Colonel Ingersoll, Senator Dolliver and Assassination
ON the second of May last a certificate was issued
by the Secretary of State of Illinois, incorporating certain persons
under the name of “The Ingersoll Memorial Association of Chicago.”
The objects of the Association, as stated in its charter or certificate
of incorporation, are:
To hold an annual public meeting in
memory of Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, and otherwise commemorate his
life, character and work, by the erection of a memorial building,
monuments, statues, etc., in the city of Chicago; and by means thereof
and through the agency of said organization, to encourage morality,
disseminate knowledge, popularize science and education, advance
the cause of Free Thought and Secularism, and promote the great
cardinal truths and virtues to which his life was most heroically
After receiving this certificate,
the Board of Directors therein mentioned proceeded to complete their
organization by adopting a code of by-laws and electing officers.
This is the first Memorial Meeting
held by the Association, in pursuance of its charter.
This Association does not set up Col.
Ingersoll as perfect, and does not, therefore, feel obliged to defend
every word he ever uttered. Being human, he was liable to make mistakes.
But we think he made far less mistakes than the most of us; especially
in the views of life and duty which he so freely avowed. Not being
a demagogue, he had nothing to conceal. He had no fences to keep
up around the domain of his thoughts. He said to others, “Let us
be honest,” and he set the example by being honest himself. He gave
to all his honest thought.
I was with him once in Detroit, when
a reporter came in to interview him. “Very well,” said Ingersoll,
“go into the other room, sit down at the table, and write out your
questions, and I will go in and write answers to them.” He did not
require him to state what his ques- 
tions would be. He was not afraid he would be asked something which
he would not want to answer.
Since the death of the President some
politicians, thinking to strengthen themselves with the religious
element, have attacked those who do not believe in religion, and
have attempted to hold them responsible for the assassination. Among
these is Senator Dolliver, who, to advance his political interests,
has not hesitated to attack and malign the departed Ingersoll.
Senator Dolliver has referred to what
he calls the fatalistic doctrine of Ingersoll.
Ingersoll held that the chain of cause
and effect, which extends through all nature, extends through the
sphere of human action as well; that every human act, like every
occurrence in nature has its efficient cause. Whatever difficulty
there may be in reconciling this doctrine with that practical freedom
of volition which we seem to enjoy, there is still greater difficulty
in reconciling that freedom with the doctrine of a superintending
and controlling providence; in other words, with the government
Certainly the other difficulty is
less; for that doctrine does not hold a divine being responsible
for crime. We do not teach a doctrine which really makes God to
have sanctioned the crime, and then undertake to shift the responsibility
from the divine to a human being.
We say the human being is responsible,
but that responsibility is not of such a nature that we have a right
to inflict what may be called retributive punishment; to “make the
punishment fit the crime.” That principle would justify torture.
Why has that barbarity been done away with? Why are all the civilized
nations of the earth adopting the theory that the object of punishment
should be the prevention of crime, and that no more cruelty should
be inflicted than can be justified in accordance with that object?
Has not every approach toward this theory been a tacit acknowledgment
that the degree of responsibility was less than had previously been
supposed? Senator Dolliver does not believe any more in the freedom
of the will than Col. Ingersoll did. The difference is this: Dolliver
believes that God controls the will. Ingersoll believed it was controlled
Senator Dolliver would hold Freethinkers
or Agnostics, Atheists, as he calls us, responsible for crime; in
face of the fact that our jails and penitentiaries are filled with
people who have had religious training, while a confirmed Freethinker
is scarcely ever to be found in such a 
place. How many men have been railroaded to heaven from the platform
of the scaffold? Priests have furnished them with paid tickets,
with reserved seats; angels have stood ready to escort them, with
celestial music, to the arms of a loving redeemer; while we poor
devils, who never had killed anybody were told to go to the other
Who killed President McKinley?
We say, Czolgosz. And if anybody stood
behind him, instigating him to do the deed, we say it was not a
divine but a human being.
Czolgosz, I understand, was brought
up in the Catholic faith, and he is reported to have said, already,
that he may conclude to have a priest.
Who killed President Lincoln?
J. Wilkes Booth had a religious education,
and believed in divine providence.
Who killed President Garfield?
Guiteau was specially religious. If
he was insane, as was claimed, it was religious insanity. He had
been very religious. Besides attending church assiduously, and affiliating
with the Y. M. C. A., he had published a book on the second coming
of Christ. At the trial he insisted, from first to last, that in
committing the deed he had acted under divine inspiration.
With all these facts before him, it
comes with bad grace from Senator Dolliver to seek to connect the
death of the President with atheism or with any anti-religious influence.
It is the duty of us all to do what
we can to prevent the commission of such crimes. Some preventive
measures may be adopted. But whatever they may be, they will recognize
the law of cause and effect, as applicable to human conduct.
Voltaire, in one of his plays, represents
Destiny as conquering the gods. For Destiny substitute Law and it
Both gods and man must keep in the
quiet, steady, onward, majestic, irresistible march of Universal