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Robert Green Ingersoll
**** **** CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION. Albany, N.Y., September 13, 1885. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: While I have never sought any place in any organization, and while I never intended to accept any place in any organization, yet as you have done me the honor to elect me president of the American Secular Union, I not only accept the place, but tender to you each and all my sincere thanks. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18 CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION. This is a position that a man cannot obtain by repressing his honest thought. Nearly all other positions he obtains in that way. But I am glad that the time has come when men can afford to preserve their manhood in this country. Maybe they cannot be elected to the Legislature, cannot become errand boys in Congress, cannot be placed as weather-vanes in the presidential chair, but the time has come when a man can express his honest thought and be treated like a gentleman in the United States. We have arrived at a point where priests do not govern, and have reached that stage of our journey where we, as Harriet Martineau expressed it, are "free rovers on the breezy common of the universe." Day by day we are getting rid of the aristocracy of the air. We have been the slaves of phantoms long enough, and, a new day, a day of glory, has dawned upon this new world -- this new world which is far beyond the old in the real freedom of thought. In the selection of your officers, without referring to myself, I think you have shown great good sense. The first man chosen as vice-president, Mr. Charles Watts, is a gentleman of sound, logical mind; one who knows what he wants to say and how to say it; who is familiar with the organization of Secular societies, knows what we wish to accomplish and the means to attain it. I am glad that he is about to make this country his home, and I know of no man who, in my judgment, can do more for the cause of intellectual liberty. The next vice-president, Mr. Remsburg, has done splendid work all over the country. He is an absolutely fearless man, and tells really and truly what his mind produces. We need such men everywhere. You know it is almost a rule, or at any rate the practice, in political parties and in organizations generally, to be so anxious for success that all the offices and places of honor are given to those who will come in at the eleventh hour. The rule is to hold out these honors as bribes for new-comers instead of conferring them upon those who have borne the heat and burden of the day. I hope that the American Secular Union will not be guilty of any such injustice. Bestow your honors upon the men who stood by you when you had few friends, the men who enlisted for the war when the cause needed soldiers. Give your places to them, and if others want to join your ranks, welcome them heartily to the places of honor in the rear and let them learn how to keep step. In this particular, leaving out myself as I have said, you have done magnificently well. Mrs. Mattie Krekel, another vice- president, is a woman who has the courage to express her opinions, and she is all the more to be commended because, as you know, women have to suffer a little more punishment than men, being amenable to social laws that are more exacting and tyrannical than those passed by Legislatures. Of Mr, Wakeman it is not necessary to speak. You all know him to be an able, thoughtful, and experienced man, capable in every respect; one who has been in this organization from the beginning, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 19 CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION. and who is now president of the New York society. Elizur Wright, one of the patriarchs of Freethought, who was battling for liberty before I was born, and who will be found in the front rank until he ceases to be. You have honored yourselves by electing James Parton, a thoughtful man, a scholar, a philosopher, and a philanthropist -- honest, courageous, and logical -- with a mind as clear as a cloudless sky. Parker Pillsbury, who has always been on the side of liberty, always willing, if need be, to stand alone -- a man who has been mobbed many times because he had the goodness and courage to denounce the institution of slavery -- a man possessed of the true martyr spirit. Messrs. Algie and Adams, our friends from Canada, men of the highest character, worthy of our fullest confidence and esteem -- conscientious, upright, and faithful. And permit me to say that I know of no man of kinder heart, of gentler disposition, with more real, good human feeling toward all the world, with a more forgiving and tender spirit, than Horace Seaver. He and Mr. Mendum are the editors of the Investigator, the first Infidel paper I ever saw, and I guess the first that any one of you ever saw -- a paper once edited by Abner Kneeland, who was put in prison for saying, "The Universalists believe in a God which I do not." The court decided that he had denied the existence of a Supreme Being, and at that time it was not thought safe to allow a remark of that kind to be made, and so, for the purpose of keeping an infinite God from tumbling off his throne, Mr. Kneeland was put in jail. But Horace Seaver and Mr. Mendum went on with his work. They are pioneers in this cause, and they have been absolutely true to the principles of Freethought from the first day until now. If there is anybody belonging to our Secular Union more enthusiastic and better calculated to impart something of his enthusiasm to others than Samuel P. Putnam, our secretary, I do not know him. Courtlandt Palmer, your treasurer, you all know, and you will presently know him better when you hear the speech he is about to make, and that speech will speak better for him than I possibly can. Wait until you hear him, as he is now waiting for me to get through that you may hear him. He will give you the definition of the true gentleman, and that definition will be a truthful description of himself. Mr. Reynolds is on our side if anybody is or ever was, and Mr. Macdonald, editor of The Truth Seeker, aiming not only to seek the truth but to expose error, has done and is doing incalculable good in the cause of mental freedom. All these men and women are men and women of character, of high purpose; in favor of Freethought not as a peculiarity or as an eccentricity of the hour, but with all their hearts, through and through, to the very center and core of conviction, life, and purpose. And so I can congratulate you on your choice, and believe that you have entered upon the most prosperous year of your existence. I believe that you will do all you can to have every law repealed that puts a hypocrite above an honest man. We know that no man is thoroughly honest who does not tell his honest thought. We want the Sabbath day for ourselves and our families. Let the gods have the heavens. Give us the earth. If the gods want to stay at home Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 20 CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SECULAR UNION. Sundays and look solemn, let them do it; let us have a little wholesome recreation and pleasure. If the gods wish to go out with their wives and children, let them go. If they want to play billiards with the stars, so they don't carom on us, let them play. We want to do what we can to compel every church to pay taxes on its property as other people pay on theirs. Do you know that if church property is allowed to go without taxation, it is only a question of time when they will own a large per cent. of the property of the civilized world? It is the same as compound interest; only give it time. If you allow it to increase without taxing it for its protection, its growth can only be measured by the time in which it has to grow. The church builds an edifice in some small town, gets several acres of land. In time city rises around it. The labor of others has added to value of this property, until it is worth millions. If this property is not taxed, the churches will have so much in their hands that they will again become dangerous to the liberties of mankind. There never will, be real liberty in this country until all property is put upon a perfect equality. If you want to build a Joss House, pay taxes. If you want to build churches, pay taxes. If you want to build a hall or temple in which Freethought and science are to be taught, pay taxes. Let there be no property untaxed. When you fail to tax any species of property, you increase the tax of other people owning the rest. To that extent, you unite church and state. You compel the Infidel to support the Catholic. I do not want to support the Catholic Church. It is not worth supporting. It is an unadulterated evil. Neither do I want to reform the Catholic Church. The only reformation of which that church or any orthodox church is capable, is destruction. I want to spend no more money on superstition. Neither should our money be taken to support sectarian schools. We do not wish to employ any chaplains in the navy, or in the army, or in the Legislatures, or in Congress. It is useless to ask God to help the political party that happens to be in power. We want no President, no Governor "clothed with a little brief authority," to issue a proclamation as though he were an agent of God, authorized to tell all his loving subjects to fast on a certain day, or to enter their churches and pray for the accomplishment of a certain object. It is none of his business. When they called on Thomas Jefferson to issue a proclamation, he said he had no right to do it, that religion was a personal, individual matter, and that the state had no right, no power, to interfere. I now have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Courtlandt Palmer, who will speak to you on the "Aristocracy of Freethought," in my judgment the aristocracy not only of the present, but the aristocracy of the future. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. 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 21