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Robert Ingersoll Tribute Holyoake

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Tribute Holyoake

Robert Green Ingersoll

18 page printout

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Contents of this file                       page

GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE.                             1
A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER.                        3
A TRIBUTE TO RICHARD H. WHITING.                   8
A TRIBUTE TO ELIZUR WRIGHT.                        9
THE TRUTH OF HISTORY.                             16

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TWO articles have recently appeared attacking the motives of
George Jacob Holyoake. He is spoken of as a man governed by a
desire to please the rich and powerful, as one afraid of public
opinion and who in the perilous hour denies or conceals his

In these attacks there is not one word of truth. They are
based upon mistakes and misconceptions.

There is not in this world a nobler, braver man. In England he
has done more for the great cause of intellectual liberty than any
other man of this generation. He has done more for the poor, for
the children of toil, for the homeless and wretched than any other
living man. He has attacked all abuses, all tyranny and all forms
of hypocrisy. His weapons have been reason, logic, facts, kindness,
and above all, example. He has lived his creed. He has won the
admiration and respect of his bitterest antagonists. He has the
simplicity of childhood, the enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom of
age. He is not abusive, but he is clear and conclusive. He is
intense without violence -- firm without anger. He has the strength
of perfect kindness. He does not hate -- he pities. He does not
attack men and women, but dogmas and creeds. And he does not attack
them to get the better of people, but to enable people to get the
better of them. He gives the light he has. He shares his
intellectual wealth with the orthodox poor. He assists without
insulting, guides without arrogance, and enlightens without
outrage. Besides, he is eminent for the exercise of plain common
sense. He knows that there are wrongs besides those born of
superstition -- that people are not necessarily happy because they
have renounced the Thirty-nine Articles -- and that the priest is
not the only enemy of mankind. He has for forty years been
preaching and practicing industry, economy, self-reliance, and
kindness. He has done all within his power to give the workingman
a better home, better food, better wages, and better opportunities
for the education of his children. He has demonstrated the success

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of cooperation -- of intelligent combination for the common good.
As a rule, his methods have been perfectly legal. In some instances
he has knowingly violated the law, and did so with the intention to
take the consequences. He would neither ask nor accept a pardon,
because to receive a pardon carries with it the implied promise to
keep the law, and an admission that you were in the wrong. He would
not agree to desist from doing what he believed ought to be done,
neither would he stain his past to brighten his future, nor
imprison his soul to free his body. He has that happy mingling of
gentleness and firmness found only in the highest type of moral
heroes. He is an absolutely just man, and will never do an act that
he would condemn in another. He admits that the most bigoted
churchman has a perfect right to express his opinions not only, but
that he must be met with argument couched in kind and candid terms.
Mr. Holyoake is not only the enemy of a theological hierarchy, but
he is also opposed to mental mobs. He will not use the bludgeon of

Perfect fairness is regarded by many as weakness. Some people
have altogether more confidence in their beliefs than in their own
arguments. They resort to assertion. If what they assert be denied,
the "debate" becomes a question of veracity. On both sides of most
questions there are plenty of persons who imagine that logic dwells
only in adjectives, and that to speak kindly of an opponent is a
virtual surrender.

Mr. Holyoake attacks the church because it has been, is, and
ever will be the enemy of mental freedom, but he does not wish to
deprive the church even of its freedom to express its opinion
against freedom. He is true to his own creed, knowing that when we
have freedom we can take care of all its enemies.

In one of the articles to which I have referred it is charged
that Mr. Holyoake refused to sign a petition for the pardon of
persons convicted of blasphemy. If this is true, he undoubtedly had
a reason satisfactory to himself. You will find that his action, or
his refusal to act, rests upon a principle that he would not
violate in his own behalf.

Why should we suspect the motives of this man who has given
his life for the good of others? I know of no one who is his mental
or moral superior. He is the most disinterested of men. His name is
a synonym of candor. He is a natural logician -- an intellectual
marksman. Like an unerring arrow his thought flies to the heart and
center. He is governed by principle, and makes no exception in his
own favor. He is intellectually honest. He shows you the cracks and
flaws in his own wares. He calls attention to the open joints and
to the weakest links. He does not want a victory for himself, but
for truth. He wishes to expose and oppose, not men, but error. He
is blessed with that cloudless mental vision that appearances
cannot deceive, that interest cannot darken, and that even
ingratitude cannot blur. Friends cannot induce and enemies cannot
drive this man to do an act that his heart and brain would not
applaud. That such a character was formed without the aid of the
church, without the hope of harp or fear of flame, is a
demonstration against the necessity of superstition.

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Whoever is opposed to mental bondage, to the shackles wrought
by cruelty and worn by fear, should be the friend of this heroic
and unselfish man.

I know something of his life -- something of what he has
suffered -- of what he has accomplished for his fellow-men. He has
been maligned, imprisoned and impoverished. "He bore the heat and
burden of the unregarded day" and "remembered the misery of the
many." For years his only recompense was ingratitude. At last he
was understood. He was recognized as an earnest, honest, gifted,
generous, sterling man, loving his country, sympathizing with the
poor, honoring the useful, and holding in supreme abhorrence
tyranny and falsehood in all their forms. The idea that this man
could for a moment be controlled by any selfish motive by the hope
of preferment, by the fear of losing a supposed annuity, is simply
absurd. The authors of these attacks are not acquainted with Mr.
Holyoake. Whoever dislikes him does not know him.

Read his "Trial of Theism" -- his history of "Cooperation in
England" -- if you wish to know his heart -- to discover the
motives of his life -- the depth and tenderness of his sympathy --
the nobleness of his nature -- the subtlety of his thought -- the
beauty of his spirit -- the force and volume of his brain -- the
extent of his information -- his candor, his kindness, his genius,
and the perfect integrity of his stainless soul.

There is no man for whom I have greater respect, greater
reverence, greater love, than George Jacob Holyoake. --

August 8. 1888.

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