Robert Green Ingersoll
A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. At Paine Hall, Boston, August 25, 1889. HORACE SEAVER was a pioneer, a torch-bearer, a toiler in that great field we call the world -- a worker for his fellow-men. At the end of his task he has fallen asleep, and we are met to tell the story of his long and useful life -- to pay our tribute to his work and worth. He was one who saw the dawn while others lived in night. He kept his face toward the "purpling east and watched the coming of the blessed day. He always sought for light. His object was to know -- to find a reason for his faith -- a fact on which to build. In superstition's sands he sought the gems of truth; in superstition's night he looked for stars. Born in New England -- reared amidst the cruel superstitions of his age and time, he had the manhood and the courage to investigate, and he had the goodness and the courage to tell his honest thoughts. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. He was always kind, and sought to win the confidence of men by sympathy and love. There was no taint or touch of malice in his blood. To him his fellows did not seem depraved -- they were not wholly bad -- there was within the heart of each the seeds of good. He knew that back of every thought and act were forces uncontrolled. He wisely said: "Circumstances furnish the seeds of good and evil, and man is but the soil in which they grow." He fought the creed, and loved the man. He pitied those who feared and shuddered at the thought of death -- who dwelt in darkness and in dread. The religion of his day filled his heart with horror. He was kind, compassionate, and tender, and could not fall upon his knees before a cruel and revengeful God -- he could not bow to one who slew with famine, sword and fire -- to one pitiless as pestilence, relentless as the lightning stroke. Jehovah had no attribute that he could love. He attacked the creed of New England -- a creed that had within it the ferocity of Knox, the malice of Calvin, the cruelty of Jonathan Edwards -- a religion that had a monster for a God -- a religion whose dogmas would have shocked cannibals feasting upon babes. Horace Seaver followed the light of his brain -- the impulse of his heart. He was attacked, but he answered the insulter with a smile; and even he who coined malignant lies was treated as a friend misled. He did not ask God to forgive his enemies -- he forgave them himself. He was sincere. Sincerity is the true and perfect mirror of the mind. It reflects the honest thought. It is the foundation of character, and without it there is no moral grandeur. Sacred are the lips from which has issued only truth. Over all wealth, above all station, above the noble, the robed and crowned, rises the sincere man. Happy is the man who neither paints nor patches, veils nor veneers. Blessed is he who wears no mask. The man who lies before us wrapped in perfect peace, practiced no art to hide or half conceal his thought. He did not write or speak the double words that might be useful in retreat. He gave a truthful transcript of his mind, and sought to make his meaning clear as light. To use his own words, he had "the courage which impels a man to do his duty, to hold fast his integrity, to maintain a conscience void of offence, at every hazard and at every sacrifice, in defiance of the world." He lived to his ideal. He sought the approbation of himself. He did not build his character upon the opinions of others, and it was out of the very depths of his nature that he asked this profound question: "What is there in other men that makes us desire their approbation, and fear their censure more than our own?" Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. Horace Seaver was a good and loyal citizen of the mental republic -- a believer in intellectual hospitality, one who knew that bigotry is born of ignorance and fear -- the provincialism of the brain. He did not belong to the tribe, or to the nation, but to the human race. His sympathy was wide as want, and, like the sky, bent above the suffering world. This man had that superb thing called moral courage -- courage in its highest form. He knew that his thoughts were not the thoughts of others -- that he was with the few, and that where one would take his side, thousands would be his eager foes. He knew that wealth would scorn and cultured ignorance deride, and that believers in the creeds, buttressed by law and custom, would hurl the missiles of revenge and hate. He knew that lies, like snakes, would fill the pathway of his life -- and yet he told his honest thought -- told it without hatred and without contempt -- told it as it really was. And so, through all his days, his heart was sound and stainless to the core. When he enlisted in the army whose banner is light, the honest investigator was looked upon as lost and cursed, and even Christian criminals held him in contempt. The believing embezzler, the orthodox wife-beater, even the murderer, lifted his bloody hands and thanked God that on his soul there was no stain of unbelief. In nearly every State of our Republic, the man who denied the absurdities and impossibilities lying at the foundation of what is called orthodox religion, was denied his civil rights. He was not canopied by the aegis of the law. He stood beyond the reach of sympathy. He was not allowed to testify against the invader of his home, the seeker for his life -- his lips were closed. He was declared dishonorable, because he was honest. His unbelief made him a social leper, a pariah, an outcast. He was the victim of religious hate and scorn. Arrayed against him were all the prejudices and all the forces and hypocrisies of society. All mistakes and lies were his enemies. Even the Theist was denounced as a disturber of the peace, although he told his thoughts in kind and candid words. He was called a blasphemer, because he sought to rescue the reputation of his God from the slanders of orthodox priests. Such was the bigotry of the time, that natural love was lost. The unbelieving son was hated by his pious sire, and even the mother's heart was by her creed turned into stone. Horace Seaver pursued his way. He worked and wrought as best he could, in solitude and want. He knew the day would come. He lived to be rewarded for his toil -- to see most of the laws repealed that had made outcasts of the noblest, the wisest, and the best. He lived to see the foremost preachers of the world attack the sacred creeds. He lived to see the sciences released from superstition's clutch. He lived to see the orthodox theologian take his place with the professor of the black art, the fortune-teller, and the astrologer. He lived to see the greatest of the world accept his thought -- to see the theologian displaced by the true priests of Nature -- by Humboldt and Darwin, by Huxley and Haeckel. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. Within the narrow compass of his life the world was changed. The railway, the steamship, and the telegraph made all nations neighbors. Countless inventions have made the luxuries of the past the necessities of to-day. Life has been enriched, and man ennobled. The geologist has read the records of frost and flame, of wind and wave -- the astronomer has told the story of the stars -- the biologist has sought the germ of life, and in every department of knowledge the torch of science sheds its sacred light. The ancient creeds have grown absurd. The miracles are small and mean. The inspired book is filled with fables told to please a childish world, and the dogma of eternal pain now shocks the heart and brain. He lived to see a monument unveiled to Bruno in the city of Rome -- to Giordano Bruno -- that great man who two hundred and eighty-nine years ago suffered death for having proclaimed the truths that since have filled the world with joy. He lived to see the victim of the church a victor -- lived to see his memory honored by a nation freed from papal chains. He worked knowing what the end must be -- expecting little while he lived -- but knowing that every fact in the wide universe was on his side. He knew that truth can wait, and so he worked patient as eternity. He had the brain of a philosopher and the heart of a child. Horace Seaver was a man of common sense. By that I mean, one who knows the law of average. He denied the Bible, not on account of what has been discovered in astronomy, or the length of time it took to form the delta of the Nile -- but he compared the things he found with what he knew. He knew that antiquity added nothing to probability -- that lapse of time can never take the place of cause, and that the dust can never gather thick enough upon mistakes to make them equal with the truth. He knew that the old, by no possibility, could have been more wonderful than the new, and that the present is a perpetual torch by which we know the past. To him all miracles were mistakes, whose parents were cunning and credulity. He knew that miracles were not, because they are not. He believed in the sublime, unbroken, and eternal march of causes and effects -- denying the chaos of chance, and the caprice of power. He tested the past by the now, and judged of all the men and races of the world by those he knew. He believed in the religion of free-thought and good deed -- of character, of sincerity, of honest endeavor, of cheerful help -- Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. and above all, in the religion of love and liberty -- in a religion for every day -- for the world in which we live -- for the present -- the religion of roof and raiment, of food, of intelligence, of intellectual hospitality -- the religion that gives health and happiness, freedom and contentment -- in the religion of work, and in the ceremonies of honest labor. He lived for this world; if there be another, he will live for that. He did what he could for the destruction of fear -- the destruction of the imaginary monster who rewards the few in heaven -- the monster who tortures the many in perdition. He was a friend of all the world, and sought to civilize the human race. For more than fifty years he labored to free the bodies and the souls of men -- and many thousands have read his words with joy. He sought the suffering and oppressed. He sat by those in pain -- and his helping hand was laid in pity on the brow of death. He asked only to be treated as he treated others. He asked for only what he earned, and had the manhood cheerfully to accept the consequences of his actions. He expected no reward for the goodness of another. But he has lived his life. We should shed no tears except the tears of gratitude. We should rejoice that he lived so long. In Nature's course, his time had come. The four seasons were complete in him. The Spring could never come again. The measure of his years was full. When the day is done -- when the work of a life is finished -- when the gold of evening meets the dusk of night, beneath the silent stars the tired laborer should fall asleep. To outlive usefulness is a double death. "Let me not live after my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff of younger spirits." When the old oak is visited in vain by Spring -- when light and rain no longer thrill -- it is not well to stand leafless, desolate, and alone. It is better far to fall where Nature softly covers all with woven moss and creeping vine. How little, after all, we know of what is ill or well! How little of this wondrous stream of cataracts and pools -- this stream of life, that rises in a world unknown, and flows to that mysterious sea whose shore the foot of one who comes has never pressed! How little of this life we know -- this struggling ray of light 'twixt gloom and gloom -- this strip of land by verdure clad, between the unknown wastes -- this throbbing moment filled with love and pain -- this dream that lies between the shadowy shores of sleep and death! We stand upon this verge of crumbling time. We love, we hope, we disappear. Again we mingle with the dust, and the "knot intrinsicate" forever falls apart. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 A TRIBUTE TO HORACE SEAVER. But this we know: A noble life enriches all the world. Horace Seaver lived for others. He accepted toil and hope deferred. Poverty was his portion. Like Socrates, he did not seek to adorn his body, but rather his soul with the jewels of charity, modesty, courage, and above all, with a love of liberty. Farewell, O brave and modest man! Your lips, between which truths burst into blossom, are forever closed. Your loving heart has ceased to beat. Your busy brain is still, and from your hand has dropped the sacred torch. Your noble, self-denying life has honored us, and we will honor you. You were my friend, and I was yours. Above your silent clay I pay this tribute to your worth. Farewell!