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Robert Ingersoll Interviews Set 3

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Set 3

Robert Green Ingersoll

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Contents of this file                            page

POLITICS AND THEOLOGY.                                  6
MORALITY AND IMMORALITY.                                7
FREE TRADE AND CHRISTIANITY.                           20
THE OATH QUESTION.                                     26

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This file, its printout, or copies of either
are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold.

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QUESTION: What do you think of Justice Harlan's dissenting
opinion in the Civil Rights case?

ANSWER: I have just read it and think it admirable in every
respect. It is unanswerable. He has given to words their natural
meaning. He has recognized the intention of the framers of the
recent amendments. There is nothing in this opinion that is
strained, insincere, or artificial. It is frank and manly. It is
solid masonry, without crack or flaw. He does not resort to legal
paint or putty, or to verbal varnish or veneer. He states the
position of his brethren of the bench with perfect fairness, and
overturns it with perfect ease. He has drawn an instructive
parallel between the decisions of the olden time, upholding the
power of Congress to deal with individuals in the interests of
slavery, and the power conferred on Congress by the recent
amendments. He has shown by the old decisions, that when a duty is
enjoined upon Congress, ability to perform it is given; that when
a certain end is required, all necessary means are granted. He also
shows that the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and of 1850, rested
entirely upon the implied power of Congress to enforce a master's
rights; and that power was once implied in favor of slavery against
human rights, and implied from language shadowy, feeble and
uncertain when compared with the language of the recent amendments.
He has shown, too, that Congress exercised the utmost ingenuity in
devising laws to enforce the master's claim. Implication was held
ample to deprive a human being of his liberty, but to secure
freedom, the doctrine of implication is abandoned. As a foundation
for wrong, implication was their rock. As a foundation for right,
it is now sand. Implied power then was sufficient to enslave, while
power expressly given is now impotent to protect.

QUESTION: What do you think of the use he has made of the Dred
Scott decision?

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


ANSWER: Well I think he has shown conclusively that the
present decision, under the present circumstances, is far worse
than the Dred Scott decision was under the then circumstances. The
Dred Scott decision was a libel upon the best men of the
Revolutionary period. That decision asserted broadly that our
forefathers regarded the negroes as having no rights which white
men were bound to respect; that the negroes were merely
merchandise, and that that opinion was fixed and universal in the
civilized portion of the white race, and that no one thought of
disputing it. Yet Franklin contended that slavery might be
abolished under the preamble of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson
said that if the slave should rise to cut the throat of his master,
God had no attribute that would side against the slave. Thomas
Paine attacked the institution with all the intensity and passion
of his nature. John Adams regarded the institution with horror. So
did every civilized man, South and North.

Justice Harlan shows conclusively that the Thirteenth
Amendment was adopted in the light of the Dred Scott decision; that
it overturned and destroyed, not simply the decision, but the
reasoning upon which it was based; that it proceeded upon the
ground that the colored people had rights that white men were bound
to respect, not only, but that the Nation was bound to protect. He
takes the ground that the amendment was suggested by the condition
of that race, which had been declared by the Supreme Court of the
United States to have no rights which white men were bound to
respect; that it was made to protect people whose rights had been
invaded, and whose strong arms had assisted in the overthrow of the
Rebellion; that it was made for the purpose of putting these men
upon a legal equality with white citizens.

Justice Harlan also shows that while legislation of Congress
to enforce a master's right was upheld by implication, the rights
of the negro do not depend upon that doctrine; that the Thirteenth
Amendment does not rest upon implication, or upon inference; that
by its terms it places the power in Congress beyond the possibility
of a doubt -- conferring the power to enforce the amendment by
appropriate legislation in express terms; and he also shows that
the Supreme Court has admitted that legislation for that purpose
may be direct and primary. Had not the power been given in express
terms, Justice Harlan contends that the sweeping declaration that
neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist would by
implication confer the power. He also shows conclusively that,
under the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress has the right by
appropriate legislation to protect the colored people against the
deprivation of any right on account of their race, and that
Congress is not necessarily restricted, under the Thirteenth
Amendment, to legislation against slavery as an institution, but
that power may be exerted to the extent of protecting the race from
discrimination in respect to such rights us belong to freemen,
where such discrimination is based on race or color. If Justice
Harlan is wrong the amendments are left without force and Congress
without power. No purpose can be assigned for their adoption. No
object can be guessed that was to be accomplished. They become
words, so arranged that they sound like sense, but when examined
fall meaninglessly apart. Under the decision of the Supreme Court
they are Quaker cannon -- cloud forts -- "property" for political

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


stage scenery -- coats of mail made of bronzed paper -- shields of
gilded pasteboard -- swords of lath.

QUESTION: Do you wish to say anything as to the reasoning of
Justice Harlan on the rights of colored people on railways, in inns
and theaters?

ANSWER: Yes, I do. That part of the opinion is especially
strong. He shows conclusively that a common carrier is in the
exercise of a sort of public-office and has public duties to
perform, and that he cannot exonerate himself from the performance
of these duties without the consent of the parties concerned. He
also shows that railroads are public highways, and that the railway
company is the agent of the State, and that a railway, although
built by private capital, is just as public in its nature as though
constructed by the State itself. He shows that the railway is
devoted to Public use, and subject to be controlled by the State
for the public benefit, and that for these reasons the colored man
has the same rights upon the railway that he has upon the public

Justice Harlan shows that the same law is applicable to inns
that is applicable to railways: that an inn-keeper is bound to take
all travelers if he can accommodate them; that he is not to select
his guests; that he has no right to say to one "you may come in,"
and to another "you shall not;" that every one who conducts himself
in a proper manner has a right to be received. He shows
conclusively that an inn-keeper is a sort of public servant; that
he is in the exercise of a quasi public employment, that he is
given special privileges, and charged with duties of a public

As to theaters, I think his argument most happy. It is this:
Theaters are licensed by law. The authority to maintain them comes
from the public. The colored race being a part of the public,
representing the power granting the license, why should the colored
people license a manager to open his doors to the white man and
shut them in the face of the black man? Why should they be
compelled to license that which they are not permitted to
enjoy?justice Harlan shows that Congress has the power to prevent
discrimination on account of race or color on railways, at inns,
and in places of public amusements, and has this power under the
Thirteenth Amendment.

In discussing the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Harlan points
out that a prohibition upon a State is not a power in Congress or
the National Government, but is simply a denial of power to the
State; that such was the Constitution before the Fourteenth
Amendment. He shows, however, that the fourteenth Amendment
presents the first instance in our history of the investiture of
Congress with affirmative power by legislation to enforce an
express prohibition upon the States. This is an important point. It
is stated with great clearness, and defended with great force. He
shows that the first clause of the first section of the Fourteenth
Amendment is of a distinctly affirmative character, and that
Congress would have had the power to legislate directly as to that

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


section simply by implication, but that as to that as well as the
express prohibitions upon the States, express power to legislate
was given.

There is one other point made by Justice Harlan which
transfixes as with a spear the decision of the Court. It is this:
As soon as the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were adopted
the colored citizen was entitled to the protection of section two,
article four, namely: "The citizens of each State shall be entitled
to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several
States." Now, suppose a colored citizen of Mississippi moves to
Tennessee. Then, under the section last quoted, he would
immediately become invested with all the privileges and immunities
of a white citizen of Tennessee. Although denied these privileges
and immunities in the State from which he emigrated, in the State
to which he immigrates he could not be discriminated against on
account of his color under the second section of the fourth
article. Now, is it possible that he gets additional rights by
immigration? Is it possible that the General Government is under a
greater obligation to protect him in a State of which he is not a
citizen than in a State of which he is a citizen? Must he leave
home for protection, and after he has lived long enough in the
State to which he immigrates to become a citizen there, must he
again move in order to protect his rights? Must one adopt the
doctrine of peripatetic protection -- the doctrine that the
Constitution is good only in transit, and that when the citizen
stops, the Constitution goes on and leaves him without protection?

Justice Harlan shows that Congress had the right to legislate
directly while that power was only implied, but that the moment the
power was conferred in express terms, then according to the Supreme
Court, it was lost.

There is another splendid definition given by Justice Harlan
-- a line drawn as broad as the Mississippi. It is the distinction
between the rights conferred by a State and rights conferred by the
Nation. Admitting that many rights conferred by a State cannot be
enforced directly by Congress, Justice Harlan shows that rights
granted by the Nation to an individual may be protected by direct
legislation. This is a distinction that should not be forgotten,
and it is a definition clear and perfect.

Justice Harlan has shown that the Supreme Court failed to take
into consideration the intention of the framers of the amendment;
failed to see that the powers of Congress were given by express
terms and did not rest upon implication; failed to see that the
Thirteenth Amendment was broad enough to cover the Civil Rights
Act; failed to see that under the three amendments rights and
privileges were conferred by the Nation on citizens of the several
States, and that these rights are under the perpetual protection of
the General Government, and that for their enforcement Congress has
the right to legislate directly; failed to see that all
implications are now in favor of liberty instead of slavery; failed
to comprehend that we have a new nation. with a new foundation,
with different objects, ends, and aims, for the attainment of which
we use different means and have been clothed with greater powers;
failed to see that the Republic changed front; failed to appreciate
the real reason for the adoption of the amendments, and failed to

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


understand that the Civil Rights Act was passed in order that a
citizen of the United States might appeal from local prejudice to
national justice.

Justice Harlan shows that it was the object to accomplish for
the black man what had been accomplished for the white man -- that
is, to protect all their rights as free men and citizens; and that
the one underlying purpose of the amendments and of the
congressional legislation has been to clothe the black race with
all the rights of citizenship, and to compel a recognition of their
rights by citizens and States -- that the object was to do away
with class tyranny, the meanest and bassist form of oppression.

If Justice Harlan is wrong in his position, then, it may
truthfully be said of the three amendments that:

"The law hath bubbles as the water has,
And these are of them."

The decision of the Supreme Court denies the protection of the
Nation to the citizens of the Nation. That decision has already
borne fruit -- the massacre at Danville. The protection of the
Nation having been withdrawn, the colored man was left to the mercy
of local prejudices and hatreds. He is without appeal, without
redress. The Supreme Court tells him that he must depend upon his
enemies for justice.

QUESTION: You seem to agree with all that Justice Harlan has
said, and to have the greatest admiration for his opinion?

ANSWER: Yes, a man rises from reading this dissenting opinion
refreshed, invigorated, and strengthened. It is a mental and moral
tonic. It was produced after a clear head had held conference with
a good heart. It will furnish a perfectly clear plank, without knot
or wind-shake, for the next Republican platform. It is written in
good plain English, and ornamented with good sound sense. The
average man can and will understand its every word. There is no
subterfuge in it.

Each position is taken in the open field. There is no resort
to quibbles or technicalities -- no hiding. Nothing is secreted in
the sleeve -- no searching for blind paths -- no stooping and
looking for ancient tracks, grass-grown and dim. Each argument
travels the highway -- "the big road." It is logical. The facts and
conclusions agree, and fall naturally into line of battle. It is
sincere and candid -- unpretentious and unanswerable. It is a grand
defence of human rights -- a brave and manly plea for universal
justice. It leaves the decision of the Supreme Court without
argument, without reason, and without excuse. Such an exhibition of
independence, courage and ability has won for Justice Harlan the
respect and admiration of "both sides," and places him in the front
rank of constitutional lawyers. --

The Inter-Ocian, Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 1883.

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Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


QUESTION: What is your opinion of Brewster's administration?

ANSWER: I hardly think I ought to say much about the
administration of Mr. Brewster. Of course many things have been
done that I thought, and still think, extremely bad; but whether
Mr. Brewster was responsible for the things done, or not, I do not
pretend to say. When he was appointed to his present position,
there was great excitement in the country about the Star Route
cases, and Mr. Brewster was expected to prosecute everybody and
everything to the extent of the law; in fact, I believe he was
appointed by reason of having made such a promise. At that time
there were hundreds of people interested in exaggerating all the
facts connected with the Star Route cases, and when there were no
facts to be exaggerated, they made some, and exaggerated them
afterward. It may be that the Attorney General was misled, and he
really supposed that all he heard was true. My objection to the
administration of the Department of Justice is, that a resort was
had to spies and detectives. The battle was not fought in the open
field. Influences were brought to bear. Nearly all departments of
the Government were enlisted. Everything was done to create a
public opinion in favor of the prosecution. Everything was done
that the cases might be decided on prejudice instead of upon facts.

Everything was done to demoralize, frighten and overawe
judges, witnesses and jurors. I do not pretend to say who was
responsible, possibly I am not an impartial judge. I was deeply
interested at the time, and felt all of these things, rather than
reasoned about them.

Possibly I cannot give a perfectly unbiased opinion.
Personally, I have no feeling now upon the subject.

The Department of Justice, in spite of its methods, did not
succeed. That was enough for me. I think, however, when the country
knows the facts, that the people will not approve of what was done.
I do not believe in trying cases in the newspapers before they are
submitted to jurors. That is a little too early. Neither do I
believe in trying them in the newspapers after the verdicts have
been rendered. That is a little too late.

QUESTION: What are Mr. Blaine's chances for the presidency?

ANSWER: My understanding is that Mr. Blaine is not a candidate
for the nomination; that he does not wish his name to be used in
that connection. He ought to have been nominated in 1876, and if he
were a candidate, he would probably have the largest following; but
my understanding is, that he does not, in any event, wish to be a
candidate. He is a man perfectly familiar with the politics of this
country, knows its history by heart, and is in every respect
probably as well qualified to act as its Chief Magistrate as any
man in the nation. He is a man of ideas, of action, and has
positive qualities. He would not wait for something to turn up, and
things would not have to wait long for him to turn them up.

QUESTION: Who do you think will be nominated at Chicago?

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


ANSWER: Of course I have not the slightest idea who will be
nominated. I may have an opinion as to who ought to be nominated,
and yet I may be greatly mistaken in that opinion. There are
hundreds of men in the Republican party, any one of whom, if
elected, would make a good, substantial President, and there are
many thousands of men about whom I know nothing, any one of whom
would in all probability make a good President. We do not want any
man to govern this county. This country governs itself. We want a
President who will honestly and faithfully execute the laws, who
will appoint postmasters and do the requisite amount of handshaking
on public occasions, and we have thousands of men who can discharge
the duties of that position. Washington is probably the worst place
to find out anything definite upon the subject of presidential
booms. I have thought for a long time that one of the most valuable
men in the county was General Sherman. Everybody knows who and what
he is. He has one great advantage -- he is a frank and outspoken
man. He has opinions and he never hesitates about letting them be
known. There is considerable talk now about Justice Harlan. His
dissenting opinion in the Civil Rights ease has made every colored
man his friend, and I think it will take considerable public
patronage to prevent a good many delegates from the Southern States
voting for him.

QUESTION: What are your present views on theology?

ANSWER: Well, I think my views have not undergone any change
that I know of. I still insist that observation, reason and
experience are the things to be depended upon in this world. I
still deny the existence of the supernatural. I still insist that
nobody can be good for you, or bad for you; that you cannot be
punished for the crimes of others, nor rewarded for their virtues.
I still insist that the consequences of good actions are always
good, and those of bad actions always bad. I insist that nobody can
plant thistles and gather figs; neither can they plant figs and
gather thistles. I still deny that a finite being can commit an
infinite sin; but I continue to insist that a God who would punish
a man forever is an infinite tyrant. My views have undergone no
change, except that the evidence of that truth constantly
increases, and the dogmas of the church look, if possible, a little
absurder every day. Theology, you know, is not a science. It stops
at the grave; and faith is the end of theology. Ministers have not
even the advantage of the doctors; the doctors sometimes can tell
by a post-mortem examination whether they killed the man or not;
but by cutting a man open after he is dead, the wisest theologians
cannot tell what has become of his soul, and whether it was injured
or helped by a belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures.
Theology depends on assertion for evidence, and on faith for
disciples. --

The Tribune, Denver, Colorado, January 17, 1886.

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QUESTION: I see that the clergy are still making all kinds of
charges against you and your doctrines.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


ANSWER: Yes. Some of the charges are true and some are not. I
suppose that they intend to get in the vicinity of veracity, and
are probably stating my belief as it is honestly misunderstood by
them. I admit that I have said and that I still think that
Christianity is a blunder. But the question arises, What is
Christianity? I do not mean, when I say that Christianity is a
blunder, that the morality taught by Christians is a mistake.
Morality is not distinctively Christian, any more than it is
Mohammedan. Morality is human, it belongs to no ism, and does not
depend for a foundation upon the supernatural, or upon any book, or
upon any creed. Morality is itself a foundation. When I say that
Christianity is a blunder, I mean all those things distinctively
Christian are blunders. It is a blunder to say that an infinite
being lived in Palestine, learned the carpenter's trade, raised the
dead, cured the blind, and cast out devils, and that this God was
finally assassinated by the Jews. This is absurd. All these
statements are blunders, if not worse. I do not believe that Christ
ever claimed that he was of supernatural origin, or that he wrought
miracles, or that he would rise from the dead. If he did, he was
mistaken -- honestly mistaken, perhaps, but still mistaken.

The morality inculcated by Mohammed is good. The immorality
inculcated by Mohammed is bad. If Mohammed was a prophet of God, it
does not make the morality he taught any better, neither does it
make the immorality any better or any worse.

By this time the whole world ought to know that morality does
not need to go into partnership with miracles. Morality is based
upon the experience of mankind. It does not have to learn of
inspired writers, or of gods, or divine persons. It is a lesson
that the whole human race has been learning and learning from
experience. He who upholds, or believes in, or teaches, the
miraculous, commits a blunder.

Now, what is morality? Morality is the best thing to do under
the circumstances. Anything that tends to the happiness of mankind
is moral. Anything that tends to unhappiness is immoral. We apply
to the moral world rules and regulations as we do in the physical
world. The man who does justice, or tries to do so -- who is honest
and kind and gives to others what he claims for himself, is a moral
man. All actions must be judged by their consequences. Where the
consequences are good, the actions are good. Were the consequences
are bad, the actions are bad; and all consequences are learned from
experience. After we have had a certain amount of experience, we
then reason from analogy. We apply our logic and say that a certain
course will bring destruction, another course will bring happiness.
There is nothing inspired about morality -- nothing supernatural.
It is simply good, common sense, going hand in hand with kindness.

Morality is capable of being demonstrated. You do not have to
take the word of anybody; you can observe and examine for yourself.
Larceny is the enemy of industry, and industry is good; therefore
larceny is immoral. The family is the unit of good government;
anything that tends to destroy the family is immoral. Honesty is
the mother of confidence; it unites, combines and solidifies
society. Dishonesty is disintegration; it destroys confidence; it
brings social chaos; it is therefore immoral.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


I also admit that I regard the Mosaic account of the creation
as an absurdity -- as a series of blunders. Probably Moses did the
best he could. He had never talked with Humboldt or Laplace, He
knew nothing of geology or astronomy. He had not the slightest
suspicion of Kepler's Three Laws. He never saw a copy of Newton's
Principii. Taking all these things into consideration, I think
Moses did the best he could.

The religious people say now that "days" did not mean days. Of
these "six days" they make a kind of telescope, which you can push
in or draw out at pleasure. If the geologists find that more time
was necessary they will stretch them out. Should it turn out that
the world is not quite as old as some think, they will push them
up. The "six days" can now be made to suit any period of time.
Nothing can be more: childish, frivolous or contradictory.

Only a few years ago the Mosaic account was considered true,
and Moses was regarded as a scientific authority. theology and
astronomy were measured by the Mosaic standard. The opposite is now
true. The church has changed; and instead of trying to prove that
modern astronomy and geology are false, because they do not agree
with Moses it is now endeavoring to prove that the account by Moses
is true, because it agrees with modern astronomy and geology. In
other words, the standard has changed; the ancient is measured by
the modern, and where the literal statement in the Bible does not
agree with modern discoveries, they do not change the discoveries,
but give new meanings to the old account. We are not now
endeavoring to reconcile science with the Bible, but to reconcile
the Bible with science.

Nothing shows the extent of modern doubt more than the
eagerness with which Christians search for some new testimony.
Luther answered Copernicus with a passage of Scripture, and he
answered him to the satisfaction of orthodox ignorance.

The truth is that the Jews adopted the stories of Creation,
the Garden of Eden, Forbidden Fruit, and the Fall of Man. They were
told by older barbarians than they, and the Jews gave them to us.

I never said that the Bible is all bad. I have always admitted
that there are many good and splendid things in the Jewish
Scriptures, and many bad things. What I insist is that we should
have the courage and the common sense to accept the good, and throw
away the bad. Evil is not good because found in good company, and
truth is still truth, even when surrounded by falsehood.

QUESTION: I see that you are frequently charged with
disrespect toward your parents -- with lack of reverence for the
opinions of your father?

ANSWER: I think my father and mother upon several religious
questions were mistaken. In fact, I have no doubt that they were;
but I never felt under the slightest obligation to defend my
father's mistakes. No one can defend what he thinks is a mistake,
without being dishonest. That is a poor way to show respect for
parents. Every Protestant clergyman asks men and women who had
Catholic parents, to desert the church in which they were raised.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


They have no hesitation in saying to these people that their
fathers and mothers were mistaken, and that they were deceived by
priests and popes.

The probability is that we are all mistaken about almost
everything; but it is impossible for a man to be respectable enough
to make a mistake respectable. There is nothing remarkably holy in
a blunder, or praiseworthy in stubbing the toe of the mind against
a mistake. Is it possible that logic stands paralyzed in the
presence of parental absurdity? Suppose a man has a bad father; is
he bound by the bad father's opinion, when he is satisfied that the
opinion is wrong? How good does a father have to be, in order to
put his son under obligation to defend his blunders? Suppose the
father thinks one way, and the mother the other; what are the
children to do? Suppose the father changes his opinion: what then?
Suppose the father thinks one way and the mother the other, and
they both die when the boy is young; and the boy is bound out;
whose mistakes is he then bound to follow? Our missionaries tell
the barbarian boy that his parents are mistaken, that they know
nothing, and that the wooden god is nothing but a senseless idol.
They do not hesitate to tell this boy that his mother believed
lies, and hugged, it may be to her dying heart, a miserable
delusion. Why should a barbarian boy cast reproach upon his

I believe it was Christ who commanded his disciples to leave
father and mother; not only to leave them, but to desert them: and
not only to desert father and mother, but to desert wives and
children. It is also told of Christ that he said that he came to
set fathers against children and children against fathers. Strange
that a follower of his should object to a man differing in opinion
from his parents! The truth is, logic knows nothing of
consanguinity; facts have no relatives but other facts; and these
facts do not depend upon the character of the person who states
them, or upon the position of the discoverer. And this leads me to
another branch of the same subject.

The ministers are continually saying that certain great men --
kings, presidents, statesmen, millionaires -- have believed in the
inspiration of the Bible. Only the other day, I read a sermon in
which Carlyle was quoted as having said that "the Bible is a noble
book. "That all may be and yet the book not be inspired. But what
is the simple assertion of Thomas Carlyle worth? If the assertion
is based upon a reason, then it is worth simply the value of the
reason, and the reason is worth just as much without the assertion,
but without the reason the assertion is worthless. Thomas Carlyle
thought, and solemnly put the thought in print, that his father was
a greater man than Robert Burns. His opinion did Burns no harm, and
his father no good. Since reading his "Reminiscences," I have no
great opinion of his opinion. In some respects he was undoubtedly
a great man, in others a small one. No man should give the opinion
of another as authority and in place of fact and reason, unless he
is willing to take all the opinions of that man. An opinion is
worth the warp and woof of fact and logic in it and no more. A man
cannot add to the truthfulness of truth. In the ordinary business
of life, we give certain weight to the opinion of specialists -- to
the opinion of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and historians. Within

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the domain of the natural, we take the opinions of our fellow-men;
but we do not feel that we are absolutely bound by these opinions.
We have the right to re-examine them, and if we find they are wrong
we feel at liberty to say so. A doctor is supposed to have studied
medicine; to have examined and explored the questions entering into
his profession; but we know that doctors are often mistaken. We
also know that there are many schools of medicine; that these
schools disagree with one another, and that the doctors of each
school disagree with one another. We also know that many patients
die, and so far as we know, these patients have not come back to
tell us whether the doctors killed them or not. The grave generally
prevents a demonstration. It is exactly the same with the clergy.
They have many schools of theology, all despising each other.
Probably no two members of the same church exactly agree. They
cannot demonstrate their propositions, because between the premise
and the logical conclusion or demonstration, stands the tomb. A
gravestone marks the end of theology. In some cases, the physician
can, by a post-mortem examination, find what killed the patient,
but there is no theological post-mortem. It is impossible, by
cutting a body open, to find where the soul has gone; or whether
baptism, or the lack of it, had the slightest effect upon final
destiny. The church, knowing that there are no facts beyond the
coffin, relies upon opinions, assertions and theories. For this
reason it is always asking alms of distinguished people. Some
President wishes to be re-elected, and thereupon speaks about the
Bible as "the corner-stone of American Liberty." This sentence is
a mouth large enough to swallow any church, and from that time
forward the religious people will be citing that remark of the
politician to substantiate the inspiration of the Scriptures.

The man who accepts opinions because they have been
entertained by distinguished people, is a mental snob. When we
blindly follow authority we are serfs. When our reason is convinced
we are freemen. It is rare to find a fully rounded and complete
man. A man may be a great doctor and a poor mechanic, a successful
politician and a poor metaphysician, a poor painter and a good

The rarest thing in the world is a logician -- that is to say,
a man who knows the value of a fact. It is hard to find mental
proportion. Theories may be established by names, but facts cannot
be demonstrated in that way. Very small people are sometimes right,
and very great people are sometimes wrong. Ministers are sometimes
right. In all the philosophies of the world there are undoubtedly
contradictions and absurdities. The mind of man is imperfect and
perfect results are impossible. A mirror, in order to reflect a
perfect picture, a perfect copy, must itself be perfect. The mind
is a little piece of intellectual glass the surface of which is not
true, not perfect. In consequence of this, every image is more or
less distorted. The less we know, the more we imagine that we can
know; but the more we know, the smaller seems the sum of knowledge.
The less we know, the more we expect, the more we hope for, and the
more seems within the range of probability. The less we have, the
more we want. There never was a banquet magnificent enough to
gratify the imagination of a beggar. The moment people begin to
reason about what they call the supernatural, they seem to lose
their minds. People seem to have lost their reason in religious

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


matters, very much as the dodo is said to have lost its wings; they
have been restricted to a little inspired island, and by disuse
their reason has been lost.

In the Jewish Scriptures you will find simply the literature
of the Jews. Yon will find there the tears and anguish of
captivity, patriotic fervor, national aspiration, proverbs for the
conduct of daily life, laws, regulations, customs, legends,
philosophy and folly. These books, of course, were not written by
one man, but by many authors. They do not agree, having been
written in different centuries,under different circumstances. I see
that Mr. Beecher has at last concluded that the Old Testament does
not teach the doctrine of immorality. He admits that from Mount
Sinai came no hope for the dead. It is very curious that we find in
the Old Testament no funeral service. No one stands by the dead and
predicts another life, In the Old Testament there, is no promise of
another world. I have sometimes thought that while the Jews were
slaves in Egypt, the doctrine of immortality became hateful. They
built so many tombs; they carried so many burdens to commemorate
the dead; they saw a nation waste its wealth to adorn its graves,
and leave the living naked to embalm the dead, that they concluded
the doctrine was a curse and never should be taught.

QUESTION: If the Jews did not believe in immorality, how do
you account for the allusions made to witches and wizards and
things of that character?

ANSWER: When Saul visited the Witch of Endor, and she, by some
magic spell, called up Samuel, the prophet said: "Why hast thou
disquieted me, to call me up?" He did not say: Why have you called
me from another world? The idea expressed is: I was asleep, why did
you disturb that repose which should be eternal? The ancient Jews
believed in witches and wizards and familiar spirits; but they did
not seem to think that these spirits had once been men and women.
They spoke of them as belonging to another world, a world to which
man would never find his way. At that time it was supposed that
Jehovah and his angels lived in the sky, but that region was not
spoken of as the destined home of man. Jacob saw angels going up
and down the ladder, but not the spirits of those he had known.
There are two cases where it seems that men were good enough to be
adopted into the family of heaven. Enoch was translated, and Elijah
was taken up in a chariot of fire. As it is exceedingly cold at the
height of a few miles, it is easy to see why the chariot was of
fire, and the same fact explains another circumstance -- the
dropping of the mantle. The Jews probably believed in the existence
of other beings -- that is to say, in angels and gods and evil
spirits -- and that they lived in other worlds -- but there is no
passage snowing that they believe in what we call the immortality
of the soul.

QUESTION: Do you believe, or disbelieve, in the immortality of
the soul?

ANSWER: I neither assert nor deny; I simply admit that I do
not know. Upon that subject I am absolutely without evidence. This
is the only world that I was ever in. There may be spirits, but I
have never met them, and do not know that I would recognize a

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


spirit. I can form no conception of what is called spiritual life.
It may be that I am deficient in imagination, and that ministers
have no difficulty in conceiving of angels and disembodied souls.
I have not the slightest idea how a soul looks, what shape it is,
how it goes from one place to another, whether it walks or flies.
I cannot conceive of the immaterial having form; neither can I
conceive of anything existing without form, and yet the fact that
I cannot conceive of a thing does not prove that the thing does not
exist, but it does prove that I know nothing about it, and that
being so, I ought to admit my ignorance. I am satisfied of a good
many things that I do not know. I am satisfied that there is no
place of eternal torment. I am satisfied that that doctrine has
done more harm than all the religious ideas, other than that, have
done good. I do not want to take any hope from any human heart. I
have no objection to people believing in any good thing -- no
objection to their expecting a crown of infinite joy for every
human being. Many people imagine that immortality must be an
infinite good; but, after all, there is something terrible in the
idea of endless life. Think of a river that never reaches the sea;
of a bird that never folds its wings; of a journey that never ends.
Most people find great pleasure in thinking about and in believing
in another world. There the prisoner expects to be free; the slave
to find liberty; the poor man expects wealth; the rich man
happiness; the peasant dreams of power, and the king of
contentment. They expect to find there what they lack here. I do
not wish to destroy these dreams. I am endeavoring to put out the
everlasting fires. A good, cool grave is infinitely better than the
fiery furnace of Jehovah's wrath. Eternal sleep is better than
eternal pain. For my part I would rather be annihilated than to be
an angel, with all the privileges of heaven, and yet have within my
breast a heart that could be happy while those who had loved me in
this world were in perdition.

I most sincerely hope that the future life will fulfill all
splendid dreams; but in the religion of the present day there is no
joy. Nothing is so devoid of comfort, when bending above our dead,
as the assertions of theology unsupported by a single fact. The
promises are so far away, and the dead are so near. From words
spoken eighteen centuries ago, the echoes are so weak, and the
sounds of the clods on the coffin are so loud. Above the grave what
can the honest minister say? If the dead were not a Christian, what
then? What comfort can the orthodox clergyman give to the widow of
the honest unbeliever? If Christianity is true, the other world
will be worse than this. There the many will be miserable, only the
few happy; there the miserable cannot better their condition; the
future has no star of hope, and in the east of eternity there can
never be a dawn.

QUESTION: If you take away the idea of eternal punishment, how
do you propose to restrain men; in what way will you influence
conduct for good?

ANSWER: Well, the trouble with religion is that it postpones
punishment and reward to another world. Wrong is wrong, because it
breeds unhappiness. right is right, be-cause it tends to the
happiness of man. These facts are the basis of what I call the
religion of this world. When a man does wrong, the consequences

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


follow, and between the cause and effect, a Redeemer cannot step.
Forgiveness cannot form a breastwork between act and consequence.

There should be a religion of the body -- a religion that will
prevent deformity, that will refuse to multiply insanity, that will
not propagate disease -- a religion that is judged by its
consequences in this world. Orthodox Christianity has taught, and
still teaches, that in this world the difference between the good
and bad is that the bad enjoy themselves, while the good carry the
cross of virtue with bleeding brows bound and pierced with the
thorns of honesty and kindness. All this, in my judgment, is
immoral. The man who does wrong carries a cross. There is no world,
no star, in which the result of wrong is real happiness. There is
no world, no star, in which the result of right doing is
unhappiness. Virtue and vice must be the same everywhere.

Vice must be vice everywhere, because its consequences are
evil; and virtue must be virtue everywhere, because its
consequences are good. There can be no such thing as forgiveness.
These facts are the only restraining influences possible -- the
innocent man cannot suffer for the guilty and satisfy the law.

QUESTION: How do you answer the argument, or the fact, that
the church is constantly increasing, and that there are now four
hundred millions of Christians?

ANSWER: That is what I call the argument of numbers. If that
argument is good now, it was always good. If Christians were at any
time in the minority, then, according to this argument,
Christianity was wrong. Every religion that has succeeded has
appealed to the argument of numbers. There was a time when Buddhism
was in a majority. Buddha not only had, but has more followers than
Christ. Success is not a demonstration. Mohammed was a success, and
a success from the commencement. Upon a thousand fields he was
victor. Of the scattered tribes of the desert, he made a nation,
and this nation took the fairest part of Europe from the followers
of the cross. In the history of the world, the success of Mohammed
is unparalleled, but this success does not establish that he was
the prophet of God.

Now, it is claimed that there are some four hundred millions
of Christians. To make that total I am counted as a Christian; I am
one of the fifty or sixty millions of Christians in the United
States -- excluding Indians, not taxed. By the census report, we
are all going to heaven -- we are all orthodox. At the last great
day we can refer with confidence to the ponderous volumes
containing the statistics of the United States. As a matter of
fact, how many Christians are there in the United States -- how
many believers in the inspiration of the Scriptures -- how many
real followers of Christ? I will not pretend to give the number,
but I will venture to say that there are not fifty millions. How
many in England? Where are the four hundred millions found? To make
this immense number, they have counted all the Heretics, all the
Catholics, all the Jews, Spiritualists, Universalists and
Unitarians, all the babes, all the idiotic and insane, all the
Infidels, all the scientists, all the unbelievers. As a matter of
fact, they have no right to count any except the orthodox members

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


of the orthodox churches. There may be more "members" now than
formerly, and this increase of members is due to a decrease of
religion. Thousands of members are only nominal Christians, wearing
the old uniform simply because they do not wish to be charged with
desertion. The church, too, is a kind of social institution, a club
with a creed instead of by. laws, and the creed is never defended
unless attacked by an outsider. No objection is made to the
minister because he is liberal, if he says nothing about it in his
pulpit. A man like Mr. Beecher draws a congregation, not because he
is a Christian, but because he is a genius; not because he is
orthodox, but because he has something to say. He is an
intellectual athlete. He is full of pathos and poetry. He has more
description than divinity: more charity than creed, and altogether
more common sense than theology. For these reasons thousands of
people love to hear him. On the other hand, there are many people
who have a morbid desire for the abnormal -- for intellectual
deformities -- for thoughts that have two heads. This accounts for
the success of some of Mr. Beecher's rivals.

Christians claim that success is a test of truth. Has any
church succeeded as well as the Catholic? Was the tragedy of the
Garden of Eden a success? Who succeeded there? The last best
thought is not a success, if you mean that only that is a success
which has succeeded, and if you mean by succeeding, that it has won
the assent of the majority. Besides there is no time fixed for the
test. Is that true which succeeds to-day, or next year, or in the
next century? Once the Copernican system was not a success. There
is no time fixed. The result is we have to wait. A thing to exist
at all has to be, to a certain extent, a success A thing cannot
even die without having been a success. It certainly succeeded
enough to have life. Presbyterians should remember, while arguing
the majority argument, and the success argument, that there are far
more Catholics than Protestants, and that the Catholics can give a
longer list of distinguished names.

My answer to all this, however, is that the history of the
world shows that ignorance has always been in the majority. There
is one right road; numberless paths that are wrong. Truth is one;
error is many. When a great truth has been discovered, one man has
pitted himself against the world. A few think: the many believe.
The few lead; the many follow. The light of the new day, as it
looks over the window sill of the east, falls at first on only one

There is another thing. A great many people pass for
Christians who are not. Only a little while ago a couple of ladies
were returning from church in a carriage. They had listened to a
good orthodox sermon, One said to the other: "I am going to tell
you something -- I am going to shock you -- I do not believe the
Bible," And the other replied: "Neither do I." --

The News, Detroit, Michigan, January 6, 1884.

****     ****

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


QUESTION: What will be the main issues in the next
presidential campaign?

ANSWER: I think that the principal issues will be civil rights
and protection for American industries. The Democratic party is not
a unit on the tariff question -- neither is the Republican; but I
think that a majority of the Democrats are in favor of free trade
and a majority of Republicans in favor of a protective tariff. The
Democratic Congressmen will talk just enough about free trade to
frighten the manufacturing interests of the country, and probably
not quite enough to satisfy the free traders. The result will be
that the Democrats will talk about reforming the tariff, but will
do nothing but talk. I think the tariff ought to be reformed in
many particulars; but as long as we need to raise a great revenue
my idea is that it ought to be so arranged as to protect to the
utmost, without producing monopoly in American manufacturers. I am
in favor of protection because it multiplies industries; and I am
in favor of a great number of industries because they develop the
brain, because they give employment to all and allow us to utilize
all the muscle and all the sense we have. If we were all farmers we
would grow stupid. If we all worked at one kind of mechanic art we
would grow dull.But with a variety of industries, with a constant
premium upon ingenuity, with the promise of wealth as the reward of
success in any direction, the people become intelligent, and while
we are protecting our industries we develop our brains. So I am in
favor of the protection of civil rights by the Federal Government,
and that, in my judgment, will be one of the great issues in the
next campaign.

QUESTION: I see that you say that one of the great issues of
the coming campaign will be civil rights; what do you mean by that?

ANSWER: Well, I mean this. The Supreme Court has recently
decided that a colored man whose rights are trampled upon, in a
State, cannot appeal to the Federal Government for protection. The
decision amounts to this: That Congress has no right until a State
has acted, and has acted contrary to the Constitution. Now, if a
State refuses to do anything upon the subject, what is the citizen
to do? My opinion is that the Government is bound to protect its
citizens, and as a consideration for this protection, the citizen
is bound to stand by the Government. When the nation calls for
troops, the citizen of each State is bound to respond, no matter
what his State may think. This doctrine must be maintained, or the
United States ceases to be a nation. If a man looks to his State
for protection, then he must go with his State. My doctrine is,
that there should be patriotism upon the one hand, and protection
upon the other. If a State endeavors to secede from the Union, a
citizen of that State should be in a position to defy the State and
appeal to the Nation for protection. The doctrine now is, that the
General Government turns the citizen over to the State for
protection, and if the State does not protect him, that is his
misfortune; and the consequence of this doctrine will be to build
up the old heresy of State Sovereignty -- a doctrine that was never
appealed to except in the interest of thieving or robbery. That
doctrine was first appealed to when the Congress was formed,
because they were afraid the National Government would interfere
with the slave trade. It was next appealed to, to uphold the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Fugitive Slave Law. It was next appealed to, to give the
territories of the United States to slavery. Then it was appealed
to, to support rebellion, and now out of this doctrine they attempt
to build a breastwork, behind which they can trample upon the
rights of the colored men.

I believe in the sovereignty of the Nation. A nation that
cannot protect its citizens ought to stop playing nation. In the
old times the Supreme Court found no difficulty in supporting
slavery by "inference", by "intendment," but now that liberty has
became national, the Court is driven to less than a literal
interpretation. If the Constitution does not support liberty, it is
of no use. To maintain liberty is the only legitimate object of
human government. I hope the time will come when the judges of the
Supreme Court will be elected, say for a period of ten years. I do
not believe in the legal monk system. I believe in judges still
maintaining an interest in human affairs.

QUESTION: What do you think of the Mormon question?

ANSWER: I do not believe in the bayonet plan. Mormonism must
he done away with by the thousand influences of civilization, by
education, by the elevation of the people. Of course, a gentleman
would rather have one noble woman than a hundred females. I hate
the system of polygamy. Nothing is more infamous. I admit that the
Old Testament upholds it. I admit that the patriarchs were mostly
polygamists. I admit that Solomon was mistaken on that subject. But
notwithstanding the fact that polygamy is upheld by the Jewish
Scriptures, I believe it to be a great wrong. At the same time if
you undertake to get that idea out of the Mormons by force you will
not succeed.I think a good way to do away with that institution
would be for all the churches to unite, bear the expense, and send
missionaries to Utah; let these ministers call the people together
and read to them the lives of David, Solomon, Abraham and other
patriarchs. Let all the missionaries be called home from foreign
fields and teach these people that they should not imitate the only
men with whom God ever condescended to hold intercourse. Let these
frightful examples be held up to these people, and if it is done
earnestly, it seems to me that the result would be good.

Polygamy exists. All laws upon the subject should take that
fact into consideration, and punishment should be provided for
offenses thereafter committed. The children of Mormons should be
legitimatized. In other words, in attempting to settle this
question, we should accomplish all the good possible, with the
least possible harm.

I agree mostly with Mr. Beecher, and I utterly disagree with
the Rev. Mr. Newman. Mr. Newman wants to kill and slay. He does not
rely upon Christianity, but upon brute force. He has lost his
confidence in example, and appeals to the bayonet. Mr. Newman had
a discussion with one of the Mormon elders, and was put to
ignominious flight; no wonder that he appeals to force. Having
failed in argument, he calls for artillery; having been worsted in
the appeal to Scripture, he asks for the sword. He says, failing to
convert, let us kill; and he takes this position in the name of the
religion of kindness and forgiveness.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Strange that a minister now should throw away the Bible and
yell for a bayonet; that he should desert the Scriptures and call
for soldiers; that he should lose confidence in the power of the
Spirit and trust in the sword. I recommend that Mormonism be done
away with by distributing the Old Testament through Utah.

QUESTION: What do you think of the investigation of the
Department of Justice now going on?

ANSWER: The result, in my Judgment, will depend on its
thoroughness. If Mr. Springer succeeds in proving exactly what the
Department of Justice did, the methods pursued; if he finds out
what their spies and detectives and agents were instructed to do,
then I think the result will be as disastrous to the Department as
beneficial to the country. The people seem to have forgotten that
a little while after the first Star Route trial three of the agents
of the Department of Justice were indicted for endeavoring to bribe
the jury. They forget that Mr. Bowen, an agent of the Department of
Justice, is a fugitive, because he endeavored to bribe the foreman
of the jury, They seem to forget that the Department of Justice, in
order to cover its own tracks, had the foreman of the jury indicted
because one of its agents endeavored to bribe him. Probably this
investigation will nudge the ribs of the public enough to make
people remember these things. Personally, I have no feeling on the
subject. It was enough for me that we succeeded in thwarting its
methods, in spite of its detectives, spies, and informers.

The Department is already beginning to dissolve. Brewster
Cameron has left it, and as a reward has been exiled to Arizona.
Mr. Brewster will probably be the next to pack his official valise.
A few men endeavored to win popularity by pursuing a few others,
and thus far they have been conspicuous failures. MacVeagh and
James are to-day enjoying the oblivion earned by misdirected
energy, and Mr. Brewster will soon keep them company. The history
of the world does not furnish an instance of more flagrant abuse of
power. There never was a trial as shamelessly conducted by a
government. But, as I said before, I have no feeling now except
that of pity.

QUESTION: I see that Mr. Beecher is coming round to your views
on theology?

ANSWER: I would not have the egotism to say that he was coming
round to my views, but evidently Mr. Beecher has been growing. His
head has been instructed by his heart; and if a man will allow even
the poor plant of pity to grow in his heart he will hold in
infinite execration all orthodox religion. The moment he will allow
himself to think that eternal consequences depend upon human life;
that the few short years we live, in this world determine for an
eternity the question of infinite joy or infinite pain; the moment
he thinks of that he will see that it is an infinite absurdity. For
instance, a man is born in Arkansas and lives there to be seventeen
or eighteen years of age; is it possible that he can be truthfully
told at the day of judgment that he had a fair chance? Just imagine
a man being held eternally responsible for his conduct in Delaware!
Mr. Beecher is a man of great genius -- full of poetry and pathos.
Every now and then he is driven back by the orthodox members of his

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


congregation toward the old religion, and for the benefit of those
weak disciples he will preach what is called "a doctrinal sermon;"
but before he gets through with it, seeing it is infinitely cruel,
he utters a cry of horror, and protests with all the strength of
his nature against the cruelty of the creed. I imagine that he has
always thought that he was under great obligation to Plymouth
Church, but the truth is that that church depends upon him; that
church gets its character from Mr. Beecher. He has done a vast deal
to ameliorate the condition of the average orthodox mind. He
excites the envy of the mediocre minister, and he excites the
hatred of the really orthodox, but he receives the approbation of
good and generous men everywhere. For my part, I have no quarrel
with any religion that does not threaten eternal punishment to very
good people, and that does not promise eternal reward to very bad
people. If orthodox Christianity be true, some of the best people
I know are going to hell, and some of the meanest I have ever known
are either in heaven or on the road. Of course, I admit that there
are thousands and millions of good Christians -- honest and noble
people, but in my judgment, Mr. Beecher is the greatest man in the
world who now occupies a pulpit.

Speaking of a man's living in Delaware, a young man, some time
ago, came up to me on the street, in an Eastern city and asked for
money. " What is your business," I asked. "I am a waiter by
profession." "Where do you come from?" "Delaware." "Well, what was
the matter -- did you drink, or cheat your employer, or were you
idle?" "No." "What was the trouble?" "Well, the truth is, the State
is so small they don't need any waiters; they all reach for what
they want."

QUESTION: Do you not think there are some dangerous tendencies
in Liberalism?

ANSWER: I will first state this proposition: The credit system
in morals, as in business, breeds extravagance. The cash system in
morals, as well as in business, breeds economy. We will suppose a
community in which everybody is bound to sell on credit, and in
which every creditor can take the benefit of the bankrupt law every
Saturday night, and the constable pays the costs. In my judgment
that community would be extravagant as long as the merchants
lasted. We will take another community in which everybody has to
pay cash, and in my judgment that community will be a very
economical one. Now, then, let us apply this to morals.

Christianity allows everybody to sin on a credit, and allows
a man who has lived, we will say sixty-nine years, what Christians
are pleased to call a worldly life, an immoral life. They allow him
on his deathbed, between the last dose of medicine and the last
breath, to be converted, and that man who has done nothing except
evil, becomes an angel. Here is another man who has lived the same
length of time, doing all the good he possibly could do, but not
meeting with what they an pleased to call a change of heart;" he
goes to a world of pain. Now, my doctrine is that everybody must
reap exactly what he sows, other things being equal. If he acts
badly he will not be very happy; if he acts well he will not be
very sad. I believe in the doctrine of consequences, and that every
man must stand the consequences of his own acts. It seems to me

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


that that fact will have a greater restraining influence than the
idea that you can, just before you leave this world, shift your
burden on to somebody else. I am a believer in the restraining
influences of liberty, because responsibility goes hand in hand
with freedom. I do not believe that the gallows is the last step
between earth and heaven. I do not believe in the conversion and
salvation of murderers while their innocent victims are in hell.
The church has taught so long that he who acts virtuously carries
a cross, and that only sinners enjoy themselves, that it may be
that for a little while after men leave the church they may go to
extremes until they demonstrate for themselves that the path of
vice is the path of thorns, and that only along the wayside of
virtue grow the flowers of joy. The church has depicted virtue as
a sour, wrinkled termagant; an old woman with nothing but skin and
bones, and a temper beyond description; and at the same time vice
has been painted in all the voluptuous outlines of a Greek statue.
The truth. is exactly the other way. A thing is right because it
pays; a thing is wrong because it does not; and when I use the word
"pays," I mean in the highest and noblest sense. --

The Daily News, Denver, Colorado, January 17, 1884.

****     ****


QUESTION: Who will be the Republican nominee for President?

ANSWER: The correct answer to this question would make so many
men unhappy that I have concluded not to give it.

QUESTION: Has not the Democracy injured itself irretrievably
by permitting the free trade element to rule it?

ANSWER: I do not think that the Democratic party weakened
itself by electing Carlisle, Speaker. I think him an excellent man,
an exceedingly candid man, and one who will do what he believes
ought to be done, I have a very high opinion of Mr. Carlisle. I do
not suppose any party in this country is really for free trade. I
find that all writers upon the subject, no matter which side they
are on, are on that; side with certain exceptions. Adam Smith was
in favor of free trade, with a few exceptions, and those exceptions
were in matters where he thought it was for England's interests not
to have free trade. The same may be said of all writers. So far as
I can see, the free traders have all the arguments and the
protectionists all the facts. The free trade theories are splendid,
but they will not work; the results are disastrous. We find by
actual experiment that it is better to protect home industries. It
was once said that protection created nothing but monopoly; the
argument was that way; but the facts are not. Take, for instance,
steel rails; when we bought them of England we paid one hundred and
twenty-five dollars a ton. I believe there was a tariff of twenty-
eight or twenty-nine dollars a ton, and yet in spite of all the
arguments going to show that protection would simply increase
prices in America, would simply enrich the capitalist and
impoverish the consumer, steel rails are now produced, I believe,
right here in Colorado for forty-two dollars a ton.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


After all, it is a question of labor; a question of prices
that shall be paid the laboring man; a question of what the
laboring man shall eat; whether he shall eat meat or soup made from
the bones. Very few people take into consideration the value of raw
material and the value of labor. Take, for instance, your ton of
steel rails worth forty-two dollars. The iron in the earth is not
worth twenty-five cents. The coal in the earth and the lime in the
ledge together are not worth twenty-five cents. Now, then, of the
forty-two dollars. forty-one and a half is labor. There is not two
dollars worth of raw material in a locomotive worth fifteen
thousand dollars. By raw material I mean the material in the earth.
There is not in the works of a watch which will sell for fifteen
dollars, raw material of the value of one-half cent. All the rest
is labor. A ship, a man-of-war that costs one million dollars --
the raw material in the earth is not worth, in my judgment, one
thousand dollars. All the rest is labor. If there is any way to
protect American labor, I am in favor of it. If the present tariff
does not do it, then I am in favor of changing to one that will. If
the Democratic party takes a stand for free trade or anything like
it, they will need protection; they will need protection at the
polls; that is to say, they will meet only with defeat and

QUESTION: What should be done with the surplus revenue?

ANSWER: My answer to that is, reduce internal revenue taxation
until the present surplus is exhausted, and then endeavor so to
arrange your tariff that you will not produce more than you need.
I think the easiest question to grapple with on this earth is a
surplus of money.

I do not believe in distributing it among the States. I do not
think there could be a better certificate of the prosperity of our
country than the fact that we are troubled with a surplus revenue;
that we have the machinery for collecting taxes in such perfect
order, so ingeniously contrived, that it cannot be stopped; that it
goes right on collecting money, whether we want it or not; and the
wonderful thing about it is that nobody complains. If nothing else
can be done with the surplus revenue, probably we had better pay
some of our debts. I would suggest, as a last resort, to pay a few
honest claims.

QUESTION: Are you getting nearer to or farther away from God,
Christianity and the Bible?

ANSWER: In the first place, as Mr. Locke so often remarked, we
will define our terms. If by the word "God"is meant a person, a
being, who existed before the creation of the universe, and who
controls all that is, except himself, I do not believe in such a
being; but if by the word God is meant all that is, that is to say,
the universe, including every atom and every star, then I am a
believer. I suppose the word that would nearest describe me is
"Pantheist." I cannot believe that a being existed from eternity,
and who finally created this universe after having wasted an
eternity in idleness; but upon this subject I know just as little
as anybody ever did or ever will, and, in my judgment, just as
much. My intellectual horizon is somewhat limited, and, to tell you

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the truth, this is the only world that I was ever in. I am what
might be called a representative of a rural district, and, as a
matter of fact, I know very little about my district. I believe it
was Confucius who said: "How should I know anything about another
world when I know so little of this?"

The greatest intellects of the world have endeavored to find
words to express their conception of God, of the first cause, or of
the science of being, but they have never succeeded. I find in the
old Confession of Faith, in the old Catechism, for instance, this
description: that God is a being without body, parts or passions.
I think it would trouble anybody to find a better definition of
nothing. That describes a vacuum, that is to say, that describes
the absence of everything. I find that theology is a subject that
only the most ignorant are certain about, and that the more a man
thinks, the less he knows.

From the Bible God, I do not know that I am going farther and
farther away. I have been about as far as a man could get for many
years. I do not believe in the God of the Old Testament.

Now, as to the next branch of your question, Christianity. The
question arises, What is Christianity? I have no objection to the
morality taught as a part of Christianity, no objection to its
charity, its forgiveness, its kindness; no objection to its hope
for this world and another, not the slightest, but all these things
do not make Christianity. Mohammed taught certain doctrines that
are good, but the good in the teachings of Mohammed is not
Mohammedism. When I speak of Christianity I speak of that which is
distinctly Christian. For instance, the idea that the Infinite God
was born in Palestine, learned the carpenter's trade, disputed with
the parsons of his time, excited the wrath of the theological
bigots, and was finally crucified; that afterward he was raised
from the dead, and that if anybody believes this he will be saved
and if he fails to believe it, he will be lost; in other words,
that which is distinctly Christian in the Christian system, is its
supernaturalism, its miracles, its absurdity. Truth does not need
to go into partnership with the supernatural. What Christ said is
worth the reason it contains. If a man raises the dead and then
says twice two are five, that changes no rule in mathematics. If a
multiplication table was divinely inspired, that does no good. The
question is, is it correct? So I think that in the world of morals,
we must prove that a thing is right or wrong by experience, by
analogy, not by miracles. There is no fact in physical science that
can be supernaturally demonstrated. Neither is there any fact in
the moral world that could be substantiated by miracles. Now, then,
keeping in mind that by Christianity I mean the supernatural in
that system, of course I am just as far away from it as I can ever
get. For the man Christ I have respect. He was an infidel in his
day, and the ministers of his day cried out blasphemy, as they have
been crying ever since, against every person who has suggested a
new thought or shown the worthlessness of an old one.

Now, as to the third part of the question, the Bible. People
say that the Bible is inspired. Well what does inspiration mean?
Did God write it? No; but the men who did write it were guided by
the holy Spirit. Very well. Did they write exactly what the Holy

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Spirit wanted them to write? Well, religious people say, yes. At
the same time they admit that the gentlemen who were collecting, or
taking down in shorthand what was said, had to use their own words.
Now, we all know that the same words do not have the same meaning
to all people. It is impossible to convey the same thoughts to all
minds by the same language, and it is for that reason that the
Bible has produced so many sects, not only disagreeing with each
other, but disagreeing among themselves.

We find, then, that it is utterly impossible for God
(admitting that there is one) to convey the same thoughts by human
language to all people. No two persons understand the same language
alike, A man's understanding depends upon his experience, upon his
capacity, upon the particular bent of his mind -- in fact, upon the
countless influences that have made him what he is. Everything in
nature tells everyone who sees it a story, but that story depends
upon the capacity of the one to whom it is told. The sea says one
thing to the ordinary man, and another thing to Shakespeare, The
stars have not the same language for all people. The consequence is
that no book can tell the same story to any two persons. The Jewish
Scriptures are like other books, written by different men in
different ages of the world, hundreds of years apart, filled with
contradictions. They embody, I presume, fairly enough, the wisdom
and ignorance, the reason and prejudice, of the times in which they
were written. They are worth the good that is in them, and the
question is whether we will take the good and throw the bad away.
There are good laws and bad laws. There are wise and foolish
sayings. There are gentle and cruel passages, and you can find a
text to suit almost any frame of mind; whether you wish to do an
act of charity or murder a neighbor's babe, you will find a passage
that will exactly fit the case. So that I can say that I am still
for the reasonable, for the natural; and I am still opposed to the
absurd and supernatural.

QUESTION: Is there any better or more ennobling belief than
Christianity; if so, what is it?

ANSWER: There are many good things, of course, in every
religion, or they would not have existed; plenty of good precepts
in Christianity, but the thing that I object to more than all
others is the doctrine of eternal punishment, the idea of hell for
many and heaven for the few. Take from Christianity the doctrine of
eternal punishment and I have no particular objection to what is
generally preached, If you will take that away, and all the
supernatural connected with it, I have no objection; but that
doctrine of eternal punishment tends to harden the human heart. It
has produced more misery than all the other doctrines in the world.
It has shed more blood; it has made more martyrs. It has lighted
the fires of persecution and kept the sword of cruelty wet with
heroic blood for at least a thousand years. There is no crime that
that doctrine has not produced. I think it would be impossible for
the imagination to conceive of a worse religion than orthodox
Christianity -- utterly impossible; a doctrine that divides this
world, a doctrine that divides families, a doctrine that teaches
the son that he can be happy, with his mother in perdition; the
husband that he can he happy in heaven while his wife suffers the
agonies of hell. This doctrine is infinite injustice, and tends to

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


subvert all ideas of justice in the human heart. I think it would
be impossible to conceive of a doctrine better calculated to make
wild beasts of men than that; In fact, that doctrine was born of
all the wild beast there is in man. It was born of infinite

Think of preaching that you must believe that a certain being
was the son of God, no matter whether your reason is convinced or
not. Suppose one should meet, we will say on London Bridge, a man
clad in rags, and he should stop us and say, "My friend. I wish to
talk with you a moment. I am the rightful King of Great Britain,"
and you should say to him, "Well, my dinner is waiting; I have no
time to bother about who the King of England is," and then he
should meet another and insist on his stopping while he pulled out
some papers to show that he was the rightful King of England, and
the other man should say, "I have got business here, my friend; I
am selling goods, and I have no time to bother my head about who
the King of England is. No doubt you are the King of England, but
you don't look like him. "And then suppose he stops another man,
and makes the same statement to him, and the other man should laugh
at him and say, "I don't want to hear anything on this subject; you
are crazy; you ought to go to some insane asylum, or put something
on your head to keep you cool. "And suppose, after all, it should
turn out that the man was King of England, and should afterward
make his claim good and be crowned in Westminster. What would we
think of that King if he should hunt up the gentlemen that he met
on London Bridge, and have their heads cut off because they had no
faith that he was the rightful heir? And what would we think of a
God now who would damn a man eighteen hundred years after the
event, because he did not believe that he was God at the time he
was living in Jerusalem; not only damn the fellows that he met, and
who did not believe in him, but gentlemen who lived eighteen
hundred years afterward, and who certainly could have known nothing
of the facts except from hearsay.

The best religion, after all, is common sense; a religion for
this world, one world at a time, a religion for to-day. We want a
religion that will deal in questions in which we are interested.
How are we to do away with crime? How are we to do away with
pauperism? How are we to do away with the want and misery in every
civilized country?England is a Christian nation, and yet about one
in six in the city of London dies in almshouses, asylums, prisons,
hospitals and jails. We,I suppose, are a civilized nation, and yet
all the penitentiaries are crammed; there is want on every hand,
and my opinion is that we had better turn our attention to this

Christianity is charitable; Christianity spends a great deal
of money; but I am somewhat doubtful as to the good that is
accomplished. There ought to be some way to prevent crime; not
simply to punish it. There ought to be some way to prevent
pauperism, not simply to relieve temporarily a pauper, and if the
ministers and good people belonging to the churches would spend
their time investigating the affairs of this world and let the New
Jerusalem take care of itself, I think it would be far better.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


The church is guilty of one great contradiction. The ministers
are always talking about worldly people, and yet, were it not for
worldly people, who would pay the salary? How could the church live
a minute unless somebody attended to the affairs of this world? The
best religion, in my judgment, is common sense going along hand in
hand with kindness, and not troubling ourselves about another world
until we get there. I am willing for one, to wait and see what kind
of a country it will be.

QUESTION: Does the question of the inspiration of the
Scriptures affect the beauty and benefits of Christianity here and

ANSWER: A belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures has
done, in my judgment, great harm. The Bible has been the breastwork
for nearly everything wrong. The defenders of slavery relied on the
Bible. The Bible was the real auction block on which every negro
stood when he was sold. I never knew a minister to preach in favor
of slavery that did not take his text from the Bible. The Bible
teaches persecution for opinion's sake. The Bible -- that is the
Old Testament -- upholds polygamy, and just to the extent that men,
through the Bible, have believed that slavery, religious
persecution, wars of extermination and polygamy were taught by God,
just to that extent the Bible has done great harm. The idea of
inspiration enslaves the human mind and debauches the human heart.

QUESTION: Is not Christianity and the belief in God a check
upon mankind in general and thus a good thing in itself?

ANSWER: This, again, brings up the question of what you mean
by Christianity, but taking it for granted that you mean by
Christianity the church, then I answer, when the church had almost
absolute authority, then the world was the worst.

Now, as to the other part of the question, "Is not a belief in
God a check upon mankind in general?" That is owing to what kind of
God the man believes in. When mankind believed in the God of the
Old Testament, I think that belief was a bad thing; the tendency
was bad. I think that John Calvin patterned after Jehovah as nearly
as his health and strength would permit. Man makes God in his own
image, and bad men are not apt to have a very good God if they make
him. I believe it is far better to have a real belief in goodness,
in kindness, in honesty and in mankind than in any supernatural
being whatever. I do not suppose it would do any harm for a man to
believe in a real good God, a God without revenge, a God that was
not very particular in having a man believe a doctrine whether he
could understand it or not. I do not believe that a belief of that
kind would do any particular harm.

There is a vast difference between the God of John Calvin and
the God of Henry Ward Beecher, and a great difference between the
God of Cardinal Pedro Gonzales de Mendoza and the God of Theodore

QUESTION: Well, Colonel, is the world growing better or worse?

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


ANSWER: I think better in some respects, and worse in others;
but on the whole, better. I think that while events, like the
pendulum of a clock, go backward and forward, man, like the hands,
goes forward. I think there is more reason and less religion, more
charity and less creed. I think the church is improving. Ministers
are ashamed to preach the old doctrines with the old fervor. There
was a time when the pulpit controlled the pews. It is so no longer.
The pews know what they want, and if the minister does not furnish
it they discharge him and employ another. He is no longer an
autocrat; he must bring to the market what his customers are
willing to buy.

QUESTION: What are you going to do to be saved?

ANSWER: Well, I think I am safe anyway. I suppose I have a
right to rely on what Matthew says, that of I will forgive others
God will forgive me. I suppose if there is another world I shall be
treated very much as I treat others. I never expect to find perfect
bliss anywhere; maybe I should tire of it if I should. What I have
endeavored to do has been to put out the fires of an ignorant and
cruel hell; to do what I could to destroy that dogma; to destroy
that doctrine that makes the cradle as terrible as the coffin. --

The Denver Republican, Denver, Colorado, January 17, 1884.

****    ****


QUESTION: I suppose that your attention has been called to the
excitement in England over the oath question, and you have probably
wondered that so much should have been made of so little?

ANSWER: Yes; I have read a few articles upon the subject,
including one by Cardinal Newman. It is wonderful that so many
people imagine that there is something miraculous in the oath. They
seem to regard it as a kind of verbal fetich -- a charm, an "open
sesame" to be pronounced at the door of truth, a spell, a kind of
moral thumbscrew, by means of which falsehood itself is compelled
to turn informer.

The oath has outlived its brother, "the wager of battle." Both
were born of the idea that God would interfere for the right and
for the truth. Trial by fire and by water had the same origin. It
was once believed that the man in the wrong could not kill the man
in the right; but, experience having shown that he usually did, the
belief gradually fell into disrepute. So it was once thought that
a perjurer could not swallow a piece of sacramental bread; but, the
fear that made the swallowing difficult having passed away, the
appeal to the corsned was abolished. It was found that a brazen or
a desperate man could eat himself out of the greatest difficulty
with perfect ease, satisfying the law and his own hunger at the
same time.

The oath is a relic of barbarous theology, of the belief that
a personal God interferes in the affairs of men; that some God
protects innocence and guards the right. The experience of the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


world has sadly demonstrated the folly of that belief. The
testimony of a witness ought to be believed, not because it is
given under the solemnities of an oath, but because it is
reasonable. If unreasonable it ought to be thrown aside. The
question ought not to be, "Has this been sworn to?" but, "Is this
true?" The moment evidence is tested by the standard of reason, the
oath becomes a useless ceremony. Let the man who gives false
evidence be punished as the lawmaking power may prescribe. He
should be punished because he commits a crime against society, and
he should be punished in this world. All honest men will tell the
truth if they can; therefore, oaths will have no effect upon them.
Dishonest men will not tell the truth unless the truth happens to
suit their purpose: therefore oaths will have no effect upon them.
We punish them, not for swearing to a lie, but for telling it; and
we can make the punishment for telling the falsehood just as severe
as we wish. If they are to be punished in another world, the
probability is that the punishment there will be for having told
the falsehood here. After all, a lie is made no worse by an oath,
and the truth is made no better.

QUESTION: You object then to the oath. Is your objection based
on any religious grounds, or on any prejudice against the ceremony
because of its religious origin; or what is your objection?

ANSWER: I care nothing about the origin of the ceremony. The
objection to the oath is this: It furnishes a falsehood with a
letter of credit. It supplies the wolf with sheep's clothing and
covers the hands of Jacob with hair. It blows out the light, and in
the darkness Leah is taken for Rachel. It puts upon each witness a
kind of theological gown. This gown hides the moral rags of the
depraved wretch as well as the virtues of the honest man. The oath
is a mask that falsehood puts on, and for a moment is mistaken for
truth. It gives to dishonesty the advantage of solemnity. The
tendency of the oath is to put all testimony on an equality. The
obscure rascal and the man of sterling character both "swear," and
jurors who attribute a miraculous quality to the oath, forget the
real difference in the men, and give about the same weight to the
evidence of each, because both were "sworn." A scoundrel is
delighted with the opportunity of going through a ceremony that
gives importance and dignity to his story, that clothes him for the
moment with respectability, loans him the appearance of conscience,
and gives the ring of true coin to the base metal. To him the oath
is a shield. He is in partnership, for a moment, with God, and
people who have no confidence in the witness credit the firm.

QUESTION: Of course you know the religionists insist that
people are more likely to tell the truth when "sworn," and that to
take away the oath is to destroy the foundation of testimony?

ANSWER: If the use of the oath is defended on the ground that
religious people need a stimulus to tell the truth, then I am
compelled to say that religious people have been so badly educated
that they mistake the nature of the crime.

They should be taught that to defeat justice by falsehood is
the real offence. Besides, fear is not the natural foundation of
virtue. Even with religious people fear cannot always last. Ananias

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


and Sapphira have been dead so long, and since their time so many
people have sworn falsely without affecting their health that the
fear of sudden divine vengeance no longer pales the cheek of the
perjurer. If the vengeance is not sudden, then, according to the
church, the criminal will have plenty of time to repent; so that
the oath no longer affects even the fearful. Would it not be better
for the church to teach that telling the falsehood is the real
crime, and that taking the oath neither adds to nor takes from its
enormity? Would it not be better to teach that he who does wrong
must suffer the consequences, whether God forgives him or not?

He who tries to injure another may or may not succeed, but he
cannot by any possibility fail to injure himself. Men should be
taught that there is no difference between truth-telling and truth-
swearing. Nothing is more vicious than the idea that any ceremony
or form of words -- hand-lifting or book-kissing -- can add, even
in the slightest degree, to the perpetual obligation every human
being is under to speak the truth.

The truth, plainly told, naturally commends itself to the
intelligent. Every fact is a genuine link in the infinite chain,
and will agree perfectly with every other fact. A fact asks to be
inspected, asks to be understood. It needs no oath, no ceremony, no
supernatural aid. It is independent of all the gods. A falsehood
goes in partnership with theology, and depends on the partner for

To show how little influence for good has been attributed to
the oath, it is only necessary to say that for centuries, in the
Christian world, no person was allowed to testify who had the
slightest pecuniary interest in the result of a suit.

The expectation of a farthing in this world was supposed to
outweigh the fear of God's wrath in the next. All the pangs, pains,
and penalties of perdition were considered as nothing when compared
with the pounds, shillings and pence in this world.

QUESTION: You know that in nearly all deliberative bodies --
in parliaments and congresses -- an oath or an affirmation is
required to support what is called the Constitution; and that all
officers are required to swear or affirm that they will discharge
their duties; do these oaths and affirmations, in your judgment, do
any good?

ANSWER: Men have sought to make nations and institutions
immortal by oaths, Subjects have sworn to obey kings, and kings
have sworn to protect subjects, and yet the subjects have sometimes
beheaded a king; and the king has often plundered the subjects. The
oaths enabled them to deceive each other. Every absurdity in
religion, and all tyrannical institutions, have been patched,
buttressed, and reinforced by oaths; and yet the history of the
world shows the utter futility of putting in the coffin of an oath
the political and religious aspirations of the race.

Revolutions and reformations care little for "So help me God."
Oaths have riveted shackles and sanctified abuses. People swear to
support a constitution, and they will keep the oath so long as the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


constitution supports them. In 1776 the colonists cared nothing for
the fact that they had sworn to support the British crown. All the
oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States did not
prevent the Civil war. We have at last learned that States may be
kept together for a little time, by force; permanently only by
mutual interests. We have found that the Delilah of superstition
cannot bind with oaths the secular Samson.

Why should a member of Parliament or of Congress swear to
maintain the Constitution? If he is a dishonest man, the oath will
have no effect; if he is an honest patriot, it will have no effect.
In both cases it is equally useless. If a member fails to support
the Constitution the probability is that his constituents will
treat him as he does the Constitution. In this country, after all
the members of Congress have sworn or affirmed to defend the
Constitution, each political party charges the other with a
deliberate endeavor to destroy that "sacred instrument." Possibly
the political oath was invented to prevent the free and natural
development of a nation. Kings and nobles and priests wished to
retain the property they had filched and clutched, and for that
purpose they compelled the real owners to swear that they would
support and defend the law under color of which the theft and
robbery had been accomplished.

So, in the church, creeds have been protected by oaths.
Priests and laymen solemnly swore that they would, under no
circumstances, resort to reason; that they would overcome facts by
faith, and strike down demonstrations with the "sword of the
spirit." Professors of the theological seminary at Andover,
Massachusetts, swear to defend certain dogmas and to attack others.
They swear sacredly to keep and guard the ignorance they have. With
them, philosophy leads to perjury, and reason is the road to crime.
While theological professors are not likely to make an intellectual
discovery, still it is unwise, by taking an oath, to render that
certain which was only improbable.

If all witnesses sworn to tell the truth, did so, if all
members of Parliament and of Congress, in taking the oath, became
intelligent, patriotic, and honest, I should be in favor of
retaining the ceremony; but we find that men who have taken the
same oath advocate opposite ideas, and entertain different
opinions, as to the meaning of constitutions and laws. The oath
adds nothing to their intelligence; does not even tend to increase
their patriotism, and certainly does not make the dishonest honest.

QUESTION: Are not persons allowed to testify in the United
States whether they believe in future rewards and punishments or

ANSWER: In this country, in most of the States, witnesses are
allowed to testify whether they believe in perdition and paradise
or not. In some States they are allowed to testify even if they
deny the existence of God. We have found that religious belief does
not compel people to tell the truth, and that an utter denial of
every Christian creed does not even tend to make them dishonest.
You see, a religious belief does not affect the senses. Justice
should not shut any door that leads to truth. No one will pretend

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


that, because you do not believe in hell, your sight is impaired,
or your hearing dulled, or your memory rendered less retentive. A
witness in a court is called upon to tell what he has seen, what he
has heard, what he remembers, not what he believes about gods and
devils and hells and heavens. A witness substantiates not a faith,
but a fact. In order to ascertain whether a witness will tell the
truth, you might with equal propriety examine him as to his ideas
about music, painting or architecture, as theology. A man may have
no ear for music, and yet remember what he hears. He may care
nothing about painting, and yet be able to tell what he sees. So he
may deny every creed, and yet be able to tell the facts as he
remembers them.

Thomas Jefferson was wise enough so to frame the Constitution
of Virginia that no person could be deprived of any civil right on
account of his religious or irreligious belief. Through the
influence of men like Paine, Franklin and Jefferson, it was
provided in the Federal Constitution that officers elected under
its authority could swear or affirm. This was the natural result of
the separation of church and state.

QUESTION: I see that your Presidents and Governors issue their
proclamations calling on the people to assemble in their churches
and offer thanks to God. How does this happen in a Government where
church and state are not united?

ANSWER: Jefferson, when President, refused to issue what is
known as the "Thanksgiving Proclamation," on the ground that the
Federal Government had no right to interfere in religious matters;
that the people owed no religious duties to the Government; that
the Government derived its powers, not from priests or gods, but
from the people, and was responsible alone to the source of its
power. The truth is, the framers of our Constitution intended that
the Government should be secular in the broadest and best sense;
and yet there are thousands and thousands of religious people in
this country who are greatly scandalized because there is no
recognition of God in the Federal Constitution; and for several
years a great many ministers have been endeavoring to have the
Constitution amended so as to recognize the existence of God and
the divinity of Christ. A man by the name of Pollock was once
superintendent of the mint at Philadelphia. He was almost insane
about having God in the Constitution. Failing in that, he got the
inscription on our money, "In God we Trust." As our silver dollar
is now, in fact, worth only eighty-five cents, it is claimed that
the inscription means that we trust in God for the other fifteen

There is a constant effort on the part of many Christians to
have their religion in some way recognized by law. Proclamations
are now issued calling upon the people to give thanks, and
directing attention to the fact that, while God has scourged or
neglected other nations, he has been remarkably attentive to the
wants and wishes of the United States. Governors of States issue
these documents written in a tone of pious insincerity. The year
may or may not have been prosperous, yet the degree of thankfulness
called for is always precisely the same.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


A few years ago the Governor of Iowa issued an exceedingly
rhetorical proclamation, in which the people were requested to
thank God for the unparalleled blessings he had showered upon them.
A private citizen, fearing that the Lord might be misled by
official correspondence, issued his proclamation, in which he
recounted with great particularity the hardships of the preceding
year. He insisted that the weather had been of the poorest quality;
that the crops had generally failed; that the spring came late, and
the frost early; that the people were in debt; that the farms were
mortgaged; that the merchants were bankrupt; and that everything
was in the worst possible condition. He concluded by sincerely
hoping that the Lord would pay no attention to the proclamation of
the Governor, but would, if he had any doubt on the subject, come
down and examine the State for himself.

These proclamations have always appeared to me absurdly
egotistical. Why should God treat us any better than he does the
rest of his children? Why should he send pestilence and famine to
China, and health and plenty to us? Why give us corn, and Egypt
cholera? All these proclamations grow out of egotism and
selfishness, of ignorance and superstition. and are based upon the
idea that God is a capricious monster; that he loves flattery; that
he can be coaxed and cajoled.

The conclusion of the whole matter with me is this: For truth
in courts we must depend upon the trained intelligence of judges,
the right of cross-examination. the honesty and common sense of
jurors, and upon an enlightened public opinion. As for members of
Congress, we will trust to the wisdom and patriotism, not only of
the members, but of their constituents. In religion we will give to
all the luxury of absolute liberty.

The alchemist did not succeed in finding any stone the touch
of which transmuted baser things to gold; and priests have not
invented yet an oath with power to force from falsehood's desperate
lips the pearl of truth. --

Secular Review, London, England, 1884.

****     ****


QUESTION: Are you seeking to quit public lecturing on
religious questions?

ANSWER: As long as I live I expect now and then to say my say
against the religious bigotry and cruelty of the world. As long as
the smallest coal is red in hell I am going to keep on. I never had
the slightest idea of retiring. I expect the church to do the

QUESTION: What do you think of Wendell Phillips as an orator?

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


ANSWER: He was a very great orator -- one of the greatest that
the world has produced. He rendered immense service to the cause of
freedom. He was in the old days the thunderbolt that pierced the
shield of the Constitution. One of the bravest soldiers that ever
fought for human rights was Wendell Phillips.

QUESTION: What do you think of the action of Congress on Fitz
John Porter?

ANSWER: I think Congress did right. I think they should have
taken this action long before. There was a question of his guilt,
and he should have been given the benefit of a doubt. They say he
could have defeated Longstreet. There are some people, you know,
who would have it that an army could he whipped by a good general
with six mules and a blunderbuss. But we do not regard those
people. They know no more about it than a lady who talked to me
about Porter's case. She argued the question of Porter's guilt for
half an hour. I showed her where she was all wrong. When she found
she was beaten she took refuge with "Oh, well, anyhow he had no
genius. "Well, if every man is to be shot who has no genius, I want
to go into the coffin business.

QUESTION: What, in your judgment, is necessary to be done to
insure Republican success this fall?

ANSWER: It is only necessary for the Republican party to stand
by its principles. We must be in favor of protecting American labor
not only, but of protecting American capital, and we must be in
favor of civil rights, and must advocate the doctrine that the
Federal Government must protect all citizens. I am in favor of a
tariff, not simply to raise a revenue -- that I regard as
incidental. The Democrats regard protection as incidental. The two
principles should be, protection to American industry and
protection to American citizens. So that, after all, there is but
one issue -- protection. As a matter of fact, that is all a
government is for -- to protect. The Republican party is stronger
to-day than it was four years ago. The Republican party stands for
the progressive ideas of the American people. It has been said that
the administration will control the Southern delegates. I do not
believe it. This administration has not been friendly to the
Southern Republicans, and my opinion is there will be as much
division in the Southern as in the Northern States. I believe
Blaine will be a candidate, and I do not believe the
Prohibitionists will put a ticket in the field, because they have
no hope of success.

QUESTION: What do you think generally of the revival of the
bloody shirt? Do you think the investigations of the Republicans of
the Danville and Copiah massacres will benefit them?

ANSWER: Well, I am in favor of the revival of that question
just as often as a citizen of the Republic is murdered on account
of his politics, If the South is sick of that question, let it stop
persecuting men because they are Republicans. I do not believe,
however, in simply investigating the question and then stopping
after the guilty ones are found. I believe in indicting them,
trying them, and convicting them. If the Government can do nothing

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


except investigate, we might as well stop, and admit that we have
no government. Thousands of people think that it is almost vulgar
to take the part of the poor colored people in the South. Whose
part should you take if not that of the weak? The strong do not
need you. And I can tell the Southern people now, that as long as
they persecute for opinion's sake they will never touch the reins
of political power in this country.

QUESTION: How do you regard the action of Bismarck in
returning the Lasker resolutions. Was it the result of his hatred
of the Jews?

ANSWER: Bismarck opposed a bill to do away with the
disabilities of the Jews on the ground that Prussia is a Christian
nation, founded for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus
Christ. I presume that it was his hatred of the Jews that caused
him to return the resolutions. Bismarck should have lived several
centuries ago. He belongs to the Dark Ages. He is a believer in the
sword and the bayonet -- in brute force. He was loved by Germany
simply because he humiliated France. Germany gave her liberty for
revenge. It is only necessary to compare Bismarck with Gambetta to
see what a failure he really is. Germany was victorious and took
from France the earnings of centuries; and yet Germany is to-day
the least prosperous nation in Europe. France was prostrate,
trampled into the earth, robbed, and yet, guided by Gambetta, is
to-day the most prosperous nation in Europe. This shows the
difference between brute force and brain. --

The Times, Chicago, Illinois, February 21, 1884.

****     ****

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful,
scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of
suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the
Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our
nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and
religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to
the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so
that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old,
hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts
and information for today. If you have such books please contact
us, we need to give them back to America.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
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Bank of Wisdom

The Bank of Wisdom is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media.

Files made available from the Bank of Wisdom may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold.

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

Bank of WisdomThe Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201