The philosophy of Ingersoll
Robert Green Ingersoll was born in Dresden, County of Tates, New York, on the nth day of August in the year i8jj, and died at " Walston" Dobb's Ferry-on-Hudson, July 21, 1899. He was a teacher, a lawyer, a soldier, a statesman, a diplomat, an author, a lecturer and an honest man. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in1860; organized the nth Illinois Cavalry in 1862, and went to war as its first Colonel; was Attorney-General of Illinois in 1866, and declined the post of Minister (now Ambassador) to Germany in 1877. During several presidential campaigns he was prominently connected with politics, and in 1876 startled the world with his brilliant eulogy of James G. Blaine, in a speech delivered before the Cincinnati Convention of that year which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes for President of the United States.
this speech, says Mr Justice Brewer, in his "Library of the World's Best Orations," was probably the most celebrated speech ever made in an American convention. About the early life of Ingersoll little that could be called authentic was ever published up to as late as the year 1888, for in that year Col. Ingersoll himself said: "I have never given to anyone a sketch of my life. According to my idea, life should not be written until it has been lived." (Vol. XII, p. 358, Dresden Edition.)
This memoir, however, is published with the approval of the late Colonel's family and can therefore be considered reliable. Ingersoll's father was a Congregational clergyman, but it is not true that there was ever any coldness existing between him and his gifted son because of their respective theological or anti-theological views. On the contrary, their relations were of the kindest and most confidential character, and the father died in the Colonel's arms, won over too many of his gifted sons most radical beliefs. It is also a mistake to suppose, as many people do, that Ingersoll ever denied the existence of a God. On that subject he neither denied nor affirmed, he simply said, " i" do not know." Recent publications, however, still Vll continue to assert that " Col. Ingersoll's notoriety has been made by his public lectures denying the existence of a God." (Universal Enc, Vol. 6, p. 252.)
This is not true. What he did deny was the existence of such a God as the Jehovah of the Jews. On this subject, he has written the following: "Let me say once for all, that when I speak of God, I mean the being described by Moses: the Jehovah of the Jews. There may be for aught I know, some- where in the unknown shoreless vast, some Being whose dreams are constellations and within whose thought the infinite exists. About this being, if such a one exists,
I have nothing to say." (Dresden Edition, Vol. II, p. 136.) These misstatements should therefore cease, now that Ingersoll is dead, and nothing but the truth should be known or written. While he lived he was assailed by the combined intellects of the world, but he stood against their assaults like a demonstrated truth against the blind, unreasoning superstitions of the past, and now that he is dead, the world can well afford to approach and read the eternal message he has left. He was, without doubt, the greatest orator of the western hemisphere. His originality of thought and expression has not been excelled by any man of his race or time. He has left to us some of the best thoughts of the world. He was himself his only ancestor and he will be his only descendant.
His work is done and for all time; he has gone, and forever; but his memory lives — his words remain. The seeds of subtle thought and constructive philosophy which he scattered with such a lavish hand have taken root in the heart and brain of the present generation and will bear their ripened and abundant fruit when that generation has passed away.
Cause and Effect
Man and Woman
Publication date: 1913