With a little help from Wikipedia and some others, let’s dig up the holy remains of Robert Green “Bob” Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899), who, though a lawyer and a political leader, was one of America’s greatest publicists of individual liberty and bashers of religion.
As can be seen below in an excerpt from his famed 1876 Fourth of July speech, Bob Ingersoll was not only one of America’s greatest orators. He was “The Great Agnostic” who understood what the Christian and Muslim world still doesn’t understand — that no religion should ever be given the power of the sword or the bullet.
To put it simply, Ingersoll hated religion — he was a much smarter libertarian Bill Maher of the 19th century.
The whole Declaration of Independence speech in Indianapolis is kindly printed here, http://lectures-by-ingersoll.blogspot.com/2012/04/declaration-of-independence.html as are more than 40 of his other orations and lectures.
Here’s a video that introduces him to strangers.
Here are some great quotes from great men and women who praised the greatness of Ingersoll.
And here’s an excerpt that proves Ingersoll is a superstar of yesteryear who needs to revisited, revered and respected by libertarians of every stripe.
The Declaration of Independence
…. They met in Philadelphia; and the resolution was moved by Lee or Virginia that the colonies ought to be independent states, and ought to dissolve their political connections with Great Britain.
They made up their minds that a new nation must be formed. All nations had bee, so to speak, the wards of some church. The religious idea as to the source of power had been at the foundation, of all governments and had been the bane and curse of man.
Happily for us, there was no church strong enough to dictate to the rest. Fortunately for us, the colonists not only but the colonies differed widely in their religious views. There were the Puritans, who hate the Episcopalians; the Episcopalians, who hated the Catholics; and the Catholics, who hated both, while the Quakers held them all in contempt. There they were, of every sort and color and kind, and how was it that they came together? They had a common aspiration. They wanted to form a new nation. More than that, most of them cordially hated Great Britain; and they pledged each other to forget their religious prejudices for a time, at least, and agreed that there should be only one religion until they got through — and that was the religion of patriotism. They solemnly agreed that the new nation should not belong to any particular church but that it should secure the rights of all.
Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, who had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence. (Applause.)
You might as well have a government united by force with Art, or with Poetry, or with Oratory as with Religion. Religion should have the influence upon mankind that its goodness, that its morality, its justice, its charity, its reason, and its argument give it, and no more. Religion should have the effect upon mankind that it necessarily has, and no more. The religion that has to be supported by law is without value not only but a fraud and a curse. The religious argument that has to be supported by a musket is hardly worth making. A prayer that must have a cannon behind it better never be uttered. Forgiveness ought not to go in partnership with shot and shell. Love need not carry knives and revolvers.
So our fathers said: “We will form a secular government, and under the flag which we are going to enrich our air we will allow every man to worship God as he thinks best.” They said: “Religion is an individual thing between each man and his Creator, and he can worship as he pleases and as he desires.” And why did they do this? The history of the world warned them that the liberty of man was not safe in the clutch and grasp of any church. They had read of and seen the thumb-screws, the racks and the dungeons of the Inquisition. They knew all about the hypocrisy of the olden time. They knew that the church had stood side by side with the throne; that the high priests were hypocrites, and that the kings were robbers. They also knew that if they gave to any church power, it would corrupt the best church in the world. And so they said that power must not reside in a church, nor in a sect, but power must be wherever humanity is – in the great body of the people. And the officers and servants of the people must be responsible to them. And so I say again, as I said in the commencement, this is the wisest, the profoundest, the bravest political document that was ever written.
They turned, as I tell you, everything squarely about. They derived all their authority from the people. They did away forever with the theological idea of government.
And what more did they say? They said that wherever the rules abused this authority, the power, incapable of destruction, returned to the people. How did they come to say this? I will tell you; they were pushed into it. How? They felt that they were oppressed; and whenever a man feels that he is the subject of injustice, his perception of right and wrong is wonderfully quickened.
Nobody was ever in prison wrongfully who did not believe in the writ of habeas corpus. Nobody ever suffered wrongfully without instantly having ideas of justice.
And they began to inquire what rights the king of Great Britain had. They began to search for the charter of his authority. They began to investigate and dig down to the bedrock upon which society must be founded, and when they got down there — forced there, too, by their oppressors; forced against their own prejudices and education — they found at the bottom of things, not lords, not nobles, not pulpits, not thrones, but humanity and the rights of men. (Tremendous cheering.)
And so they said, we are men; we are men. They found out they were men. And the next they said was: “We will be free men; we are weary of being colonists; we are tired of being subjects; we are men; and these colonies ought to be states and these states ought to be a nation; and that nation ought to drive the last British soldier into the sea.” And so they signed that brave declaration of independence….