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Source: Free Thought Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: public address
Document title: “Colonel Ingersoll, Senator Dolliver and Assassination”
Author(s): Waite, C. B.
Date of publication: December 1901
Volume number: 19
Issue number: 12
Pagination: 696-98

Waite, C. B. “Colonel Ingersoll, Senator Dolliver and Assassination.” Free Thought Magazine Dec. 1901 v19n12: pp. 696-98.
full text
C. B. Waite (public addresses); Robert G. Ingersoll; Jonathan P. Dolliver; McKinley assassination (religious interpretation: criticism); presidential assassinations (comparison).
Named persons
John Wilkes Booth; Leon Czolgosz; Jonathan P. Dolliver; James A. Garfield; Charles J. Guiteau; Robert G. Ingersoll; Jesus Christ; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Voltaire.
The footnote on page 696 reads as follows: “An address at the Ingersoll Memorial meeting, held at the Grand Opera House in Chicago, Oct. 20, 1901.”

From page 696: By Judge C. B. Waite.


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 dedicated.
     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- [696][697] 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 of God.
     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 by law.
     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 [697][698] 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 place.
     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 is true.
     Both gods and man must keep in the quiet, steady, onward, majestic, irresistible march of Universal Law.



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