music, too, was enjoyed, and there were speeches and a picnic lunch. Excursions were conducted, among other places, to Hollingworth Lake, Broxbourne, Rye House, Mottram, Forest Gate, Todmorden, High Beech, Richmond, Marsden Rock, Riddlesdown, and Campsie Glen. [For typical references to Secularist excursions, see the following: “Reasoner” August 24, 1853; “Investigator,” August 1, 1859; “National Reformer,” July 8, 1866.]

As a means at once of providing recreation and fostering social feeling, the early Secularists also arranged for themselves and their friends occasional Sunday or week-day entertainments. At these affairs conversation, games, talks, music, and dancing all found a place, and, of course, there were refreshments. [Examples of the countless references in Secularist periodicals to social Meetings are the following: “Reasoner,” November 5, 1854, and December 9. 1957: “National Reformer,” November 23, 1861, and “Secular Organization,” “National Reformer,” September 2, 1866.]

The Secularists of the early years made an effort, too, to overcome as far as possible the woeful insecurity which in that period oppressed the working classes. For this purpose they maintained a “General Secular Benevolent Society.” The institution was founded by the London Secular Society, but it was operated in the interest of Secularists throughout the country. The funds of the association were raised by subscription, and financial assistance was given to persons in distress. The Society was enrolled under the Friendly Societies Act in 1859. [“Reasoner,” September 17, 1854. to June 2, 1860, passim; “National Reformer.” June 2, 1860, to October 29, 1865, passim.]

Perhaps the most, basic work of the early Secularists in their effort at social reform was the activity they carried on for the elimination of the poverty that weighed so heavily upon the laboring classes of those days.

For a key to the solution of the problem of poverty, the Secularists turned to the past. At the beginning of the 19th century Thomas Malthus, in his ‘Essay on the Principle of Population,’ had asserted that inasmuch as man’s ability to reproduce himself exceeds the power of nature to provide him with the means of subsistence, human misery ensues unless man’s reproductive activities are curbed through the delay of marriage. Francis Place. a generation later, accepted Malthus’s doctrine that the curtailment of human reproduction is the only means of preventing the suffering attendant upon a deficiency of nourishment, and, rejecting the Malthusian proposal as to marriage, went on to formulate the principle that the proper check to reproduction is through contraception. Place did not, however, stop here. Aided by Richard Carlile, he carried on a campaign among the people, telling them that the avoidance of poverty is possible through family limitation, and acquainting them with the nature and proper use of birth-control facilities. The Secularists took over these Neo-Malthusian principles championed by Place and Carlile as a remedy for poverty, and carried forward the agitation they had begun.” [Norman S. Himes. “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), pp. 209-236; C.V. Drvsdale, “Bradlaugh and Neo-Malthusianism.” “Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh” (1933); Annie Besant, “The Law Population” (1877); Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, “Publishers, Preface to Dr, Knowlton’s ‘Fruits of Philosophy “National Reformer,” March 25, 1977.]

The leadership in the Secularist birth-control agitation was taken by Bradlaugh. He early spoke in favor of contraception, and upon the appearance of the ‘National Reformer’ he committed that journal to its advocacy. In 1861 he announced the formation of a “Malthusian League” to further the cause. During the next few years he wrote several times on the subject. In an article in the National Reformer he declared, “A terrible error has been permitted to go forth to the world, clothed with the authority of divine command to humankind. The writer of Genesis says, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,’ but the Bible nowhere teaches that the natural rate of the increase of population is in excess of the rate of increase of the means of subsistence.” [Charles Bradlaugh “The Malthusian League,” “National Reformer,” August 22, 1863.] In a pamphlet, Jesus, Shelley, and Malthus (1861), he suggested that poverty should neither be extolled as a virtue nor merely denounced as an evil, but should be wiped out — by Neo-Malthusian means. In a pamphlet entitled Poverty: Its Effect Upon the Political Condition of the People (1863), he contended that political freedom could be achieved by the masses only to the degree that they were able to divest themselves of poverty; but inasmuch as poverty was the result of overpopulation, it could be eliminated through the prevention of an excessive number of births. In a third pamphlet, Why Do Men Starve? (1865), he asserted that they did so because they were ignorant of the great Malthusian law of population, In still another pamphlet, Labour’s Prayer (1865), he maintained that though the workers prayed to God without avail for relief from poverty, they could secure relief through exercising a degree of caution in increasing their numbers. Bradlaugh’s birth- control activities were accompanied by the efforts of other Secularists. Opposition to the agitation arose, however, from Joseph Barker and others within the Secularist body. Possibly because of this fact, the activity of the Secularists in the interest of contraception tended in the last days of the early era of Secularist history to become quiescent. Articles in the National Reformer dwindled. Lectures became infrequent. Fresh pamphlets ceased to appear. The Malthusian League all but flickered out. [“National Reformer,” June 14, 1860, to June 17, 1866, passim; Charles Bradlaugh, “Jesus, Shelley, and Malthus” (1861); Charles Bradlaugh, “Poverty: Its Effect Upon the, Political Condition of the People” (1963); Charles Bradlaugh, “Why Do Men Starve?” (1865); Charles Bradlaugh, “Labour’s Prayer” (1965); Joseph Burker, “Modern Skepticism: A Life Story” (1874).]

The labors of the Secularists in the interest of political and social betterment during the early years of the Secular Movement were paralleled by Secularist efforts for the reform of education. The system of church-controlled schools prevailing in the era did not satisfy the Secularists, both because it failed to provide training for all and because it called for the inculcation of religious dogmas; and they gave their dissatisfaction appropriate expression by working to promote universal education which would involve instruction exclusively “in matters and duties pertaining to this life.”

As one part of this undertaking, the Secularists endeavored to bring about a state-operated school system which would afford strictly Secular education for the entire population. They not only wrote and spoke as Secularists in the interest of an educational system “free from the dogmatism of creeds,” but supported the agitation of a Manchester association, known as “The Friends of Secular Education,” which was composed of persons who were not identified with the Secularist body — though in doing so the Secularists acted unobtrusively, lest they give occasion to religious opponents of Secular education to declare the Manchester movement “Infidel.” [“Reasoner,” June 2, 1852, to August 19, 1857; G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism, the Practical Philosophy of the People” (1954), pp. 11-12; Charles Bradlaugh and G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism, Science and Atheism” (1870), passim.]

As the other phase of their work in behalf of Secular education, the Secularists operated Secular schools of their own — no doubt with the expectation that they would be allowed to lapse with the advent of a national system of schools providing Secular instruction. Some of the Secularist schools gave day or night instruction on week days, while others took the form of Sunday schools, with classes usually in both the morning and afternoon. Though the curricula varied, courses were given, in one school or another, in the elementary subjects, in history and science, and in the arts. Each school was attached to and maintained by one of the various local Secular societies. In the course of the period of Secularist history under discussion, at least five or six schools were operated in London, and one each in Birmingham, Glasgow, Rochdale, Halifax, Ashton-under-Lyne, Huddersfield, Keighley, and possibly other places. Instruction in the Secularist schools was ordinarily made available to children and adults alike. [“Reasoner,” March 4, 1852, to December 9, 1857, passim; “National Reformer,” September 7, 1861, to August 26, 1866, passim.]

Of the several campaigns waged by the early Secularists in their efforts to be of service in achieving improvement in various departments of the social order, there is left for discussion their struggle for the removal of obstructions and dangers to intellectual freedom that remained from an earlier day or were revived in their own — obstructions and dangers which were operative primarily against the working classes. This fight they carried on partly by means of efforts looking to the promotion among the people of attitudes unfriendly to all such dangers and obstructions. Thus with tongue and pen they pleaded the cause of freedom of thought in general. Holyoake, for example, once declared:

“Free inquiry … is the first condition of progress. All men may not be clever logicians; but their errors far oftener arise from omitting to inquire than from error in reasoning, They take so much for granted, that thought has no proper and pure materials to exercise itself upon. Why is the finder of facts, and facts are the food of thought, and thought is the master of progress. . .” [“Reasoner,” March 11, 1855. See also “Reasoner,” passim, and G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism, the Practical Philosophy of the People” (1854).]

Besides making general appeals for intellectual liberty, the Secularists worked for its realization in various limited spheres. They contended, to begin with, for the right, which theoretically had already been won, of public meetings in the parks; and Bradlaugh, in 1855, twice rendered extraordinary service in the cause. The first instance occurred at a Hyde Park mass meeting of lower-class Londoners which was being undertaken, despite a prohibitory notice by Sir Richard Mayne, Chief Commissioner of Police, to protest against a bill that Lord Robert Grosvernor had introduced in the House of Commons for regulating the Sunday trading of the London poor. The authorities moved to disperse the crowd, and Bradlaugh, mindful of the right of meeting, resisted. “When others fled before a charge of police,” says Holyoake, “he stood his ground and seized in each hand the truncheons of the two policemen, disarmed them, and threatened to knock down a third policeman with each of the truncheons if he approached.” [G.J. Holyoake, “Life and Career of Charles Bradlaugh” (1891).] On a subsequent occasion Bradlaugh aided the cause with his testimony. Appearing before a Royal Commission ordered by the House of Commons, he denied the right of Sir R. Mayne to issue notices forbidding the people to meet in Hyde Park. [Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh,” “National Reformer,” August 31, 1873; Charles Bradlaugh, “To the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” April 28, 1878.

The early Secularists likewise endeavored to insure the continued application of the acknowledged principle of a free press. They advanced arguments to that end, and on one occasion, when the freedom of the press was actually imperilled, they came to grips with the Government.

Their struggle with the Government arose when Edward Truelove, a London publisher, was arrested by Government warrant for publishing a pamphlet by W.E. Adams, Tyrannicide: Is It Justifiable? which contained arguments in support of Orsini’s attempt on the life of Napoleon III. Bradlaugh became Honorary Secretary of a committee formed to raise funds for defraying the cost of Truelove’s defense, and appeals for funds for the defense were made both in the Reasoner and in the Investigator. Before the case actually came to trial, the Government withdrew, on a promise being given to discontinue the sale of the pamphlet.” [“Reasoner,” February 24 and March 24, 1858; “Investigator,” March 1, March 15, April 1, and July 15, 1858; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 17 and 64-71.]

Secularist efforts were also exerted to secure the removal of a number of indirect restrictions on the press which took the form of taxes. When the Secular Movement came into being there were duties alike on paper, on advertisements, and on newspapers; and there was in existence, for the purpose of putting an end to these burdens, the Association for Promoting the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge. What the Secularists did was to aid the Association in its work. Holyoake, who had already been of service as a member of the Committee of the Association and as Editor of the Reasoner before the Secular Movement began, continued as a Secularist to serve on the Committee and to use the Reasoner as a medium of publicity. But this was not all. Many Secularists, encouraged by Holyoake, contributed funds in aid of the Association and assisted it by signing and circulating petitions to Parliament; and in one part of the work of the Association, that of securing the repeal of the newspaper tax, Holyoake himself helped by withholding from the Government the taxes due on what was in effect a weekly newspaper which he published for the Committee.

Aided thus by Secularist contributions, and by the exertions of publishers and members of Parliament, the Association was successful in its operations; as early as 1853 the duty on advertisements was removed; the year 1855 saw the abolition of the newspaper stamp; the paper duty disappeared in 1861. [“Reasoner,” August 1, 1849 – May 19, 1861, passim; “Presentation to Mr. C.D. Collet,” “National Reformer,” March 15, 1862; C.D. Collet, “History of the Taxes on Knowledge,” I and II; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), 1, 273 ff.; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), I, 118-123 and 11, 269-271; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), I, 257-275.]

A notable phase of the effort which the Secularists exerted in behalf of the free play of ideas within limited spheres was their activity directed toward securing equality before the law for all forms of speculative opinion. One part of this work was their attempt to effect a modification of the arrangements concerning the taking, of oaths. It will he recalled that as the situation stood when the Secularists began their work Quakers and other religious persons who had conscientious scruples against oath-taking were permitted to accompany their legal testimony with an affirmation, but that no such privilege was extended to the non-religious. What the Secularists did, therefore, was to advocate legislation to the end that Secularists and other non- religious persons who objected to taking an oath might be permitted the right of affirmation. In the earliest stages of the Secular Movement (and even before) Holyoake petitioned the House of Commons and utilized the Reasoner in the interest of remedial legislation. In 1861, when Sir John Trelawney’s Affirmation Bill was before Parliament, Holyoake and other Secularists raised or contributed funds and signed petitions in aid of the measure, while Secularist writers called for its support, After the Bill introduced by Trelawney had failed to pass, the Secularist agitation continued. Writings by Secularists in favor of the right to affirm now appeared in both the ‘Counsellor’ and the ‘National Reformer.’ [“Reasoner,” July 8, 1849, to April 28, 1961, passim; “National Reformer,” March 23, 1961, and March 15 and 29, 1862: “Counsellor,” August 1, October, and December, 1861; G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism: the Practical Philosophy of the People” (1854), n, 12; G.J. Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, “Secularism, Science, and Atheism” (1870), pp. 31-32; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), II, 44: G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” ( 1905), II, 78-91 and 95; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake,” (1908), I, 283, 303-304, and 337-338; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 129 and 168-169; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 83-85 and 96.]

Another portion of the Secularist activity designed to equalize all beliefs in the eyes of the law was their endeavor to effect the disestablishment of the State Church. In this work the Secularists utilized both the platform and the press, and based their appeals upon a variety of grounds. Bradlaugh, for example, on one occasion attacked the State Church with arguments derived both from history and from the contemporary scene:

“We desire to overturn the State Church and the State Religion, because the existence of a State Church and State Religion has ever been attended by crime, fraud, and persecution; because a State Church has ever proved an obstacle to political reform; because a State Church is like a vampire, devouring the estates of our dead citizens and preying on the industry of our living brothers and sisters.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “Our Policy,” “National Reformer,” September 14, 1861.]

And at another time Bradlaugh appealed for the cause alike on intellectual and ethical grounds:

“We attack the Church of England because by law the Church is protected, to the disadvantage of all other bodies. We deny the right of any statute-makers to limit thought, or to grant a monopoly of trade in salvation. The Church is either of God or man. If of God, human legislation can never add to its strength; and if the Church be of man and not of God, then it exists under false pretenses, and our attack is justified … We attack the State Church and its revenues because the Church of Christ, while declaring that poverty is a blessing, has no logical justification for its riches.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “To New and Old Supporters,” “National Reformer,” April 29, 1866. See also the following: G.J. Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, “Secularism, Science, and Atheism” (1870), pp. 31-32; G.J. Holyoake. “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905). II. 108; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892). II, 44; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake (1908), I, 283; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 129.]

The remaining phase of the work by which the early Secularists attempted the equalization of opinions before the law was their effort to remove legal dangers attendant upon the criticism of religion. Efforts in this direction were not, it is true, undertaken at the very outset of the Secular Movement; for, though speaking in reproach of the Christian religion was punishable as blasphemy both under the Common Law and under a statute dating back, in its essentials, to the reign of William III, no prosecutions for blasphemy had taken place for several years, and little, apprehension was felt of danger in that direction. But in 1857 the situation was changed. The prosecution in that year of Thomas Pooley. an illiterate well-sinker who was not exactly sane, for blasphemy roused the Secularists to action looking to the repeal of the blasphemy laws. As a first step, they utilized the Pooley case as a means of discrediting them. Holyoake, with the aid of funds contributed by Secularists, investigated and publicized the whole affair. Percy Greg, who was then identified with the Secularists under the name of Lionel Holdreth, wrote letters to the ‘Times’ and the ‘Daily News’ censuring the authorities for the “meanness and wickedness of attacking this poor and defenseless man.” Greg also wrote public letters of protest to Mr. Justice Coleridge, who presided at the trial, and to Sir R. Bethell, the Attorney General. And various Secularists petitioned the Secretary of State for the Home Department asking for the annulment of the sentence of 21 months’ imprisonment which had been meted out to the defendant. Thanks to all this Secularist activity, and to similar efforts on the part of Buckle, John Stuart Mill, certain journalists, various clergymen, and others, as well as to the fact that Pooley’s mental condition was worsened by his confinement, the prisoner was released after five months. [“Reasoner” August 12 to December 23, 1857, passim: Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinion” (2 ed., 1913), pp. 69-70; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” March 12, 1905.]

In the years that followed the Pooley affair the Secularists worked directly for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. Thus Bradlaugh called for their destruction on the ground that they were at once unjust, futile, and discriminatory:

“We desire to remove from our statute books all enactments and restrictions on blasphemy and infidelity, because it is manifestly unjust to prosecute a man for the honest utterance of his views, and because such enactments have a tendency rather to produce hypocrisy than faith. We object that at present a Turk, or Chinaman, or a Brahmin may deny Christianity in England without committing an offense, while we ‘freeborn Englishmen’ are liable for the same denial to fine, imprisonment, and outlawry.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “Our Policy,” “National Reformer,” September 14, 1861.]

Thus, too, Bradlaugh strove to end the detested measures by heaping upon them his contempt:

“We declare that the Statutes against blasphemy by which any Englishman is prohibited from denying, by word or writing, any or either of the Thirty-nine Articles are a disgrace to our civilization; and we shall continue to deny, both orally and by writing, until the Church authorities either prosecute us, or, for shame’s sake, relinquish their statute privilege of persecuting others.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “To Old and New Supporters,” “National Reformer,” April 29, 1866. See also Charles Bradlaugh, “Our Politics,” “National Reformer,” May 6, 186, and Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 129.


Paralleling the activity of the early Secularists in advancing the doctrines of Secularism was the expenditure of Secularist energy in a campaign against the churches. It is true, as will be seen, that the Secularists were not in agreement as to the advisability of attacking religion, and that some of them did not participate in the campaign. Others, however, did so. The basis of the attack of these Secularists on the churches was, of course, the fact that, speaking in general, the religious bodies impeded the removal of abuses in society, indirectly by the inculcation of non-earthly attitudes among the people and directly through the furtherance of interests associated primarily with the upper classes. In waging among the masses a crusade against religion, the anti-theological Secularists carried forward a work which broadly speaking, had been initiated by Thomas Paine and which had been continued, on the one, hand, by Richard Carlile and other detached individuals, and, on the other, by such Owenites as Charles Southwell and Holyoake. The Secularist attack upon theology found expression in an occasional book, in numerous articles and pamphlets, and in great numbers of lectures.

In carrying on their agitation the Secularist opponents of theology used alike the arguments of distinguished rationalists and the findings of science, history, and the higher biblical criticism. As a matter of fact, the exploitation of reason, science, biblical scholarship, and history constituted, for practical purposes, the sum and substance of the anti-religious work of the Secularists. It will be convenient, therefore, to examine their activity under these four headings.

In utilizing reason against the religious interests, the Secularists discussed mainly the Bible, immortality, and God. With respect to the Bible, Secularist spokesmen contended that it was not a divine revelation, but was simply a man-made book, characterized by the frailties and imperfections of man and reflecting the diverse minds and the various ages that produced it. In support of this contention they brought forward “proofs” of its fallibility. They endeavored, for one thing, to show that its morality was a low one. For example, the Secularist writer John Watts declared, “Deeds are here attributed to Deity that would stamp the name of any man with well-merited infamy.” [John Watts, “Who is the Lord, that I Should Obey His Voice?” (1862).] And Bradlaugh held up to scorn the misdeeds of such leading biblical characters as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. The Secularists also attempted to show that the Bible contained numerous discrepancies and contradictions, and that it accordingly was not reliable. Bradlaugh, for instance, once said (along, of course, with other things in the same vein) : “Take … the healing of the centurion’s servant, as contained in Matthew … and Luke … : according to one gospel, the centurion comes to Jesus; according to the other, he does not; according to one, the healing took place before the healing of Peter’s mother- in-law, before the calling of Matthew and before the choice of the 12; according to the other, the healing took place after all three.” [“Debate at Birmingham. … National Reformer,” October 12, 1961. See also the following: Robert Cooper, “The Bible and Its Evidences” (1858); Iconoclast (Charles Bradlaugh),.”The Bible Not Reliable” (1858); “A Discussion … Between the Rev. Woodville, Woodman and ‘Iconoclast’,” “National Reformer,” November 2, 1861; Charles Bradlaugh, “To New and Old Supporters,” “National Reformer,” April 2, 1866.]

Concerning immortality, the Secularists energetically argued either that it did not exist or that its existence was highly improbable — generally the former. Though Bradlaugh, John Watts, and others took part in the agitation, perhaps the most thoroughgoing efforts were those of Robert Cooper, who endeavored to refute the outstanding arguments which proponents of the doctrine of immortality had at one time or another advanced in its behalf. To the argument for immortality based upon the “universality” of the belief, he contended that the universality of an opinion does not establish its validity, but that in any case the belief in immortality was not universal. To the argument that the doctrine of immortality is a consoling one, he replied that though consolation might be derived from the anticipation of heaven, it certainly was not to be had from the dread of hell. To the argument that immortality is necessary to correct the inequalities associated with life upon earth, he affirmed his conviction that such inequalities would not be corrected beyond the grave. “What!” he once asserted, “Because Deity cannot or will not reward virtue and punish vice sufficiently in this world, is that any assurance that he can or will do so in a world to come? Because he allows injustice to be perpetrated here, is that a Security that he would permit justice only to be administered hereafter)” [Robert Cooper, “A Reply to Thomas Cooper’s Recent Lectures on ‘God and a Future Life”‘ (1856), p. 9.] Finally, to the argument that God would not have implanted in men an ardent desire for immortality had he not intended to extend it to them, Cooper asserted that human desires are not invariably fulfilled. His own words are interesting:

“Probably the most esteemed position in favor of immortality is the following: ‘It accords with the fondest hopes and wishes of man; and God would never have implanted in us a desire so predominant, were it not ultimately to be gratified.’ I reply … because we ‘desire’ an object are we therefore to infer, as rational beings, that our inclinations will be realized? I have heard of ‘jumping to conclusions,’ but this exceeds anything on record. If we take an illustration, its gross fallacy will be palpable. The desire to become rich is a strong feeling in every human breast. Therefore every human being will some day be rich. I might with great propriety maintain that this desire ‘accords with the fondest hopes and wishes of man; and God would never have implanted in us a desire so predominant, unless it were ultimately to be gratified.’ The argument is a parallel one, and equally conclusive and legitimate.” [Robert Cooper, “The Immortality of the Soul, Religiously and Philosophically Considered,” pp. 23-25. See also the following: Charles Bradlaugh, “Has Man a Soul?” (1860?), and John Watts, “Secularism: Its Relation to Christianity,” “National Reformer,” April 2, 1864.]

As regards God, Secularists such as Bradlaugh, Robert Cooper, John Watts, and Holyoake (who sometimes disregarded his avowed policy of not attacking the churches) advanced a variety of arguments which were anti-theistic in character. One of these was to the effect that the absolute creation of substance is inconceivable. Another had it that the conception of an all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful Deity is incompatible with the existence of evil, A third stated that if God existed he would make his existence known to men. Some of the Secularist arguments were directed against the efforts of theists to prove God’s existence. Thus the contention that the moral tendencies in man bespeak a moral governor was countered with the proposition that it is just as true (or false) to say that the immoral tendencies in man point to an immoral governor. And the argument from design, to the effect that the marks of “design” in nature show a designer of intelligence, was “answered” by the assertion that under the same logic the designer himself must be admitted to have been designed. [Robert Cooper, “A Reply to Thomas Cooper’s Recent Lectures on ‘God and a Future State”‘ (1866); Charles Bradlaugh, “Is There a God?” (1864 or earlier); John Watts, “The Logic and Philosophy of Atheism” (1865); Charles Bradlaugh, “A Plea for Atheism” (1864 or earlier); G.J. Holyoake, “Trial of Theism” (1858).]

The efforts of the Secularists to discredit theology by appealing to science ordinarily took the form of pointing out “discrepancies” between science (including evolutionary teachings) and the Bible. At one time they would assert that science emphatically declares man to have existed on earth for a far greater period than that indicated in the Bible. At another time they would contrast the scriptural view of the universe with that of science — as when Bradlaugh declared: “We notice that the biblical account of the creation and its subsequent references to the universe would picture the earth as the principal feature of all existence, with the sun and moon as two great lights, and the stars as simple accessories to the illumination or adornment of the earth. It represents the earth as a stationary, flat surface, with heaven above; that the sun moved round the earth, and that the whole earth might be surveyed from the summit of an exceedingly high mountain. Astronomical discoveries have demonstrated the contrary of all this, and the Bible is thus clearly not reliable.” [“Iconoclast” (Charles Bradlaugh), “The Bible Not Reliable” (1858). See also Charles Bradlaugh, “Were Adam and Eve Our First parents?” (1864 or earlier).]

The use of the higher biblical criticism in connection with the Secularist campaign against the churches centered in efforts of the Secularists to discredit the traditional Christian teachings as to the authorship of various books of the Bible. As an instance of this sort of thing, Bradlaugh once assereted that no one knew by whom, when, or where the Pentateuch was written; and on another occasion he made a similar statement with respect to the Four Gospels.

The Secularists exploited history for their anti-religious purposes in two or three different ways. For one thing, they issued a publication, entitled Half-Hours with the Freethinkers, containing short accounts of the lives and doctrines of eminent freethought writers in all ages and lands. The work contained two volumes. The first, which was prepared jointly by John Watts, Bradlaugh, and W.H. Johnson, and which contained 24 biographies, was completed in 1857. The second, containing 24 sketches, was edited by Bradlaugh and John Watts, and appeared in 1864. In these books, which brought together in readable form information hitherto widely scattered and often inaccessible, the authors aimed to show the common people that numbers of eminent men had chosen to think freely for themselves on religious matters. Among those whose lives were treated in the Half-Hours were Shelley, Zeno, Voltaire, Spinoza, Hobbes, Paine, Epicures, Descartes, Priestley, Hume, Condorcet, Helvetius, Anthony Collins, and Holbach. The volumes were restrained in tone and were in Considerable demand. [John Watts, “Iconoclast” (Charles Bradlaugh), and “A. Collins” (W.H. Johnson), editors, “Half-Hours with the Freethinkers” (1857); “Reasoner,” January 18 and September 9, 1857; “Autobiography of Mr. Charles BradlAugh,” “National Reformer,” August 31, 1873.]

On the strength of historical evidence the Secularists also worked to destroy the notion that the religious beliefs and practices mentioned in the Bible were unique and unrelated to others. They pointed out identical or similar features associated with the alien theologies, and suggested in each case that one of the two systems was copied from the other or that both were descended from a common original. In this connection they published lists of Hebrew practices which they declared to have between Christian and Hindu teachings. On this last point, for example, Bradlaugh once wrote as follows: “There are strange similarities an coincidences between the myths of Christianity and Hindooism. In each a trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — Brahm, Vishnu, and Siva. In each a war in heaven and expulsion of the rebellious angelic hosts. In each a good and evil spirit who contend. In each an Abba Rama (Abram Brama). in each an incarnation (Chrisna — Christ). In this God man’s history we obtain further likenesses:

      CHRIST                             CHRISNA

Of royal descent.                  Of royal descent.
Born of the Virgin Mary.           Born of the Virgin.
In the lifetime of the             In the lifetime of the
tyrant Herod.                      tyrant Cansa.
Who sought to kill him.            Who sought to kill him.
He fled from the land of           He fled from the land of
his birth.                         his birth.
Into Egypt where he was fostered   Into Mathura where he was fostered
by Joseph and his wife Mary.       by Anada and his wife Yasoda.
During his absence mothers wept    During his absence mothers wept
for their children destroyed.      for their children destroyed.
He was to bruise the serpent's     He slew the serpent Caliya.
He was meek.                       He was meek.
He washed the feet of the          He washed the feet of the
Apostles.                          Brahmins.
He said faith would remove         He by faith did remove
a mountain.                        a mountain on the tip of
his finger.
He made the blind to see.          He made the blind to see.
And the lame to walk.              And the lame to walk.
And raised the dead.               And raised the dead.
He descended into hell.            He went down into the lower regions.
He ascended into heaven.           He ascended into heaven.

[“Our Christianity,” “National Reformer,” February 8, 1862. See also “Egypt and Mosaism,” “National Reforaier,” April 20, 1862.]

Finally, the Secularists condemned in no uncertain terms the historical role of the church. With great indignation they accused the religionists of systematically and untiringly persecuting scientists and progressive thinkers — as when Bradlaugh in the course of a lecture challenged his audience to name one science of which the early promulgators were not persecuted as heretics and infidels by the Bible teachers. [Account, reproduced from “Wigan Observer,” of Bradlaugh’s lectures at Wigan, “National Reformer,” October 20, 1860.] And with even greater indignation the Secularists declared the church to have been in chronic opposition to the spirit of social amelioration and, justice. [See for example, “Reasoner,” November 16, 1853, Supplement pp, 322-324. See also Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 127-128.]


The doctrines and activities of the early Secularists evoked from various members of the clergy and other Christians a determined opposition. The Secularist vision of a material and social world devoid of the supernatural element was distasteful to the general run of churchmen, as were the individual reforms which the Secularists advocated. Even more repugnant was the tireless campaign which the Secularist leaders directed against the religious interests. Under these circumstances it was inevitable that individuals associated with the churches should strike at the forces of Secularism. The number of persons who combatted the Secular Movement was limited, inasmuch as the bulk of the clergy, including especially those of position and influence, followed the policy of ignoring Secularism. Nevertheless, the opposition was of an extent and significance adequate to warrant attention.

Among the forms it took were Christian efforts in debates against Secularists and in replies to Secularist indoor and outdoor lectures. There were also articles attacking Secularism in religious periodicals, representative of which was the Rev. Joseph Barker’s “Six Chapters on Secularism or the Secular Theory examined in the light of Scripture and Philosophy,” which appeared in the ‘Christian News’ in 1855. Non-periodical publications, too, were forthcoming, such as Dr. John Alfred Langford’s ‘Christianity, not Secularism, the practical philosophy of the people: a reply to G.J. Holyoake’s tract “Secularism, the Practical Philosophy of the People” (1854) and ‘The Spurious Ethics of Skeptical Philosophy, a Critique on Mr. Holyoake’s “Logic of Life”‘ (1860), by J. Clark. And there were sermons. The Rev. J. Logan Aikman, in James’s Place Church, Edinburgh, denounced the Secular Movement as a vast conspiracy for the overthrow of all religion and morality, and the Rev. Brewin Grant, at the behest of congregationalist leaders, undertook a “three years’ mission” to check the spread of Secularism. [“Reasoner,” January 12 and October 19, 1853, and January 11, 1867, to February 15, 1857, inclusive; G.J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), pp. 60-52; “Investigator,” July 1854; R. Cooper, “Autobiographical Sketch of Robert Cooper,” “National Reformer,” July 12, 1868; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), 1, 255 and 262; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 49-50.]

Such mild forms of opposition to the Secular Movement by no means exhausted the resources of those who sought its destruction. Frequently expedients of a more drastic character were utilized. On several occasions Holyoake, Bradlaugh, and other Secularist lecturers were refused the use of halls, sometimes after they had already been engaged. Then, too, from time to time, hostile action of a disorderly character grew out of the efforts of Secularists to hold public meetings. Much light is thrown on this latter variety of opposition by Bradlaugh’s account of his experiences in connection with a lecture which he delivered in the Commercial Hall at Wigan on October 10, 1860, “On the Wednesday evening,” says Bradlaugh, “when I arrived at the hall, I found it crowded to excess, and, in addition, many hundreds outside unable to gain admittance. My name was the subject of loud and hostile comment, several pious Christians in choice Billingsgate intimating that they would teach me a lesson … I requested the religious body to elect a chairman, and Mr. Thomas Stuart was voted to the chair. Of this gentleman I must say that he was courteous, generous, and manly, and by his kindly conduct compelled my respect and admiration. Previous to my lecture the majority of those present hooted and yelled with a vigor which, if it betokened healthy lungs, did not vouch so well for a healthy brain, and I commenced my address amidst a terrific din. Each window was besieged, and panes of glass were dashed out in mere reckless wantonness, while at the same time a constant hammering was kept up at the main door. As this showed no prospect of cessation, I went myself to the door, and, to my disgust, found that the disturbance was being fostered and encouraged by a clergyman of the Church of England [The Rev. W.T. Whitehead.] who wished to gain admittance. I told him loss of life might follow any attempt to enter the room in its present over-crowded state. His answer was, ‘That he knew there was plenty of room and would come in.’ To prevent worse strife I admitted him, and by dint of main strength and liberal use of my right arm repelled the others, closed the doors, and returned to the platform. I had, however, at the door received one blow in the ribs, which, coupled with the extraordinary exertions required to keep the meeting in cheek, fairly tired me out in about an hour. Several times, when any crash betokened a new breach in either door or window, the whole of the audience toward the end of the room jumped up, and I had literally to keep them down by dint of energetic lung power. Toward the conclusion of the lecture the secretary of the rector forced his way bodily through a window, and I confess I felt a strong inclination to go to that end of the room and pitch him back through the same aperture. If he had intended a riot, he could not have acted more riotously. Some limestone was drawn in at another window, and a little water was poured through the ventilators, by some persons who had gained possession of the roof. This caused some merriment, which turned to alarm when an arm and hand, waving a dirty rag, appeared through a little hole in the center of the ceiling. One man in a wide-awake then jumped upon one of the forms and excitedly shouted to me, ‘See, the devil has come for you.’ After the lecture I received in the confusion several blows, but none of importance. When I quitted the building one well-dressed man asked me, ‘Do you not expect God to strike you dead, and don’t you deserve that the people should serve you out for your blasphemy?’ Two spat in my face. I clenched my nails in my hands with anger, and wished much that I had a few of my Yorkshire friends round me to see fair play while I taught the unmanly scoundrels better manners. I judged that it would be scarcely wise to take the mob in their excited state to the hotel where I was staying, and therefore proceeded to the railway station (whither I was accompanied by several hundreds hooting, yelling and hissing), preferring rather to take a ticket to Liverpool than to have a worse riot. A new dilemma now arose; my pockets were empty, all my cash, except some flaw halfpence, being at the hotel. Fortunately I found means of escaping my pursuers at some slight risk to my neck, and got safely back to my hotel. My dangers were not yet over. Although there was no crowd, only one person with me, and not the slightest disturbance at the hotel, the landlady wished me at once to leave the house. I appealed to her hospitality in vain. I next stood on my legal rights, went to my bed room, locked the door, retired to bed, and tried to dream that Wigan was a model Agapemone.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “Disgraceful Conduct of the Wigan Clergy,” “National Reformer,” October 20, 1860.]

The type of opposition involved in the above episode made its appearance repeatedly. Once at Wigan stones were thrown at Bradlaugh and John Watts as they entered a hall where a lecture was to take place. During one of Bradlaugh’s lectures at Dumfries, the gas lamps of the hall were smashed and the skylights were shattered by stones. When Bradlaugh delivered a lecture on one occasion at Norwich, “yells, hisses, abuse, a little mud, and a few stones formed the chorus and finale of the entertainment.” One day when just beginning a lecture at Plymouth, Bradlaugh was ejected from a field he had hired for the lecture and detained overnight by the police, at the instigation of the Young Men’s Christian Association. At another time a mob at Guernsey broke into the house in which Bradlaugh was speaking. Lectures at various places by Mrs. Harriet Law were interfered with by persons who put out the lights or sprinkled cayenne pepper about the floor. [“National Reformer,” March 9, 16, and 23, 1861; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Mr. C. Bradlaugh” (1873), pp. 14-16; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 1, 162-193; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 59-79; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), p. 51; “Mrs. Harriet Law,” “Freethinker,” August 8, 1897.]

The net result of the opposition of Secularism was the strengthening of the Secularist cause. The Secular Movement had originated in part as a protest against Christian opposition to reform, and each fresh effort of Christians to prevent the advancement of the Secularist program simply increased the determination of the Secularists to achieve their goals. Then, too, the opposition to Secularism constituted an effective advertisement of the Secularist program.


The Secularists of the early years were not able to avoid disagreement within their own ranks. Almost from the very beginning of the Secular Movement two factions were in evidence, one being composed of Holyoake and persons who supported him, and the other containing Bradlaugh and certain supporters of Bradlaugh.

The Secularists were not in disagreement as to the principles of Secularism. It is true that some Secularists were Atheists, some were Pantheists. and some were Theists, [See, for example, Charles Bradlaugh, “To the … Archbishop of York,” “National Reformer,” October 16, 1881.] and that each group would have been pleased to convert the others to its viewpoint. Eligibility for membership in the Secular body, however, did not depend upon these beliefs, but upon the acceptance of the principle that morals and conduct should be devoted to the promotion of man’s happiness upon earth by natural means: and all Secularists, of course, accepted this proposition. The Secularist controversy hinged rather upon the question as to how Secularism could best be advanced, and was concerned with the problem of whether the Secularists should attack the churches. The view of Holyoake and those who shared his opinion was that they should not do So, [Holyoake spoke of occasions when opposition to certain possible accomplishments of theology (such as reliance upon prayer or the direct interference by the churches with the Secular Movement) would be advisable (see, for example, the “Reasoner,” June 2, 1858), and from time to time he actually attacked the essentials of specific theological doctrines — as in his “Trial of Theism” (1858).] but should limit themselves to the task of working for the diffusion of Secularist principles. They held that by following this policy the Secularists would not only avoid engaging in an alien task, but would be able to attract to the ranks of Secularism liberal-minded churchmen. Bradlaugh and his supporters, however, took a widely different view. Maintaining that the churches stood in the way of Secularism, they held to be the task of the Secularists to do everything possible to weaken their hold on the people. [“Reasoner,” passim; “Investigator,” passim; “National Reformer,” passim; “Counsellor,” November, 1861; “Freethinker,” February 8, 1891; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), passim; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), I, 139, and II, 290-294; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), I, 18-19, and II, 98-101; G.J. Holyoake, “Warpath of Opinion” (189?), p. 37; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), passim; G.J. Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, “Secularism, Skepticism, and Atheism” (1870).]

In spite of their differences of opinion as to method, and notwithstanding much talking and writing about those differences, the Secularists of the early years went on working together, in a more or less friendly spirit, for the Secular cause. Their lack of agreement did, however, prevent them from getting together in a national union, and the divergent viewpoints of the two factions were reflected in the policy of the various Secularist periodicals, as well as in the character of the activities of Secularists.

At the outset of the Secularist controversy the supporters of Holyoake constituted the bulk of the Secularist party, As the years passed, however, more and more persons were attracted to the point of view held by Bradlaugh; and by the end of the period under consideration by far the greater portion of the Secularist body shared his outlook. [John Watts, “Freethought: Its Advocacy and Tendency,” “National Reformer,” May 28, 1865; G.W. Foote, “George Jacob Holyoake.” “Freethinker,” February 12, 1893; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake (1908), I, 346.]


The triumph of the Bradlaugh viewpoint was paralleled by the triumph, within the Secular Movement, of Bradlaugh himself. By 1866 he was the dominant personality among the Secularists, and he remained such until 1890. His preeminence during the period from 1866 to 1890 was so pronounced as to warrant the designation of the era as the Bradlaugh Epoch. This period of Secularist history stands apart from the years that preceded and those which followed it, and forms a convenient unit for discussion.


The very beginning of the new epoch saw the founding of the National Secular Society, an association destined to endure beyond the limits of the period. The Society was established by Bradlaugh, who, taking advantage of the great popularity which he had achieved among Secularists, as well as of the pronounced lessening of the Secularist conflict which had made an earlier union impossible, proclaimed the formation of the new enterprise in September, 1866. [Charles Bradlaugh, “Secular Organization,” “National Reformer,” July 16, August 5 and 12, and September 2, 1866 and June 16, 1867; Charles Watts, “Secular Organization,” “National Reformer,” September 2, 1866.]

A “programme” for the new association laid down “objects” and “principles” for its guidance. Its “objects” were asserted to be:

“1st. To form an association for mutual help of all the Freethinkers of Great Britain.

“2nd. To conduct in the United Kingdom a more vigorous Freethought propaganda, especially in districts where Freethinkers are few and Freethought lectures are rare.

“3rd. To establish a fund for the assistance of aged or distressed Freethinkers.

“4th. To provide parliamentary and other action in order to remove all disabilities on account of religious opinions.

“5th. To establish Secular schools and adult instruction classes in connection with every local society, having members enough to efficiently support such schools or classes.”

The “principles” of the new society were declared to be as follows:

“I. This Association declares that the Promotion of Human Improvement and Happiness is the highest duty.

“II. That the Theological Teachings of the World have been, and are, most powerfully obstructive of human improvement and happiness; human activity being guided and increased by a consciousness of the facts of existence; while it is misguided and impeded in the most mischievous manner when the intellect is prostrated by childish and absurd superstitions

“III. That in order to promote effectually the improvement and happiness of mankind, every individual of the human family ought to be well placed and well instructed; and all who are of suitable age ought to be usefully employed for their own and the general good.

“IV. That human improvement and happiness cannot be effectually promoted without civil and religious liberty; and that, therefore, it is the duty of every individual — a duty to be practically recognized by every member of this Association — to actively attack all barriers to equal freedom of thought and utterance for all, upon political and theological subjects.”

An amplificatory statement issued in connection with the “programme” declared that the fourth “object” aimed specifically at the removal of “the blasphemy statutes, the oath-taking practices, and the ecclesiastical disabilities.” [“Proposed Programme for the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” September 9, 1866; “National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” September 23, 1866.]

Statements of the principles and objects of the society published in the six or eight years following 1866 included features either not specifically mentioned in the foregoing “programme” or not stated in it so explicitly. A description issued in 1868 asserted that the “principle” calling for the promotion of human improvement and happiness involved “the promotion of political advancement by the political education and enfranchisement of the masses” and the promotion of social improvement by investigating and counteracting or preventing in the future the causes of poverty and social degradation.” And a statement of 1874 called for the following:

  1. “A system of really secular education, so that each child may, at starting in life, be placed in a fair condition to form more correct opinions, and be fitted for more useful conduct. “The disestablishment and disendowment of the State Church, and the placing of all religions and forms of speculative opinion on a perfect equality before the law.
  2. “Specially the improvement of the condition of the Agricultural classes, whose terrible state of social degradation is at present a fatal barrier to the formation of a good state of society.
  3. “A change in the Land Laws, so as to break down the present system by which enormous estates are found in few hands, the many having no interest in the soil, and to secure for the agricultural laborer some share of the improvement in the land he cultivates.
  4. “The destruction of the present hereditary Chamber of Peers, and substitution of a Senate containing life members, elected for their fitness, and therewith the constitution of a National Party, intended to wrest the governing power from a few Whig and Tory families.
  5. “The investigation of the cause of poverty in all old countries, in order to see how far unequal distribution of wealth or more radical causes may operate. The discussion in connection with this of the various schemes for social amelioration, and the ascertainment if possible of the laws governing the increase of population and produce, and affecting the rise and fall of wages.” [“National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” February 2, 1868; “The National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” June 14, 1874.]

Broadly speaking, the program thus gradually worked out remained in effect until the very end of the Bradlaugh epoch; for though it is true that in 1877 a fresh statement of “principles” was issued for the society, and that still another was put out in 1886, these were substantially restatements of the basic ideas with which the Secularists were already identified. [Annie Besant, “Conference of the National Secular Society arid Other Freethinkers,” “National Reformer,” May 27, 1877; “Annual Conference of the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” June 20, 1886.]

The headquarters of the National Secular Society during the era under consideration were in London, and its officers in the period included a President, several Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer, two Auditors, and members of a Council. Except for the Councilors, each of whom was chosen by a local Secular society, the officers were named at annual conferences of Secularists. All officials were elected for one year and were eligible for reelection. The President, the Vice-Presidents, the Secretary, the Treasurer, the Council, and, after 1883, the Auditors made up what was known as the Executive. The Executive met each month, the President serving as Chairman, and all voting. After 1877, members of the Council who resided more than 20 miles from the place of meeting of the Executive had the right to be notified of the matters scheduled to come before the Executive and to vote on such matters by letter. [“Officers of the National Secular Society … National Secular Society Almanac” (1877), pp. 42-43, “National Reformer,” September 9, 1866, to June 10, 1888, passim.]

Alongside the Executive of the National Secular Society in the Bradlaugh era were the Secularist Annual Conferences. Attended by the officers of the National Secular Society, delegates of the local Secular bodies, and individual Secularists of the rank and file, these meetings served as occasions for the submission of reports, the discussion of finances, the determination of policy, the adoption of resolutions, the election of various officers, and disposition of any other matters of business relevant to the Secular Movement. The Conferences took place on Whitsunday and were held in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, and other cities throughout the country, the place of meeting being selected by the Executive in the light of suggestions emanating from the Secularist world. Voting at the Conferences ordinarily took place by a show of hands; but upon occasions when such a vote was challenged, voting by proxy was permitted. The Secularist Conference was theoretically the dominant governing institution within the Secular Movement. In actual practice, however, the Conference was itself in large measure controlled by its presiding officer, the President of the National Secular Society. [“National Reformer,” September 29, 1867, to June 3, 1888, passim.]

Affiliated with the National Secular Society in the period under discussion were Secularist bodies of a local character. Each local society had its own group of officials, including, in general, a President, one or more Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Committee. The officers of each branch were elected by the members of that branch. Although the local societies were bound by the principles of the National Secular Society they enjoyed an autonomous status in the management of their routine affairs. Secular local societies were to be found in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and many lesser places. [The list of local societies affiliated with the National Secular Society within the limits of the Bradlaugh Epoch included the following:

London societies:

Ball’s Pond; Battersea; Bermondsey and Rotherwithe; Bethnal Green; Brixton; Camberwell; Central London; Clapham; Clerkenwell; Croyden; Crystal Palace District; Deptford; East London; Edmonton; Finsbury; Forest Hill; Hackney; Holloway; Hornsey Road; Hyde Park; Kensington and Hammersmith; Kilburn; Kingston; Lewisham; Leytonstone; Milton Hall; Newington Hall; New South Gate; North End; North Lambeth; North London; North Middlesex; Northwest London; Oll South Gate; Paddington; Peckham and Dulwich; Reading; South London, No. 1; South London, No. 2; Southwest London; Stratford; Streatham; Tottenham; Walthamstow; Walworth and Camberwell; West Central London; West Ham; Westminster; Woolwich and Plumpstead.

Provincial societies:

Aberdare; Aberdeen, Abersychan and Talywain; Ashton-under-Lynne; Atherton and Tlydesley; Batham; Banbury; Barnsley; Barrow-in-Farness; Batley; Bedlington; Belfast; Berkshire; Bingley; Birkenbead; Birmingham; Bishop Auckland; Blackburn; Black Hill; Blaydon-on-Tyne; Blyth; Baldon Colliery; Bolton; Bootle And Kirkdale; Bradford; Brierly Hill; Brigham; Brighouse; Brighton; Bristol; Brotton; Bryne and District; Burnley; Burton-on-Trent; Bury; Canning Town; Cardiff; Carlton; Chatham, Brompton and Rochester; Chesterle Street; Cleremont Hall; Clay Cross; Congleton; Cork; Coventry; Cramlington; Crewe; Dalton-en-Furness; Darlington; Darwen; Denby; Derby; Dewsbury; Dublin; Dudley Colliery; Dunkenfield; Dundee; Eaton and Normandy; Edinburgh; Failsworth; Farsley; Freckleton; Gateshead; Glasgow; Gorton; Gravesend; Grays; Grimsby; Grisborough; Halifax; Hamilton; Hanley and Tunstall; Hartlepool; Halsingden; Haslington; Hastings; Hatton and Easington; Hawick; Headingley and Burley; Heckmondwicke; Heywood; Holstead; Houghtonle-Spring; Huddersfield; Hull; Hulme; Hyde; Hythe; Ilkeston; Innesleithen; Ipswich; Jarrow; Jersey; Kerriemuir; Kettering; Kidderminster; Kilmarnock; Kingston; Kirby; Lancaster; Larne; Leeds; Leek and Congleton; Leigh; Leicester; Lincoln; Liverpool; Lofthouse; Low Fell; Longton; Maidstone; Manchester, No. 1; Manchester, No. 2; Mansfield; Middlesborough; Mold; Mossley; Newcastle-on-Tyne; Newcastle-under-Lynne; New Herrington; Newport; Normanton; Northampton; North Shields; North Woolwich; Norwich; Nottingham; Oldham; Old Shildon; Over Darwen; Oxhill; Paisley; Pendlebury; Pendleton; Perth; Petersborough; Plaistow; Plumstead; Plymouth, No. 1; Plymouth, No. 2; Pontypool; Portsmouth; Preston; Ramsbottom; Reading; Renfrew; Richmond; Rochdale; Rossendale; Rotherham; Saint Helen’s; Seaham Harbor; Seghill; Sheffield, No. 1; Sheffield, No, 2; Shildon; Shipley; Shrewsbury; Silverdale; Skipton; South Durham; South Eston; Southampton; South Shields; Sowerley Bridge; Spennymoor; Staleybridge; Stockport; Stockton-on-Tees; Stourbridge; Stowbridge; Strood; Sudbury; Sunderland; Sutton-in-Ashfield; Swansea; Swindon; Three Towns; Tildersley; Todmorden; Tow Low; Tunbridge and Tunbridge Wells; Uxbridge; Wakefield; Walkerburn; Walsend; Walsingham; Walthimstow; Walworth; Washington and Usworth: Wednesbury; Wellingborough; West Auckland; West Bromwich and District; West Gorton; West Hartlepool; White Haven; Wigan; Willesden; Wolsingham; Wolverhampton; Wood Green; York.

“National Reformer,” passim; “Freethinker,” passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanac” for various years.]

The membership of the National Secular Society during the Bradlaugh epoch also embraced scattered individuals not belonging to any of the branches. [“Conference of the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” December 1, 1867.]

From time to time in the era under consideration local Secular bodies within given regions formed district organizations for the purpose of promoting the exchange of lecturers among the societies cooperating in such enterprises. These regional associations had their own officers — ordinarily a President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Committee — and held “Annual Conferences.” Although from first to last a rather large number of district unions were formed, they were very generally short- lived institutions; and they naturally played no part in shaping the course of the Secular Movement. Typical of the sectional federations were the Manchester and District Secular Union, the North of England Secular Propaganda Association, the Secular Union for South Durham and North Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Secular Lecturing Circuit, and the Northeastern Secular Federation. [The list of unions in existence at one time or another during the Bradlaugh era included also the following: the Lancashire Secular Union, the Birmingham and Midland Secular Union, the Midland Counties Secular Association, the West of England and South Wales Secular Union, the Kent Secular Union, the Scottish Secular Union, the Yorkshire Secular Lecturing Circuit, the Yorkshire West Riding Secular Lecturing Circuit, the Midland Amalgamated Secular Union, the Northern District Secular Association, the London Secular Federation, the Northern Secular Federation, the North Middlesex Secular Federation, the Yorkshire Secular Federation, the Lancashire Secular Federation; the Lancashire and Yorkshire Secular Federation, the Northern Federation of National Secular Society Branches, and possibly others.

“National Reformer,” passim; “Freethinker,” passim.

Two or three such organizations arose near the end of the preceding Secularist era. “National Reformer,” 1861-1865.]

All local Secular bodies did not affiliate themselves with the National Secular Society immediately upon its formation. Those which did not elect at once to attach themselves to the national organization nevertheless adhered to the principles of Secularism, and, generally speaking, participated in the District Unions and, to some degree, in the Annual Conferences. As the years passed, one by one of these non-affiliating local groups joined the National Secular Society. By the end of the period of Secularist history now under consideration, very nearly all such bodies had become members. [The Leicester Secular Society, which remained attached to the Holyoake viewpoint, never became a member of the National Secular Society. Possibly one or two other societies remained permanently aloof.

“National Reformer,” passim; “Freethinker,” passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanac” for various years; G.J. Holyoake, “Warpath of Opinion” (189?), p. 61.]

For a brief portion of the Bradlaugh era there was in existence outside the National Secular Society a Secularist organization which, was not exactly local in character — the British Secular Union. This association arose in 1877 after differences later to be explained had arisen between Bradlaugh and Charles Watts and between Bradlaugh and Holyoake over legal difficulties growing out of the sale of birth-control literature. The society was founded by Holyoake and Watts. It had as officers a Council, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and in 1881 and possibly afterwards, a President. In its name Annual Conferences were held. The program adopted by the association embraced the principles of Secularism, but eschewed theological criticism. The British Secular Union proclaimed itself a national body, and announced the formation of a number of branches. It was never able, however, to get on its feet, and its leaders presently abandoned it. It died in 1884. [“In the course of the life, of the British Secular Union, a branch existed at each of the following places: London, Glasgow, Kingston, Leeds, Kidderminster. Sheffield, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford, and Huddersfield.

“Secular Review and Secularist,” August 25 to December 15, 1877, passim; “British Secular Almanac” for years; 1879 to 1883; “National Reformer.” 18791885, passim; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 90 and 86.]


As has been seen, the foremost individual among the Secularists of the period from 1866 to 1890 was Bradlaugh. Except for one year, [In 1871 Arthur Trevelyan, a financial benefactor of the National Secular Society, was elected President. “National Secular Society’s Conference at Birmingham, National Reformer,” October 1, 1871.] he served as President of the National Secular Society throughout the entire period; and he applied to the work an energy and a resourcefulness not possessed by any of his fellow secularists.” [“Conference of the National Secular Society” or equivalent title), “National Reformer,” 1867-1890.] But Bradlaugh was by no means the only distinguished personality. Holyoake, though now less active in the Secular Movement than in former years, remained associated with it, and not only at one time held office as Vice-President of the National Secular Society, but later served on the Council of the short-lived British Secular Union. [“National Reformer,” 1869-1890, passim; G.W. Foote, “George Jacob Holyoake,” “Freethinker,” January 28, 1906.] There were also others, notably Mrs. Annie Besant, Charles Watts, Dr. Edward Bibbins Aveling, George William Foote, and John Mackinnon Robertson.

Annie Besant was truly an extraordinary asset to the Secular Movement. She devoted an astonishing amount of energy to the work of diffusing Secular principles, and her industry was accompanied by pronounced enthusiasm for the cause. At the same time, she possessed in easy control of language that gave her great effectiveness on the platform. In commenting upon her ability as a speaker H.M. Hyndman once declared: “It is doubtful whether any woman of our time has had the oratorical faculty and power of rousing and dominating an audience to the extent which Annie Besant at her best possessed it. [H. M. Hyndman, “Further Reminiscences” (1912), p. 4.] Her personal qualities, too, were invaluable. She was endowed with sensitiveness and good taste, and her manner was unusually agreeable. Thanks to her finely proportioned features, her expressive brown eyes, and her abundant, dark, glossy hair, she was also unusually attractive in appearance. It is little wonder that she was a colleague in whom the Secularists took great pride.

The birthplace of Annie Besant was London, where her father, W.P.B. Wood, though a medical graduate of Dublin University, had accepted an attractive commercial position; but in 1852, when Annie was 5 years old, the father died, and Mrs, Wood soon afterwards took her two children to live in Harrow, for the purpose at once of earning a living by keeping in her home boy students and educating her son at the school.

The opportunity for Annie’s education came a little later when Annie met a Miss Marryatt at a neighbor’s house. Miss Marryatt, who used a portion of her considerable wealth to educate various children, provided training for Annie over a period of seven years, allowing her to return to Harrow during vacations but caring for her during school terms. For five of the seven years Miss Marryatt lodged Annie at her house near the village of Charmouth in Dorsetshire. Later she took the girl for two extended sojourns on the Continent and for a winter in London.

Upon the completion of her educational training, in 1863, Annie returned to Harrow, where, for the next three years, her chief interest was in religion. She had been reared an Anglican and in 1862 had been confirmed at Paris by the visiting Bishop of Ohio. Since childhood she had been deeply religious. Now, in her middle teens, her religious fervor became so intense that she yearned to sacrifice herself in the service of Christ.

On a visit, in 1866, to her grandfather’s in Clapham, Annie Wood met the man whom she was to marry — Frank Besant, a young Cambridge graduate who had just taken holy orders and who was serving temporarily as deacon in a newly-opened mission church at Clapham. The wedding took place in 1867, after the Rev. Besant had removed to Cheltenham, and the couple resided first at Cheltenham and later at Sibsey.

Meanwhile, Annie Besant abandoned her orthodoxy. As early as 1866 a shadow of doubt appeared before her mind when, in anticipation of Easter, she studied the four gospel accounts of Christ’s last week on earth and found discrepancies. She managed to revive her faith after this experience, but the memory of the episode remained, and in 1871 a long and painful illness undergone by her daughter raised a question in her mind as to the mercy of God. At the same time, wide religious reading, made possible by her sheltered role as a clergyman’s wife, undermined her confidence in revealed teaching in general. The outcome was that she became a thoroughgoing Freethinker.

During much of this time the relations of Mrs. Besant with her husband had been growing increasingly strained. Physical and temperamental incompatibility, accompanied by difficulties growing out of the changes in Mrs. Besant’s religious opinions, caused such a breach that in October, 1873, Mrs. Besant procured a legal separation.

For several months before the separation occurred Mrs. Besant had been actively interested in anti-theological propaganda. Though her activity in this direction was essentially an outcome of her religious evolution, it was precipitated by her acquaintance with Thomas Scott, who financed the publication, month by month, of heretical pamphlets. She had been introduced to Scott, in 1872, by the liberal clergyman Charles Voysey, to whom she had made herself known after hearing one of his sermons when on a visit to the home of her mother, who was now living in London. Scott invited Mrs. Besant to submit to him an essay for publication. She did so, and he published it anonymously in the spring of 1873. [The pamphlet was entitled “On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth. An Enquiry into the Nature of Jesus by an Examination of the Synoptic Gospels,” and was followed by a companion treatise bearing the title “According to St. John.” “On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth. Part II. A Comparison Between the Fourth Gospel and the Three Synoptics.” The title page of the pamphlets bore the words “By the Wife a Beneficed Clergyman.”] In the ensuing months she published anonymously through Scott several additional pamphlets.

Mrs. Besant about this time left Sibsey for London. While studying in the metropolis, at the British Museum, she became aware of the publishing firm of Edward Truelove, and on visiting the Truelove shop on an errand, in the summer of 1874, she chanced to see a copy of the National Reformer. From it she learned of the existence and general character of the National Secular Society. She was strongly impressed by the association, and, after further inquiry, became one of its members.

Pending the completion of the pamphlets begun anonymously for Thomas Scott, Mrs. Besant published such Secularist writings as she produced under a nom de plume — “Ajax,” suggested by the statue, “Ajax Crying for Light,” in the Crystal Palace — and refrained from going on the Secularist platform. Before many months had passed, however, she plunged into lecturing and began to sign her writings in her own name. [Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp, 11-180; Geoffrey West, “The Life of Annie Besant” (1929), pp. 7-80; Gertrude Marvin Williams, “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1931), pp. 3-60; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 159-162.]

The value of Annie Besant to the Secularist cause was speedily recognized by the Secularists, and from 1875 onward she was elected year after year as a Vice-President of the National Secular Society. Bradlaugh himself, as will presently be seen, placed important responsibilities upon her in connection with the National Reformer, and she and Bradlaugh worked as close associates in the Movement. [“Conference of the National Secular Society” (or equivalent title), “National Reformer,” 1876-1889.]

Efficient work was being done by Charles Watts before Mrs. Besant became affiliated with the National Secular Society. Watts possessed the gift of eloquence, and was also fond of debate, at which he excelled. His effectiveness on the platform was increased at once by a distinguished bearing and a genial personality. As a writer Watts was the master of a lucid, convincing style. His writings and lectures alike reflected a humanitarianism that was contagious.

Charles Watts, younger brother of John Watts, was born at Bristol in 1836. The son of a Wesleyan minister, he was reared in a religious atmosphere and early became a Sunday school teacher. In the early 1850’s Charles took two momentous steps. He left Bristol for London and he gave up his religious orthodoxy. It is not surprising, under these circumstances, to find him occupying in 1860 a position with the National Reformer. In 1864 he was promoted from the post of printer to that of sub-editor, and in the same year he began to appear on the Secularist platform. When the National Secular Society came into existence he became affiliated with it, and, besides continuing editorial work and lecturing, served it for a number of years in the capacity of Secretary and Vice-President. Subsequently, for a time, he was active with the British Secular Union. The connection of Charles Watts with the English Secular Movement, as will be seen, was interrupted in the later years of the Bradlaugh era, and was not resumed until after Bradlaugh’s death; but this interruption did not occur until after Watts had rendered energetic service to the cause over a number of years. [William Stewart Ross, “Sketch of the Life and Character of C. Watts” (188?); “National Reformer,” March 5, 1864, to June 11, 1876, passim; “Freethinker,” July 22, 1894, and February 25, 1906; William Kent, “London for Heretics” (1932), pp. 72-74; D.M. Bennett, “The World’s Sages, Infidels, and Thinkers” (1876), pp. 1004-1005: “Watts (Charles),” “Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers,” (1889), by J.M. Wheeler.]

Edward B. Aveling not only possessed wide scientific knowledge, but was a competent writer, a forceful lecturer, and a splendid teacher. His moral nature was not so well developed. He was capable of rendering diligent service to the cause he deemed to be a good one, even at the risk of great sacrifice to himself; but in financial and personal relationships he displayed a laxness that ultimately gave him an unenviable reputation among his associates. Whatever may have been Aveling’s effect upon the fortunes of the Secular Movement, it is a fact that he gave impetus to the intellectual aspects of its program.

The son of a Congregational minister, Aveling was born in 1851. He was educated at Taunton and London Universities. From the latter institution he received the degree of Doctor of Science. He also taught science at the University of London for several years. Through Bradlaugh’s daughters, who had enrolled as students at the London University, he met Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant, and in 1879 he became identified with the Secular Movement.

As a Secularist Aveling rose rapidly. In 1880 and subsequent years he was elected Vice-President of the National Secular Society, and he was soon taking a leading part in various phases of the work. His affiliation with the Secular Movement did not, however, long endure. In 1884 he joined the camp of the Socialists and disappeared from the Secularist scene. [Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 246 and 249; Henry S. Salt, “Seventy Years Among Savages” (1921), pp. 80-81; Frederick Rogers, “Labour, Life, and Literature” (1913), pp. 175-177; D.M. Bennett, “An Infidel Abroad” (1881), pp, 784-785; H.M. Hyndman, “Record of an Adventurous Life” (1911), pp. 262, 309, and 388; H.M. Hyndman, “Further Reminiscences (1912), pp. 140-147; Gertrude Marvin Williams, “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1931), pp. 109-110, 121, 132, 138-148; “National Reformer,” August 3. 1879, to September 7, 1884, passim; “Freethinker,” June 10, 1883, and July 13, 1884.]

G.W. Foote was intellectually inclined, and through persistent reading and thinking became a man of genuine culture. At the same time he was intensely devoted to the principles to which he gave his allegiance, and fought relentlessly in their behalf. In doing so he wielded with equal effectiveness the weapons of scholarship and logic and those of wit, satire, and ridicule. Thus it is accurate to characterize Foote as a hard- hitting scholar.

Foote was born in 1850 at Plymouth. In 1868 he settled in London. Before going to London he had, as a consequence of reading, abandoned the orthodox religious teachings to which he had adhered as a boy, and soon after arriving in the metropolis he associated himself with organized Secularism.

In the Secular Movement Foote was active as an organizer, lecturer, and writer. Though starting out with the National Secular Society, he became identified with the British Secular Union in 1877; but he soon returned to the National Secular Society, and from 1882 onward through the Bradlaugh era served as one of its Vice-PresidentS. [“Foote (George William),” “Biographical Dictatory of Freethinkers” (1889), by J.M. Wheeler; “Foote, George William,” “Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists” (1920), by Joseph McCabe; Robert Flint, “Anti- Theistic Theories” (1880), I,. 512; “Freethinker,” July 1, 1883, and May 15, 1898; “Truth Seeker,” August, 1899.]

J.M. Robertson was one of the ablest individuals attracted to the Secular Movement. He was also a man of sterling character, and he wrote and spoke with fidelity to his conception of truth. Though not the equal of Bradlaugh or Annie Besant as a popular propagandist, his scholarly endeavors were a valuable asset to the Secularist cause, especially in the fields of practical reform and Freethought agitation.

Robertson was born in the Island of Arran on November 14, 1856. He attended school only to the age of 13, but subsequently read widely on his own initiative. In 1878 he joined the staff of the Edinburgh Evening News as feature writer. After moving toward skeptical religious views by means of his own thought and reading, he was made into a thoroughgoing Freethinker through hearing Bradlaugh deliver a lecture at Edinburgh on Bruno. He afterwards became actively connected with the Edinburgh branch of the National Secular Society, and in 1884 went to London to accept the sub-editorship of the ‘National Reformer.’ Besides writing in the ‘National Reformer’ in the later years of the Bradlaugh era, he lectured for Secularist societies. [J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), Pt. two, pp. 142-143; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 285-286; Gertrude Marvin Williams, “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1931), pp. 151-152; “Robertson, Rt. Hon. John Mackinnon.” “Who’s Who” (British) (1932); “National Reformer,” October 12, 1884, to February 8, 1891, passim; “Freethinker,” January 15 and 22, 1933.]


The Secularists of the Bradlaugh epoch produced and distributed a great deal of propagandist literature, as the early Secularists had done. For one thing, they continued the practice of issuing magazines. One of the journals they put out — namely, the National Reformer — had been founded, as we have seen, in the earlier period. Bradlaugh, who had edited the paper throughout the greater part of its existence in the former era, continued as its sole editor until 1877. In that year Annie Besant became co-editor with Bradlaugh. The co-editorship lasted until 1887, when, for reasons which will be explained, Bradlaugh once more became sole editor. The policies of the ‘National Reformer’ throughout the Bradlaugh era remained what they had been from the first appearance of the journal. The paper continued to be issued weekly. [“National Reformer,” all numbers; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 180; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 11, 15 and 87.]

The periodicals originating in the Bradlaugh era included the Reasoner, the Secular Chronicle,, the Secularist, the Secular Review, the Liberal, the Freethinker, and the Present Day.

The Reasoner was founded by Holyoake in 1871. It represented an attempt to revive the periodical of the same name which had passed out of existence in 1861. The new journal adopted the viewpoint of the earlier paper. It was issued monthly. The venture was not a success. Because of an inadequate circulation the paper died in July of the year following its birth. [The new “Reasoner” was printed by the Manchester Co-operative Society, and half the space of the paper was devoted to cooperation.

Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1909), II, 58-59,]

The Secular Chronicle was issued in Birmingham, and combined advocacy of Secularist principles with opposition to theology. It was founded in 1872 by a young man named C.H. Reddels. In 1875 Redders died, and the paper was taken over by Mrs. Harriet Law, who had energetically spent many years as a Secularist lecturer. From Mrs. Law the journal passed to one George Standring. Starting as a monthly publication, the paper was converted into a weekly organ in 1875; but in 1878 it again began to appear monthly. From the first the Secular Chronicle failed to pay its way, and in 1879 its existence was brought to a close. [Secular Chronicle,” passim; “National Reformer,” December 11, 1870, to April 6, 1879, passim; “Freethinker,” August 1, 1897, to June 5. 1898, passim; “Law, Mrs. Harriet,” “Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists” (1920), by Joseph McCabe.]

The fortunes of the Secularist and the Secular Review were closely linked together. The Secularist, which was issued weekly, was launched as a joint enterprise by Holyoake and Foote at the beginning of January, 1876, and represented the Secularist viewpoint associated with the name of Holyoake. The two editors of the paper speedily developed personal differences, however, with the result that within less than two months Holyoake withdrew, leaving the concern solely in the hands of Foote. After severing his connection with the Secularist, Holyoake started, in the same year, the Secular Review, a weekly journal expressive of the Holyoake outlook. But in February, 1877, Holyoake, who was in frail health, relinquished the editorship of the Secular Review and turned it over to Charles Watts, after Watts had been dismissed by Bradlaugh, for reasons which will be explained, from a position as sub-editor of the National Reformer. When the British Secular Union came into existence, the Secular Review became identified with it. Likewise, Foote, who had left the National Secular Society and become affiliated with the British Secular Union, brought the Secularist into the camp of the British Secular Union. In the summer of 1877 the two papers were amalgamated to form the Secular Review and Secularist, with Watts and Foote as joint editors. Foote before long withdrew from the project, and the Secular Review and Secularist became simply the Secular Review, with Watts as sole editor. Shortly afterwards Watts associated with himself in the editorship an impassioned writer, William Stewart Ross, who wrote under the name of “Saladin.” With the failure of the British Secular Union in 1884 Watts gave up the journal to Ross, who changed its name and carried it out of the Secular Movement. [“Secularist,” all numbers; “Secular Review and Secularist,” all numbers; Secular Review,” passim; “Agnostic Journal and Electric Review,” passim; William Stewart Ross, “Sketch of the Life and Character of Charles Watts” (1877), pp. 5-6; “The Secular Review,” “British Secular Almanac for 1882,” p. 32; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 11, 79, 85-87, 142-143 and 343; “National Reformer,” January 9 to December 31, 1876; “Freethinker,”; July 29, 1883, May 15, 1888, and December 9, 1906; “Foote (George William)” and “Ross (William Stewart)” “Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers” (1889), by J.M. Wheeler; “Foote, George William,” “Watts, Charles,” and “Ross, William Stewart,” “Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists” (1920), by Joseph McCabe.]

The Liberal, a monthly journal founded by Foote at the beginning of 1879, emphasized the principles of Secularism, but also contained anti-religious agitation. The, paper was unsuccessful and died within a year. [G.W. Foote, “Joseph Mazzini Wheeler,” “Freethinker,” May 15, 1898; Charles Bradlaugh, “Rough Notes National Reformer,” November 24 and December 8, 1878; “Foote (George William)” “Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers” (1889), by J.M. Wheeler.]

The Freethinker was established in 1881 by Foote, who returned to the National Secular Society and identified the paper with it. The Freethinker, though supporting the Secularist principles, gave chief attention to agitation against theology. The paper was militant in tone and made free use of satire and ridicule. Foote edited it throughout the later Bradlaugh era, except for a brief period, beginning in 1883 and ending in 1884, when, as will be seen, he was undergoing imprisonment for blasphemy. During that interval it was edited successively by J.M. Wheeler, the former sub-editor, and, upon Wheeler’s mental breakdown, by Aveling. The paper was started as a monthly publication; but with the issue of September 4, 1881, it began to appear weekly. The “Freethinker” soon took its place as one of the principal Secularist journals of the period. [“Freethinker,” all numbers; “National Reformer,” April 17 and October 9, 1881, and March 18, 1893.]

The ‘Present Day,’ a monthly organ, was established by Holyoake in 1883 and constituted one more effort to further by journalistic means the Secularist policy which Holyoake championed. But the paper was no more successful than Holyoake’s periodicals in the earlier years of the Bradlaugh era had been, and in 1886 it was abandoned. [Edward B. Aveling, “Mr. Holyoake and Freethought,” “Freethinker,” June 17, 1883; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 148-150 and 344.]

In addition to journals, non-periodical literature enunciating Secularist and anti-religious principles was issued in great quantities. Many of the works put out were written by persons affiliated with the Secular Movement; but there were some from the pens of others — such as Thomas Paine’s ‘Age of Reason,’ Robert Ingersoll’s lectures, Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, Renan’s ‘Life of Jesus,’ and John Morley’s ‘Rousseau.’ The literature was generally sold at low prices; but considerable portions of it were distributed gratuitously. In a single year 48,000 tracts were granted by the Executive of the National Secular Society for free distribution by the London branches having open-air meetings. [“National Reformer,” 1966-1890, passim; “British Secular Union Almanac for 1879” (1878), p. 45.]

The distribution of Secularist literature was facilitated by firms operated by Secularists of London. One such enterprise was the printing and publishing establishment which had been carried on by Austin Holyoake in the latter part of the preceding Secularist era. Austin Holyoake continued to conduct the undertaking in the Bradlaugh period until his death in 1874, when it was purchased by the Secularists for and on behalf of Charles Watts. It was carried on by Watts for the next several years. The concern received a blow in 1877 when (as will be explained) Bradlaugh became displeased with Watts and withdrew his patronage from it. Watts associated the business, however, with the British Secular Union and kept it going until the Secular Union failed in 1884, when he turned it over to his son Charles A. Watts. Young Watts terminated its affiliation with the Secular Movement. Besides the Holyoake-Watts concern, there existed also, after 1877, the Freethought Publishing Company. This was a partnership formed by Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant after Bradlaugh had broken off all business relations with Watts. The establishment was located at 28 Stonecutter Street for some years, but in 1882 attractive and convenient premises were secured at 63 Fleet Street. The Bradlaugh-Besant firm served the Secular cause throughout the later years of the Bradlaugh Era and, as will be seen, even afterwards for a short time.” [William Stewart Ross, “Sketch of the Life and Character of C. Watts,” p. 7; “National Reformer,” April 26, 1874, to December 21, 1890, passim; “British Secular Almanac for 1883” (1882), pp. 1-2; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 1, 12-17, and II, 17 and 100; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 70, 80, and 81; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 285.]


Like the early Secularists, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh era held assemblages of one sort or another. These included regular Sunday meetings, debates, and outdoor exercises.

At the Sunday meetings, held in Secular halls, the central feature was the lecture. Every phase of the Secularist program was discussed by the lecturers, and so the list of titles ranged from “Secularism, the Gospel of Progress” to “The Mosaic Cosmogony and Science,” and from “Woman: Her Natural Position in Society, and Her Influence for Good and Evil” to “1793, 1832, and 1867.” Often the lecturers were local speakers, but frequently exchanges of lectures were arranged by the various district organizations, and from time to time Bradlaugh, Annie Besant, Foote, Holyoake, Charles Watts, and other Secularist leaders went on lecturing tours throughout the country. The group of prominent lecturers included, in addition to these leaders, Mrs. Harriet Law, John Maughan, Thomas Slater, W.J. Ramsey, Touzeau Parris, E.B. Aveling, Arthur B. Moss, J.M. Robertson, Mrs. Thornton Smith, and G. Standring. The lecture at the Sunday meeting was followed by a general discussion of the topic treated by the lecturer. Opportunity was given at this time for criticism of the lecture by persons in the audience; and critical remarks were replied to by the lecturer. These post-lecture discussions were often the occasion for spirited exchanges of verbal blows, and constituted a popular feature of the Secularist meetings. Many societies supplemented the lectures and discussions with vocal and instrumental music. This took the form of hymns. The songs rendered were expressive of Secularist belief and sentiment. Thus some were devoted to the praise of freedom, or truth, or friendship, or “brave reformers.” Others urged defense of the weak and desolate or obedience to the laws of nature. Still others denounced poverty or suffering or extolled science, work, or hope. All directly or indirectly inculcated that basic Secular principle of self-help which one of them explicitly called for in these words: People throughout the land,

Join in one social band,

And save yourselves;

If you would happy be,

Free from all slavery,

Banish all knavery,

And save yourselves.

The songs used by the Secularists were written by Whittier, Shelley, Longfellow, Shakespeare, Lowell, Swinburne, Milton, Carlyle, and many others, including Annie Besant. [“National Reformer” 1866-1890, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanac” (1881), p. 48, and (1886), p. 42-47; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 53 and 238-251; “Secular Review and Secularist,” September 22, 1870, and November 3 and 10, 1877; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 191-201.]

To facilitate the use of music in connection with Secularist meetings Austin Holyoake and Charles Watts edited a Secular hymn book. The volume appeared in 1871 and was entitled ‘The Secularist’s Manual of Songs and Ceremonies.’ It contained, besides a statement of the principles of Secularism and other matters, more than 100 original and selected songs. An improved collection of hymns, authorized by the National Secular Society, was edited by Annie Besant in 1875 under the title ‘The Secular Song and Hymn Book.’ The new work contained words only, and not musical notes, but the pieces included in it fitted designated tunes appearing in Hymns Ancient and Modern, a popular Christian hymnal. A second edition of the work came out in 1876. [Annie Besant, Editor, “The Secular Song and Hymn Book” (Second Edition), 1876; “National Reformer,” July 30, 1971, December 19, 1875, and May 31, 1885.]

Debates between Secularists and persons opposed to Secularism were looked upon by the Secularists as golden opportunities for spreading the principles of Secularism and discrediting theological teachings, and were arranged on every possible occasion. Though the Secularists courted debates with any and all comers, their opponents were ordinarily clergymen or other representatives of organized religion — Anglicans, Congregationalists, Methodists, Unitarians, Christadelphians, Catholics, and possibly others. The following titles of debates are typical: ‘Is Christianity the Best System for the Promotion of Human Happiness?”; “Are the Principles of Secularism the Best Adapted to Promote the Happiness of the Human Race?”; “Are the evidences adduced by Christians in support of the writings known as the ‘Bible,’ sufficient to warrant their being received and proclaimed as the word of God?”; and “Is Secularism the True Gospel for Mankind?” Quite a number of persons participated in debates against Secularists. The list of clergymen included the Rev. J. Henson, the Rev. Alexander Stewart, the Rev. J.A. McCann, the Rev. A. Hatchard, the Rev. G.F. Handel Rowe, the Rev. A.J. Harrison, the Rev. Brewin Grant, the Rev. R. Shepherd, the Rev. W. Howard, the Rev. T.D. Matthias, the Rev. William Adamson, the Rev. J.C. Whitemore, the Rev. R.A. Armstrong, Father Ignatius, the Rev. J.H. Gordon, the Rev. W.M. Westerby, the Rev. Marshden Gibson, the Rev. B.H. Chapman, and others. Lay debaters were approximately as numerous as the debating clergymen, and included, besides others, W.T. Lee, S. Worley, Alexander Robertson, Thomas Barber, W. Gillespie, David King (Editor of the British Harbinger), T. Mahoney, William Rossiter (Principal of the Camberwell Free Fine Arts Gallery), Walter R. Browne, H.D. Jeffries, Robert Roberts (Editor of the Christadelphian), William Simpson, Thomas Crow, H.A. Long, B. Harris Cooper, and G. Sexton. For the Secularists, Bradlaugh, Charles Watts, Mrs. Harriet Law, Annie Besant, Foote, Aveling, J. Symes, R. Rossetti, Sam Standring, C.J. Hunt, and others participated. Secularist debates were often lively affairs and were frequently attended by large crowds. Bradlaugh, for example, reported that at one of his debates with the Rev. A.J. Harrison there was present “an audience of 5,000.” Naturally the interest was at times intense. In reporting a debate at Grimsby between Mrs. Harriet Law and the Rev. R. Shepherd the Grimsby Advertiser declared, “Our readers at a distance can scarcely form an idea of the deep interest attached to the controversy by all parties in Grimsby, nor the excitement which has manifested itself during the delivery of the lectures.” Many of the debates lasted for several nights. [The remarks of the “Grimsby Advertiser” were quoted in “The Secularist controversy,” “National Reformer,” May 26, 1867. The debates were reported in the pages of Secularist periodicals such as the “National Reformer,” the “Freethinker,” and the “Secular Review and Secularist.” Debates too numerous for citation were published in pamphlet form. References to debates appear in such biographies as Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner’s “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894).]

The outdoor assemblages arranged by the Secularists took place in open spaces of numerous municipal centers — London, Portsmouth, Bristol, Leeds, Derby, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Hull, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Rochdale, Nottingham, Sunderland, Hastings, Northampton, and various others. The number of stations at which outdoor meetings were held was an impressive one. In 1885 (perhaps one of the most active years) there were in London alone stations at Albert Embankment, Battersea Park, Clerkenwell Green, Columbia Road, Elgin Road, Green Lanes, Hyde Park, Kensal Green, Kingsland Green, Midland Railway Arches, Mile End Waste, Peckham Rye, Plaistow Green, Regent’s Park, Streatham Common, Victoria Park, Walham Green, and possibly other places; and the list of provincial stations reported the same year was a comparable one. The Secularist outdoor meetings were ordinarily held by local Secular societies, each participating society being in charge of a station in it’s vicinity. As the purpose of the meetings was primarily to win converts to the Secular Movement, practically all of the lecturers simply extolled the philosophy of Secularism and attacked the Bible and Christianity: few discussed the detailed political and social program sponsored by the Secularists. The meetings were held during the spring, summer, and autumn months. They were conducted usually by young men. Persons in the audiences were encouraged to make comments on the lectures, and often lively discussions took place between the speakers and their critics. The Secularists were convinced that many persons attended the Secularist outdoor exercises who never could have been persuaded to enter the Secular halls. [“National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanac for 1881” (1880), p. 48.]


Departing from the policy of the early secularists, Bradlaugh and his associates made use of ceremonies. These were utilized upon the occasion of the naming of an infant of Secularist parents and in connection of the burial of Secularists, and were thus Secular counterparts to the christenings and funeral rites associated with Christianity, [See “Reports of Meetings” and “Obituaries” in the “National Reformer” throughout the period, and “Obituary” and “Correspondents” in the “Freethinker”, for the years 1881 to 1890.]

The Secular ceremonies were undertaken not only as a source of emotional satisfaction to Secularism, but also as a means of inspiring the social (and domestic) affections, it was thought, too, that the use of the ceremonies would strengthen the Secular Movement itself, by enriching its emotional appeal. [Austin Holyoake, “Secular Ceremonies,” “National Reformer,” Jan. 12, 1968.]

The forms used in connection with the Secular ceremonies were prepared by Secularist leaders. Austin Holyoake and Charles Watts, in 1868, published the ones which were generally used, Watts bringing out the form for the naming of infants, and Austin Holyoake issuing the burial form. A form for each of the ceremonies was also brought out, however, by Annie Besant — in 1883. [Holyoake, “Secular Ceremonies,” “National Reformer,” November 15, 1868; Charles Watts, “Secular Ceremonies,” “National Reformer,” December 20, 1969; R.C. Forder, “Monthly Meeting of the Executive of the National Secular society,” “National Reformer,” September 2, 1883.]

The Secular ceremony for the naming of infants took place in connection with the regular Sunday meetings. A Secularist lecturer named the child and identified it with the Secular body. At the same time, the officiant expressed thoughts and aspirations appropriate to the occasion. He declared that by publicly introducing their infant into the Secularist ranks, the parents were giving a pledge that they desired to dedicate their offspring to the cause of free inquiry and unsectarian progress; and he expressed the wish that the child would at maturity realize the parents’ fondest hopes in these respects. On the other hand, he reminded the parents that such a realization would likely be forthcoming only if they guarded well the formation of the child’s character; and to this end he urged them to encircle the child with pure influences and to foster within it the desire for excellence and virtue. In his concluding remarks the officiating lecturer expressed the hope that, in its last hours of life, the infant named in the ceremony would obtain consolation from a consciousness that to the best of its knowledge and capacity it had been true to the Secularist conception of the mission of life.

At the Secular burial service, the Secularist who officiated endeavored to afford consolation and reconcilement to the bereaved. He recalled the loyal devotion of the deceased to the Secular ideal of the service of humanity, and declared that such devotion had not only rendered tranquil the deceased’s life and death, but that the remembrance of it constituted a legacy to surviving relatives and friends. He then dwelt for a time on personal matters relating to the deceased. Next, be discussed the inevitability of death, but declared that it had no terrors for persons who had the consciousness of a well spent life. Finally, he exhorted his hearers to emulate the good deeds of the deceased, and suggested that if they did so they would enjoy the conviction that their own memory would be cherished by those who came after them. [The foregoing descriptions are based upon the forms produced by Austin Holyoake and Charles Watts.]


A major activity of the Secularists in the period from 1866 to 1890 was obviously efforts to promote the diffusion of Secularist doctrines. In this connection secularist agitators devoted considerable attention to furthering the spread of the fundamental principles of Secularism. Through countless platform utterances, as well as by pamphlets and by articles in Secular periodicals, they endeavored to argue convincingly that a man’s highest duty is the promotion of human welfare upon earth and that such an end can be achieved only by means of human effort exerted in the light of Secular knowledge. [G.W. Foote, “Secularism, the Philosophy of Life” (1879); Annie Besant, “The True Basis of Morality” (1874); Charles Watts, “Secular Morality; What Is It? An Explanation and a Defense” (1880); G.W. Foote, “The Philosophy of Secularism” (1879); Arthur B. Moss, “The Secular Faith” (1886); “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Freethinker’,” 1881-1890, passim; “Secular Review and Secularist,” passim.]

The less-basic features of the Secularist program were not, however, neglected. The Secularists labored as energetically to achieve the special reforms which they envisaged for various departments of society as they worked to secure the adoption of their broader principles. Indeed, in this connection they did not entirely restrict themselves to matters specifically mentioned in their printed statement of aims. In one or two directions they endeavored to effect additional changes. It will be illuminating to look at the entire range of their activity.

One striking part of it was their agitation for the abandonment of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. [There were Secularist who were not Republicans. Charles Bradlaugh, “To the Archbishop of York,” “National Reformer,” October 16, 1881.] Though their greatest activity in this direction occurred in the early 1870’s, following the establishment of the Third Republic in France, they labored at the task throughout the entire period under discussion — even in the later years of the era, despite the fact that by that time the monarchy was steadily growing in popularity, thanks to the resumption by Queen Victoria of the ceremonial functions which she had neglected in the years following Prince Albert’s death.

The efforts of the Secularists in favor of Republicanism took the form, in part, of lectures. Bradlaugh, Charles Watts, Mrs. Law, Holyoake, Annie Besant, Foote, and numerous other Secularist speakers condemned the monarchy again and again, charging that it was too costly for the toiling masses to maintain, declaring that it fostered upper-class exploitation of the people at large, and avowing that it was synonymous with political incompetence. [“Reports of Meetings” “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Special Notice,” “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 306.]

Various Secularists also wrote on the subject. The work which was the most conspicuous was undoubtedly Bradlaugh’s Impeachment of the House of Brunswick, which, originally published in 1872, reached by 1881 its eighth edition. Calling for the exclusion of the reigning dynasty from the throne by Parliament, upon the death or abdication of Queen Victoria, the booklet justified its demand on the following grounds:

“1st. That during the 157 years through which the Brunswick family have reigned over the British Empire, the policy and conduct of the majority of the members of that family, and especially of the various reigning members, always saving and excepting her present Majesty, have been hostile to the welfare of the mass of the people.

“2nd. That during the same period of 157 years fifteen- sixteenths of the entire National Debt have been created, and that the balance due of this debt is in great part the result of wars arising from the mischievous and pro- Hanoverian policy of the Brunswick family.

3rd. That in consequence of the incompetency or want of desire for governmental duty on the part of the various reigning members of the House of Brunswick, the governing power of the country has been practically limited to a few families, who have used government in the majority of instances as a system of machinery for securing place and pension for themselves and their associates; while it is submitted that government should be the best contrivance of national wisdom for the alleviation of national suffering and promotion of national happiness.

“4th. That a large pension list has been created, the recipients of the largest pensions being in most cases persons who are already members of wealthy families, and who have done nothing whatever to justify their being kept in idleness at the national expense, while so many workers in the agricultural districts are in a state of semi- starvation; so many toilers in large works in Wales, Scotland, and some parts of England, are in constant debt and dependence; and while large numbers of the Irish peasantry — for … generations … denied life at home — have until lately been driven to seek those means of existence across the sea which their own fertile land should have amply provided for them.

“5th. That the monarchs of the Brunswick family have been, except in a few cases of vicious interference, costly puppets, useful only to the governing aristocracy as a cloak to shield the real wrong doers from the just reproaches of the people.

“6th. That the Brunswick family have shown themselves utterly incapable of initiating wise legislation.

“7th. That under the Brunswick family the national expenditure has increased to a frightful extent, while our best possessions in America have been lost, and our home possession, Ireland, rendered chronic in its discontent by the terrible misgovernment under the four Georges.

“8th. That the ever increasing burden of the national taxation has been shifted from the land onto the shoulders of the middle and lower classes, the landed aristocracy having, until lately, enjoyed the practical monopoly of tax- levying power.”

And by way of giving greater force to his arguments, Bradlaugh concluded the treatise with these challenging words: “I loathe these small German breast-bestarred wanderers, whose only merit is their loving hatred of one another. In their own land they vegetate and wither unnoticed; here we pay them high to marry and perpetuate a pauper prince race. If they do nothing they are ‘good.’ If they do ill, loyalty gilds the vice till it looks like virtue.” [Charles Bradlaugh, “Impeachment of the House of Brunswick.”]

Other Secularist writers, if not so exhaustive in their arguments, were equally bold. Austin Holyoake, in a pamphlet entitled ‘Would a Republican Form of Government Be Suitable in England?’ (1873), declared, on grounds both of efficiency and economy, that it would not- J.M. Robertson published pamphlet entitled ‘Why Preserve the Monarchy?’ (1887), in which he argued against its preservation on the ground that it was simply “a great machine for manufacturing snobs and sycophants.” Annie Besant wrote an article in the National Reformer of January 16, 1887, proposing, in view of the growing expenditures of the government, that the forthcoming Queen’s Jubilee be celebrated by abolishing the monarchy, Foote brought out three editions of a pamphlet entitled Royal Paupers, showing what royalty does for the people. And Charles Watts argued for Republicanism in a number of pamphlets. [J.M. Robertson, “Why Preserve the Monarchy?” (1887); Annie Besant, “Why We should Celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee,” “National Reformer,” January 16, 1887; J.M. Robertson, “Royalism: a Note on the Queen’s Jubilee” (1886); G.W. Foote, “Royal Paupers; Showing What Royalty Does for the People” (3rd edition, 1888); Annie Besant, “English Republicanism” (1878); and George Standring, “Does Royalty Pay?” (1884).]

Besides all this, the Secularists became actively interested in the working-class section of the strong Republican movement which manifested itself throughout the country after the Franco- Prussian War. As the Republican workers followed the device of forming Republican clubs, several Secular societies constituted themselves Republican clubs for purposes of the agitation, and Bradlaugh became the President of the London Republican Club. Indeed, the Republican club of which Bradlaugh was President took the initiative in the calling of a conference at Manchester of delegates of Republican clubs ‘(May, 1873); and at the Manchester Conference Bradlaugh, Foote, and other Secularists aided in the formation of a short-lived National Republican League. [A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), p. 135; “London Republican Club. The Inaugural Address of the President, Mr. Charles Bradlaugh,” May 12, 1871; “National Reformer,” January 5, 1873, to September 7, 1873, passim.

In the later stages of the Franco-Prussian War, Bradlaugh endeavored to aid the newly-established Third French Republic. In connection with Dr. Richard Congreve, Professor E.S. Beesley, and other Positivists, he organized a series of public meetings looking to the termination of hostilities between France and Prussia on terms as favorable to France as possible. “National Reformer,” September 18, 1870, to January 15, 1871, passim. Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 312-321.]

Closely associated with the Secular Republican agitation was the effort of the Secularists to secure the abolition of the House of Lords. In this work resolutions were passed, petitions were presented to Parliament, and many speeches were delivered. Articles and pamphlets were written, too, for the cause, sometimes in a spirit of fiery determination. Witness the words of Mrs. Besant:

“A House in the election of whose members the people have no voice; a House whose members are born into it, instead of winning their way into it by service to the state; a House which is built upon cradles and not upon merit; a House whose deliberations may be shared in by fools or by knaves, provided only that the brow be coronetted — such a House is a disgrace to a free country, and an outrage on popular liberty. … The house of Lords must … [go].

But these things were only a part of what the Secularists did. When the People’s League for the Abolition of the Hereditary Legislative Chamber was formed, in 1884, the Executive of the National Secular Society affiliated with the association, while Foote and R.O. Smith, one of the Vice-Presidents of the National Secular Society, served on its Administrative Committee. [Bradlaugh urged that the place of the House of Lords be taken by a second chamber composed of life members. Bradlaugh’s position was endorsed by the Executive of the National Secular Society in 1874. The bulk of the Secularist lecturers calling for the abolition of the House of Lords envisaged a single-chamber government.

“National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881- 1890, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 264-266 and 393.]

The agitation of the Secularists for the removal of hereditary elements from the government was paralleled by determined efforts which they made to bring about universal (male and female) suffrage. Some of their most fervent work in this direction was done at the very beginning of the period of Secularist history now under consideration, when the working classes were agitating for the reform of Parliament, preceding the Reform Act of 1867. At this time the Secularists aided the National Reform League — as, indeed, they had already begun to do before the close of the previous Secularist era — because the League, though calling only for manhood suffrage and not sharing the Secularist aim of votes also for women, was traveling a great distance toward the Secularist goal. Bradlaugh not only served the League faithfully as one of its Vice-Presidents, but wrote in the National Reformer and elsewhere in the interest of its cause and delivered many addresses on its behalf. Holyoake, also, lectured for the League and served it as Vice-President, Then, too, Mrs, Harriet Law spoke under the auspices of the League. And many Secularists of the rank and file assisted the League by attending mass meetings which it arranged in London and other cities. [“National Reformer,” September 17, 1865, to June 9, 1867, passim; G.J. Holyoake, “Working Class Representation: Its Conditions and Consequences” (1868), p. 3: Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 11, 17, 23, 25-29, 34, and 35-36; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh” (1873), p. 18; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894) I, 220-237; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), p. 39; G.J. Holyoake, “Sixty Year’s of an Agitator’s Life” (1892), II, 86-90; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880). pp. 96-99.]

In the period between the passage of the Reform Act of 1867 with its extension of the suffrage to the mass of city workmen and the Reform Act of 1884, the agitation of the Secularists in the direction of votes for all men and women was not extensive. Nevertheless there were efforts. Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant lectured for the cause and one or two appeals were made in the National Reformer. [Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 393; Annie Besant, “Civil and Religious Liberty” (1882), p. 19; Centenary Committee, “Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh” (1933), 167-169; Annie Besant, “The Political Status of Women” (1885); “National Reformer,” January 2, 1870, to April 2, 1982.]

After the Reform Act of 1884 had granted voting privileges to the vast majority of rural workmen, the Secularists leave some aid to the cause of votes for women. In 1885, J.M. Robertson, writing in the National Reformer, supported it. In 1885, too, Annie Besant argued for it in a pamphlet entitled The Political Status of Women. And in 1886 Bradlaugh, then a member of Parliament, supported a bill (which failed to pass) calling for the bestowal upon women of the right of voting for Parliamentary candidates. [Though voting for the woman suffrage bill of 1886, Bradlaugh objected to its provision for withholding the suffrage from married women, and gave notice of his intention to move in the committee on the bill that the restriction be removed. He never had the opportunity to do so, as the bill was blocked before it reached the committee stage.

Annie Besant, “The Political Status of Women” (1885); “National Reformer.” December 13, 1885, to December 26, 1886, passim.

In connection with the whole subject of the democratic agitation of the Secularists, it is worth noting that Bradlaugh, seconded by Annie Besant, opposed imperialistic aggression and advocated home rule for Ireland, and that Mrs. Besant aided the cause of women’s rights in general. See, for example, “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim.]

Along with the foregoing activities, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh period undertook to achieve various aims looking to a more comfortable and pleasant life for the great masses of the people. One of the things they did was to agitate for the opening of libraries, museums, and art galleries on Sunday. In this connection their efforts included, first of all, writing and speaking as Secularists. Foote, for example, in ‘Arrows of Freethought’ (1882), declared:

“The Christians … like going to the Church and public house on Sunday, and those establishments are permitted to open; they have no wish to go elsewhere, and so they keep all other establishments closed. This is mere impudence. Let them go where they choose and allow the same freedom to other people. Those who advocate a free Sunday ask for no favor; they demand justice. They do not propose to compel any Christian to enter a museum, a library, or an art gallery; they simply claim the right to go in themselves. The denial of that right is a denial of liberty, which every free man is bound to resent….

“Our toiling masses … have one day of leisure in the week. … Yet the Christian legislature tries its utmost to spoil the boon. … Drunkenness is our national vice. … Give Englishmen a chance, furnish them with counter attractions, and they will abjure intoxication like their Continental neighbors. …”

In addition to working under their own party name, the Secularists aided the National Sunday League. Mrs. Besant served it as one of its Vice-Presidents, and both Holyoake and Bradlaugh gave it platform assistance in connection with its great public demonstrations. The labors of the Secularists (and the Sunday League) were not in vain. By the end of the era of Secularist history under consideration numbers of art galleries, libraries, and museums in London and elsewhere were opened to Sunday visitors. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; G.W. Foote, “Sunday Tyranny,” “Arrows of Freethought” (1882); Joseph McCabe. “George Jacob Holyoake” (1922), pp. 36-37 and 67; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 249; “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim.]

Social entertainments were also provided by the Secularists. On various occasions Secularists and their guests participated in conversation, singing, and dancing, and tea. During the summer season excursions and picnics were arranged. At attractive retreats in the country children and grown-ups rambled and played games, or enjoyed speeches, recitations, and songs. [“National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim.]

Then, too, by drawing upon an “Endowment Fund” which they maintained, and which was replenished by popular subscription, and by entertainments and lectures to which an admission fee was charged, the Secularists rendered modest financial assistance, as opportunity permitted, to those among their numbers who were sick or in distress. [“National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), p. 119.]

A basic phase of the Secularist activity in the field of social betterment was concerned with conditions in the rural districts. The evil state of affairs confronting the common people in the country roused the Secularists to action. Embracing, as their mature program, the proposals gradually worked out by Bradlaugh, they demanded: (1) abolition of the laws of primogeniture and entail; (2) reduction of the legal expenses attendant upon the sale of land; (3) abolition of the Game Laws; (4) compulsory cultivation of land (on the strength of the principle enunciated by John Stuart Mill and others that private ownership of land carried with it the public, obligation of its improvement); (5) “Security to the tenant cultivator for improvements”; (6) “Revaluation of lands for the more equitable imposition of the land tax”; (7) a graduated land tax. [This program was set forth in its entirety in 1880, One after another of its proposals had, however, already been called for by Bradlaugh and other Secularists.] In support of these measures, in whole or in part, Secularist leaders not only wrote a number of articles and pamphlets, and delivered numerous addresses, but took other forms of action as well. Bradlaugh, for example, in 1869, wrote a public letter to Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister, asking especially for compulsory land cultivation and Game Laws abolition. Bradlaugh also, in 1880, formed a Land Law Reform League which carried on an agitation in support of the Secularist program. Annie Besant and Dr. Aveling served as Vice- Presidents of the Reform League, and Bradlaugh himself became its President. As a member of Parliament, though without success, made strenuous efforts, each year from 1886 to 1890, inclusive, to secure the support of Parliament to the principle of the compulsory cultivation of the land. [Charles Bradlaugh, “The Land Question” (18??); Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh,” Pt. One, pp. 264 and 393 and Pt. Two (by J.M. Robertson), pp. 179-184 and 368-369; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp 251-252; Annie Besant, “Civil and Religious Liberty” (187?),.pp. 12-18; C.C. Cattell. “The land: How to Make It Feed the People and Pay the Taxes” (1879); Charles Bradlaugh, “1880: Its Work and Promise,” “National Secular Society’s Almanac,” 1881, p. 15; “Freethinker,” passim; “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim.]

The Secularists of the Bradlaugh era undertook to strike at the poverty of the rural and urban masses alike by means of efforts looking to smaller working-class families; and, as the best means of preventing large families, they exerted themselves in the interest of birth control. To this end they not only carried on an agitation in favor of birth control, but sold literature containing instructions as to the proper methods of effecting its accomplishment. In the first decade of the period their activity in this sphere was not extensive. They did, however, deliver addresses from time to time in advocacy of birth control, and they circulated a few pamphlets of propaganda and instruction, such as The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by the American physician, Dr. Charles Knowlton. [G.J. Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, “Secularism, Science, and Atheism’ (1870), pp. 31-32; Annie Besant, “The Law of Population” (1878); Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), 11, 16-17; “National Reformer,” April 26, 1869, to December 3, 1876, passim.]

The year 1877 saw a remarkable intensification of Secularist birth-control activity. This grew out of circumstances connected with the Knowlton pamphlet. On January 8, 1877, Charles Watts was arrested for publishing ‘The Fruits of Philosophy,’ on the ground that the work was obscene. When the trial came on, Watts pleaded guilty, and was released under suspended judgment. Charles Bradlaugh, Annie Besant and others, believing not only that birth-control literature for the masses was imperiled, but feeling that the situation involved the whole matter of a free press, strongly condemned Watts for not fighting the charge that had been made against him, Bradlaugh going so far as to deprive him of his sub-editorship of the ‘National Reformer’ and to cease patronizing his printing and publishing concern: and Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant, after now establishing a firm of their own — the Freethought Publishing Company — proceeded to publish the treatise themselves, notifying the authorities, at the same time, of their action. But the publication of the Knowlton pamphlet was only a part of the expanded birth-control agitation. Both Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant were prosecuted and were condemned to six months’ imprisonment, though the sentence was subsequently quashed on a legal technicality; and in the course of the trial Mrs. Besant eloquently stated the case for birth control. At the same time, by extensively publicizing their trial, the two defendants at once called attention to the birth control propaganda and promoted the sale of the pamphlet which they had published. Furthermore, Bradlaugh founded a new Malthusian League (the one which he established in 1861 had died some 10 years previously) which spread the gospel of birth control for half a century; and Mrs. Besant issued a pamphlet of her own, under the title ‘The Law of Population,’ advocating birth control and giving advice as to harmless ways of achieving it. [Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, Editors, “In the High Court of Justice: Queen’s Bench Division, June 18, 1877. The Queen v. Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant. A verbatim report of the proceedings of the trial of Bradlaugh and Besant for publishing the Knowlton Pamphlet” (Third edition, 1878); Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), II, 20-29; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 205-213 and 220; Norman E. Himes, “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), pp. 239-240 and 245-251; Annie Besant, “The Law of Population” (author’s American edition, 1878); “National Reformer,” January 14, 1877, to May 5, 1878, passim.]

In the later years of the Bradlaugh period the activity of the Secularists in the interest of birth control, though less extensive than that of 1877, was considerable. One part of it took place in connection with the case of the highly-respected Secularist bookseller, Edward Truelove. In 1878 Truelove was tried, sentenced, and compelled to undergo four months’ imprisonment and pay a fine of 50 pounds for selling two birth- control pamphlets — Robert Dale Owen’s ‘Moral Physiology’ and J.H. Palmer’s ‘Individual, Family’ and National Poverty.’ As they had recently done in connection with the Bradlaugh-Besant prosecution, the Secularists utilized the Truelove case to advance the propaganda of birth control by giving the affair extensive publicity in the Secularist press. The other part of the Secularist activity was less sensational, but it extended over a longer period of time and was perhaps in the end no less effective. Secularist booksellers continued to circulate ‘The Law of Population’ and other works of advice and instruction. Secularist lecturers also made, frequent appeals throughout the country. And J.M. Robertson wrote articles of advocacy in the ‘National Reformer.’ [Norman E. Himes, “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), pp. 240-243; J.M. Robertson, “Socialism and Malthusianism” (1885); Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 228-231; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), Preface in; “National Reformer,” 1878-1890, passim.]

The Secularist birth-control activity was of significance, in at least two respects: it influenced the internal affairs of the Secularist Movement, and it made itself felt in the life of the nation as a whole. Each of these forms of influence demands, in turn, a word of explanation.

Bradlaugh, as will be recalled, in his displeasure at Charles Watts for refusing to defend himself in court as the publisher of Dr. Knowlton’s pamphlet, not only removed Watts from the sub-editorship of the National Reformer, but ceased to do business with Watts’ printing and publishing concern. Both men appealed to the Secular party for moral support, and when, at the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society, held a few months afterwards, Bradlaugh was reelected as President, Watts declined to accept a nomination for a Vice-Presidency and, a few days later, resigned from the National Secular Society.

Alongside of this, differences developed in another quarter. Holyoake felt himself to have been aggrieved because Annie Besant had asserted, in the Bradlaugh-Besant trial, that Holyoake had sold the treatise by Knowlton on his own account, instead of declaring that he had sold it as the “agent” of another publisher; and he became still more displeased because Bradlaugh, in a public statement, seemed to him to imply that the National Secular Society endorsed the Knowlton pamphlet. As a result, Holyoake resigned the office of Vice-President of the National Secular Society and, like Watts, withdrew from the association.

Though Holyoake and Watts were both in sympathy with birth control, they came to disapprove of Dr. Knowlton’s particular treatment of the subject. Other Secularists shared this attitude. Still others of the Secular body either were opposed outright to birth control or felt that its championship by the Secularists was inexpedient.

Under the circumstances, Watts and Holyoake led some of the dissatisfied Secularists out of the National Secular Society, and with them founded the British Secular Union, the origin and brief history of which have been alluded to in an earlier connection. [William Stewart Ross, “Sketch of the Life and Character of C. Watts” (188?), pp. 5-6: G.J. Holyoake, “The Warpath of Opinion” (189?), pp. 27-35; “High Court of Justice, June 19,” “Times,” June 20, 1877; G.M. Williams, “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1931) pp. 77-93; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 77 and 79-85; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 163-165; “National Reformer,” January 28 to August 5, 1877, passim; “Secular Review and Secularist,” June 30 to July 28, 1877, passim.]

The influence of the Secularist birth-control agitation upon the country at large was significant. In the first place, despite the harsh — and evil foul — criticism which the campaign evoked, it evidently promoted the practice of birth control on a more extensive scale than had been the case hitherto. This is indicated, for one thing, by the wide diffusion of the Secularist propaganda. Approximately 100,000 copies of the Bradlaugh-Besant edition of the Knowlton pamphlet were sold within the three months following its publication, to say nothing of scores of thousands of copies of the editions of earlier publishers. Then, too, some 150,000 copies of Annie Besant’s ‘Law of Population’ were sold. And an undetermined number of persons read other literature written or distributed by the Secularists, or heard Secularist lectures, or came under the influence of the Malthusian League. The Secularist promotion of birth control is further indicated by the late-modern decline of the English birth rate, which had its beginning at the very time the Secularist propaganda achieved its greatest prominence — in 1877, the year of the prosecution of Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant. [“National Reformer,” April 15, 1877, to July 26, 1891, passim; Norman E. Himes, “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), 243-245 and 259; Annie Besant, “The Law of Population” (1877); Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, Editor,9, “In the High Court of Justice; Queen’s Bench Division, June 18, 1877. The Queen v. Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant”; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), Pt. ‘Two (by J. M. Robertson), pp- 175-177; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 224 and 229.]

Besides increasing the practice of contraception, the Secularist birth-control agitation (and from the point of view of the Secularists this was the important matter) alleviated to a degree some of the evils endured by the working classes. As we have seen, the low wages and the periodic unemployment of the British masses in the middle of the 19th century were associated with the excessively large number of laborers available to the employing classes. In so far, then, as the Secularists by their promotion of birth control lessened this overpopulation, to that extent they reduced the poverty and insecurity of the workers. [The efforts of Holyoake to improve the lot of the working classes by rendering assistance to the Cooperative Movement have been alluded to in another connection.]

The Secularists of the Bradlaugh era likewise endeavored to secure the promotion of Secular education. This part of their activity involved at once the operation of Secular schools of their own and efforts looking to the furtherance of Secular education in other schools of the country.

Secularist schools, operated in connection with local Secular societies, were to be found in such large industrial centers as London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Leeds, as well as in many smaller places. Although instruction was given in numerous subjects, including music, logic, and debating, chief emphasis was placed upon courses in the sciences, As a rule, the Secularist schools were open only on Sundays, though occasionally a week night was utilized. Among those who taught or lectured were such gifted individuals as Charles Watts, Dr. Edward B. Aveling, Annie Besant, and Bradlaugh himself. To facilitate the work, several manuals were used which were written by Secularist teachers. Typical of these were Annie Besant’s ‘Heat, Light, and Sound’ (1881), ‘General Biology’ (1882), by Dr. Aveling, and ‘Chemistry of the Home’ (1881), by Bradlaugh’s daughter, Hypatia Bradlaugh. [“National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanac,” passim; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 246-251; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 22 and 119; Hypatia Bradlaugh, “Chemistry of the Home” (1881); Annie Besant, “Physiology of the Home” (1891); Annie Besant, “Light, Heat and Sound” (1881).]

In furthering Secular education in non-Secular schools, both before and after the Education Act of 1870 decreed the establishment of non-denominational state schools as a supplement to the state-aided Church schools, the Secularists worked for a national system of state-controlled, state-supported schools providing exclusively Secular education. In doing so they were active in various ways. For one thing, they wrote and frequently lectured. Then, too, numerous Secularists (including Dr. Aveling and Mrs. Besant) secured positions as members of the elected “boards of education” which controlled the state schools. And Secularist parents often took advantage of a permissive clause in the Education Act of 1870 to withdraw their children from religious instruction in “board” schools.” [G.J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), pp. 61-62 and 70; Geoffrey West, “The Life of Annie Besant” (1929), p. 89; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 264; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 40 and 51-53; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” 1881-1890, passim; “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim.]

Hand in hand with these various forms of agitation went the campaign which the Secularists of the Bradlaugh period waged for the removal of existing barriers to the free expression of opinion. In this connection their action involved, first of all, efforts to undermine the foundation of all such barriers by developing in the public mind attitudes hostile to them. To this end Secularist writers and speakers argued eloquently in favor of intellectual freedom. Observe the ringing words of Annie Besant:

“I crave for every man, whatever be his creed, that his freedom of conscience be held sacred. I ask for every man, whatever be his belief, that he shall not suffer, in civil matters, for his faith or his want of faith. I demand for every man, whatever be his opinions, that he shall be able to speak out with honest frankness the results of honest thought, without forfeiting his rights as citizen, without destroying his social position, and without troubling his domestic peace. …” [Annie Besant, “Civil and Religious Liberty” (1882), pp. 20-21. See also the following: G.J. Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, “Secularism, Science, and Atheism” (1870), pp. 26-27; G.J. Holyoake, “Secularism, a Religion Which Gives Heaven No Trouble” (1881), pp. 4-6 and 14; Charles Bradlaugh, “The Attitude of Freethought in Polities,” “National Reformer,” January 27, 1894; and Annie Besant, “Why Should Atheists Be Persecuted?” (1884).]

In addition to working for intellectual liberty in general by trying to discredit collectively all barriers to it, the Secularists endeavored to promote its achievement in limited spheres by laboring to destroy various obstacles to it individually. One of the most striking phases of this work was a series of struggles to break down governmental interference with the right of public meeting. The first such encounter occurred in 1866, when the Government issued orders forbidding the Reform League to hold a meeting scheduled to take place on, July 23 in Hyde Park. Bradlaugh, who was then cooperating with the League, not only recommended that the meeting be held despite the orders of the Government, but urged Secularists to attend it; and when, as the crowds assembled for the meeting, the police manifested an intention to use force to prevent it from being held, he helped lead the assembled multitude to Trafalgar Square, where the meeting took place. [A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 96-99; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 220-237; “National Reformer.” July 22 and 29, 1866, and August 31, 1873.]

Another clash followed the prohibition by the Government of a meeting in Trafalgar Square planned for July 31, 1871, by G. Odger and some of his friends to protest against a governmental grant to Prince Arthur. Bradlaugh joined with Odger in freshly convoking the meeting, and, when the Government threatened and prepared to use force, Bradlaugh reminded the Home Secretary, Mr. Bruce, that the use of force would be illegal and would be resisted. Some 30 minutes before the meeting was held, the Government rescinded its prohibitory notice. [Charles Bradlaugh, “Another Victory Over the Government,” “National Reformer,” August 6, 1871; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh,” “National Reformer,” August 31, 1873; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 132-133.]

In 1872, after a group of individuals had been convicted for holding meeting in Hyde Park on November 3 in violation of certain regulations issued by Mr. Ayrton, Commissioner of Works, Bradlaugh entered a third encounter with the authorities by convoking a meeting for December 1 in the Park to protest against the obnoxious restrictions. The meeting was allowed to be held, and when Parliament met the regulations were annulled. [“National Reformer,” November 24 and December 1 and 8, 1872, and August 31, 1873.]

Finally, in 1888, Bradlaugh, then a member of Parliament, endeavored, though unsuccessfully, to bring about a Parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the police on November 13, 1887, when they violently interfered with a public meeting which the Federation of Metropolitan Radical Clubs was holding in Trafalgar Square.” [“National Reformer,” November 20, 1877, to March 18, 1888, passim.]

Side by side with all this went Secularist action looking to the removal of existing limitations on free expression in the press. One phase of this was efforts to get rid of the Security Laws — enactments, it will be recalled, which stipulated that newspapers must provide security against seditious or blasphemous utterances. The fight against the Security Laws was brought on in 1868. Following the example of Secularist periodicals such as the Reasoner and the Investigator, and, indeed, of numerous other papers, Bradlaugh had brought out the ‘National Reformer’ since its foundation without providing the security called for by the Security Laws. For the eight years during which the paper had been published the Government had ignored the situation. In fact, the general enforcement of the Security Laws had for several years been so ineffectual that they were really obsolescent. This was the state of affairs in 1868 when the Government brought on the Secularist campaign against the Security Laws by requesting Bradlaugh to provide security against blasphemous or seditious utterances in the National Reformer, and, upon his refusal to do so, by prosecuting him for publishing the National Reformer without providing the security. In carrying on the struggle the Secularists worked both in the court room and in the country at large. In the court room, Bradlaugh, who argued his own case, frustrated the designs of the Government at almost every turn, and so discouraged it in its efforts to carry forward the prosecution to a successful conclusion that in the end it allowed the case to be dropped. In the country at large, the Secularists not only raised substantially all the funds required for meeting Bradlaugh’s expenses in connection with the litigation, but worked directly for the repeal of the Security Laws by holding meetings and filing petitions with Parliament. The two-fold course of action on the part of the Secularists, together with cooperating efforts by Milnor Gibson, John Stuart Mill, E.H.J. Cranford, and other Members of Parliament, produced effective results. The Government, discouraged at last in its efforts to enforce the Security Laws, and impressed by the general agitation, decided to repeal the obnoxious statutes — a decision which it carried out before the end of the year 1869. [“National Reformer,” May 3, 1868, to May 2, 1861). passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinion” (2 Ed., 1913). pp, 78-80; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1873), pp. 19-20; C.D. Collet, “History of the Taxes on Knowledge” (1899), pp. 146-207.]

There were two other phases of the action taken by the Secularists in behalf of an unrestricted freedom of the press, both of which were tied up, though in different ways, with the prosecution of Secularists for circulating pamphlets favorable to birth control. The first phase grew out of the trial of Charles Watts for publishing Dr. Knowlton’s The Fruits of Philosophy,, and the second was connected with the trial, fine, and imprisonment of Edward Truelove for selling Moral Physiology, by Robert Dale Owen, and Individual, Family, and National Poverty, by H.H. Palmer. With regard to the first phase, after Watts, instead of fighting the charge against him on the strength of his right to publish, had pleaded guilty and had been released under suspended sentence (1877), the Secularist body as a whole, apprehending the danger which the case involved to the liberty of the press (and to the cause of birth control), itself entered into a struggle with the authorities. Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, who played the leading roles in the fight, boldly issued their own edition of the Knowlton pamphlet, and, when brought to trial for doing, so, defended their action (and the cause of a free press) in the courts, At the same time, Secularists raised the funds needed for the payment of the legal expenses of Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant, and the Secularist writers brought the whole affair prominently before the public in terms favorable to the free-press Cause. [“National Reformer,” April 1, 1877, to December, 29, 1878, passim; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 231; Geoffrey West, “Life of Annie Besant” (1929), pp. 90-96; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), II,. 20-29; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), pp. 58-63; Irene Clephane, “Towards Sex Freedom” (1935), pp. 102-108; Norman E. Himes, “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), pp. 239-240.]

As for the phase of Secularist action which was related to the prosecution of Edward Truelove, the Secularists gave Truelove (and the cause) support by writing sympathetically in the Secularist press, by raising funds which covered the defendant’s expenses in the case, and by vainly presenting memorials to the Home Secretary asking for the prisoner’s release. [“National Reformer,” May 20, 1877, to December 29, 1878. passim; Norman E. Himes, “Medical History of Contraception” (1936), pp. 240-243; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 231.]

As a further part of their efforts in the interest of intellectual freedom within limited spheres, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh period worked for the equality of every form of opinion in the eyes of the law. To this end they endeavored, for one thing, to secure the right of affirmation instead of oath- taking for all persons not already eligible to affirm — in a word, for the non-religious. The first two or three years of the period under discussion witnessed a considerable amount of such activity. Encouraged by the Executive of the National Secular Society, Secularists in all parts of the country sent petitions to Parliament. Bradlaugh communicated privately with Members of Parliament and wrote in the National Reformer. Holyoake, who was especially energetic in his efforts, urged witnesses to decline the oath, drew up petitions, delivered lectures, and interviewed Members of Parliament. [National Reformer,” December 6, 1868, to March 20, 1870, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 288-289; G.J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), p. 119; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters, of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 46-49.]

This early agitation came to a close when, in August, 1869, there was passed the Evidence Further Amendment Act, the fourth section of which declared:

“If any person called to give evidence in any court of justice whether in a civil or criminal procedure, shall object to take an oath, or shall be objected to as incompetent to take an oath, such person shall, if the presiding judge is satisfied that the taking of an oath would have no binding effect on his conscience, make a promise or declaration.” [“The Acts of Parliament Bearing upon the Question of Affirmation,” “National Reformer,” January 31, 1875; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 286; “Oath,” “Chambers’ Encyclopedia.”]

The Secularists had good reason to rejoice not only at the enactment of section four of the Evidence Further Amendment Act, but because their agitation had helped prepare Members of Parliament for favorable action on it. John Stuart Mill wrote to Holyoake: “You may justly take to yourself a good share of the credit of having brought things to that pass.” [Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 46-48; G.J. Holyoake, “The Warpath of Opinion” (189?); G.J. Holyoake, “English Secularism” (1896), p. 119; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905) II, 209-210; “Holyoake, George Jacob,” “Chambers’ Encyclopedia”; Charles Bradlaugh. “The Oath Question,” “National Reformer,” May 16, 1869; “Secular Progress,” “National Reformer,” June 20, 1869; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 288-289.]

Before many weeks had elapsed, however, the Secularists were made forcibly aware that the legislation extending the right of affirmation was by no means as inclusive as their interests demanded. The Act went into effect on August 9, 1869. In December of the same year Bradlaugh, who was then plaintiff in a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas, was not permitted to testify before an arbitrator appointed to ascertain a special fact in the case. It will be recalled that the act of 1869 had used the term “presiding judge.” The arbitrator in question declined to receive Bradlaugh’s evidence on the ground that, as merely an arbitrator, he was not a presiding judge and so was not qualified under the act to satisfy himself as to whether the taking of an oath would have no binding effect on Bradlaugh’s conscience. [“National Reformer,” December 12, 1869, to January 30, 1870, passim; and August 31, 1873.]

Although Bradlaugh, after appealing in vain to the Court of Common Pleas to direct the arbitrator to accept his testimony, carried his case to the Court of Exchequer Chamber and, in May, 1870, was heard (and given a verdict in his own favor), the Secularists did not wait until the outcome of the case was known to do something about the situation in which the refusal of Bradlaugh’s testimony had shown them to be placed. Upon the refusal of the Court of Common Pleas to direct the arbitrator to receive Bradlaugh’s evidence, they began a course of action by which they sought to get section four of the Evidence Further Amendment Act amended in such manner as to give to all commissioners and other officers and persons authorized to administer or take oaths or depositions in any civil or criminal proceedings, power to take affirmation in lieu of oath in the same manner as had been by the said section enacted that a presiding judge might with reference to witnesses before any court. Under the leadership especially of Bradlaugh, Secular societies and individuals sent to Parliament more than 200 petitions on the subject. Bradlaugh, Charles Watts, and Austin Holyoake agitated in the National Reformer. Bradlaugh wrote to Members of Parliament. [“National Reformer,” January 2, 1870, to April 28, 1878, passim; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 119-123 and 124-125.]

All this led George Denman, M.P., and other political leaders to become interested in the matter, and to the passage, in August, 1870, of the Evidence Amendment Act, by which the fourth section of the Evidence Further Amendment Act was amended in such a way as to meet the situation revealed in the Bradlaugh case. The exact words of the act are these:

“The words ‘court of justice,’ and the words ‘presiding judge,’ in section four of the … Evidence Further Amendment Act, 1869, shall be deemed to include any person or persons having by law authority to administer an oath.” [A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 119-123; “Conference of the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” October 2, 1870; “The Acts of Parliament Bearing on the Question of Affirmation,” “National Reformer,” January 31, 1875.]

Even after the act of 1870 had been passed, the legislation permitting affirmation of Freethinkers did not cover all situations in which they might wish to affirm, nor did either the act of 1869 or that of 1870 extend to Scotland. The result was that the Secularists soon began to demand a further remedial enactment. They endeavored now to have the law applied to the United Kingdom in its entirety, and to get it broadened so as to permit heretical jurymen to affirm instead of taking an oath, and so as to follow the substitution in the case of Freethinkers of solemn declarations for affidavits in interlocutory proceedings. Their efforts along these lines were exerted between 1873 and 1880, and were for the most part made up of the filing with Parliament of petitions. Through the agency of the National Secular Society, 85 petitions, with 8,806 signatures were presented in a single Parliamentary session; and many additional petitions were presented in other sessions. [Charles Watts, “Retrospect of 1876,” “National Secular Society’s Almanac for 1877” (1876), p.. 16; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 278; “National Reformer,” January 5, 1873, to June 16, 1978, passim.]

Secularist agitation for the extension of the right of affirmation was uninterruptedly continued for eight years after 1880. Indeed, the period from 1880 to 1888 witnessed a campaign more spirited and more extensive in scope than that of the preceding seven years. At the same time, the objective sought was (ultimately) more comprehensive than it had been in the earlier period. The campaign in the 80’s can be better understood after a hasty glance at the Bradlaugh Parliamentary Struggle, inasmuch as this Parliamentary conflict was tied up with the question of the right of Bradlaugh (and by implication the right of secular- minded persons generally) to be admitted to Membership in Parliament (having been duly elected) by making an affirmation of allegiance, or even by taking the customary oath.

In 1880 Bradlaugh was elected by the voters of the Borough of Northampton to Membership in the House of Commons. Upon presenting himself for the purpose of being seated by the House, Bradlaugh asked to be permitted to affirm instead of taking the oath, basing his claim upon the Evidence Amendment Acts, 1869 and 1870, which as will be recalled, permitted affirmation in courts of justice, and upon the parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866 (as amended), which gave the right to affirm in Parliament to Quakers and all other persons “for the time being permitted by law to make an affirmation in lieu of taking an oath.” A Select Committee, appointed by the House to give consideration to Bradlaugh’s request, denied his right to affirm. He then announced his intention of taking the oath. Again a Select Committee was appointed by the House to look into the matter, and this body declared against his being allowed to take the oath, asserting, by way of justification for the decision, that in their judgment an oath would have no binding effect on his conscience; but the Committee went on to recommend that he be allowed to affirm at his legal peril. The House rejected the recommendation of the Committee that Bradlaugh be allowed to affirm. Bradlaugh then again presented himself and asked to be sworn, but a hostile majority of the House peremptorily refused to permit him to take the oath, and, upon his refusal to withdraw, had him removed by the Sergeant-at-arms to the Clock Tower of the House, where he was held until the following day. A few days later, Gladstone, then Prime Minister, moved that Members-elect be permitted to affirm, at their legal peril; and, when the motion was carried, Bradlaugh took his seat. But upon his first voting, the matter was carried into the courts, and, in the spring of 1881, his seat was declared vacated. All this was only a part of the contest. For almost five years after Bradlaugh was Unseated the struggle continued in the House of Commons (from the precincts of which Bradlaugh was on one occasion forcibly ejected by four messengers and 10 policemen after a terrific struggle), in the courts, and in the country at large, where Secularists and other supporters of Bradlaugh wrote, held hundreds of indignation meetings, signed petitions, and raised expense funds, and where the opposition expressed its attitude through meetings, petitions, and denunciations. Finally, after Bradlaugh was elected for the fifth time by his Northampton supporters, in the general election of 1885, a new Speaker, ruling that a motion to prevent Bradlaugh from taking the oath would be out of order, allowed him to take his seat (January 13, 1886). [“National Reformer,” March 14, 1880, to January 24, 1886, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), Part One, I, 144, 263-279, and 392-400, and Part Two (by J.M. Robertson), pp. 203-367 and 370; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 253-276 and 313-314.

Holyoake always refused to take the oath, and publicly criticized Bradlaugh, in the course of the Parliamentary struggle, for being, willing to take it in the House of Commons. “N.S.S. Conference,” “National Reformer,” June 12, 1881; Annie Besant, “Oath-Taking,” “National Reformer,” May 8, 1881; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), I, 28; G.J. Holyoake, “The Warpath of Opinion” (189?), pp. 41-50.]

The Bradlaugh Parliamentary Struggle was colored by other things than the legal rights (or disabilities) of heretical Members-elect of Parliament. Religious animosity pure and simple was back of a great deal of the hostility to Bradlaugh’s being permitted to take his seat. Dislike for Bradlaugh’s Republicanism and for his advocacy of family limitation through contraception were also factors in the conflict. Political intrigue, too, played a part — as when the so-called Fourth Party, composed of Lord Randolph Churchill and other Conservatives, endeavored with hypocritical piety to embarrass the Liberal Prime Minister, Gladstone, who, though religious, was not disposed to make trouble for Bradlaugh, by making a noisy issue of the Bradlaugh case. [R.C.K. Ensor, “England, 1870-1914” (1936), pp. 67-68; John Morley, “Life of Gladstone” (1903), III, 11-21; J.M. Robertson, “A History of Freethought in the 19th Century” (1930), II, 427-429 and 433.] Despite these facts, the Secularists quickly realized, as the conflict got under way, that more-inclusive legislation in the interest of affirmation for Freethinkers was needed than already existed or had been felt by the Secularists to be needed. They saw clearly that there was needed legislation which would not only embrace what they had for the past seven years been seeking but would include also the assurance that freethinking Members-elect of Parliament who objected to taking the oath or who were objected to as incompetent to take the oath might be seated through making an affirmation. Accordingly, a Secularist course of action looking to such legislation was undertaken, though, thanks to the circumstances of the moment, the entire program was not always worked for at a given time.

From 1880 to 1885 the action of the Secularists took the form of efforts to secure the passage of a law permitting affirmation to Members-elect in Parliament. When, in the early stages of the Bradlaugh Parliamentary Struggle, a bill authorizing affirmation in Parliament was twice unsuccessfully introduced by Henry Labouchere, Member for Northampton, the Secularists supported it by holding meetings and sending petitions to Parliament. And when the government, in 1883, vainly attempted the passage of a Parliamentary affirmation bill, the Secularists petitioned Parliament in its favor. [“National Reformer,” April 17, 1881, to March 25, 1883, passim.]

Beginning early in 1885 the Secularist agitation assumed a broader form. There was introduced into Parliament at this time, by C.H. Hopwood, a bill permitting affirmation to all persons in every situation where the existing law called for an oath. On Bradlaugh’s initiative, the Secularists made this broader aim their own, and supported the Hopwood bill by sending petitions to Parliament. In the following year, they worked through resolutions and petitions for the passage of a bill, which, introduced by Sergeant Simon (later Sir John Simon) after the failure of Hopwood’s measure to become a law, substituted affirmation for oath-taking in all cases outside courts of justice — though in supporting this bill they did so in the expectation that it would be amended in the committee stage so as to conform truly to their aims. The most impressive action which the Secularists took in support of their broader program, however, was taken after Simon’s measure had been blocked, and was in connection with the affirmation legislation which Bradlaugh himself sponsored. [“National Reformer,” 1885-1886, passim.]

Bradlaugh did not introduce his bill immediately upon becoming recognized as a Member of Parliament, inasmuch as at that time, as has been seen, he and his Secularist colleagues were supporting Simon’s measure. Indeed, he did not originally plan to introduce the bill at all. As arranged at the outset — that is, after the failure of Simon’s measure — Simon himself was to bring in a bill exactly along the lines envisaged by the Secularists. But Simon’s health became uncertain and it was agreed that the new measure be taken in charge by Bradlaugh. Backed by Secularist and other supporters, the bill was first introduced in 1887, but was blocked. Bradlaugh again brought it forward in January, 1888, and this time — aided by petitions and resolutions from Secularists and others — carried it forward to a successful conclusion. As enacted the measure was exactly as the Secularists desired it, except for a few relatively inconsequential words which said that for the individual to enjoy the right to affirm he must state either that he is without religious belief or that the taking of an oath is not in keeping with his religious belief. The exact language of the bill — the so-called Oaths Act — is as follows:

“Every person upon objecting to being sworn, and stating, as the ground of such objection, either that he has no religious belief, or that the taking of an oath is contrary to his religious belief, shall be permitted to make his solemn affirmation instead of taking an oath in all places and for all purposes where an oath is or shall be required by law, which affirmation shall be of the same force and effect as if he had taken the oath.”

The Oaths Act became law near the close of 1888. [“National Reformer,” December 26, 1886, to January 20, 1889, passim; Centenary Committee, “Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh” (1933), pp. 322-323.]

Thus, thanks to the Secularists and those who cooperated with them, the unrestricted right of affirmation for non- religious persons ultimately became a reality. The fact that the gain was only achieved in piecemeal fashion over a period of many years simply brings more forcibly to the attention the earnestness and conscientious sincerity of those who achieved it.

Along with their affirmation campaign, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh epoch undertook two other lines of action to secure equality before the law for all forms of opinion. They endeavored to achieve the disestablishment of the State Church, and they worked for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. In their efforts looking to the disestablishment of the State Church the Secularists of the period under discussion were active in a variety of ways. Bradlaugh, in 1886, voted as a Member of Parliament for Henry Richard’s motion’ for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales and in favor of Dr. Cameron’s motion to disestablish the Church in Scotland. Annie Besant wrote several tracts urging the disestablishment of the Church of England. And Bradlaugh, Mrs. Besant, G.W. Foote, and numerous other Secularist speakers pleaded the cause of disestablishment from rostrums in all parts of the country. [Annie Besant, “Threatenings and Slaughters” (1886); Annie Besant, “For the Crown and Against the Nation” (1886); “National Secular Society’s Almanac for 1887” (1886); “National Reformer,” 1886-1890, passim.]

The campaign which the Secularists of the Bradlaugh era carried on for the repeal of the blasphemy laws was for quite a number of years a rather lifeless one. Despite warnings from Bradlaugh, the Secularists as a body were disposed to feel — as once they had done in earlier days — that the blasphemy laws were obsolete, and that agitation against them was unnecessary. Nevertheless, they did send to Parliament a number of petitions on the subject. [“National Secular Society’s Almanac for 1977” (1876), p. 16; “National Reformer,” 1866-1890, passim.]

This apathetic agitation was still in progress when, in the early 80’s, some four or five Secularists were prosecuted on the charge of violating the blasphemy laws. The first case was brought on at the behest of Sir Henry Tyler, M.P., and involved an indictment for publishing or causing to be published certain “blasphemous libels” in the Freethinker of May 28, 1882. At the outset the charge was made against Foote, the editor, W.J. Ramsey, the publisher, and E.W. Whittle, the printer; but, early in the proceedings, the name of Bradlaugh was added to the list of those indicted, on the ground that he was really the man higher up in the case, and that of Whittle, the mere printer, withdrawn. Bradlaugh was able to secure a separate trial for himself, and, by establishing the claim that he was not the publisher of the Freethinker on the date of May 28, was acquitted. At the trial of Foote and Ramsey, the Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, in summing up, liberally interpreted the law of blasphemy, asserting, in effect, that an attack on even the fundamentals of religion constituted blasphemy only if the decencies of controversy were violated. When the jury returned from its deliberations, it reported that it was unable to agree, and before a scheduled new hearing took place the prosecutor applied to the Attorney-General for a ‘nolle prosequi.’ This was granted, and the case ended. Even before the above proceedings were terminated, another prosecution was begun and carried to a successful conclusion. In this instance “the City of London” took action against Foote, Ramsey, and H.A. Kemp, respectively the editor, publisher, and printer of the Freethinker, for publishing “blasphemous libels” in the Christmas, 1882, number of the Freethinker. Two trials were required for the disposal of the case, as the original jury failed to reach an agreement. At the second trial the jury pronounced the defendants guilty, and Mr. Justice North, who presided at the trials and who manifested an unsympathetic attitude towards the defendants, sentenced them to imprisonment — Foote for twelve, Ramsey for six, and Kemp for three months. The Executive of the National Secular Society sponsored a memorial to the Secretary of State for the Home Department requesting a remission of the sentences imposed on the convicted Secularists, but the memorial was rejected, and the three men served out their sentences. [“National Reformer,” July 16, 1882, to May 20, 1883, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinion” (2 ed., 1912), pp. 83-90; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 292-298; G.W. Foote, “The Blasphemy Laws.” “Freethinker.” January 7, 1906; J,M. Robertson, “History of Freethought in the 19th century” (1930), II, 430-433,]

The prosecution of Foote and his fellow defendants, and especially the conviction and imprisonment of Foote, Ramsey, and Kemp, tended to arouse the Secularists from their state of apathy in regard to the blasphemy laws, so that in the remaining years of the Bradlaugh period they carried on a somewhat more spirited campaign against them. From time to time resolutions were passed and petitions sent to Parliament. Mrs. Besant wrote articles on the subject. The National Secular Society, early in 1884, became affiliated with the Association for the Repeal of the Blasphemy Laws (of which the Honorary Secretary was the Rev. W. Sharmon), while in May of the same year Bradlaugh, Dr. Aveling, and Foote spoke at one of the great public meetings which the Association held in St. James’s Hall, London. In 1886, in 1887 (with reservations), and in 1888, Secularist support was given to anti- blasphemy-law bills which Courtney Kenny, M.P., sought in vain to carry through Parliament. Finally, Bradlaugh, with the backing of his Secularist followers, tried in Parliament, without success, to have the blasphemy laws repealed through the enactment of his Religious Prosecutions Abolition Bill (1889). [“National Reformer,” 1882-1890, passim; “Freethinker,” 1882-1890, passim; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 11, 145; Anne Besant, “Blasphemy” (1882); Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), p. 288; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), Part Two (by J.M. Robertson), p. 405; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinion” (2 ed., 1913), pp. 98-99.]


In carrying on agitation which not only looked to the wide acceptance of Secularism as a system of ethics, but which aimed to promote its practical application through the achievement of reforms in the political, social, and intellectual spheres of society, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh period followed a course of action pursued by the earlier Secularists. As was the case, too, with the Secularists of the preceding era, there was among the Secularists of the years from 1866 to 1890 an unceasing effort to undermine the strength of the churches, indeed, the Secularists of the Bradlaugh epoch engaged more generally in this type of endeavor than did their predecessors. Whereas in the earlier period a decreasing number of Secularists declined to engage in this work, practically all Secularists participated in it during the later era.

A discussion of some of the more typical of the combative actions taken by the Secularists will be sufficient to characterize the Secular campaign. One thing they did was to place before the people biographical sketches of celebrated Freethinkers, hoping to contribute to the undermining of orthodoxy by showing that these persons — and not the theologians — had been the true benefactors of mankind. Brief sketches of Bruno, Campanella, Spinoza, Galileo, John Stuart Mill, and other Rationalists appeared, and Joseph Mazzini Wheeler, in 1889, brought out a Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and Nations. Wheeler’s Dictionary contained more than 1,600 names. [G.W. Foote and Charles Watts, “Heroes and Martyrs of Freethought” (1875); J.M. Wheeler, “Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and Nations” (1889). See also the following: Annie Besant, “Giordano Bruno” (1877), and Arthur B. Moss “Bruno and Spinoza” (1885).]

The Secularists also attempted to discredit the Bible. In order to show that, instead of being a divine revelation, it was simply a man-made document, they challenged its consistency, its science, its historical veracity, its morality, and its reputed authorship. Thus in an exhaustive treatment of the first 11 chapters of the first book of the Old Testament entitled ‘Genesis: Its Authorship and Its Authenticity’ (1882), Bradlaugh attempted to show: “1. That the Book of Genesis is unhistoric, that it is not the work of any one writer, but is made up of several documents, belonging to different ages, pieced together after the lapse of many centuries, often clumsily, and sometimes without regard to relevancy. 2. That the narrative is sometimes self-contradictory, and that it is often contradicted by other books of the Bible. 3. That its chronological statements are, on the face of them, absurdly inaccurate, and that they are overwhelmingly contradicted by history and modern discovery. 4. That the Genesaic teachings on ethnology, geology, astronomy, zoology, and botany are flatly in opposition to the best knowledge in each of these sciences. And, 5. That such teachings of the book as relate to morality would be destructive of human happiness, if generally adopted. [Charles Bradlaugh, “Genesis: Its Authorship and Authenticity” (1982), Preface. See also: “Freethinker’s Text-Book” (1881?), Parts I and II; Charles Watts, “Christian Evidences Criticized” (1870); G.W. Foote and W.P. Ball, “The Bible Handbook for Freethinkers and Inquiring Christians” (1888); Charles Watts, “Science and the Bible Antagonistic” (1874): Joseph Symes, “Christianity at the bar of Science” (1881); G.W. Foote, “The Creation Story” (1882); Charles Watts, “The Bible and Christianity” (1876); and Charles Watts, Value of the Bible” (1882).]

Another thing the Secularists did was to attempt to undermine the belief that Christianity was divinely established — by showing it to be a natural growth. As Annie Besant expressed the situation:

“Every one who has studied the subject knows perfectly well that Christianity, both in its myths and its doctrines, is an outcome of many Eastern creeds. To Judaism it admittedly owes much, but Judaism was itself an offshoot of a mightier and wider Eastern religion, and borrowed its legends wholesale from Persia and from lands lying yet further eastward, as well as from the hoary faith of its Egyptian neighbors. The roots of Christianity strike deep into Judea and Hindustan, into Persia and Egypt; from each it has drawn much: from each it has taken something …: and when we seek for the creator of Christianity we find no awful Divine form, breathing life into a figure created by its will; but we see the fingers of mystic Hindu, and dignified fire-worshiper, of barbarous Jew and subtle Egyptian, all working at the growing creed, molding into new shape the plastic clay of human superstition, fashioning a Mary from an Isis and a Devaki, sculpturing a Jesus from a Buddha, an Osiris, and a Krishna, and presenting renovated for the adoration of the modern world the Gods worn out by the old.” [Annie Besant, “Roots of Christianity: or, the Christian Religion Before Christ” (1886). See also Charles Watts, “Christian Evidence, (criticized” (197?). and “Freethinker’s Text-Book,” Part II.]

The Secularists endeavored, too, to destroy confidence in particular doctrines characteristic of Christianity — such as the doctrine of rewards and punishments after death and the doctrine of the efficacy of prayer. The doctrine that prayers are answered, for example, was attacked energetically by Foote, Mrs. Besant, and others. Foote, in his Letter’s to the Clergy (1890), asserted that belief in prayer goes hand in hand with ignorance of natural causes:

“There was a time when Christians prayed against an eclipse — because they did not understand its causes. … They still pray. … against bad weather. … When they do understand its causes, they will cease praying against it, and confine their supplications to what is still contingent. … Contingency is nothing but ignorance. … Where light obtains, you find we have nothing to do but submit to … the necessity of nature.”

And in the same treatise Foote went on to declare:

“Is Prayer answered? … I look abroad in the world, and find no practical recognition of the efficacy of Prayer. No Life Assurance Company would calculate a sovereign’s life policy on the ground that her subjects asked God to ‘grant her in health and wealth long to live.’ No Fire Insurance Company would grant a policy on a House of Prayer unless a lightning conductor were run up to prevent the Deity from making a mistake in a thunderstorm. Underwriters never think of asking whether the captain prays. … When the Peculiar People use prayer, without … medicine, they are browbeaten by Christian coroners and jurymen. … Mr. Francis Gaiton … keen scientific writer points out that in all the medical literature of modern Europe he has been unable to discover ‘any instance in which a medical man of any repute … attributed recovery to … prayer. … By the aid of historical and statistical tables, Mr. Galton discovers no trace of Prayer as an efficient cause. … President Garfield’s life ebbed slowly away amid a nation’s prayers for his recovery. …” [G. W. Foote, “Letters to the Clergy” (1890); Annie Besant, “What Is the Use of Prayer?” (1884); G.W. Foote, “The Futility of Prayer” (1879).]

Finally, a great deal of effort was exerted by the Secularists in an attempt to show that the Church had been a hindrance to civilization down through the centuries, They declared that it long condoned the institution of slavery. They asserted that it systematically encouraged belief in witchcraft and took the lead in urging repressive measures against witches. They affirmed that it had a cruel record as a persecuting institution. They charged that it had impeded the growth of science and general education. They averred that it had been guilty of countless crimes, forgeries, and pious frauds. And they contended that it had chronically stood out against social reform. Mrs. Besant summed up the Secular indictment of the historical role of the Church in these scornful words:

“Thus Christianity set itself against all popular advancement, against all civil and social progress, against all improvement in the condition of the masses. It viewed every change with distrust, it met every innovation with opposition. … Only as Christianity has grown feebler has civilization strengthened, and progress has been made more and more rapidly as a failing creed has lost the power to oppose….” [“Freethinker’s Text-Book” (1881?), pp. 423-476. See also the following: G.W. Foote, Christianity and Progress” (1888)’ Annie Besant, “The Fruits of Christianity” (1878); Charles Watts, “Christianity: Its Nature and Influence on Civilization” (1868); Joseph Symes, “Christianity and Slavery” (1880); J.M. Robertson, “What Has Christianity Done?” (187?); G.W. Foote and J.M. Wheeler, “Crimes of Christianity” (188?); and Charles Bradlaugh, “Humanity’s Gain from Unbelief” (1889).]


As was the case in the first era of Secularist history, so now in the Bradlaugh period opposition to Secularism appeared in the ranks of clerical and lay supporters of Christianity. Indeed, throughout the greater part of the Bradlaugh era, a more extensive anti-Secular campaign was waged than had been in evidence during the earlier epoch of Secularist history — no doubt because in these Bradlaugh years the Secular Movement was a stronger and more menacing force than it had been in its early days. Sometimes the opposition took the form of nothing less than rowdyism. At Deptford, Brighton, and other places Secularist meetings were broken up by organized bands. When Annie Besant was departing from Hoyland, after delivering a lecture there in 1876, a crowd attempted to overturn her carriage. In 1867, at Mexbro, a mob threw stones that shattered the windows of a hall in which Charles Watts was lecturing, and at Congleton, in 1876, stones were sent crashing through the windows of a hall in which a meeting was being held by Bradlaugh. In 1875 Mrs. Besant was met by stones at Darwen. On numerous occasions Secularist speakers were assaulted, or jostled from their platforms, or greeted with yells and hisses. [Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 199-201; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), passim; Gertrude Marvin Williams, “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1931), p. 67; G.W. Foote, “Letters to the Clergy” (1890), Preface, p. 4; Charles Watts, “Secular Progress in 1880.” “British Secular Almanac for 1881” (1880), p. 9; “National Reformer,” 1966-1890, passim; “Freethinker.” 1881-1890, passim.]

Annoyance, misrepresentation, and abuse of Secularists played their part in the opposition to Secularism. Bradlaugh was frequently referred to as an extremely coarse and vulgar person, or as a man of contemptible morals. On April 3, 1869, at Blyth, he was refused food and shelter at the inns. And we have seen that, though repeatedly elected to membership in the House of Commons, he was for years prevented from taking his seat. Scurrilous attacks were made upon Annie Besant, and she was subjected to humiliating and painful experiences. Permission to use the garden of the Royal Botanic Society in connection with her studies was denied her on the ground that the daughters of the curator used it. Despite the fact that Thomas Huxley and others signed a memorial to the contrary, she (with Bradlaugh’s daughter Alice) was refused admittance to the class in practical botany at the University of London. Other Secularists, too, came in for unpleasant treatment, and there were derogatory statements directed against the Secularist body as a whole. [Mrs. Humpbrey Ward, “The History of David Grieve” (ed. of 1892), pp. 104 105; “National Reformer,” (1866-1890), passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), passim; Chapman Cohen, “Bradlaugh and Ingersoll” (1933), pp. 46-52; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 170-175.]

Legal action, as will be recalled, was utilized as a means of combating Secularism in the Bradlaugh epoch. For one thing, quite a number of Secularists, including virtually all those of the top rank in ability and influence, were prosecuted. The first person proceeded against was Bradlaugh himself. In 1868 he was called into the courts by the Government for refusing, in violation of the obsolescent Security Laws, to provide security against blasphemous or seditious utterances in the National Reformer. The efforts of the Government in this case were not altogether successful, however, thanks to Bradlaugh’s skillful defense of himself, and eventually the prosecution was dropped. Early in 1877 Charles Watts was prosecuted for publishing Dr. Charles Knowlton’s birth-control pamphlet. ‘The Fruits of Philosophy;’ but as Watts, who pleaded guilty, declared his ignorance of the contents of the book and disavowed any illegal intentions in connection with the publication of it, he was released under suspended judgment. Two months later “the corporation of the City of London” prosecuted Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant for defiantly publishing their own edition of the Knowlton pamphlet on the heels of the Watts case, and succeeded in having them sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, though the sentence was later quashed on a legal technicality. In 1878, at the instigation of the Society for the Suppression of vice, Edward Truelove was tried, imprisoned for four months, and compelled to pay a fine of 50 pounds for selling birth-control pamphlets — ‘Moral Physiology’, by Robert Dale Owen, and J.H. Palmer’s ‘Individual, Family, and National Poverty.’ Legal steps were taken against Bradlaugh in connection with the Bradlaugh Parliamentary Struggle. After Bradlaugh had been permitted to affirm and to take his seat at his legal peril (1880), he was proceeded against in the courts so effectively that he was temporarily unseated (1881). In 1882 Sir Henry Tyler, M.P., secured the prosecution of Foote and J.H. Ramsey on the charge of publishing or causing to be published “blasphemous libels” in the Freethinker: but the jury was unable to agree, and the case was ended when the Attorney General granted a nolle prosequi at the prosecutor’s request. In 1882, also, “the City of London” prosecuted Foote, Ramsey, and H.A. Kemp for publishing “blasphemous libels” in the Freethinker, and did so with such success that all three defendants suffered imprisonment — Kemp for three months. Ramsey for six months, and Foote for twelve months. [The source materials for the above prosecutions are listed in earlier foot-notes of this chapter — in those subjoined to previous discussions of the episodes in question.]

Legal action against Secularism not only assumed the shape of the prosecution of Secularists but took other forms. On the ground that the Propagation of secularism was in violation of the Blasphemy Laws, the courts, when appealed to, refused to permit legacies to Secular bodies to pass into their hands. In 1869 an arbitrator appointed to ascertain a special fact in a lawsuit involving Bradlaugh in the Court of Common Pleas refused to allow Bradlaugh to give evidence. Because she held and advocated heretical opinions, the courts, in 1879, at the instance of her former husband, the Rev. Frank Besant, deprived Annie Besant of the custody of her child — the daughter that had been awarded to her at the time of her legal separation from her husband. [“Liberty of Bequest,” “Freethinker,,” December 17, 1893; “National Reformer,” December 12, 1869, to May 22, 1870, and April 28, 1877, to April 20, 1879, Passim; A.S. Headingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1880), pp. 119-123; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 284-289; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1873), p. 21; J.M. Robertson, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1920), pp. 21-22; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinion” (2 ed., 1913), pp. 81-82; Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 113-220; Geoffrey West, “The Life of Annie Besant” (1929), pp. 96-101.]

There were still other types of opposition to Secularism in the Bradlaugh era. Many times the rental of halls was either refused the Secularists or their use forbidden them (usually as a result of pressure) after contracts had been signed. Discourses against Secularism were also delivered from time to time. The Christian Evidence Society, for example, sent out lecturers over a period of years who labored energetically, sometimes even appearing on the platform at the Secularist Hall of Science in London. Attacks upon Secularism appeared, too, in the form of publications. Opposition in periodical publications, such as the ‘Eastern Post’ and the ‘Tissue,’ usually took the form of hostile reports of Secularist lectures, while systematic criticism of Secularism appeared in such non-periodical treatises as ‘Heterodox London: or Phases of Freethought in the Metropolis’ (1874). by Dr. Maurice Davies, a clergyman of the Church of England. Finally, anti-Secularist opposition was expressed by persons who debated with Secularists and by those earnest individuals who replied from the audience to Secularist speakers. [“National Reformer,” for the Bradlaugh era, passim; “Freethinker.” June, 1881, and November 20, 1892; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, passim; Charles Bradlaugh, “Autobiography of Charles Bradlaugh” (1873), passim; A.S. Headlingley, “Biography of Charles Bradlaugh (1880), pp. 99-100; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 60.]

The opposition to Secularism in the Bradlaugh era not only fired the Secularists to greater exertion in behalf of their program, but helped familiarize the public with the rising Secularist ideas; and the net result of all this was that the cause of Secularism was strengthened.


British Secularism was not from first to last an isolated and detached concern. In the course of the Bradlaugh epoch it began to maintain a connection with international organized Freethought. The opportunity for such affiliation came with the formation, in 1880, of the International Federation of Freethinkers which, organized on the initiative of the Freethinkers of Belgium, held meetings from time to time, in such urban centers as Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Brussels, for the discussion of Freethought matters. British Secularism was represented on the Council of the Federation, and delegates for the British Secularists attended Federation meetings. In 1936 the name International Federation of Freethinkers was changed to the World Union of Freethinkers. Secularist affiliation with the international body did not appreciably affect the aims, practices, or fortunes of the British Secular Movement. [“National Reformer,” passim; “Freethinker,” passim; British Secular Almanac for 1881″ (1880), p. 10.]



Because of the conditions discussed early in these pages, the British Secular Movement, from its beginning to the year 1885, was, on the whole, a growing enterprise. In 1865, the year preceding the formation of the National Secular Society, there were in existence about 25 local Secular societies. In 1885 there were some four or five independent local bodies and 102 branches of the National Secular Society. The total number of Secularists in 1871 included slightly more than 1,000 members of the National Secular Society plus a smaller number of persons attached to local independent societies. In 1880 the total Secularist enrollment embraced approximately 6,000 affiliates of the National Secular Society together with a handful of other persons. Though the total Secular membership in 1885 is not precisely calculable, it was larger than in 1880 [It will be observed that the above statements relative to the number of Secularists refer to total enrollment, and not simply to the number of individuals who had paid their dues. Estimates as to paid-up membership would undoubtedly assume smaller proportions.

“Reasoner,” 1851-1861, passim; “National Reformer,” 1861-1885, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881-1885, passim; “Secular Review and Secularist,” passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), passim; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), passim; “National Secular Society’s Almanack for 1886” (1885), pp. 16 and 47.]

The history of the Secular Movement from 1885 to 1946 was marked by no such success. In fact, though there were times when the Movement increased in numerical strength, the long-range tendency was toward fewer Secular societies and a smaller number of Secularists. In 1890, the last year of the Bradlaugh epoch, there were three or four local independent bodies and approximately 62 branches of the National Secular Society. In 1946 some 32 branches of the national organization existed along (possibly) with one independent society. Exact membership figures for the period are not available, but it may be said the Secularist leaders of these years did not claim unprecedented numbers. [“Freethinker,” 1885 ff., passim; “National Reformer,” 1885-1893, passim; “Secular Almanack,” passim; H. Percy Ward, “To the Secular Party,” “Truth Seeker,” April 1903; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 11, 261.]

By the end of the Bradlaugh period, then, the British Secular Movement had already attained its largest proportions and had entered upon a long period of lessened success. This adverse development was connected with the mitigation of the harsh circumstances which had oppressed the working classes and which therefore inspired the Secular Movement. When the Secular Movement began to languish, these unfavorable conditions had, indeed, been extensively ameliorated. The political submergence of the working classes, to begin with, was by no means so complete as it once had been. It is true that the hereditary element persisted in the government, and that woman suffrage had not been introduced. Nevertheless, the Reform Act of 1867, which granted the right of voting to the bulk of the male workers in the cities, had been passed, as well as the Reform Act of 1884, which admitted the mass of rural workmen to the suffrage; and, as a consequence, the interests of the great masses of the people could no longer be so readily flouted.

The economic and social condition of the working classes was somewhat improved. While long hours of work, low wages, unfavorable living conditions, and slight opportunity for wholesome recreation were still the order of the day, and while security against the hazards of unemployment, sickness, and invalidity were still unprovided for, the situation of the laboring masses, at least in the cities, was not so desperate as it once had been. Wages were on the whole not quite so low, and hours of work not quite so long. Then, too, recreational opportunities were somewhat improved — thanks to the introduction of Sunday music in the parks and to the opening on Sundays of various libraries, art galleries, and museums.

Educational facilities for the poor had undergone favorable development. Though a nation-wide. system of government- controlled schools providing in all cases Secular education did not exist. the government had set up schools — following the Education Act of 1870 — in localities where the private schools were not providing educational training, and had authorized the officials in these state schools to withhold religious instruction from any child whose parent or guardian requested that it be withheld.

Barriers and threats to intellectual freedom, too, were less in evidence. Interference with the popular platform and press did now and then take place. Equality before the law for every shade of opinion, however, was less far from achievement than had earlier been the case. It is true that discriminations were still the rule. The right of Freethinkers to affirm instead of taking the oath, for instance, did not exist in all cases: it was not operative in Scotland, and even in England it was not extended to Members-elect of Parliament or to jurymen, nor was it permitted in interlocutory proceedings. Then, too, the State Church continued as before, and the blasphemy laws remained unrepealed. Nevertheless, headway had been made through the passage of the Evidence Amendment Acts (1869 and 1870), which granted to non-religious persons the right of affirmation in courts of justice.

Finally, the Church was beginning to be somewhat less out of harmony with working-class interests. Though most Churchmen remained in large part occupied with other worldly affairs and with supporting traditional upper-class interests, a somewhat increased number were now active on behalf of improved conditions for the masses. In the Church of England the Guild of St. Matthew, which had been founded in 1877, and which manifested the same interest in the welfare of the workers that had been shown by Maurice and Kingsley, was encouraging dissatisfaction with existing abuses. Indeed. the Rev. Stuart Headlam, who was the foremost propagandist associated with the Guild. was as tireless in his efforts to improve the welfare of the masses as any Secularist. And in the free churches friends of such popular causes as democracy, social reform, secular education, and Church disestablishment were active.

The seduction of the evils which prompted the Secular Movement naturally weakened the incentive to a campaign against them; and when the stimulus to action had been sufficiently undermined, the waning of the Secular Movement began.


The event bringing to a close the Bradlaugh period and marking the advent of a new epoch in Secularist history was the resignation of Bradlaugh as President of the National Secular Society. Bradlaugh resigned on the heels of a serious illness which left him without the strength requisite for doing all that he had been doing since the beginning of 1886, which, as will be recalled, involved labors in Parliament as well as among the Secularists. Even before sickness had overtaken him, however, Bradlaugh had already intimated to the National Secular Society, at its Annual Conference in the spring of 1889, that he expected to retire from the presidency after one more year of service. It is probable that Bradlaugh desired to expend the major portion of his remaining energies within the precincts of Parliament, and that action upon this desire was precipitated by illness. Bradlaugh’s resignation was offered (and regretfully accepted) on February 16, 1890. [“National Reformer.” October 27, 1889, to February 23, 1890; “Freethinker,” June 16 and November 17, 1889, and December 30, 1906; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), Pt. One, II, 87 and 89-90, and Pt. Two (by J.M. Robertson), 408-411.]

The proffer and acceptance of the resignation of Bradlaugh took place at a special general meeting in London, of the members of the National Secular Society which had been convoked by Bradlaugh, and at this same meeting G.W. Foote was elected by acclamation as Bradlaugh’s successor. [“Resignation of Mr. Bradlaugh,” “National Reformer,” February 23, 1890; G.W. Foote. “To the Members of the National Secular Society,” “Freethinker,” February 23, 1890.]

After a generation of militant service as President of the National Secular Society, Foote died (October 17, 1915), and was succeeded in office by Chapman Cohen, who, in November, 1946, was still occupying the post. [“Freethinker,” 1890-1946; “National Reformer,” 1890-1893.]

Since we are already well acquainted with Foote, it will be necessary at this point only to make a few introductory statements concerning Chapman Cohen. Though philosophically inclined, Cohen is also interested in practical reform, and is thus well suited by temperament to serve as Secularist leader. He also possesses abilities useful to the head of a propagandist organization, in that he is a cogent writer and speaker. And the amount of labor he has devoted to the Secularist cause year after year is nothing less than prodigious. In view of all this, it is not surprising that his services as President of the National Secular Society have evoked general satisfaction among his colleagues.

Cohen was born of Jewish parentage on September 1, 1868, at Leicester. His formal educational training was slight, but he read persistently on his own initiative, particularly in the field of philosophy. Largely through his philosophical studies, he developed views compatible with Secularism, and in 1889 began to lecture in the Secular Movement. Beginning in 1895, he was elected each year as a Vice-President of the National Secular Society. Early in his career as a Secularist he was recognized as Foote’s chief colleague, and his election to succeed Foote as President of the National Secular Society came in fulfillment of a general expectation. [Chapman Cohen, “Almost an Autobiography” (1940), pp. 26-123; “Truth Seeker,” March, 1895; “Cohen, Chapman,” “Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists” (1920), by Joseph McCabe; J.M. Robertson, “A History of Freethought in the 19th Century” (1930), II, 590; “Freethinker,” October 23, 1892, to April 23, 1936, passim.]

Inasmuch as the administrations of Foote and Cohen had much in common, the history of the Secular Movement in the period extending from 1890 to 1946 may conveniently be surveyed as a unit; and since Foote and Cohen, each in his day, were the outstanding leaders of the Movement, the period may fittingly be designated as the Foote-Cohen era.

The doctrines and purposes of the Secularist Movement in the Bradlaugh era, which themselves, either explicitly or by implication, were essentially those of the earlier Secularist epoch, continued, with slight variations, to be those which underlay Secularist action throughout the Foote-Cohen epoch, Though no complete enumeration of them appears in any single document, a satisfactory description of their more general features is contained in a statement entitled “Principles and Objects” which was issued in 1935, while a document “Immediate Practical Objects of the National Secular Society” (1893) contains an adequate account of their details.

The document bearing the title “Principles and Objects” runs as follows:

“Secularism affirms that this life is the only one of which we have knowledge, and that human effort should be wholly directed towards its improvement; it asserts that supernaturalism is based upon ignorance, and assails it as the historic enemy of progress.

“Secularism affirms that progress is only possible on the basis of equal freedom of speech and publication; it affirms that liberty belongs of right to all and that the free criticism of a[unreadable]ignation as Vice-President of the National Secular Society occurring on February 26, 1890, her last contribution to the National Reformer appearing in the issue of April 8, 1891, and her final appearance on a Secularist platform not taking place, despite a “farewell speech” delivered to Secularists on August 30, 1891, until 1893. [Annie Besant, “Why I Became a Theosophist” (1889); Annie Besant, “Annie Besant” (1893), pp. 202-203, 299-306, 306 ff., 314, 320-321, and 329-364; “National Reformer, ” 1884-1893, passim; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1893), Pt. One, 1, 14-15, and Pt. Two (by J.M, Robertson), pp. 63, 382-383, and 407; “Mrs. Besant on Herself and Others,” “Freethinker,” January 25, 1891; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” August 6, 1905; G.W. Foote, “The New Year.” “Freethinker,” January 1, 1893; H.M. Hyndman, “Further Reminiscences,” (1912), p. 6.]

J.M. Robertson abandoned the Movement. He withdrew from the Executive of the National Secular Society, in 1892, because of displeasure over a decision made by the Executive as to the disposition of funds contributed toward a memorial for Bradlaugh. In May, 1893; after the fore-going action of the Executive was approved by the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society, he resigned his membership in the Society. He disappeared entirely in October, 1893, when the National Reformer, the editorship of which he had assumed, as will be seen, upon Bradlaugh’s death, failed. [“National Reformer,” 1891-1893, passim; “Freethinker,” 1891-1905, passim.]

On January 22, when in his 89th year, Holyoake died. Holyoake’s Secularist activity, which was less extensive in the Bradlaugh period than in the preceding era, had lessened still more in the Foote-Cohen epoch, in fact, his services for many years were definitely limited. There were intervals, indeed, when he held himself almost entirely aloof from Secular circles. No doubt all this was due to his disapproval of the extent to which anti-Christian agitation was carried on by the bulk of the secularist party, as well as to a critical attitude which he often manifested towards his successors in the chieftainship of the Secular Movement, and (latterly) to his advanced years. But whatever the causes, his comparative inactivity was a fact. Nevertheless, throughout all this time he was identified with the Movement, and even after the beginning of the Foote-Cohen era had served for four years as a Vice-President of the National Secular Society and for some two years (though no doubt merely nominally) as President of the British Secular League. Now at last, however, death withdrew him. [“Freethinker,” July 24, 1892, to February 4, 1906, passim); “National Reformer,” January 17, 1867, to June 4, 1893, passim; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), I, 334, and II, passim; J.M. Robertson, “A History of Freethought in the 19th Century” (1930), II, 440; Hypitia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1894), I, 35.]

In 1891 occurred an event which gave promise of offsetting to some degree the loss of the services of these well-known persons. Charles Watts, who upon the failure of the British Secular Union had accepted a Freethought “pastorate” in Canada, returned to Great Britain and once more became affiliated with the National Secular Society. [“National Reformer,” 1866-1892, passim; “Freethinker,” 1890-1906, passim; F.J, Gould, “The Pioneers of Johnson’s Court” (1929), p. 6; William Kent, “London Heretics” (1932), pp, 72-74,]

For several years Watts labored for the Secularist cause, as a writer and speaker, and as a Vice-President of the National Secular Society. But these efforts were destined to come to a close sooner than might generally have been expected. In the Freethinker for March 17, 1901, an unusual and interesting advertisement made its appearance. It declared that George Anderson (a Secularist) had invited Charles A. Watts (son of Charles Watts and founder of the Rationalist Press Association), in conjunction with a few trusted friends, to arrange for the building of a Freethought Institute in London, to the cost and endowment of which Anderson was to contribute 15,000 pounds after the like sum had been contributed by others. The advertisement went on to state the aim of the promoters was to establish a comprehensive society embracing all sections of the Freethought and ethical movements, and to request those in sympathy with the project to communicate with Charles A. Watts. Although the scheme discussed in the advertisement fell through, it led (among other things) to the cessation of Watts’ Secularist labors. Foote, who declared he had not been consulted by the promoters, and who resented the whole affair, charged Watts with being secretly connected with the project and with aspiring to be the resident lecturer of the Institute. Watts denied the charge, but the two men grew increasingly embittered. Finally, in July, 1902, Watts resigned his office of Vice-President of the National Secular Society and the Executive of the National Secular Society (who sided with Foote) countered by erasing Watts’s name from the rolls of the Society. Watts then became a lecturer for the Rationalist Press Association. [“National Reformer,” 1991-1893, “Freethinker,” 1894-1906, passim.]

It will be recalled, of course, that in 1915 G.W. Foote died, and that more than half a century ago Chapman Cohen began his long career of distinguished leadership in the Movement.


Secularist efforts to assist in the propagation of Secularism by means of publications of one sort or another were continued in the Foote-Cohen era and met with a mixture of success and failure. In the field of periodical publications, an early development was the failure of the National Reformer. The circulation of the Reformer had already begun to decline when, on the death of Bradlaugh, J.M. Robertson assumed the editorship, prepared in the main to follow the editorial policies so long pursued by Bradlaugh himself. Inasmuch as under Robertson’s editorship subscriptions continued to fall off, there was no choice but to bring the existence of the journal to an end. The final issue of the paper was that of October 1, 1893. [“National Reformer,” February 22, 1891, to October 1, 1893, passim; “Robertson, Rt. Hon. John MacKinnon,” “Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists” (1920), by Joseph McCabe; “Robertson, Rt. Hon. John MacKinnon,” “Who’s Who” (British), 1932; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 254.]

In 1894 the merchant, J.W. Gott, together with one John Grange and a man named Wakefield, launched at Bradford a Secularist journal called the Truth Seeker. Starting as a monthly publication, the paper later was issued at irregular intervals. The advocacy of Secularist principles and Freethought agitation both appeared in its pages. The Truth Seeker was a regional paper, serving primarily the district around Bradford. After a few years the Truth Seeker went out of existence apparently in 1905. [“National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” May 20, 1894; “Truth Seeker,” 1894-1905; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” August 4, 1901.]

A Secularist local journal, the monthly Leicester Reasoner, was started by F.J. Gould, Secretary of the Leicester Secular Society, in March, 1902. With the issue of February, 1903, however, this paper died. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” March 10 and November 9, 1902, and January 4, 1903; “Leicester Secular Society and Institute,” “Freethinker,” Nov. 23, 1902.]

As a possible means of reaching a wider public than was reached by the militant Freethinker, Foote undertook the publication of a Secularists monthly journal bearing an “inoffensive” title and adopting a policy which was less aggressive. The new periodical — which was named the Pioneer — was brought out on January 1, 1903. Though such “notorious” Secularists as Foote and Cohen wrote for the paper, they used pseudonyms, in an effort to attract readers that might otherwise be frightened away. The new venture was not successful. The readers of the Pioneer, in general, turned out to be persons who were already reading the Freethinker. The paper did not make converts for Secularism, and, besides, it failed to pay its way financially. In less than 18 months after it made its initial appearance, its existence was terminated. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” November 23 and December 21, 1902; G.W. Foote, “The Pioneer,” “Freethinker,” June 5, 1904.]

Upon the death of Foote in 1915, the Freethinker passed into the editorial hands of Mr. Chapman Cohen, who rededicated the paper to the Secularist cause, and who conducted it year after year with the same fearless aggressiveness as that practiced for almost 35 years by his predecessor. In the autumn of 1946, though the Freethinker had attained a longevity far exceeding that of any other Secularist periodical, it still manifested the spirit of youth. [“Freethinker,” all numbers; Chapman Cohen, “Almost an Autobiography,” (.1940), pp. 118-135.]

As in former years, the Secularists of the era under consideration were able to issue publications calculated to propagate Secularist and anti-theological principles books and pamphlets by Secularists and others. Conspicuous in the list were such works as J.W. Draper’s ‘History of the Conflict Between Science and Religion,’ and biographies such as Joseph McCabe’s ‘George Jacob Holyoake,’ J.M. Robertson’s ‘Charles Bradlaugh,’ C.T. Gorham’s ‘Robert Ingersoll,’ J.M. Robertson’s ‘Voltaire,’ and Guy A. Aldred’s ‘Richard Carlile.’ This propagandist work of the Secularists suffered a blow in connection with the present war. Many of the publications ready for distribution from the headquarters of the National Secular Society in London were destroyed, on May 10, 1941, by fire resulting from an enemy air raid; and the production of new copies — any new treatises — was rendered difficult by the shortage of paper. [“Freethinker,” 1890-1946. passim; “Truth Seeker,” passim; “Secular Almanack,” passim; Executive of the National Secular Society, “General Information for Freethinkers” (1921), p. 10.]

A succession of publishing — or printing and publishing — concerns in London served the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen period. The Bradlaugh-Besant firm — the Freethought Publishing Company — which had been founded in 1877, entered the new epoch, but soon afterwards was dissolved. One cause of the dissolution was, of course, the intellectual differences which had developed between Bradlaugh and Annie Besant — differences which carried Mrs. Besant out of the Secularist Movement. Another factor in the situation was Bradlaugh’s declining health. A third reason for the step was the fact that the expensive Fleet Street establishment, even in those early days of waning Secularist strength, was fast becoming an intolerable financial burden. The dissolution took place in December, 1890. [“National Reformer,” August 3 and December 21, 1890; Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Charles Bradlaugh” (1893), Pt. One, II, 15, and Pt. Two (by J.M. Robertson), pp. 47 and 48; Geoffrey West. “Life of Annie Besant” (1929), pp. 106-109.] Robert Forder now became the Secularist publisher — at 28 Stonecutter Street; but in 1899 a Freethought Publishing Company, Limited, was formed by Foote, and Forder became (for a time) one of its Directors. At first the Freethought Publishing Company, Limited, was located at 28 Stonecutter Street, but in April, 1900, No. 1 Stationer’s Hall Court became its address, and it moved to No. 2 Newcastle Street in March, 1902. In July of the same year it added printing to its activities. The Freethought Publishing Company, Limited, was not successful financially, and in 1908 it was dissolved. Foote now operated for Secularist purposes a personally owned concern — The Pioneer Press, Located at the outset at 2 Newcastle Street, the Pioneer Press was moved, on March 25, 1915, to 61 Farrington Street. Upon the death of Foote, in 1915, the Pioneer Press was converted into a company — G.W. Foote and Company, Limited — with nearly the whole of the shares being held initially) by Mrs. Foote. This concern — often referred to as “The Pioneer Press (G.W. Foote and Company, Limited) — remained at 61 Farringdon Street until the premises were destroyed by fire on May 10, 1941. Soon after the fire a new location was found at 2 and 3 Furnival Street, Holborn. In September, 1945, the address of the firm became 41 Gray’s Inn Road. [“National Reformer,” August. 3, 1890; “Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; “Secular Almanack,” passim.]


The meetings which the Secularists held on Sundays in Secular halls, the Secular outdoor meetings in the parks, the debates between Secularists and non-Secularists, and the Secular ceremonies utilized in connection with the naming of the children of Secularists and with Secularist funerals continued in the Foote-Cohen era to be prominent features of organized Secularism. Both with respect to their character and the arrangements attending them, these exercises followed along the lines previously laid down. There were, however, certain new developments in connection with them, and these should be noticed.

As an addition to the song books already available for use in connection with meetings arranged by the Secularists, one of the most devoted and industrious of Secularists, Joseph Mazzini Wheeler, compiled in the first decade of the era under consideration a work entitled ‘Freethought Readings and Secular Songs.’ The selections contained in the volume were expressive of the Secularist ideal of devotion to individual and social well- being, and included compositions by Algernon Charles Swinburne, Giordano Bruno, Leigh Hunt, Omar Khayyam, Margaret Fuller, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and many other writers. [J.M. Wheeler, “Freethought Readings and Secular Songs” (189?).]

A Secular song book was also compiled, at the request of Sidney Gimson and F.J. Gould, of the Leicester Secular Society, by Emily Josephine Troup. The volume was entitled ‘Hymns of Modern Thought,’ and was published in 1900. It contained music along with the words of the pieces: included in it, and gave expression to the social aspiration associated with Secular doctrine. [F.J. Gould, “Life-Story of a Humanist” (1922), p. 91.]

The lists of Secularists who at one time or another in the new era were prominent in connection with Secularist meetings and debates, as well as the list of non-Secularists who in the course of the period enjoyed prominence in debate against the Secularists, differed, of course, from earlier lists. Among the outstanding Secularist lecturers in the new era were Foote, Mrs. Thorton Smith, Touzeau Perris, Arthur B. Moss, J.M. Robertson, Charles Watts, Holyoake, W. Heaford, Joseph Symes, Stanley Jones, Cohen, J.T. Lloyd, W.J. Ramsey, R.H. Rossetti, George Whitehead, George Bedborough, J.T. Brighton, and J. Clayton. The list of well-known Secularist debaters now embraced Foote, Charles Watts, J.M. Robertson, W. Heaford, Cohen, Stanley Jones, and George Whitehead. The better known of those who in this era opposed the Secularists in debate included the Rev. S. Brennan, the Rev. J.F.B. Finling, the Rev. F.W. Ford, the Rev. J.M. Logan, the Rev. J. Moffatt, the Rev. C. Fleming Williams, the Rev. Daniel Macrae, Dr. Alexander Jamieson, President of the Glasgow Protestant Laymen’s Association, the Rev. W.T. Lee, W.S. Clarke, of the Christian Defense Association, the Rev. H.W. Dick, the Rev. A.J. Waldron, the Rev. Arthur J. Dade, the Rev. B.J. Coles, Noah Railey, of the Christian Evidence Society, the Rev. W. Hatch, the Rev. R.H. Homer, G.R. Samsays, Editor of the Birmingham ‘Weekly Mercury,’ Canon Storr, the Rev. W.H. Claxton, the Rev. D. Richards, N. Barbanell, Vice-President of the Spiritualist National Union, the Rev. D. Nixon, the Rev. J. Hogg, the Rev, D. Richards, the Rev. J.H. Mowers, G.H. Hicks, General Secretary of the New Church Evidence Society, and Capt. B. Acworth, of the Evolution Protest Movement. [“National Reformer,” 1890-1893, passim; “Freethinker,” 1890-1946.]


The Secularists of the Foote-Cohen period continued without interruption the Secularist efforts of earlier eras to promote the spread and application of Secular principles. A considerable portion of their efforts was directed towards furthering the acceptance of the broad doctrines making up the Secularist ethical philosophy. Secularist lecturers endeavored to diffuse among the masses of the people the conviction that the service of man is man’s moral duty; that such service can be achieved only by natural means; and that it should be guided by the light of secular knowledge. [See “Sunday Lecture Notice,” “Sugar Plums,” “Sunday Meetings” and “Mr. Foote’s Engagement in “Freethinker,” passim.]

Along with attempting to propagate the broad principles of Secularism, the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen era gave attention in their agitation to the less-basic portion of the Secular program. It is true that one or two items in this section seem to have been neglected. It is also true that certain Secularists, later to be noticed, did not work in behalf of some of the points. But with these exceptions, the Secularists labored zealously in this sphere.

In the governmental sphere, they attempted, for one thing, to secure the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Secularist republican agitation, it is true, was strictly limited in extent. Nevertheless, Foote and other Secularists now and then lectured to this end. [Ibid.]

Scattered Secularist efforts were also made to secure the abolition of the House of Lords. In 1894 the National Secular Society became affiliated with the National League for the Abolition of the House of Lords, while in the same year Foote and a fellow Secularist, A.B. Moss, spoke at a great demonstration which the League held in Hyde Park. Besides this, a Secularist lecture was from time to time directed against the House of Lords, and in 1910 the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society carried a resolution to the effect that any reform of “a Second Chamber” that might be undertaken should call for the abolition of the hereditary principle, as well as for the abandonment of the practice of granting membership to bishops and archbishops of the Church of England on the strength of their ecclesiastical positions. [“National Secular Society,” “Freethinker,” February 22, 1894; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” August 26 and September 2, 1894; “Sunday Lecture Notices,” “Freethinker,” passim; “National Secular Society’s Annual Conference,” “Freethinker,” May 22, 1910.]

Universal suffrage, too, was demanded. Inasmuch as the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 had brought about a situation in which virtually all men enjoyed the right to vote, Secularist interest in promoting the achievement of universal suffrage found expression in the Foote-Cohen period only in connection with the idea of votes for women; but in this sphere some action was in evidence. There was passed, in 1913, by the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society, a resolution in which the principle of woman suffrage was endorsed. It will be observed that the resolution was carried in the period preceding the close of the First World War. Any agitation that might otherwise have been undertaken after the war was rendered unnecessary by the legislative enactments of 1918 and 1928, which granted suffrage to women. [“National Secular Society’s Annual Conference,” “Freethinker,” May 25, 1913; G.W. Foote, “Women and Freethought,” “Freethinker,” November 11, 1906; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II. 296.]

The Secularists of the Foote-Cohen period endeavored in various ways to improve the lot of the masses. One part of this work was an attempt to provide wholesome recreation for Secularists and their friends. Many social functions were arranged for this purpose, and these took quite a variety of forms, including teas, dances, concerts, dinners, dramatic entertainments, picnics, and excursions. [“Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; “National Reformer,” 1890-1893, passim; “Branches of the National Secular Society,” “Secular, Almanack for 1894” (1893), pp. 39-43; F.J. Gould, “Life Story of a Humanist” (1923), pp. 85 and 88-89.]

The Secularists likewise maintained a “Benevolent Fund” which, derived from contributions and from the proceeds of entertainments, was utilized to alleviate the suffering of Secularists in distress, Though the sums on hand were always small, deserving applicants were given some assistance. [“Benevolent Fund,” “To Correspondents,” “Sugar Plums,” “National Secular Society,” and “Sunday Meetings,” “Freethinker,” passim; “Ball’s Pond Secular Sick and Tontine Society,” “Secular Almanack for 1894” (1893), p. 44; “Branches of the National Secular Society,” “Secular Almanack for 1901” (1900), 27-29.]

In the interest of mass welfare, too, Secularist action in the Foote-Cohen era was undertaken to promote birth control. Much of this took the form of arguments in favor of the practice. In this connection the point was made, as in the two earlier Secular periods, that contraception was a means of preventing poverty due to overpopulation. In the early 90’s J.M. Robertson wrote to this effect for the National Reformer, while the Secularist George Whitehead did so in a volume entitled ‘Birth Control and Race Culture,’ which he published in 1925. The argument was also advanced (and this was apparently a new approach for the Secularists) that birth control was an avenue to better health. This viewpoint appeared in a short-lived periodical, bearing the title Birth Control, which the Secularist George Standring published in 1919. Alongside of Secularist arguments in favor of contraception, there appeared efforts by the Secularists to identify governmental agencies with its promotion. These were exemplified in a resolution passed by the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society, in 1930, urging the establishment of municipal birth-control clinics. [J.M. Robertson, “What Neo- Malthusians Teach,” “National Reformer,” November 8, 1891; George Whitehead, “Birth, Control and Race Culture” (1925); Norman E Himes, Medical history of Contraception” (1936); “National Secular Society, Report of the Annual Conference,” “Freethinker,” June 22, 1930; “Sunday Meetings,” “Freethinker,” passim; “National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” June 9, 1895.]

Paralleling these various forms of action were efforts which the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen era exerted in connection with education. The educational goal of the Secularists, as we have seen, was a system of state schools providing Secular education at public expense; and Secular educational labors were mainly directed to this end. Some effort was spent, however, in the operation, as a device for use pending the achievement of the Secularist goal, of Secular schools in connection with Secularist societies. The schools which the Secularists operated were open on Sundays or in the evening of week days, and offered instruction in both scientific and non-scientific subjects. The number of Secularist schools dwindled as the period under consideration advanced, and by the autumn of 1946 had become inconsequential. [“Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; “Guide to the Lecture Room,” “National Reformer,” 1890-1893, passim; “Branches of the National Secular Society,” “Secular Almanack for 1894” (1893), pp. 39-43, and “Secular Almanack for 1901” (1900), pp. 27-29; F.J. Gould, “life Story of a humanist” (1923), pp. 87-88.]

Secularist efforts in the interest of Secular education in state schools took a variety of forms. Down to 1900, when local school board elections were held for the last time, Secularist and other school-board candidates pledged to advocate state Secular schools were supported by Secularists, sometimes with success. Secularist writings for the cause of a state system of Secular schools made their appearance, notably in 1897 and 1902, when manifestos were issued by the National Secular Society. Demonstrations which supported Secular education by the state were held by the National Secular Society (1902), or (1904 and 1906) by the National Secular Society in collaboration with other advanced bodies, such as the Trades Union Parliamentary Committee and the Social Democratic Federation. The Executive of the National Secular Society gave financial support to the Secular Education League, which was founded in 1907, and which shared the Secularist aim of secular schools maintained and controlled by the state, while Foote and Cohen served on the Executive Committee of the League. Lectures in support of state secular education were delivered by Foote, Charles Watts, Cohen and various other Secularists. Numerous resolutions in favor of Secular education at the hands of the state were passed by Annual Conferences of the National Secular Society. Secularist parents now and then withdrew their children from religious instruction in the state schools. [“Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; “Guide to the Lecture Room,” “National Reformer,” 1891-1893; F.J. Gould, “Life Story of a Humanist” (1923), p. 92; “Obituary,” “Freethinker,” October 14, 1917.

For several months the Secularists cooperated with the Moral Instruction League, which was formed at the end of 1897 “to substitute systematic non-theological moral instruction for the present religious teaching in all State schools.” The Executive of the National Secular Society donated funds to the League and four members of the Secularist Executive — Foote, Charles Watts, Cohen, and S. Hartman — served in its Executive Committee. Secularist cooperation with the league came to a close in 1899, after the League had endorsed the use of the Bible in State schools as an instrument of moral instruction. “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” July 11, 1897, to February 6, 1898, passim; Edith M. Vance, “National Secular Society,” “Freethinker,” January 1, 1899; “National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” May 28, 1899.]

@@@@ A prominent phase of the activity undertaken by the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen era in the interest of reform in various departments of society was the campaign which they carried on for the removal of the obstacles that stood in the way of free intellectual expression. As a part of this work they sought to build up attitudes hostile to all such obstacles by pointing out the need for intellectual liberty in general. Various resolutions expressing concern over indications of an intolerant spirit which were in evidence and urging support for intellectual freedom were passed by Annual Conferences of the National Secular Society. [Edith M. Vance, “National Secular Society,” “Freethinker,” December 6, 1914, and December 9, 1917; “National Secular Society’s Annual Conference,” “Freethinker,” 1914-1946, passim.]

Besides advocating freedom of the mind in general, the Secularists opposed the violation of the principle of intellectual liberty in various restricted spheres. For one thing, they resisted interference with the press. On a number of occasions when the freedom of the press was encroached upon they sprang into action. In 1891, after a barrister-at-law, H.S. Young, had been prosecuted for sending a birth-control tract in a sealed envelope through the Post Office, and had been condemned to pay a fine and costs amounting to more than 50 pounds, Foote Cooperated with Dr. C.R. Drysdale, President of the Malthusian League, in the formation of a Free Discussion Defense Committee which held public meetings of protest against the prosecution. [“Free Discussion Defense Committee,” “Freethinker,” November 29, 1991; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” November 29, 1891, to June 12, 1892, passim; “National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” June 12, 1892.] In 1892 the Newcastle Secularists, together with a few Spiritualists, raised funds for the defense of one H. Loader, who was prosecuted for selling a medical work on the population question, and held meetings to protest against the prosecution and the sentence of a month’s imprisonment which the defendant received. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” January 10 to February 14, 1992, passim; “National Secular Society’s Conference,” “National Reformer,” June 12, 1892.] In 1898 Foote, Holyoake, Charles Watts, and J.M. Robertson cooperated with Bernard Shaw, H.M. Hyndman, and other non-Secularists in a Free Press Defense Committee formed in protest against the prosecution of George Bedborough, Secretary of the Legitimation League, for circulating various works published under the auspices of the League — though the work of the Committee was frustrated when Bedborough, through an arrangement with the prosecution, escaped the risk of imprisonment by pleading guilty. [Freethinker,” January 12, 1898, to May 28, 1899, passim.] And two or three times since the opening of the war which began in 1939, the National Secular Society, through its Executive or its Annual Conference, has passed resolutions protesting against the action of the Government in suppressing newspapers and other periodicals without a clear statement of the offense committed and without an opportunity being given the proprietors involved of defending themselves before a court of law. [“Freethinker,” 1941-1946, passim.]

The Secularists also endeavored to put an end to violations of the principle of the equality before the law of all forms of opinion. They attempted, for one thing, to bring to a close the privileges and advantages bestowed by the state upon religious interests. Their work in this direction involved first of all efforts to secure the disestablishment of the State Church — at first in all parts of Great Britain and later (after the Welsh Disestablishment Bill became law in 1914) in England and Scotland. Resolutions in favor of disestablishment were passed by some three or four Annual Conferences of the National Secular Society. [“National Secular Society’s Conference” (or equivalent title), “Freethinker,” June 14, 1903, June 14, 1914, and June 19, 1927.]

But the Secularists worked also to terminate various other benefits which the church forces enjoyed at the hands of the state. At Secularist Annual Conferences they passed resolutions condemning the exemption of places of worship from taxation, the use of religious ceremonials in connection with governmental functions, the employment of chaplains by the state, the compelling of soldiers and sailors to attend religious services, the exemption of the clergy from military service, and the broadcasting of sermons and religious services by the quasi- public British Broadcasting Corporation. [“National Secular Society’s Annual Conference” (or equivalent title), “Freethinker,” 1915-1946; Edith M. Vance, “National Secular Society,” “Freethinker,” November 11, 1917; “Sugar Plums” “Freethinker,” December 1, 1918, and May 12, 1929; Executive of the National Secular Society, “General Information for Freethinkers” (1921), pp. 6-7.

Resolutions less thoroughgoing than those referred to above in connection with religious broadcasting were also passed by Secularist Annual Conferences. From time to time the British Broadcasting Corporation was condemned for not providing alternate programs at those times when religious exercises were presented. Apparently these milder resolutions were passed as offering greater promise of early fulfillment than the others. “National Secular Society’s Annual Conference” (or equivalent title), “Freethinker” May 25, 1930, Jane 7, 1921, and May 20, 1937.]

In the interest of an equal status in the eyes of the law for all varieties of opinion, efforts were likewise made by the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen era to secure the repeal of the blasphemy laws. Lectures were delivered, and in 1922 Cohen brought out a pamphlet entitled ‘Blasphemy: A Plea for Religious Equality.’ Then, too, Parliamentary candidates and Members of Parliament were repeatedly urged to work for the cause, and when bills calling for the repeal of the blasphemy laws were introduced into Parliament, Secularist support was invariably given to them. Besides all this, in 1922 the Secularists took the initiative in the formation of the Society for the Abolition of the Blasphemy Laws; and, after the organization was launched, cooperated with it year after year, Cohen and other Secularists serving on its Executive Committee. [“National Reformer,” 1891-1893, passim; “Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; Chapman Cohen, “Blasphemy: A Plea for Religious Equality” (1932)]

A further part of the Secularist effort in the Foote-Cohen era to secure for all opinions an equal footing before the law took the form of an attempt to bring about legislation which would insure the payment of legacies to Secularist and other Freethought bodies. It will be recalled that preceding the establishment in 1898 of the Secular Society, Limited, bequests of Secular societies had been withheld from them by the courts, when appealed to, on the ground that their use by the Secularists would constitute a violation of the blasphemy laws. The Secularist agitation for the repeal of the blasphemy laws had been designed in part to remedy this situation, but after long years of effort success in getting the blasphemy laws repealed still seemed remote; and in 1890 the Annual Conference of the National Secular Society decided that action was desirable looking to legislation specifically authorizing the payment of Freethought bequests.

The Conference requested Bradlaugh, who was then a Member of Parliament, to do what he could for the cause. Bradlaugh did nothing, for one reason or another, but the matter was nevertheless pushed. Holyoake formed a Liberty of Bequest Committee which persuaded a Member of Parliament for Northampton, Mr. Manfield, to introduce a bill legalizing the payment of Freethought bequests, and the National Secular Society gave the measure its support. [“National Reformer,” 1890-1893, passim; “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” September 28, 1890, and November 21, 1891; G.W. Foote, “Mr. Holyoake’s Bill,” “Freethinker,” December 27, 1891; F.J. Gould, “Chats with Pioneers of Modern Thought” (1898), p. 43; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), II, 199-204; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), 11, 264-265 and 344.]

Secularist efforts to secure legislation which specifically authorized the payment of bequests to Freethought bodies did not long persist. The bill introduced by Manfield was blocked, and, no further prospects of success appearing, the Liberty of Bequest Committee before long vanished, while the National Secular Society began once more to devote all its available energies to the work of striving for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. [“National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” May 20, 1894, and May 31, 1896; G.J. Holyoake, “Bygones Worth Remembering” (1905), II, 199-204; Joseph McCabe, “Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake” (1908), II, 264-265.]

We have seen in another connection that after the establishment of the Secular Society, Limited, bequests intended for Secularist use which were willed to the Secular Society, Limited, regularly came into the possession of the Secularists, and that an appeal to the courts to withhold such a bequest resulted in failure (1917).


Secularist efforts to advance the principles of Secularism were only a part of the Secular activity in the Foote-Cohen era. Energetic attempts were also made to undermine the strength and influence of organized religion. Indeed, a, large portion of the Secularist energies of the period went into this work; for not only did the Secularists virtually all participate in it, but some Secularists, fearing that the already diminished Secular Movement would be further reduced by disagreements growing out of a greatly diversified program, and arguing that practically all Secularists could endorse anti-church agitation and intimately connected endeavors, devoted all their energies to attacking the churches and to the furtherance of those Secular teachings (notably the doctrines of secular education and freedom of thought) which were intimately bound up with the religious issue. If the early Secularists devoted a proportionately large share of their strength to the spread of the principles of Secularism at the expense of anti-religious agitation, and the Secularists of the Bradlaugh period expended relatively equal energies on the propagation of the Secular principles and on campaigning against the churches, the Secularists of the Foote-Cohen era devoted a proportionately large share of their energies to anti-church (and closely related) agitation. [“National Secular Society’s Conference” (or equivalent title), “National Reformer,” May 27, 1888, and June 1, 1890; G.W. Foote, “Past, Present, and Future,” “National Secular Society’s Almanack for 1894” (1893), pp. 15-16; F.J. Gould, “Chats with Pioneers of Modern Thought” (1898), p. 43; “Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim.

Both Foote and Cohen sometimes wrote in favor of the restriction of Secularist agitation to Freethought and closely related matters, but neither thus consistently restricted his own propagandist efforts. “Freethinker,” 1890 and afterwards, passim.]

In their anti-church campaign the Secularists of the Foote- Cohen era attempted to discredit alike the teachings of Christianity and the role of the Church in history. The arguments which they used in the main resembled the Secularist arguments of earlier epochs, and like them were based largely upon modern thought and knowledge. They made their appearance in articles and pamphlets and in lectures.

There was produced a sizeable collection of articles and pamphlets. Foote brought out such hard-hitting publications as ‘Is the Bible Inspired?’ (1890) and ‘The Book of God in the Light of the Higher Criticism’ (1897?). J.M. Wheeler published ‘Paganism in Christian Festivals’ (1895). The Secularist ex- clergyman, J.T. Lloyd, came along with ‘Prayer: Its Origin, History, and Futility’ (1916), and ‘God-eating: A Study of Christianity and Cannibalism’ (1921). George Whitehead issued, among other publications, ‘Sex and Religion’ (1930). Various other Secularists also contributed pamphlets and articles, and Cohen year after year put out forceful publications, typical among which were ‘Christianity and Social Ethics’ (1910)), ‘Women and Christianity: the Subjection and Exploitation of a Sex’ (1919), and ‘A Grammar of Freethought’ (1921). [Numerous anti- Christian pamphlets and articles of the period are listed in the bibliography.]

Lectures against the churches were delivered in great numbers. In the course of the period Foote, J.M. Robertson, George Standring, Charles Watts, Cohen, Touzeau Parris, Stanley Jones, Sam Standring, W. Heaford, A.B. Moss, W.J. Ramsey, Robert Forder, H. Snell, H. Percy Ward, and many other Secularists participated in this work. Representative of the titles of the Secularist anti-church lectures are the following: “Pagan Origin of Christianity,” “Miracles of the Bible: Are They true?” “Christianity and Civilization,” “Credibility of the Gospels,” “The Teachings of Jesus Opposed to True Morals,” “Christian Opposition to Science,” “The Evolution of the Devil,” “God’s Favorites,” “The Bible Not Inspired,” “God and Morality,” “Buddha, Confucius, and Christ,” “The Dishonesty of the Church,” “Christianity the Enemy of Progress,” “The Drawback of Theism,” “Does God Answer Prayer?” “The Decay of Christianity,” “Christism’s Oppression of Women,” “The Bible Fetish,” “Christianity the Enemy of Medical Science,” “The Christian God an Impossibility,” “Self-reliance versus Trust in God,” “Freethought Martyrs,” “The Trinity Puzzle,” and “Religion the Enemy of Man.” [“Guide to the Lecture Room,” “National Reformer,” 1890-1893, passim; “Sunday Meetings,” “Mr. Foot’s Engagement” “Sunday Lecture Notices,” and “Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim.]


Opposition to Secularism was in evidence among supporters of Christianity in the Foote-Cohen era. This took the form partly of a number of legal actions against minor Secularist agitators on the ground of violation of the blasphemy laws. In 1911, 1913, and 1914 prison sentences totaling 10 months were meted out to Thomas William Stuart for uttering “blasphemous” remarks while lecturing. In 1912 Stephen Edward Bullock was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for using “blasphemous” language at a meeting. In 1911, 1917, and 1921 prison sentences aggregating 23 months and two weeks were imposed on J.W. Gott for publishing “blasphemous” matter in pamphlet form. [Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, “Penalties Upon Opinions” (2d ed., 1913), pp. 106-109; “Freethinker,” 1911-1921, passim.]

Anti-Secularist activity also found expression in rough and noisy forms. Sometimes hooting, groaning, and jeering were directed at Secular speakers. Various Secularist lecturers were jostled off their platforms, and some were pelted with stones or clods or rotten oranges. Now and then after a Secularist meeting a howling crowd would follow the speaker to his bus or lodging. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” 1890-1946, passim; “Bethnal Green Branch of the National Secular Society,” “National Reformer,” September 27, 1891; “National Secular Society’s Conference,” “Freethinker,” June 6, 1909; Chapman Cohen, Almost in Autobiography” (1940), pp. 72-78.]

Light is thrown on a typical example of this sort of opposition by the following account of what took place on November 30, 1893, in connection with a lecture which Foote attempted at Ryhope:

“When Mr. Foote entered the hall he was cheered by a part of the audience, and hooted and groaned at by another part. Mr. Weightman, of Sunderland, took the chair, and appealed for fair play, but he might as well have expostulated with a hurricane. The meeting was a perfect pandemonium. Mr. Foote … for the best part of an hour … held his ground, speaking all the time and getting a minute’s hearing whenever possible…. Some discussion followed the lecture, and every time Mr. Foote rose to reply the disorder was renewed. Finally some wretch turned the gas (lights) off, and threw the hall into darkness. It required some discretion, and a free use of matches, for the lecturer and his friends to get out of the building. Some of the bigots followed him to the miner’s cottage he went to for a few minutes before walking to the station. Here they made diabolical noises, mingled with cries of ‘Pull him out.’ But they did not seem to like the idea of beginning that business, and eventually Mr. Foote walked safely to the station with the little band of Sunderland friends and two or three members of the new Ryhope Branch. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” December 10, 1893.]

Finally, there were occasional efforts to strike at Secularism in debates, or through replies to Secularist lectures, or by withholding halls from the Secularists. [“Freethinker”‘ 1890-1946, passim.]

Opposition to Secularism in the Foote-Cohen era was less pronounced than it had been in the two earlier periods of Secularist history. Even before the close of the Bradlaugh epoch anti-Secularist activity began to be noticeably less in evidence, and as the Foote-Cohen period advanced it became so reduced that it was no longer a major source of disturbance to the Secularists. [“National Reformer,” 1860-1893, passim; “Reasoner,” 1852-1861, passim; “Freethinker,” 1881-1946, passim.]

In considerable part all this was due to a growth of the spirit of religious tolerance in the period of the waning opposition, and to the fact that the decline of the Secular Movement which took place during these years caused it to be less feared as a disturber of vested interests and cherished beliefs. A factor of greater importance, however, was the progress of Secularism. Not only did the Secular principle of the promotion of human welfare upon earth become increasingly prominent among Christians of the period, but many of the various lesser features of the Secular program came to be more generally embraced by them; and these developments naturally helped a great deal to undermine the opposition to Secularism.


The British Secular movement was by no means out of harmony with a significant section of British aspiration and sentiment. As a matter of fact, the desires and aims of the Secularists were, in their essentials, held in high esteem by many other Britishers. If the Secularists desired to see advanced the principle that the service of man by natural and enlightened means constitutes the sum total of man’s duty, others shared the same desire. If the Secularists endeavored to achieve democracy, they were not alone in their effort. If better conditions for the masses were a Secularist object, so were they sought by many non- Secularists. If the Secularists desired a state-controlled system of schools affording Secular education, others shared their desire. If greater intellectual freedom was a Secular tenet, so was it an item of belief for many others. And if the Secularists wished to discredit a reactionary church, others did, too.

Despite the essential harmony between the Secularist aspirations and a great deal of British sentiment, the proportions of the organized Secularist undertaking were never really large. Even in the best years of the Movement the number of its affiliates reached only a few thousand and the centers of action associated with it did not greatly exceed 100; and throughout most of the period of its existence the dimensions of which it could boast were considerably smaller.

The main reasons why the Secular Movement never became anything more than a comparatively small one appear to be the following:

1st. The Secularists scattered their efforts over too many fields of endeavor. People generally preferred to identify themselves with exclusively political, social, or intellectual reform movements — with specialized organizations, each of which was devoted exclusively to the destruction of one of the many evils fought by the Secularists. They felt that by so doing they stood a better chance of success. The truth of this assertion is suggested by the fact that numerous Secularists sooner or later drifted away from the Secular Movement and became associated with such undertakings, and by the no less eloquent fact that proposals emanating from the Secularist body were in evidence calling for the conversion of the Secular Movement into a specialized endeavor — ordinarily into a solely Freethought enterprise — on the ground that such a reconstruction would be conducive to greater effectiveness.

2nd. The approach of the Secularists to the problem of bettering the economic and social lot of the working classes was too restricted. It is true, of course, that the Secularists worked hard to improve the condition of the workers, as is shown by their birth-control agitation, their land-reform activities, their benevolent fund, and their furtherance of popular recreation. But they tended to rely either on self-help devices of one sort or another or on the removal of governmental obstructions to self-help, and to show little appreciation of the possibilities of social reform by means of positive state action. It is no doubt true that in preaching the gospel of the betterment of the masses the Secularists really helped promote state-directed reform. It is also true that some Secularists advocated this type of remedy. But the Secularist body as such did not include this variety of social reform in its official program. The period since the advent of the Secular Movement, however, has been one which has aimed at social reform by collectivist as well as individualist means. In fact, the demand for positive social legislation has in recent decades been much in the foreground. And persons who, though sharing the Secularist zeal for social reform, were enamored of the collectivist variety of reform, or who felt that both types were needed, refrained in many cases from affiliating themselves with the Secularist body.

3rd. Secularists were apt to suffer petty persecution. Intolerant Christians sometimes discriminated against them, abused them in one way or another, or even ostracized them. It is true that such unpleasant treatment sometimes strengthened the Secular Movement, but such was not usually the case; for if there were persons who accepted it as a challenge, there were many more who shrank from it. The following type of observation is a recurring one in Secularist literature:

“We well know that, in various parts of England, also in Scotland, there are large numbers who would openly join the Secular body, but who, at present, hesitate and hold back, because they have become cognizant of painful instances in which the honest avowal of sentiment resulted in loss of situation, or profit, or friends. [“Secularist Propaganda.” “National Reformer,” January 4, 1862. See also “Reasoner,” November 17, 1852.]

4th. The atmosphere of the Secularist camp smacked too much of religion. Though the Secularists spent a great deal of energy attacking religion, in many ways they resembled a religious group. They had not only a moral code, but one which was similar to parts of the code associated with Christianity. They talked theology, just as the religionists did, though, of course, for a different purpose. They had their Sunday lectures, which were not altogether unlike sermons. They utilized ceremonies reminiscent of sacraments. They even sang hymns. Nor was this all. Joseph Barker, Joseph Symes Joseph McCabe (who for one year was Secretary for the Leicester Secular Society), and John T. Lloyd were former clergymen. H. Percy Ward had studied for the ministry. Annie Besant was the one-time wife of a clergyman. And John Watts, Charles Watts, and Dr. Aveling were the sons of clergymen. Thus, as a result of training or temperament, the Secularist leaders were often not so far removed psychologically from the clergy. But the resemblance of the Secular Movement to an organized religion was hardly an asset to it. The period covered by the Secular Movement has been one in which indifference to religion has become increasingly evident; and persons who had ceased to be interested in clergymen and church services were not always attracted by their Secularist counterparts.

But if the Secular Movement itself was always relatively small, the influence which it exerted — thanks to the talent and industry of the Secularist leaders and to faithful support of the leaders by the rank and file — was by no means negligible.

The changes involved in the Secularist influence were not due altogether to the Secularists, but were brought about partly by the non-Secularists already mentioned as sharing the Secularist aims. In view of this fact, we shall find it convenient, in discussing the Secularist influence, to mention the various achievements which were brought about through the total effort of the Secularists and the other like-minded reformers, and then to assess the importance which the Secularist action had in their accomplishment.

Of the several developments which the Secularists helped to bring about, one of the most conspicuous was the growth of the idea that it is man’s duty to promote human welfare on earth. This idea became so widespread as to be almost universally endorsed, and belief in it became so firmly established that its truth was generally taken for granted. Action in accordance with the principle, of course, was less general, and perhaps was relatively rare. But the belief itself all but triumphed. It was so firmly established that persons generally endeavored to justify their actions by it, and so widely held that individuals or groups with programs to advance ordinarily sought support for them by identifying them with it.

Another development had to do with democracy. Great progress was made in the achievement of democratic government. Not only were voting privileges secured for the great masses of men and women alike (through the Reform Acts of 1867, 1884, 1918, and 1928), but the powers of the undemocratic House of Lords were so greatly reduced (in 1911 by the Parliament Act) that it was no longer able permanently to obstruct legislation enacted by the popularly-elected House of Commons.

The economic and social conditions surrounding the laboring masses were definitely improved. Thanks at once to the widespread adoption of the practice of limiting the size of families through birth control and to much corrective legislation affecting working conditions, hours of labor, and even wages, poverty and hardship were somewhat reduced. Insecurity, too, was made less general, through the enactment by Parliament of social-insurance legislation relating to unemployment, accident, sickness, and invalidity, as well as by means of voluntary associational schemes. And recreational facilities were extended through the provision on Sundays, during the summer months, of music in the parks, and through the opening on Sunday of museums, libraries, art galleries, and other recreational centers.

Educational progress, too, was achieved. As a result of the Education Act of 1370, many state schools were set up alongside of the insufficiently-numerous private schools; and in these state schools a strictly Secular education was made available to any child whose parent or guardian requested that religious instruction be withheld from him.

Intellectual freedom was broadened. In 1853, 1855, and 1861 respectively, the restrictive taxes on paper, advertisements, and newspapers were removed. The legislation demanding the provision of security against blasphemous or seditious utterances in newspapers was abolished (1869). Through the Evidence Further Amendment Act (1869), the Evidence Amendment Act (1870), and the Oaths Act (1888) the right of non-religious persons to affirm under all conditions in lieu of taking an oath was gained. And, thanks to more liberal judicial interpretation, the blasphemy laws came to be applied in less-oppressive ways — as is Shown at once by the triumph of the tendency to restrict blasphemy to the criticism of religion in unseemly fashion, and by the discontinuance of the practice of denying bequests to Freethought bodies on the ground that such bodies violated the blasphemy laws.

Finally, various religious changes were brought about. The church was both weakened and changed. Two important factors weakened the church. In the first place, it was weakened by the curtailment of its role in the political, educational, and social spheres. The political authority of the church was reduced when the Parliament Act, in curtailing the authority of the House of Lords, restricted that of the ecclesiastical dignitaries who sat in that body. The educational function of the church was relatively lessened when the state undertook to supplement the religious schools with schools of its own. And the social functions of the church were proportionately reduced when extensive action for the alleviation of poverty and distress began to be taken by the state.

The church was also weakened by the increase of religious skepticism. An impressive number of persons, especially among university professors, members of the learned professions, writers, shopkeepers. and city workers, ceased at once to endorse the major tenets associated with organized Christianity and to retain confidence in its fruits. This unbelief weakened the church, not only because skeptics tended to withdraw their membership and support from the religious bodies, but because (though many became indifferent) they sometimes waged campaigns against religion.

The church was changed through the restatement of Christian doctrines and through a modification of Christian action. As for the restatement of doctrines, it is true that nothing was done officially; but increasingly numerous individual church members adopted a revised creed. They changed the traditional doctrines in such a way as to enable them to stand the test of modern thought and knowledge. What this amounted to, in broad terms, was that they emerged with a creed which was essentially earth- centered and humanitarian — one which envisaged religion, not as a device for securing happiness in a world to come, or as an instrument for holding the lower orders in cheek, but as a means of reducing the many evils suffered by the masses of mankind in the present life, and, in general, of promoting human happiness here in the world.

Christian action came to be concerned more extensively with the reform of conditions adversely affecting the lower classes. The churches did not become primarily centers of reform, but became such to an increasing degree. The lead in this direction was taken by individuals and groups rather than by the churches as organized bodies, but official action by the churches directly was not altogether lacking. All in all, considerable effort was put forth. Chief attention was paid to the improvement of the social and economic condition of the workers. The Guild of St. Matthew, the Christian Social Union, the Church Socialist League, and other organizations, as well as numerous individuals, were devoted primarily to this work. But other types of reform had their Christian supporters. Thus there were advocates of democracy, of Secular education, and of unrestricted intellectual freedom. Perhaps the entire situation with respect to the enlargement of Christian action in the interest of popular reform is roughly characterized by Donald O. Wagner’s summarizing statement (1930) concerning the expansion of social-reform activity in the Church of England since 1854. “Seventy-five years ago,” says Mr. Wagner, “bishops would have now been thought the last possible converts to social reform. Many of them are far in advance of their flocks and a few are nothing less than agitators.” [Donald O. Wagner, “The Church of England and Social Reform Since 1854” (1930), p. 326.]

Although the contributions which the Secularists made to these several achievements cannot, of course, be measured with any degree of precision, their size may be roughly approximated, To the advancement of the idea that it is the duty of man to promote man’s well-being in this life they contributed much — thanks to their prolonged and energetic campaign to that end.

In the securing of the Parliamentary enactments involving the furtherance of democracy, the Secularists played a part which was important. They helped to augment the demand which brought them about.

The Secularist contribution to the improvement of conditions among the workers was significant. For one thing, they aided perceptibly in the alleviation of poverty. Not only did they render much help in preparing the ground for remedial measures through bringing the problem of poverty before the public eye, but by furthering the limitation of the size of families among the working elements in the population, they helped a great deal to reduce the unemployment arising from the presence of a greater number of workers than the employing classes needed. They also contributed noticeably to the promotion of greater security for the workers, mainly through publicizing working-class insecurity, and to some slight degree by means of the Secular Benevolent Fund. Finally, they played a considerable part in the procuring of Sunday music in the parks, and in the opening of libraries, art galleries, and museums on Sunday.

The progress which was made in education owed a debt of considerable proportions to the Secularists. The long years of Secularist educational agitation helped much to ripen opinion for the state-controlled schools which were set up, while the operation of Secular schools by the Secularists and the withdrawal of the children of Secularists from religious instruction in the state-controlled schools furthered to some slight degree the cause of secular education.

The efforts of the Secularists counted for a great deal in the broadening of intellectual freedom. To the campaign which secured the repeal of the taxes on paper, advertisements, and newspapers they contributed much financial and other aid. Secularist defiance of the Security Laws was a major factor in the securing of their repeal. The fight for the extension of the right of affirmation was in large part won by the Secularists, as is indicated by the fact that the Evidence Further Amendment Act, the Evidence Amendment Act, and the Oaths Act were all passed in direct response to Secularist action. And Secularist action with respect to the blasphemy laws was to some degree effective. By persistently talking and writing against these oppressive measures, by violating them on innumerable occasions, and by making systematic efforts to prevent their enforcement, the Secularists did much to further the tendency towards a less harsh interpretation of them — the tendency to conceive of them as applying, not to all critics of Christianity, but only to those who in their criticism departed from the standards of good taste.

The religious changes which were brought about were in considerable part the result of Secularist labors. On the one hand, the Secularists aided considerably the weakening of the church. By helping to reduce the powers of the House of Lords with its archbishops and bishop, by assisting in the establishment of state schools at the expense of a completely church-school system, and by furthering the improvement of the condition of the lower classes by secular rather than by religious means, they contributed significantly to the reduction of the political, educational, and social role of the church. And by carrying on a long and unbroken anti-religious campaign they promoted to a large extent the growth of religious skepticism.

On the other hand, the Secularists contributed a great deal to the changing of organized Christianity. By exposing the intellectual and social dereliction of the church, by luring away many of its members, and by setting it an example of popular- reform activity, they furthered extensively both the modernization of Christian doctrine and the socialization of Christian action. “We Christians,” said the Rev. Stewart D. Headlam, “owe much to the National Secular Society; it has helped us to overthrow many idols and to sweep away much rubbish. [“Sugar Plums,” “Freethinker,” January 11, 1891.]

In a word, though the Secular Movement was not an especially large one, it helped much to advance the causes of democracy, social reform, education, secularism, mental freedom, and socialized morality. It contributed appreciably to the creation of some of the, most characteristic features of present-day British society.


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Benn, A.W., Modern England … a record of opinion and action from … the French Revolution to the present day. (1908).

Bennett, De R.M., An Infidel Abroad; a series of letters written while on a ten weeks’ visit to Europe. (1880).

Bennett, De R.M., A Truthseeker Around the World. A series of letters written while making a tour of the globe. (1881).

Bennett, De R.M., The World’s Sages, Infidels and Thinkers. (1876).

Benny, James, Benny on Bradlaugh and Hyndman, etc.; a review and criticism of the recent debate on “Socialism” between Bradlaugh andHyndman. … (1884).

Bernstein, Edward, My Years of Exile. (1921).

Besant, Annie, Annie Besant; an autobiography. (1893).

Besant, Annie, Auguste Comte: His Philosophy, His Religion, and His Sociology. (1885).

Besant, Annie, Autobiographical Sketches. (1885)

Besant, Annie, The Beauties of the Prayer Book. (1876)

Besant, Annie, Biblical Biology. A Contribution to Religious Non- Science. (1884)

Besant, Annie, Blasphemy. (1882)

Besant, Annie, Catholicism and Rationalism. A review of two nights’ discussion … between Charles Watts and “A Catholic,” with an essay on the relative merits of Secularism and Catholicism by Annie Besant. (1875)

Besant, Annie, “Charles Bradlaugh,” Review of Reviews, March, 1891.

Besant, Annie, “Charles Bradlaugh,” Review of Reviews, April, 1891

Besant, Annie, The Christian Creed; or, What It is Blasphemy to Deny. (1883)

Besant, Annie, Christian Progress. (1878)

Besant, Annie, Circulation. (1882)

Besant, Annie, Civil and Religious Liberty. With some hints taken from the French Revolution. A Lecture (188?)

Besant, Annie, Clericalism in France, By Prince Napoleon Bonaparte (Jerome). Translated by Annie Besant.

Besant, Annie, Coercion in Ireland and its Results. (1882)

Besant, Annie, Constructive Rationalism. (1876)

Besant, Annie, Disestablish the Church; or, Sins of the Church of England. A series of pamphlets originally published separately in 1886 under the general title “The Sins of the Church.” (1896)

Besant, Annie, Egypt, a Protest Against the War. (1882)

Besant, Annie, England Before the Repeal of the Corn Laws. (1881)

Besant, Annie, England, India, and Afghanistan, and the Story of Afghanistan; or, Why the Tory government gags the Indian press. A plea for the weak against strong., (1879)

Besant, Annie, England’s Jubilee Gift to Ireland. (1887)

Besant, Annie, The English Land System. (1882)

Besant, Annie, English Marseillaise, with Music.

Besant, Annie, English Republicanism. (1878)

Besant, Annie, Essays by Mrs. Besant. (1875)

Besant, Annie, Essays on Socialism. (1887)

Besant, Annie, The Ethics of Punishment. (1880)

Besant, Annie, Euthanasia. (1875)

Besant, Annie, Eyes and Ears, Six Chats on Seeing and Hearing (1882)

Besant, Annie, Force No Remedy. An Analysis of the Coercion Act (Ireland) (1882).

Besant, Annie, 1875 to 1891. A Fragment of Autobiography. (1891)

Besant, Annie, Free Trade v. ‘Fair’ Trade. Five Lectures delivered in the Hall of Science during October, 1881 (1881)

besant, Annie, The Fruits of Christianity. (1878)

Besant, Annie, Giordano Bruno. (1877)

Besant, Annie, God’s views on marriage as Revealed in the Old Testament. (1881?)

Besant, Annie, Gordon Judged out of his own Mouth. (1885).

Besant, Annie, The Gospel of Atheism: a Lecture. (1877)

Besant, Annie, The Gospel of Christianity and the Gospel of Freethought. (1877)

Besant, Annie, Henry Varley Exposed. (1881)

Besant, Annie, History of the Anti-Corn-Law Struggle. (1881)

Besant, Annie, History of the Great French Revolution. (1876)

Besant, Annie, History of the Great French Revolution. (1883)

Besant, Annie, The Idea of God in the Revolution, by Emile Acollas. Translated by Annie Besant (1877)

Besant, Annie, The Influence of heredity on free will, by Ludwig Buchner. Translated by Annie Besant (1880).

Besant, Annie, Is the Bible Indictable? … Being an Enquiry whether the Bible comes within the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice as to obscene literature (1877)

Besant, Annie, Is Christianity a Success? (1885)

Besant, Annie, Jules Soury’s “Jesus of the Gospels.” Translated by Annie Besant

Besant, Annie, Jules Soury’s “Religion of Israel.” Translated by Annie Besant (1881)

Besant, Annie, The Law of Population. Its consequence and its bearing upon human conduct and morals (1877)

Besant, Annie, Legalization of Female Slavery in England. (1885)

Besant, Annie, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. (188?)

Besant, Annie, Life, Death, and Immortality. (1886)

Besaint, Annie, Light, Heat, and Sound. (1881)

Besant, Annie, Marriage; as it was, as it is, and as it should be.

Besant, Annie, Mind in Animals, by Professor Ludwig Buchner. Translated… by Annie Besant (1880)

Besant, Annie, My Path to Atheism. (1877)

Besant, Annie, The Myth of the Resurrection. (1884)

Besant, Annie, The Natural History of the Christian Devil. (1885)

Besant, Annie, Natural Religion versus Revealed Religion. (187?)

Besant, Annie, On the Atonement. (1874)

Besant, Annie, On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth … (1873)

Besant, Annie, On Eternal Torture. (1874)

Besant, Annie, On Inspiration. (1874)

Besant, Annie, On the Mediation and Salvation of Ecclesiastical Christianity. (1875)

Besant, Annie, On the Nature and Existence of God. (1875)

Besant, Annie, On the Religious Education of Children. (187?)

Besant, Annie, The Physiology of Home. (1881)

Besant, Annie, The Political Status of Women. (1885)

Besant, Annie, The Religion of Israel, by J. Soury. Translated by Annie Besant. (1880).

Besant, Annie, “Reply to Gladstone’s ‘True and False Conceptions of the Atonement'”, Nineteenth Century, June, 1895

Besant, Annie, Roots of Christianity; or, The Christian Religion before Christ (1886)

Besant, Annie, Rushing into War. (1878)

Besant, Annie, Secular Morality. National Secular Society’s Tracts — No. 3

Besant, Annie, Editor, The Secular Song and Hymn Book. (1876)

Besant, Annie, (Selection?) from the fifteenth edition of Dr. L. Buchner’s “Force and Matter,” translated by Annie Besant.

Besant, Annie, Sin and Crime: Their Nature and Treatment. (1885)

Besant, Annie, Social and Political Essays. .

Besant, Annie, The Story of the Soudan. (1884)

Besant, Annie, Theological Essays and Debates

Besant, Annie, The Trades Union Movement. (1890)

Besant, Annie, The Transvaal.

Besant, Annie, The True Basis of Morality. (1874)

Besant, Annie, Vivisection. (1881)

Besant, Annie, What Is the Use of Prayer? (1884)

Besant, Annie, Why I Became a Theosophist. (1889)

Besant, Annie, Why I do not Believe in God. (1887)

Besant, Annie, Why Should Atheists be Persecuted? (1884).

Besant, Annie, Woman’s Position According to the Bible. (1885)

Besant, Annie, The World and its Gods. (1886)

Besant, Annie, A World Without God. (1885)

Besant, Annie, and C. Bradlaugh, Landlords, Tenant Farmers, and Laborers. (1880).

Besant, Annie, and G.W. Foote, Is Socialism Sound? Verbatim report of a four nights’ debate between Annie Besant and G.W. Foote … (1887)

Besant, Annie, and A. Hatchard, The Besant-Hatchard Debate. (1880)

Besant, Annie, and the Rev. G.F. Handel Rowe, Atheism and Its Bearing on Morals. A Debate between Annie Besant and the Rev. G.F. Handel Rowe … (1887)

“Besant, Annie”, Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers, by J.M. Wheeler (1889)

“Besant, Annie”, Chamber’s Encyclopedia.

“Besant, Annie”, Who’s Who. (1932)

Besterman, Theodore, A Bibliography of Annie Besant. (1924)

Besterman, Theodore, Mrs. Annie Besant, A Modern Prophet (1934)

Bettany, F.G., Stewart Headlam. (1926)

Binyon, Rev. R.C., The Christian Socialist Movement in England. (1931)

Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of all Ages and Nations. (1889)

Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Biographical Sketch of Arthur B, Moss. (Reprinted, with additions, from ‘The Radical.’)

Birch, William John, An Inquiry into the Philosophy and Religion of the Bible. (1856)

Birch, William John, Paul an Idea, not a fact. (1855)

Birth Control, (1919)

Blackie, John Stewart, The Natural History of Atheism. (1878)

Blaikie, Rev. W.G., Christianity and Secularism compared in their Influence and Effects. (1882)

Blavatsky, Helene Petrovna, The Thersites of Freethought. Being a reply to certain attacks. (189-?)

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., Charles Bradlaugh: A Record of his Life and Work by His Daughter Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner., With an account of his Parliamentary Struggle, Polities, and Teachings by John M. Robertson, M. P. (1894)

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., The Chemistry of the Home. (1881)

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., Did Charles Bradlaugh Die an Atheist? (1909)

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., The Labour System of Assam.

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., Editor, Paine’s Works

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., Penalties Upon Opinion; or, Some Records of the Laws of Heresy and Blasphemy … (1913)

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., The Slave Struggle in America.

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., Stricken India.

Bonner, Mrs. H.B., “The Warpath of Opinion.” A Reply (1902)

“Bonner, Mrs. H.B.”, Who’s Who. (1932)

Booth, Charles, Life and Labour of the People of London.

(1892-1897) Bradlaugh, Alice, Mind Considered As A Bodily Function. (1884)

Bradlaugh Centenary Committee, Editors, Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh (1933)

Bradlaugh and To-Day. Speeches delivered at the Centenary Celebration … 1933 (1933)

Bradlaugh, Charles, American Cities.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Anthropology of Mr. Bradlaugh. A Page of His Life (1873)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Atonement. (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Autobiography of Mr. C. Bradlaugh. (1873)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Bible Not Reliable. (1858)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Bible; What it is: Being an examination there-of from Genesis to Revelation (1857-1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Broadsides, Ballads, etc., Collection of, issued in connection with Northampton election … (1874)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Capital and Labour. (1886)

Bradlaugh, Charles, A Cardinal’s Broken Oath. (1882)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Channel Tunnel: ought the democracy to oppose or support it? (1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Civil List and Grants to Royal Family.


Bradlaugh, Charles, Compulsory Cultivation of Land: What it means and why it ought to be enforced (1887)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Cromwell and Washington. (1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Does the Bible contain a Perfect Code of Morality, (1860 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Doubts in Dialogue. (1891)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Eight Hours’ Movement … (1889)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Eight Hours’ Question.

Bradlaugh, Charles, England’s Balance Sheet. (1884)

Bradlaugh, Charles, A few Words about the Devil, and other biographical sketches and essays (1864 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Five Dead Men Whom I Knew when Living; R. Owen, J. Mazzini, C. Sumner, J.S. Mill, and Ledru Rollin (1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Genesis, its Authorship and Authenticity (1882)

Bradlaugh, Charles, George, Prince of Wales, with recent contrasts and coincidences. (18??)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Has Man a Soul? (1859)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Heresy: its utility and morality. (1868)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Hints to emigrants to the United States of America. (1879)

Bradlaugh, Charles, How are We to Abolish the Lords? (1884)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Humanity’s Gain from Unbelief, and other selections from works of Charles Bradlaugh, with Prefatory note by his daughter, H.B. Bonner (1929)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Impeachment of the House of Brunswick. (1872)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Indian Money Matters. (1889)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Inspiration of the Bible. (1873)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Irish Question. (1868)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Is there a God? (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Jesus, Shelley, and Malthits. (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. (1884)

BradlaUgh, Charles, Labour and Law. (1891)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Labor’s Prayer. (1865)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Land Question. (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Land, the People, and the Coming Struggle (1871)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Laws Relating to Blasphemy and heresy.

(1878) Bradlaugh, Charles, A Letter from a Freemason, to General H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. (1867)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Letter to Dr. Brindley. (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Life of Abraham.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Life of David.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Life of Jacob.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Life of Jonah.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Life of Moses.

Bradlaugh, Charles, London Republican Club. The inaugural address of the President, Mr. C. Bradlaugh. (1871)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Lying for the Glory of God: a Letter to the Rev. Canon Fergie, D.D., Vicar of Ince, near Wigan. (1887)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Market Rights and Tolls Restrictive of Trade. (1887)

Bradlaugh, Charles, New Life of Abraham. (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, New Life of David., (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, New Life of Jacob. (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, New Life of Jonah. (1861 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, New Life of Moses. (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Northampton’s Voice on the Royal Grants. (1887)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Notes on Genesis. (1861 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Notes on Joshua, Judges, and Samuel. (1861 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Parliament and the Poor.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Perpetual Pensions. (1880)

Bradlaugh, Charles, A Plea for Atheism. (1864)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Political Essays. (Vol. I, 1864, Vol. II, 1865).

Bradlaugh, Charles, Political Essays.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Poverty: its effects on the Political condition of the people. (1863)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Prohibition of Free Speech. (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Radical Program. (1885.)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Real Representation of the People. (1863)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Reform or Revolution. (1867)

Bradlaugh, Charles, “The Republican Impeachment,” Gentleman’s Magazine, January, 1873.

Bradlaugh, Charles, A Review of the Work of the Rev. E. Mellor … entitled “The Atonement, its relation to pardon,” (1859)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Robert Cooper’s “Holy Scriptures Analyzed,” with Sketch of his Life.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Secularism: What is it? National Secular Society’s Tracts — No. 7

Bradlaugh, Charles, “Socialism; its Fallacies and Dangers,” North American Review,, January, 1887.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Some objections to Socialism. (1884)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Speeches, by Charles Bradlaugh. (1890)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Supernatural and Rational Morality. (1886)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Taxation: how it originated, how it is spent, and who bears it. (1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Theological Essays. (1889)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The True Story of My Parliamentary Struggle. (1882)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Twelve Apostles. (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, The Two Napoleons. (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Were Adam and Eve our First Parents? (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, What Can Theism say for itself? (1880?)

Bradlaugh, Charles, What did Jesus Teach? (1860 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, What Does the Bible Teach? (1860 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, What Does the Bible Teach about God? (1864 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, What is Christianity? (1860 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, When Were Our Gospels Written? (1867)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Who was Jesus Christ? (1860)

Bradlaugh, Charles, “Why Are We Secularists?” National Secular Society’s Tracts — No. 8.

Bradlaugh, Charles, Why Do Men Starve? (1865)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Workmen and their Wages. (1888)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. R.A. Armstrong, Is it Reasonable to Worship God? Verbatim report of two nights’ debate at Nottingham between the Rev. R.A. Armstrong and Charles Bradlaugh (1878)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Rev. W. Barker, Modern Atheism and the Bible: Report of the Discussion between the Rev. W. Barker … and Iconoclast … (1862)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Rev. Dr. Joseph Baylee, God, Man, and the Bible. Three Nights’ Discussion between the Rev. Joseph Baylee … and Charles Bradlaugh … June, 1860 … (191-)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Ernest Belfort Bax, Will Socialism Benefit the English People? A Written debate between E. Belfort Rax and Charles Bradlaugh (1887)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Annie Besant, and Charles Watts, The Freethinkers’ Textbook,, (1876-1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Annie Besant, In the High Court of Justice: Queen’s Bench Division, June 18, 1877. The Queen v. Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant. A verbatim report of the trial of Bradlaugh and Besant for publishing the Knowlton Pamphlet (1878)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Annie Besant, Socialism; for and against: written debate with Mrs. Besant (1887)

Bradlaugh, C. and Dr. Brindley, Discussion Between ‘Iconoclast’ and Dr. Brindley. (1860 or earlier)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and W.R. Brown, Can Miracles be proved possible? Verbatim report of the two nights’ public debate between … Bradlaugh and W.R. Brown, etc. (1876)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Anthony Collins (W.H. Johnson), and John Watts, Biographies of ancient and modern celebrated Freethinkers. Reprinted from an English work, entitled “Half Hours with the Freethinkers” (1877)

Bradlaugh, Charles, Anthony Collins (W. H. Johnson), and John Watts, Half-hours with Freethinkers. (October, 1856-1857)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Thomas Cooper, Two Nights’ public discussion … on the being of a God as the maker and moral governor of the universe … 1864. (1874)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Rev. Marsden Gibson, Has Humanity Gained from Unbelief? Two nights’ debate between the Rev. Marsden Gibson … and Charles Bradlaugh (1889)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and W. Gillespie, Atheism Or Theism? Debate between Iconoclast … and W. Gillespie (1869-72)

Bradlaugh, C. and Brewin Grant, A full Report of the Discussion between B.G. and ‘Iconoclast’ … (1858)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. Brewin Grant, Discussion on Atheism. Report of a public discussion between the Rev. Brewin Grant … and C. Bradlaugh … 1875 … (1875)

Bradlaugh, C., and A.J. Harrison, Secularism. Report of a public discussion between the Rev. Alexander J. Harrison … and Mr. Charles Bradlaugh … 1870 (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. A.J. Harrison, What does Christian Theism Teach? Verbatim report of the two nights’ discussion between the Rev. A.J. Harrison and C. Bradlaugh … 1872 (1909)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and G.J. Holyoake, Secularism, Skepticism, and Atheism. Verbatim report of the proceedings of a two nights’ public debate between … G.J. Holyoake and C. B. etc. (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and W. Hutchins, Christianity and Secularism; Report of a Public Discussion Between Mr. W. Hutchins and Mr. C. Bradlaugh … 1861 … (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and H.M. Hyndman, Eight Hours Movement. Verbatim report of a debate between H.M. Hyndman and C. Bradlaugh (1890)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and H.M. Hyndman, Will Socialism Benefit the English People? Verbatim report of a debate between H.M. Hyndman and C. Bradlaugh … 1884 (1884)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and David King, Christianity v. Secularism. Report of a … discussion between D. King … and C. B…. Subject: “What can Secularism do for Man that Christianity cannot?” (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and La Bauchere, Northampton’s Voice on the Royal Grants. Preface by C. Bradlaugh … (188?)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. T. Lawson, A discussion on the Question, Has Man a Soul? between the Rev. T. Lawson … and Iconoclast … (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. John Lightfoot, Eternal Torment. A Written debate between the Rev. John Lightfoot … and Charles Bradlaugh … 1876, (1888)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. James M. McCann, Secularism: Unphilosophical, immoral, and anti-social. Verbatim report of a three nights’ debate between the Rev. Dr. Cann (sic) and Charles Bradlaugh … 1881. (1881)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Dr. W.C. Magee, Bishop of Peterborough, Christianity in Relation to Freethought, Skepticism, and Faith. Three Discourses by the Bishop of Peterborough, with special replies by Charles Bradlaugh (1892)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Mr. Mackie, A Full Report of the Discussion between Mr. Mackie … and Iconoclast (Mr. Bradlaugh) … 1861, on the question, What does the Bible teach about God? (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. T.D. Matthias, The Credibility and Morality of the Four Gospels — a debate … (1859)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Sir Stafford Northcote, Northampton and the House of Commons. Correspondence between C. Bradlaugh and Sir Stafford Northcote, (1884)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Robert Roberts, Is the Bible Divine? A six nights’ discussion between Mr. Charles Bradlaugh and Mr. Robert Roberts … Together with a review of the discussion by Mr. Roberts (1876)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and A. Robertson, The Existence of God. Verbatim report of … debate between Messrs, A. Robertson and C.B. etc. (1870)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. J.H. Rutherford, Are the Doctrines and precepts of Christianity, as taught in the New Testament calculated to benefit humanity? Report of the debate … between “Iconoclast” and J.H. Rutherford (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and W. Simpson, Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church. … Report … of the debate between … C. Bradlaugh and W. Simvson, etc. (1876)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and John Watts, Half-hours with Freethinkers. (1864)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and W.M. Westerby, Has, or is, Man a Soul? Debate between Rev. W.M. Westerby and Charles Bradlaugh (1909)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and the Rev. Woodville. Woodman, The Existence of God: A Discussion between Rev. Woodville Woodman, and “Iconoclast” 1861 (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles, and Woodville Woodman, Is the Bible a Divine Revelation? A Discussion between Rev. W. Woodman and Iconoclast … 1861 (1861)

Bradlaugh, Charles. and Others. Notes on Christian Evidences; being criticisms on “The Oxford House Papers” With replies by the authors of the Papers (1909)

“Bradlaugh, (Charles),” Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers, by J. M. Wheeler (1889)

“Bradlaugh, Charles.” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe (1920)

“Bradlaugh, Charles,” Dictionary of National Biography. (1901)

“Bradlaugh, Charles,” Chambers’ Encyclopedia

Bragdon. Claude Favette, A Brief Life of Annie Besant. (1909)

The Brighton Guardian. (1878-1880)

Buchanan, James, Faith in God and Modern Atheism. (1855)

Buchanan, James, Modern Atheism under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, secularism, development, and natural laws. (1859)

Butts. Asa K.. Sketch of the Life of Mrs. Besant. Prefatory to American edition of her Marriage; as it was, as it is, and as it should be (1979)

Cattell. C.C., Compiler, Agnosticism: an exposition and a defense. Selected from leading authorities (19-)

Cattell. C.C., The Dark Side of Christianity.

Cattell, C.C., In Search of a Religion.

Cattell, C.C., Is Darwinism Atheistic? (1884)

Cattell. C.C., The Land: How to Make it Feed the People and Pay the Taxes. … With Reply to Hon. John Bright, M.P. (1879?)

Cattell. C.C., The Man of the Past, the evidence of his natural origin and great antiquity (1891)

Cattell. C. C., The Martyrs of Progress. (1878)

Cattell, C.C., Mr. John Bright and Labour Representation.

Cattell, C.C., Radicalism and Imperialism.

Cattell, C. C., Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Cattell, C. C., Secularism, Its Principles Stated.

Cattell. C. C., A Secularist’s Principles. (1864)

Cattell, C.C., Secularism: What is it?

Cattell, C.C., The Solution of the Irish Land Question. What the government must do. Inscribed to the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone (188-?)

Cattell. C.C., What is a Freethinker with a special reference to Mr. R.D. Dale, M.A.

“Cattell, C.C.,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe (1920)

Centenary Committee, Editors, Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh (1933)

Cheyney, E.P., Modern English Reform (1930)

Chew. S.J., Mr. G.J. Holyoake refuted in his own words. (1852)

Churchill. Winston Spencer. Lord Randolph Churchill. (1906)

Clark, J., The Spurious ethics of the skeptical philosophy; a critique of Mr. Holyoake’s “Logic of Life” (1860)

Clepane, Miss Irene, Towards Sex Freedom. (1935)

Cohen, Chapman, Almost an Autobiography (1940)

Cohen, Chapman, An Atheist’s Approach to Christianity (1942)

Cohen, Chapman, Blasphemy; a plea for Religious Equality (1922)

Cohen, Chapman, Bradlaugh and Ingersoll. A centenary appreciation of Two Great Reformers. (1933)

Cohen, Chapman, Christianity and Slavery. With a Chapter on Christianity and the Labour Movement. (1918)

Cohen, Chapman, Christianity and Social Ethics. (1910)

Cohen, Chapman, Christianity and Woman. (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, The Church’s Fight for the Child (1938)

Cohen, Chapman, Creed and Character, The Influence of Religion on social life (1919)

Cohen, Chapman, Deity and Design. (1912)

Cohen, Chapman, Determinism or Free Will. (1912)

Cohen, Chapman, The Devil (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, Did Jesus Christ Exist? (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, Essays in Freethinking. (1923-27)

Cohen, Chapman, Evolution and Christianity. (1897)

Cohen, Chapman, Fascism and Christianity (1938)

Cohen, Chapman, Foreign Missions: their dangers and delusions (1901)

Cohen, Chapman, Foundations of Religion

Cohen, Chapman, Four Lectures on Freethought and Life

Cohen, Chapman, Freethought and the Child (1939)

Cohen, Chapman, Giving ’em Hell (1938)

Cohen, Chapman, God and Evolution (1925)

Cohen, Chapman, God and Man. An Essay in common sense and natural morality (1918)

Cohen, Chapman, Gods and Their Makers. (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, God and the Universe. Eddington, Jeans, Huxley, and Einstein. … with a reply by Professor A.S. Eddington (1931)

Cohen, Chapman, A Grammar of Freethought. (1921)

Cohen, Chapman, Humanity and War (1939)

Cohen, Chapman, Letters to a Country Vicar. (1934)

Cohen, Chapman, Letters to the Lord. (1935)

Cohen, Chapman, The Massacre of the innocents. National Secular Society Leaflet No. 7 (1917)

Cohen, Chapman, Materialism Restated. (1927)

Cohen, Chapman, Morality Without God. (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, Must We Have a Religion? (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, Opinions. Random Reflections and wayside sayings (1930)

Cohen, Chapman, The Other Side of Death. A critical examination of the belief in a future life, with a study of spiritualism (1922)

Cohen, Chapman, An Outline of Evolutionary Ethics. (1896)

Cohen, Chapman, Pagan Survivals in Modern Thought

Cohen, Chapman, Pain and Providence. (189?)

Cohen, Chapman, Pioneer Leaflets. No. 1 to 6 (1900?)

Cohen, Chapman, Primitive Survivals in Modern Thought. (1935)

Cohen, Chapman, Religion and the Child. (1916)

Cohen, Chapman, Religion and Sex; studies in the pathology of religious development (1919)

Cohen, Chapman, The Salvation Army and its Work. (1906)

Cohen, Chapman, Selected Heresies from the writings of Chapman Cohen. (1931)

Cohen, Chapman, Socialism, Atheism, and Christianity. (1908)

Cohen, Chapman, Socialism and the Churches. (1919)

Cohen, Chapman, Spain and the Church. (1936)

Cohen, Chapman, Theism or Atheism; the great alternative (1921)

Cohen, Chapman, Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live (1939)

Cohen, Chapman, War — civilization and the churches (1930)

Cohen, Chapman, What is Freethought? (1937)

Cohen, Chapman, What is the Use of a Future Life? (1938)

Cohen, Chapman, What is the use of Prayer? (1897)

Cohen, Chapman, Woman and Christianity. The subjection and exploitation of a sex (1919)

Cohen, Chapman, and C.E.M. Joad, Materialism: has it been exploded? verbatim report of (a) debate between Chapman Cohen and C.E.M. Joad … 1928 … revised by both disputants (1928)

Cohen, Chapman, and Horace Leaf, Does Man Survive Death? Is the Belief Reasonable? A debate between Mr. Horace Leaf and Mr. Chapman Cohen … 1920 (1920)

Cohen, Chapman, and Hon. Edward Lyttleton, The Parson and the Atheist, a friendly discussion on religion and life, between (the) Rev. and Hon. Edward Lyttleton … and Chapman Cohen (1919)

“Cohen, Chapman,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe (1920)

Cole G.D.H., Life of Robert Owen. (1930)

Coleridge, Ernest Hartley, Life and correspondence of John Duke Lord Coleridge, lord chief justice of England. (1904)

Coleridge, Baron J.D., The Law of Blasphemous Libel. The summing up in the case of Regina v. Foote and others, etc. (1883)

Collet, C.D., History of the Taxes on Knowledge. Their origin and repeal. With an Introduction by George Jacob Holyoake (1899)

Collet, Sophia Dobson, The Almanack of Freedom. (1855)

Collet, Sophia Dobson, George Jacob Holyoake and Modern Atheism. A biographical and critical essay (1855)

Conway, Moncure D., Autobiography. (1904)

Conway, M.D., Blasphemous libels. (1883)

Conway, M.D., The Oath and its ethics. (1881)

Conway, Moncure D., The Voysey Case, from an heretical viewpoint (1871)

Cooper, Robert, Autobiography. (1874)

Cooper, Robert, The Bible and its Evidences. (1858)

Cooper, Robert, The Immortality of the Soul, religiously and philosophically considered. (1882)

Cooper, Robert, A reply to Thomas Cooper’s recent lectures on God and a future State. (1856?)

“Cooper, (Robert), Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers, by J.M. Wheeler (1889)

“Cooper, Robert,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe (1920)

Cooper, Thomas, Life of Thomas Cooper. Written by Himself (1882)

Cooper, Thomas, The Triumphs of Perseverance and Enterprise. (1854)

The Councillor on Secular, cooperative and political questions. (1861)

Courtney, Janet E., Freethinkers of the Nineteenth Century. (1920)

Cowper, B.H., The Logic of Life and Death, etc. (In answer to a tract by G.J. Holyoake “The Logic of Death,” etc.) (1865)

Cumming, Dr., Moses right, Colenso wrong: being popular lectures in reply to the first and second parts of “Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch” (1863)

Curzon, F., The Gift of Life … A Letter addressed to Mr. Holyoake in reply to the “Logic of Death” (1853)

Davidson, J. Morrison, Eminent English Liberals in and out of Parliament. (1880)

Davies, Dr. Maurice, Heterodox London: or phases of freethought in the metropolis (1874)

Dennis, Geoffrey, Coronation Commentary (1937)

Dhar, Vishnunarayana, Mr. Bradlaugh’s Indian Reform Bill. (1890)

“Dr. Annie Besant, Crusader, is Dead” New York Times, Sept. 22, 1933. (1933)

Dodsworth, James, Letter to the Shareholders of the National Reformer Company, giving an account of the way in which the editor was reelected at the March meeting, by James Dodsworth, Chairman of the Board of Directors (1862)

Douglas, John Sholte, 8th Marquis of Queensberry, The Religion of Secularism and the Perfectibility of man (18??)

“Douglas, Sir John Sholte,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe (1920)

Drysdale, George R., The Elements of Social Science. (1861)

Duncan, David, Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer (1908)

Elgood, John Charles, Thoughts on Theism … A response to the interrogatory of the lecture delivered by Charles Bradlaugh … last year and entitled “What Can Theism Say for itself?” … (1880)

Elliott, Hugh, Editor, Letters (of John Stuart Mill) (1910)

The English Leader, A Journal for the discussion of stationary questions. (1864 and 1866)

Farrar, Frederick William, The Bible, its meaning and Supremacy. (1897)

Farrar, Reginald, The Life of Frederick William Farrar, Sometime dean of Canterbury, by his son R. Farrar (1904)

Faulkner, H.U., Chartism and the Churches (1916)

The Fleet Street Advertiser (1854)

Flint, Robert, Anti-Theistic Theories. (1880)

Foote, G.W., Arrows of Freethought. (1882)

Foote, G.W., Atheism and Morality, (1880)

Foote, G.W., Atheism and Suicide. A reply to Alfred Tennyson (1881)

Foote, G.W., The Atheist Shoemaker and the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes, or, A Study in Lying, with a full and complete exposure (1890)

Foote, G.W., Bible and Beer. (1912)

Foote, G.W., The Bible Devil. (189-?)

Foote, G.W., The Bible God, (1889)

Foote, G.W., Bible Heroes., (1882)

Foote, G.W., Bible Romances, (1882)

Foote, G.W., Blasphemy no crime, The whole question treated historically,, legally, theologically, and morally with special reference to the prosecution of the “Freethinker” (1882)

Foote, G.W., The Book of God in the Light of Higher Criticism, with Special reference to Dean Farrar’s new apology (1897?)

Foote, G.W., Christianity and Progress. A reply to the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone (1902)

Foote, G.W., Comic Sermons and other fantasias, (1892)

Foote, G.W., The Creation Story. (1882?)

Foote, G.W., The Crucifixion. (188-?)

Foote, G.W., Death’s Test: or, Christian lies about dying Infidels (1882)

Foote, G.W., Defence of Free Speech; being a three hours’ address to jury in the Court of Queen’s Bench before Lord Coleridge on April 24, 1883 (New Ed., 1889)

Foote, G.W., Dr. Torrey and the Bible, (1905)

Foote, G.W., Dr. Torrey and the Infidels. (1905)

Foote, G.W., Dropping the Devil, and other free Church performances. (1902)

Foote, G.W., The Few Who are Saved. (1910?)

Foote, G.W., Flowers of Freethought. (1894),

Foote, G.W., Futility of Prayer. (1879)

Foote, G.W., Gladstone’s Irish Stew.. (1886)

Foote, G.W., The God the Christians Swear By. (1882)

Foote, G.W., God in a Box. (189-?)

Foote, G.W., God save the King, and other Coronation Articles, by an English Republican (1903)

Foote, G.W., God, The Soul, and a Future State. (1875)

Foote, G.W., Gospel Ghosts, (189-?)

Foote, G.W,, The Grand Old Book, a reply to the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone’s “The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture” (1891)

Foote, G.W., Editor, The Hall of Science libel case. With a full and true account of “The Leeds Orgies”. Edited, with an introduction, by G.W. Foote (1895)

Foote, G.W., Heroes and Martyrs of Freethought. (1876)

Foote, G.W., The Impossible Creed; an open letter to the Bishop of Peterborough (1890)

Foote, G.W., Infidel Deathbeds. (1886)

Foote, G.W., Ingersallism defended against Archdeacon Farrar. (1892)

Foote, G.W., Editor, “An Essay on Suicide,” by David Hume; with an historical and critical introduction by G.W. Foote (1894)

Foote, G.W., Editor, A refutation of Deism in a dialogue by Percy Bysshe Shelley. With an introduction by G.W. Foote (1890)

Foote, G.W., Is the Bible inspired? … A criticism on “Lux Mundi” (1890)

Foote, G.W., John Morley as a Freethinker: a statement and a criticism. With numerous extracts from Morley’s writings (1893)

Foote, G.W., Jonah’s Excursion to Nineveh. (1885)

Foote, G.W., Letters to the Clergy. (1890)

Foote, G.W., Letters to Jesus Christ. (1886)

Foote, G.W., A Lie in Five Chapters? or, The Rev. Hugh Price Hughes’s “converted atheist” (1890)

Foote, G.W.,. The Mother of God. (1918)

Foote, G.W., Miscellaneous Essays. (1895)

Foote, G.W., Mrs. Besant’s Theosophy. (1889)

Foote, G.W., My Resurrection; a missing Chapter from the Gospel of St. Matthew, discovered and published by G.W. Foote (1892)

Foote, G.W., The New Cagliostro; an open letter to Madame Blavatsky (1889)

Foote, G.W., Noah’s Flood: a Chapter of Biblical Romauce (187-?)

Foote, G.W., The Passing of Jesus: or, The Last adventures of the first Messiah (1902)

Foote, G.W., Peculiar People: an open letter to Mr. Justice Wills, on his sentencing Thomas George Senior to four months’ imprisonment with hard labour, for obeying the Bible (1899)

Foote, G.W., The Philosophy of Secularism. (1879)

Foote, G.W., Editor, A philosophical inquiry concerning human liberty, by Anthony Collins. Reprinted with preface and annotations by G.W. Foote, and biographical introduction by J.M. Wheeler. (1890)

Foote, G.W., Prisoner for Blasphemy. (1886)

Foote, G.W., Randolph Churchill: the Woodstock bantam (Second edition, 1885)

Foote, G.W., Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh. (1891)

Foote, G.W., The Resurrection. (188-)

Foote, G.W., A Rising God. (188-?)

Foote, G.W., Rome or Atheism, the great alternative. (1892)

Foote, G.W., Royal Paupers, showing what royalty does for the people … (Third edition, 1888)

Foote, G.W., Salvation Syrup: or, Light on Darkest England. A reply to ‘General Booth. (1891)

Foote, G.W., Secularism and its Misrepresentation.

Foote, G.W., Secularism Restated.

Foote, G.W., Secularism and Theosophy: a rejoinder to Mrs. Besant’s pamphlet (1889)

Foote, G.W., Secularism, the True Philosophy of Life. An exposition and a defence (1879)

Foote, G.W., The Shadow of the Sword. (1885)

Foote, G.W., The Sign of the Cross; a candid criticism of Mr, Wilson Barrett’s play (1896)

Foote, G.W., A Virgin Mother. (1882?)

Foote, G.W., The Wandering Jews. (1882)

Foote, G.W., Was Jesus Insane? (1882)

Foote, G.W., What is Agnosticism? With observations on Huxley, Bradlaugh, and Ingersoll, and a reply to George Jacob Holyoake; also a defence of atheism (1902)

Foote, G.W., What was Christ? A Reply to John Stuart Mill. (i.e., to, “Nature, the Utility of Religion, and Theism”) (1887)

Foote, G.W., Who Was the Father of Jesus? (1895)

Foote, G.W., Why be good without hope of heaven or fear of hell? The: answer of freethought

Foote, G.W., Will Christ Save Us? (1892)

Foote, G.W., and W.P. Ball. Editors, Bible Atrocities. (1891)

Foote, G.W., and W.P. Ball, Editors, The Bible Handbook for Freethinkers and Inquiring Christians (1888?)

Foote, G.W., and W.T. Lee, Theism or Atheism: which is the more reasonable? A public debate between Mr. W.T. Lee … and Mr. G.W. Foote … 1895 (1896)

Foote, G.W., and H.A. Long, Verbatim Report of the public discussion upon ‘The Origin of Man,’ between … G.W.F. and H.A. Long … (1877)

Foote, G.W., and Rev. D.G. McCann, Christianity or Secularism, Which is true? Verbatim report of a public debate between the Rev. Dr. James McCann and Mr. G.W. Foote … (1886)

Foote, G.W., and G. Sexton, Christianity and Secularism. Verbatim reports of two … debates … the second on Secularism, between G.W.F. and G. Sexton. (1878)

Foote, G.W., and G. Sexton, Is Secularism the true Gospel for Mankind? Verbatim report of a debate … between G.W.F. and G. Sexton (1878)

Foote, G.W., and Bernard Shaw, The Legal Eight Hours’ Question. A public debate between Mr. George Bernard Shaw and Mr. G.W. Foote … (1891)

Foote, G.W., and Charles Watts, Heroes and Martyrs of Freethought. (1875)

Foote, G.W., and J.M. Wheeler, Crimes of Christianity. (1887)

Foote, G.W., and J.M. Wheeler, Editors, The Jewish Life of Christ; being the Sepher Foldath Jeshu; or, Book of the Generation of Jesus. Translated from the Hebrew. Edited (with an historical preface and voluntinous notes). (1919)

Foote, G.W., and J.M. Wheeler, Voltaire: a sketch of his life and works. (1894)

“Foote, George William,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Forder, R., Saint Agnes and Saint Bridget and their Pagan Prototypes. (1888)

Forder, R., ‘There was War in Heaven.’ An Infidel Sermon. (1891)

Freethinker. (1881 to date)

Gardiner, A.G., Life of Sir William Harcourt. (1923)

Gay, Susan E., Life Work of Mrs. Besant. (1913)

“George Jacob Holyoake,” Review of Reviews,, v. 24, pp. 249-261 (1901)

Gill, Charles, The recent prosecutions (of G.W. Foote and others) for blasphemy, and the debate in the House of Commons on the Affirmation Bill., By the author of ‘The Evolution of Christianity.’ (1883)

“Gimson, Josiah,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

“Gimson, Sydney Ansell,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Girdlestone, A.G., Christianity under Fire. Forty-six points of attack by C. Bradlaugh, examined in a lecture, etc … (1876).

Gladstone, W.E., The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture. Revised and enlarged … (1892)

Gladstone, W.E., Ingersoll on Christianity. (1888)

Gladstone, W.E., Parliamentary Oaths. Speech delivered in the house of Commons, on the second reading of the parliamentary Oaths Act Amendment Bill … (1883)

Gladstone, W.E., “True and false Conceptions of the Atonement,” Nineteenth Century, September, 1894.

Goss, C.W.F., A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of G.J. Holyoake. (1908)

Gould, F.J., The Building of the Bible. Showing the chronological order in which the books … appeared … (1898)

Gould, Frederick James, Chats with Pioneers of Modern Thought. (1898)

Could, F.J., Life Story of a Humanist. (1923)

Gould, F.J., The New Pilgrim’s Progress from Christianity to Secularism. (1883)

Gould, F.J., “The New Secularism,” Agnostic Annual and Ethical Review (1902)

Gould, F.J., The Pioneers of Johnson’s Court; a history of the Rationalist Press Association from 1899 onwards (1929)

Gould, F.G., The Religion of the First Christians. (1901)

Gould, F.J., Stepping-stones to Agnosticism, With an introduction by G.J. (Holyoake). (1889)

Gould, F.J., Will Women Help? An appeal to women to assist in liberating modern, thought from theological hands (1900)

“Gould, Frederick James,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Grant, Brewin, The Life of Joseph Barker the Infidel, done from his own works, by B.G. (Reprinted from the Sheffield Christian News.) (1860)

Grant, Brewin, Oaths and Infidels: or the believableness of Unbelievers. A letter to Lord J. Russell. (1854)

Grant, Brewin, A Pen and Ink Sketch of Iconoclast (i.e. C. Bradlaugh.) … Seventh edition. (1860)

Greg, Percy, The Creed of a Secularist, By Lionel H. Holdreth (pseudonym) (1857)

Greg, Percy, The Devil’s Advocate. (1878)

Greg, Percy, Shadows of the Past. (1856)

Handsacre, Alan, The Revenues of Religion with a record of established religion in England (1932)

Harrington, G.F. (Rev. William Mumford Baker), Northampton Election Difficulties, dilated upon as a struggle by Bradlaugh Atheism against Christianity. (1881)

Headingley, Adolphe S., The Biography of Charles Bradlaugh. (1883)

Headiam, Stewart Duckworth, The London School Board in 1890: an address, etc. (1890)

Headlan, Stewart, Priestcraft or Progress. (1873)

Heaford, William, Translator, Jesus Christ: His Apostles and disciples in the twentieth century, by Count Camille de Renessee. Translated … by William Heaford (1907)

Hillier, William, Christianity, Science, and infidelity: a series of letters … showing the follies … of atheism … occasioned by the return of C. Bradlaugh as a member of Parliament for Northampton … With a prefatory recommendation by H. Varley (1881)

Hillier, William, Should Christians support Mr. Bradlaugh the avowed Atheist, in his attempt to get into Parliament? Report of a lecture, etc. (1883)

Himes, Norman E., Medical History of Contraception. (1936)

Himes, Norman E., Medical History of Contraception. (1934)

Hinton, J. Howard, the Elder, A Lecture on the conclusion of the discussion between G.J. Holyoake and … B. Grant. (1853)

Hinton, J. Howard, Secular Tracts,, (1853)

Holyoake, Austin, The Apostles of Christ: a farce in Several Acts.

Holyoake, Austin, The Book of Esther; a specimen of what passes as ‘the inspired word of God.’

Holyoake, Austin, Daniel the Dreamer: a biblical biography

Holyoake, Austin, Does there exist a moral governor of the Universe? An argument against the alleged universal benevolence in nature (1870)

Holyoake, Austin, Facetiae for Freethinkers (collected by A. Holyoake)

Holyoake, Austin, Heaven and Hell: Where Situated. A Search after the objects of man’s fervent hope and abiding terror (18-?)

Holyoake, Austin, Large or Small Families? on which side lies the Balance of Comfort? (1870)

Holyoake, Austin, Ludicrous Aspects of Christianity; A response to the Challenge of the Bishop of Manchester (18-?)

Holyoake, Austin, Secular Ceremonies. A Burial Service (1870)

Holyoake, Austin, A Secular Prayer

Holyoake, Austin, Sick Room Thoughts.

Holyoake, Austin, Superstition, and how it operates upon the Human Mind, forcibly portrayed by Pitt, first Earl of Chatham, with Commentary by Austin Holyoake

Holyoake, Austin, Thoughts on Atheism; or, Can Man by searching find out God (1870)

Holyoake, Austin, Would a Republican Form of Government be Suitable for England? (1873)

Holyoake, Austin, and Charles Watts, Editors, Secularists’ Manual of Songs and Ceremonies. (1871)

“Holyoake, (Austin),” Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers by J.M. Wheeler. (1889)

“Holyoake, Austin,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Holyoake, G.J., Affirmation and appeal case fund. (1862)

Holyoake, G.J., Alien features of Secularism. (1877)

Holyoake, G.J., ‘Among the Americans,’ and ‘A Stranger in America.’ (1881)

Holyoake, G.J., Anti-Boycott Papers. (1902)

Holyoake, G.J., British Secular Institute of Communication and Propagandism. (1857)

Holyoake, G.J., Bygones Worth Remembering. (1905)

Holyoake, G.J., The Case of Thomas Pooley. (1857)

Holyoake, G.J., The Changes in religious opinion in England since 1841.

Holyoake, G.J., The Child’s First Reading book. (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., The, Child’s First Word book. (1854)

Holyoake, G.J., The Child’s Ladder of Knowledge. (1866)

Holyoake, G.J., Circular from Mr. Holyoake (for friends of Secular Progress only). (1854)

Holyoake, G.J., Editor, The Circular of the Anti-persecution league.

Holyoake, G.J., Civil Equality: the Parliamentary progress of the Affirmation Bill (1863)

Holyoake, G.J., Common People. (1870)

Holyoake, G.J., Constitution and objects of Secular Societies from the Manchester Conference Report. (1852)

Holyoake, G.J., Controversial Characteristics of the Scotch People. (1854)

Holyoake, G.J., The Cooperative Movement To-day. (1891)

Holyoake, G.J., Cumming Wrong; Colenso right. A reply to Dr. Cumming’s ‘Moses right, Colenso wrong’ (1863)

Holyoake, G.J., Death of Mrs. G.J. Holyoake, 1819-1884. (1884)

Holyoake, G.J., Defeat of the Rev. Sidney Gedge of Northampton in the Queen’s Bench. (1861)

Holyoake, G.J., Deliberate Liberalism; four instances of it (1886)

Holyoake, G.J., Diary.

Holyoake, G.J., Eclectic Catalogue January 1866, (1866)

Holyoake, C.J., English Secularism; a confession of belief (1896)

Holyoake, G.J., Essentials of Co-operative Education. (1898)

Holyoake, G.J., Excluded Evidence on the ground of speculative opinion. (1865)

Holyoake, G.J. Freethought Lectureships in connection with “The Secular World.” (1862)

Holyoake, G.J., The Government and the Working Man’s press. (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., The History of Co-operation in England: its literature and its advocates (1875)

Holyoake, G.J., History of Fleet Street House: a report of Sixteen Years (1856)

Holyoake, G.J., The History of the Last Trial by Jury for Atheism in England; a fragment of autobiography, submitted for the perusal of Her Majesty’s Attorney-general and the British clergy (1850)

Holyoake, G.J., History of the Travelling Tax (1901)

Holyoake, G.J., Hostile and generous toleration. (1884)

Holyoake, G.J., The Impossibility of Proving the Existence of God by the design argument. (1861)

Holyoake G.J., The India and China tea mart; the history of Indian and Chinese Teas (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., In the Matter of the Affirmation Bill. (1861)

Holyoake, G.J., In Memoriam, Austin Holyoake died April 10, 1874. (1874)

Holyoake, G.J., Introduction to “Conspiracy of Grocers against Public Education,” by H.O. Arnold-Forster (1890?)

Holyoake, G.J., John Stuart Mill as some of the working classes knew him. (1873)

Holyoake, G.J, The Jubilee History of the Leeds Industrial Cooperative Society. (1897)

Holyoake, G.J., Jurisprudence and Amendment of the law. (1884)

Holyoake, G.J., Lectures and Debates: their terms, condition and character (1860)

Holyoake, G.J., Ledru Rollin. (1855)

Holyoake, G.J., The Lesson of the Hangman.

Holyoake G.J., Editor, “Letter to the Parliament and to the Press” (Pyat, Felix) (1858)

Holyoake, G.J., Letter to the Subscribers of the Fund made during my recent illness. (1877)

Holyoake, G.J., The Liberal Situation; necessity for a qualified franchise. A letter to Joseph Corven, jun. (1865)

Holyoake, G.J., Libra; or, the balances; a review of ‘Mene Tekel’ (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., Life and Career of Charles Bradlaugh. (1891)

Holyoake, G.J., Life of Joseph Rayner Stephens, preacher and political orator … (1881)

Holyoake, G.J., The Limits of Atheism; or, Why should sceptics be outlaws? (1861)

Holyoake, G.J., The Logic of Death; or, Why should the Unbeliever or Atheist fear to die? (1850)

Holyoake, G.J., The Logic of Facts; or, Art of Reasoning by Facts. (1848)

Holyoake, G.J., The Logic of Life, deduced from the principle of freethought (1861)

Holyoake, G.J., Mr. Holyoake’s Disconnection with the National Reformer, and the correspondence which accounts for it (1862)

Holyoake, G.J., Murder as a Mode of Progress.

Holyoake, G.J., A New defence of the Ballot, in consequence of Mr. Mill’s objections to it (1868)

Holyoake, G.J., New Ideas of the Day. (1887)

Holyoake, G.J., Omar Khayyam; strange story of the Macmillans and a Leicester Book-seller (1898)

Holyoake, G.J., On Lecturing: its conditions and character (1860)

Holyoake G.J., The Opportunity of Ireland. (1886)

Holyoake: G.J., The Organisation of Freethinkers. (1852)

Holyoake, G.J., Organisation; not of Arms, but of Ideas. (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., Origin and Nature of Secularism. (1896)

Holyoake, G. J., The Outlaws of Freethought: the policy which may secure an affirmation bill (1861)

Holyoake, G.J., Editor, The Path I took and where it led me. An autobiography and argument. By a Monmouthshire Farmer. (1894)

Holyoake, G.J., Patriotism by Charity. (1885)

Holyoake, G.J., Plain words about Seculitrism. (1882)

Holyoake, G.J., Plea for Affirmation in Parliament. (1882)

Holyoake, G.J., Preface to ‘The Confessions of Rousseau. Abridged’ (1857)

Holyoake, G.J., Preface to ‘Essays in Rationalism, by Charles Robert Newman (1891)

Holyoake, G.J., Preface to ‘Political Poems’ by Victor Hugo and Garibaldi, etc.

Holyoake, G.J., The Principles of Secularism Briefly Explained. (1859)

Holyoake, G.J., The Provincial Mind. (1877)

Holyoake, G.J., Public Lessons for the Hangman. (1864)

Holyoake, G.J., Public performances of the dead: a review of American spiritualism (1865)

Holyoake, G.J., Public Speaking and Debate. (1875)

Holyoake, G.J., Reciprocity Explained. (1885)

Aolyoake, G.J., Report of the Fleet Street House. (1858)

Ifolyoake, G.J., Rich Man’s Six, and Poor Man’s one Day: a letter to Lord Palmerston (1856)

Holyoake, G.J., Robbing a Thousand Peters to pay one Paul. (1885)

Holyoake, G.J., Robert Owen, Precursor of social progress (1902)

Holyoake, G.J., A Secular Catechism for children; adapted from the Rev. H.W. Crosskey’s Catechism of religion for the use of children (1854)

Holyoake, G.J., A Secular Prayer by Mr., G.J. Holyoake in invertiel Church, Kirlcaldy (1854)

Holyoake, G.J., The secular preacher. With a picture of the Rev. Thomas Binney (1857)

Holyoake, G.J., Secular Prospects in Death. The late Councillor Josiah Gimson (1883)

Holyoake, G.J., Secular Responsibility, (1873)

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Holyoake, G.J., Secularism distiguished from Unitarianism. (1855)

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Holyoake, G.J., and Rev. Brewin Grant, Part II of the Correspondence Between the Rev. Brewn Grant and G.J. Holyoake. (1852)

Holyoake, G.J., and Rev. Brewin Grant Review of a controversy between the Rev. Brewin Grant and G.J. Holyoake … on the question ‘What advantages would accrue to mankind generally and the working classes in particular, by the removal of Christianity and the substitution of Secularis in its place?’ (1853)

Holyoake, G.J., and Dr. Frederic R. Lees, Public Discussion of Teetotalism and the Maine Law, between George Jacob Holyoake, Esq., and Dr. Frederic R. Lees (1856)

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Hiolyoake, G.J., and others, Giordano Bruno … (1889)

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Watts, Charles, and Alexander Jamieson, Verbatim report of three nights’ discussion of the questions: Is it reasonable to believe in the existence of a powerful and intelligent being distinct from the material universe? and Has Man a soul that will live in a future State? Between Dr. Alexander Jamieson … and Mr. Charles Watts … (1894)

Watts, Charles, and Dr. George sexton, Debate on Christianity … between … G. Sexton … and C. W., etc. (1877)

Watts, Charles, and Rev. A. Stewart, Four nights’ Public Discussion between the Rev. A. Stewart … and Mr. C. Watts, on Is the Belief in the Being of an Infinite Personal God Reasonable? and Are the Four Gospels Authentic and worthy of credit? (1873)

“Watts (Charles),” Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers. (1889)

“Watts, Charles,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

Watts, John, The Christian Doctrine of the Destruction of the World Examined and refuted. (1865)

Watts John, The Christian Doctrine of Man’s Depravity Refuted. (186-?)

Watts: John, The Criminal History of the Clergyman. (1857)

Watts, John, The Devil: who he is, and whence he came.

Watts, John, Half Hours with Freethinkers. (1856-57)

Watts John, The Heart of Man Shown not to be Deceitful above all Things, and Desperately Wicked (Jeremiah Refuted) (1961)

Watts, John, Is Man Immortal?

Watts’ John, The Logic and Philosophy of Atheism. (1865)

Watts, John, The Miracles and Prophecies of the Bible no Proof of Christian Truth. (1861)

Watts, John, The Origin of Man. (1861)

Watts, John, Rev. Brewin Grant Extinguished. (1861)

Watts, John, Secularism, ‘the one thing needful.’ (186?)

Watts, John, Who Were the Writers of the New Testament?

“Watts (John),” Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers. (1889)

“Watts, John,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Ratioalists. (1920)

Watts, Kate Eunice, Editor, Christianity and Agnosticism. A Correspondence between a clergyman of the Church in Scotland and George Anderson (1899)

Watts, Kate Eunice, Christianity: defective and unnecessary. (1900?)

Watts, Kate Eunice, Mrs. Watts’ Reply to Mr. Bradlaugh’s misrepresentations. (1877)

Watts, Kate Eunice, Reasons for not accepting Christianity.

Webb, Beatrice, My Apprenticeship. (1929)

Webb, Sidney and Beatrice, Industrial Democracy. (1897)

Weekly Times and Echo

Wells, Geoffrey Harry, (pseud., West, Geoffrey) Mrs. Annie Besant (1927)

Wells, Geoffrey Harry, (pseud., West, Geoffrey) Six Brilliant English Women; … Annie Besant (1930)

West, Geoffrey, The Life of Annie Besant. (1929)

Wharton, Charles H., Mr. Bradlaugh and the Oath. A Letter addressed to … the members of the House of Commons (1882)

What Secularists are and what are their aims.

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, Bible Studies; essays on phallic worship and other curious rites and customs (1892)

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers (1889)

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, Footsteps of the Past. Essays on human Evolution.

Wheeler, Joseph Mazvini, Compiler, Freethought Readings and Secular Songs. (189-.)

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, Introduction to “An Essay on Miracles,” by David Hume (1882)

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, Paganism in Christian Festivals. (1932)

Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini, and G.W. Foote, Voltaire: a sketch of his life and works. With selections from his writings. (1894)

“Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini,” Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. (1920)

White, Dr. Frank W,, Birth Control and its opponents. (1935)

White, Frederick, William T. Stead. (1925)

Whitehead, George, Bernard Shaw explained. (1925)

Whitehead, George, Birth Control and Race culture, (1925)

Whitehead, George, The Case against Theism. (1922?)

Whitehead, George, The Evolution of Morality. (1933)

Whitehead, George, Free thought on Sex! The social and personal aspects of sex and race culture (1922)

Whitehead, George, Gods, Devils, and Men. (1928)

Whitehead, George, Jesus Christ: Man, God, or Myth (1921)

Whitehead, George, A Lesson in Socialism from Jack London’s ‘White Fang’ (1913?)

Whitehead, George, Man and his Gods (1921)

Whitehead, George, A Modern Outline of Evolution. (1933)

Whitehead, George, Religion and Woman. (1928)

Whitehead, George, Sex and Religion. (1930)

Whitehead, George, Spiritualism Explained. (1928)

Whitehead, George, Towards a Better World. (1931)

Whitehead, George, Unemployment: causes and remedies, (1933)

Whitehead, George, The Unfair Sex. The truth about women (1930)

Whitehead, George, What is Morality? (1925)

Whitmore, Rev. C.J., What Becomes of the Infidel Leaders?

Wigan Examiner (October, 1860, to February, 1861)

Williams, Mrs. Gertrude Leavenworth, The Passionate Pilgrim; a life of Annie Besant (1931)

Winterton, F., There is a God. (1883)

Working Man, The fallacies of Atheism exposed. A reply to Dr. Bradlaugh’s ‘Plea for Atheism.’ (1882)

Yorkshire Tribune, (July, 1855-September, 1855)

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