Men, Women and Gods, by Robert Green Ingersoll

Letter to the Cleveland Congress of Freethinkers, October, 1885.

I send my greetings to the Congress of Freethinkers assembled at Cleveland, and regret, more than I can express, that I am unable to be there and hear all the good things you will hear, and see all the earnest workers you will see.

The Freethinkers of America ought to be a very proud and enthusiastic body, when they have in their presidential chair the ablest orator of modern times, and the broadest, bravest, and most comprehensive intellect that has ever been called “Mr. President” in this land of bravery and presidents. Washington was a patriot of whom we are all justly proud. He was liberal in his religion and progressive in his views of personal rights. And yet he had his limitations. To him liberty and personal rights were modified by the words, “free, white, adult, males.” He got no farther. He who fought for freedom upheld slavery! And yet we are all proud and glad to pay honor and respect to the memory of Washington.

Abraham Lincoln we place still higher on the roll of honor; for, added to his still more liberal religious views, in his conceptions of freedom and justice he had at least two fewer limitations than had the patriot of 1776. He struck both “free” and “white” from his mental black list, and gave once more an impulse to liberty that thrilled a nation and gave fresh dignity to the human race.

But what shall we say of our president — Ingersoll? A man who in ten short years has carried mental liberty into every household in America — who is without limitations in religion, and modifies justice by no prefix. A man who, with unequaled oratory, champions Freedom — not the “free, white, adult, male” freedom of Washington. A man who has breasted a whirlwind of detraction and abuse for Justice — not the “male, adult” justice of Lincoln, but the freedom and justice, without limitation, for “man, woman, and child.”

With such a leader, what should not be achieved? With such a champion, what cause could fail? If the people ever place such a man in the White House, the nations of this earth will know, for the first time, the real meaning of a free government under secular administration.

“A government of the people, for the people, by the people,” will be more than simply a high-sounding phrase, which, read by the light of the past, was only a bitter mockery to a race in chains; and, read by the light of the present, is a choice bit of grim humor to half of a nation in petticoats. But so long as the taste of the voter is such that he prefers to place in the executive chair a type of man so eminently fitted for private life that when you want to find him you have to shake the chair to see if he is in it, just so long will there be no danger that the lightning will strike so as to deprive the Freethinkers of one man in America who could fill the national executive chair full, and strain the back and sides a little getting in.

Once more I send greetings to the Convention, with the hope that you may have as grand a time as you ought to have, and that Free thought will receive a new impulse from the harmony and enthusiasm of this meeting. Sincerely,

Helen H. Gardener.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37