Robert Green Ingersoll, 1833 - 1899
Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, Library of Congress
Born: 11 August 1833, Dresden, New York
Died: 21 July 1899, Dobbs Ferry-on-Hudson, New York
Ingersoll's mother died a year and a half after he was born, his father was a fierce abolitionist whose sermons so fiery that he frequently had to find new churches. With little formal schooling, Robert served two law apprenticeships to qualify for the bar. He set up a successful practice with his brother at Peoria, Illinois. He raised a cavalry regiment in Illinois and led it with distinction at Shiloh, but was captured by the Confederates and returned home under an oath to not fight for the north again. He was appointed as the first Attorney General of Illinois in 1867, but he never held other office. He was an outspoken agnostic, so though he spoke on behalf of Republican candidates, he was never appointed to any positions when they won. In 1886 Ingersoll defended a prominent freethinker in New Jersey against a charge of blasphemy; although he lost the case (and paid his client's $50 fine himself) he so effectively demolished the basis for blasphemy laws that no major cases have been brought since. Between 1865 and 1899 he made a dozen cross-country speaking tours, filling the largest theaters at a dollar a seat for lectures on Shakespeare, Robert Burns, religion, politics, and the lives of famous patriots and scientists. In fact, he is believed to have been seen and heard by more Americans than any other person before the advent of motion pictures and radio.
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Robert Green Ingersoll quotes:
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- A believer is a bird in a cage, a freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing. permalink
- A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie. permalink
- A mortgage casts a shadow on the sunniest field. permalink
- A mule has neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity. permalink
- An honest God is the noblest work of man. permalink
- Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, everyone should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm. permalink
"The Christian Religion" (1881) in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 6 (1909)
- Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. permalink
- Colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed. permalink
- Courage without conscience is a wild beast. permalink
- Custom meets us at the cradle and leaves us only at the tomb. permalink
- Every child should be taught that useful work is worship and that intelligent labor is the highest form of prayer. permalink
How to Reform Mankind (1896)
- Every library is an arsenal. permalink
- Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne. permalink
- Every man who expresses an honest thought is a soldier in the army of intellectual liberty. permalink
- Fear is a dagger with which hypocrisy assassinates the soul. permalink
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