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Robert Ingersoll Tribute Seaver

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Tribute Seaver

Robert Green Ingersoll


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.

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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

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

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

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?"

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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

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.

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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

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 --

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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

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.

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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.


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