Dolliver’s Outrageous Speech
A few weeks ago, and
since the death of President McKinley, one Jonathan P. Dolliver,
a United States senator from Iowa, before a large audience in this
city, took the position that a belief in what he called “Atheism”
was a necessary factor in the cause of destructive and murderous
anarchy, and then made use of these words:
“I look upon it, at least, as a passing
misfortune for us that they [the doctrines of Atheism] have been
translated into the language of common life by a famous American,
now dead and gone, who in the days of his strength was the most
captivating popular orator who ever spoke our tongue”—referring,
beyond doubt, to the late Colonel Ingersoll.
And I want to ask this audience why
it was that this politician thus held up, before the people of this
country, the picture of Robert G[.] Ingersoll beside that of the
murderer of President McKinley.
I want to ask, by what warrant, in
justice or decency, this was done.
Since our government was founded,
three of our presidents have been assassinated. Every one concerned
in the murder of Lincoln was a pronounced believer in the reigning
religious dogmas. The slayer of Garfield was an intense religionist,
and boasted, as he expressed it, that he would have a “grand leap
to glory” from the scaffold on which he was hanged.
The stupid young man who lately took
McKinley’s life has said, according to the newspapers, that he was
a disbeliever in God; but the official records in the case will
show that he, but a few years ago, emerged from the parochial schools
of the Roman Catholic church, where he received a good portion of
his meagre education.
Was Colonel Ingersoll in any way responsible
for the great crime of this young man?
Was the believer in dogmatic Christianity
who, some years ago, shot and killed the mayor of this city, a disciple
Did Ingersoll ever counsel violence
and murder that he should be thus maligned by United States Senator
I say that the senator’s reference
to Ingersoll and his beliefs, on the occasion referred to, was not
only entirely uncalled for, but was an unprovoked slander of one
of our country’s most noble and most honored dead; and I resent
it as cowardly and shameful.
Ingersoll was one of the gentlest,
as he was one of the bravest, of men. His so-called attacks on God
were merely attacks on the cruel, savage gods of man’s creation.
He loved liberty, but he was a defender
of law and order.
Indeed, he was a firm believer not
only in human law, but also in the reign of natural law throughout
all the worlds of space.
What some call the law of “God,” he
called the law of nature. But he was a believer in law all the same—law
here and law to the utmost confines of our mighty universe.
He was as far from being an Anarchist
as is the east from the west. He frequently expressed his detestation
of such foolish philosophy, and he might have shown that the political
and social Utopia, believed in by theoretical Anarchists, is founded
on the same unscientific and irrational basis as is the belief of
many church people in a coming millennium.
Ingersoll was not an Atheist at all
in fact. At least, as the Rev. M. J. Savage would express it, he
was not such in any bad sense of the word.
Ingersoll never said, unqualifiedly,
“There is no God.”
On this question, as well as that
of a life beyond the grave, he was an Agnostic.
Referring to the popular belief in
the immortality of the soul, he said, with that wonderful candor
characteristic of the man, “I do not know.”
The tongueless secret locked in fate
We do not know; we hope and wait.
His position, to quote
again his own words, was “If we are immortal, it is a fact in nature.
We are not indebted to priests for it, nor to bibles for it.”
He had no fault to find with believers
in a good god, and always manifested the tenderest sympathy for
those who hope for future life. And his hatred for the cruel Jehovah
of the Old Testament was born of his keen sense of justice and his
glowing love for all his fellow-men.
In view of these facts; in view of
his boundless humanitarianism; in view of his patriotic services
to his country; in view of his gentleness of character and his earnest
efforts for human betterment[;] in view of his stainless life and
recent death, I say that this attempt to blacken his name, by associating
it with the heartless murderer of President McKinley, was not only
unjust but outrageous; and, as faintly expressive of what I believe
to be the feeling of this meeting on the subject, I offer and move
the adoption of the following resolutions:
Resolved, That we deplore
the sad and untimely death of the late President of the United
States, and tender our deepest sympathy to his bereaved widow
Resolved, That we condemn
in measureless terms the mad act of the man who, without provocation
and without a realization of the enormity of his crime, took
the life of our honored chief executive.
Resolved, That all such
outbursts of violence and defiance of law are the worst of crimes,
not only against the governments assailed, but against mankind
and the greater liberty for which the masses are ever struggling.
Resolved, That while some
new legislation, looking to the protection of the lives of our
presidents and other of our more important officials, might
wisely be enacted, yet we view with concern for the future liberty
of the people the disposition of many of our citizens to use
this great crime as an excuse for making our laws, generally,
more rigorous and repressive.
Resolved, That we do especially
condemn that sectarian and bigoted spirit lately manifested
in a speech in this city by United States Senator Dolliver of
Iowa, wherein he claimed that the teachings of the late Col.
Robert G. Ingersoll tended to encourage anarchistic lawlessness
We resent this charge as being
an unprovoked and wicked slander of one of our country’s most
noble and heroic dead, and an attempt to smirch the reputation
of a man who, for love of country and his fellow-man, stood
without a superior in all the world.
We denounce and resent this charge
as being doubly cowardly in that it was an attempt to take advantage
of the public grief, incident to the death of one of our great
and beloved countrymen, to injure the fair fame of another who
had, also, but lately passed away—an attempt, by the bellows
of demagogism, to fan the lustrous and ennobling passion of
love into a black and malignant flame of bitterness and revenge.
Although sadly pained by the tragic
and cruel murder of our late President, we have not forgotten
his comrade in the great war for union, freedom, and equality,
the peerless champion of human rights and human loves, Col.
Robert G. Ingersoll, and we come to his defense only because
his speechless clay cannot reply, as was his wont in life, to
this unjust and uncalled-for reflection on his good name.