Ingersoll the Magnificent
by Joseph Lewis
Gems Concerning War
Fighting settles nothing but the relative strength. No light is thrown on the cause of the conflict -- on the question of fact that caused the war.
Every good man longs for the time when war shall cease. We are all hoping for a day of universal justice -- a day of universal freedom -- when man shall control himself, when the passions shall become obedient to the intelligent will. But the coming of that day will not be hastened by preaching the doctrines of total depravity and eternal revenge. That sun will not rise the quicker for preaching salvation by faith. The star that shines above that dawn, the herald of that day, is Science, not superstition -- Reason, not religion.
Every good man, every good woman, should try to do away with war, to stop the appeal to savage force. Man in a savage state relies upon his strength, and decides for himself what is right and what is wrong. Civilized men do not settle their differences by a resort to arms. They submit the quarrel to arbitrators and courts. This is the great difference between the savage and the civilized.
No man has imagination enough to paint the agonies, the horrors and cruelties of war. Think of sending shot and shell crashing through the bodies of men! Think of the widows and orphans! Think of the maimed, the mutilated, the mangled!
Gems Concerning Shrines
An old monk was in charge of a monastery that had been built above the bones of a saint. These bones had the power to cure diseases and they were so placed that by thrusting the arm through an orifice they could be touched by the hand of the pilgrim. Many people, afflicted in many ways, came and touched these bones. Many thought they had been benefitted or cured, and many in gratitude left large sums of money with the monk. One day the old monk addressed his assistant as follows: "My dear son, business has fallen off, and I can easily attend to all who come. You will have to find another place. I will give you the white donkey, a little money, and my blessing."
So the young man mounted upon the beast and went his way. In a few days his money was gone and the white donkey died. An idea took possession of the young man's mind. By the side of the road he buried the donkey, and then to every passerby held out his hands and said in solemn tones: "I pray thee give me a little money to build a temple above the bones of the sinless one."
Such was the success that he built the temple, and then thousands came to touch the bones of the sinless one. The young man became rich, gave employment to many assistants and lived in the greatest luxury.
One day he made up his mind to visit his old master. Taking with him a large retinue of servants he started for the old home. When he reached the place the old monk was seated by the doorway. With great astonishment he looked at the young man and his retinue. The young man dismounted and made himself known, and the old monk cried: "Where hast thou been? Tell me, I pray thee, the story of thy success."
"Ah," the young man replied, "old age is stupid, but youth has thoughts. Wait until we are alone and I will tell you all."
So that night the young man told his story, told about the death and burial of the donkey, the begging of money to build a temple over the bones of the sinless one, and of the sums of money he had received for the cures the bones had wrought.
When he finished a satisfied smile crept over his pious face as he added: "Old age is stupid, but youth has thoughts."
"Be not so fast," said the old monk, as he placed his trembling hand on the head of his visitor, "Young man, this monastery in which your youth was passed, in which you have seen so many miracles performed, so many diseases cured, was built above the sacred bones of the mother of your little jackass."
Gems Concerning Tax Exemption
We want to do what we can to compel every church to pay taxes on its property as other people pay on theirs. Do you know that if church property is allowed to go without taxation, it is only a question of time when they will own a large percent of the property of the civilized world? It is the same as compound interest; only give it time. If you allow it to increase without taxing it for its protection, its growth can only be measured by the time in which it has to grow. The church builds an edifice in some small town, gets several acres of land. In time a city rises around it. The labor of others has added to the value of this property, until it is worth millions. If this property is not taxed, the churches will have so much in their hands that they will again become dangerous to the liberties of mankind. There never will be real liberty in this country until all property is put upon a perfect equality. If you want to build a Joss house, pay taxes. If you want to build churches, pay taxes. If you want to build a hall or temple in which Freethought and science are to be taught, pay taxes. Let there be no property untaxed. When you fail to tax any species of property, you increase the tax of other people owning the rest. To that extent, you unite church and state. You compel the Infidel to support the Catholic. I do not want to support the Catholic Church. It is not worth supporting. It is an unadulterated evil. Neither do I want to reform the Catholic Church. The only reformation of which that church or any orthodox church is capable, is destruction. I want to spend no more money on superstition. Neither should our money be taken to support sectarian schools. We do not wish to employ any chaplains in the navy, or in the army, or in the Legislatures, or in Congress.
The Roman Catholic Church is the enemy of intellectual liberty. It is the enemy of investigation. It is the enemy of free schools. That church always has been, always will be, the enemy of freedom. It works in the dark. When in a minority it is humility itself -- when in power it is the impersonation of arrogance. In weakness it crawls -- in power it stands erect, and compels its victims to fall upon their faces. The most dangerous institution in this world, so far as the intellectual liberty of man is concerned, is the Roman Catholic Church. Next to that is the Protestant Church.
It is not fair to make the Catholic support a Protestant school, nor is it just to collect taxes from infidels and Atheists to support schools in which any system of religion is taught.
The sciences are not sectarian. People do not persecute each other on account of disagreement in mathematics. Families are not divided about botany, and astronomy does not even tend to make a man hate his father and mother. It is what people do not know, that they persecute each other about. Science will bring, not a sword, but peace.
Just as long as religion has control of the schools, science will be an outcast. Let us free our institutions of learning. Let us dedicate them to the science of eternal truth. Let us tell every teacher to ascertain all the facts he can -- to give us light, to follow Nature, no matter where she leads; to be infinitely true to himself and us; to feel that he is without a chain, except the obligation to be honest; that he is bound by no books, by no creed, neither by the sayings of the dead nor of the living; that he is asked to look with his own eyes, to reason for himself without fear, to investigate in every possible direction, and to bring us the fruit of all his work.
No man shod in the brogans of impudence should walk into the temple of another's soul. While every man should be governed by the highest possible considerations of the public weal, no one has the right to ask for legal assistance in the support of his particular sect. If Catholics oppose the public schools I would not oppose them because they are Catholics, but because I am in favor of the schools. I regard the public school as the intellectual bread of life. Personally I have no confidence in any religion that can be demonstrated only to children. I suspect all creeds that rely implicitly on mothers and nurses. That religion is the best that commends itself the strongest to men and women of education and genius. After all, the prejudices of infancy and the ignorance of the aged are a poor foundation for any system of morals or faith.
The Catholic now objects to being taxed to support a school in which his religion is not taught. He is not satisfied with the school that says nothing on the subject of religion. He insists that it is an outrage to tax him to support a school where the teacher simply teaches what he knows. And yet this same Catholic wants his church exempted from taxation, and the tax of an Atheist or of a Jew increased, when he teaches in his untaxed church that the Atheist and Jew will both be eternally damned! Is it possible for impudence to go further?
I insist that no religion should be taught in any school supported by public money; and by religion I mean superstition. Only that should be taught in a school that somebody can learn and that somebody can know. In my judgment, every church should be taxed precisely the same as other property. The church may claim that it is one of the instruments of civilization and therefore should be exempt. If you exempt that which is useful, you exempt every trade and every profession. In my judgment, theatres have done more to civilize mankind than churches; that is to say, theatres have done something to civilize mankind -- churches nothing. The effect of all superstition has been to render men barbarous. I do not believe in the civilizing effects of falsehood.
To exempt the church from taxation is to pay a part of the priest's salary.
All the sectarian institutions ought to support themselves. There should be no Methodist or Catholic or Presbyterian hospitals or orphan asylums. All these should be supported by the state. There is no such thing as Catholic charity, or Methodist charity. Charity belongs to humanity, not to any particular form of faith or religion. You will find as charitable people who never heard of religion, as you can find in any church.
Gems Concerning Christian Science
What is your idea of Christian Science?
I think it is superstition, pure and unadulterated. I think that soda will cure a sour stomach better than thinking. In my judgment, quinine is a better tonic than meditation. Of course, cheerfulness is good and depression bad, but if you can absolutely control the body and all its functions by thought, what is the use of buying coal? Let the mercury go down and keep yourself hot by thinking. What is the use of wasting money for food? Fill your stomach with think. According to these Christian Science people all that really exists is an illusion, and the only realities are the things that do not exist. They are like the old fellow in India who said that all things were illusions. One day he was speaking to a crowd on his favorite hobby. Just as he said "all is an illusion" a fellow on an elephant rode toward him. The elephant raised his trunk as though to strike, thereupon the speaker ran away. Then the crowd laughed. In a few moments the speaker returned. The people shouted: "If all is illusion, what made you run away?" The speaker replied: "My poor friends, I said all is illusion. I say so still. There was no elephant. I did not run away. You did not laugh, and I am not explaining now. All is illusion."
That man must have been a Christian Scientist.
Gems Concerning Labor
A great many men are failures by nature and they cannot succeed. If all have liberty, the few succeed and the many fail. Competition is just as cruel as monopoly -- a little harder on labor. So, there is nothing in government control. That would make slaves and destroy all progress.
Profit sharing cannot succeed, because it must go hand in hand with loss sharing, and the laborers can pay no loss. --
All the remedies that I have heard of seem absurd. You cannot make the people equal. Millions lack the something, or rather a something, without which success is impossible. By success I mean -- making a good living -- the something that gives success eludes us. The great business men have men in their employ who seem to be their superiors in every way, but they are not. They lack "the something."
Into this question of capital and labor come all the passions and prejudices -- all the ignorance and intelligence -- all the ends and ambitions -- all the misery and happiness of human life -- and all the inventions -- all the skill and ingenuity -- all the arts of buying and selling -- all the theories of money -- of taxation -- of government -- all these, and a thousand times more, enter into this question. Production, transportation, distribution, exchange. -- These words suggest almost the infinite. --
The trouble is in the nature of men -- the nature of things. It is too deep for law.
A few thousand years of civilization may produce men wise enough to solve the question -- but there are no such men now. We have made some advance. The hours of labor have been lessened -- children have been rescued from toil -- mines have been rendered safer -- factories healthier -- and on the average employers are more humane than ever before.
As a rule, wealth is the result of industry, economy, attention to business; and as a rule, poverty is the result of idleness, extravagance, and inattention to business, though to these rules there are thousands of exceptions. The man who has wasted his time, who has thrown away his opportunities, is apt to envy the man who has not. For instance, there are six shoemakers working in one shop. One of them attends to his business. You can hear the music of his hammer late and early. He is in love with some girl on the next street. He has made up his mind to be a man; to succeed; to make somebody else happy; to have a home; and while he is working, in his imagination he can see his own fireside, with the firelight falling upon the faces of wife and child. The other five gentlemen work as little as they can, spend Sunday in dissipation, have the headache Monday, and, as a result, never advance. The industrious one, the one in love, gains the confidence of his employer, and in a little while he cuts out work for the others. The first thing you know he has a shop of his own, the next a store; because the man of reputation, the man of character, the man of known integrity, can buy all he wishes in the United States upon a credit. The next thing you know he is married, and he has built him a house, and he is happy, and his dream has been realized. After awhile the same five shoemakers, having pursued the old course, stand on the corner some Sunday when he rides by. He has a carriage, his wife sits by his side, her face covered with smiles, and they have two children, their eyes beaming with joy, and the blue ribbons are fluttering in the wind. And thereupon, these five shoemakers adjourn to some neighboring saloon and pass a resolution that there is an irrepressible conflict between capital and labor.
Reasonable labor is a source of joy. To work for wife and child, to toil for those you love, is happiness; provided you can make them happy. But to work like a slave, to see your wife and children in rags, to sit at a table where food is coarse and scarce, to rise at four in the morning, to work all day and throw your tired bones upon a miserable bed at night; to live without leisure, without rest, without making those you love comfortable and happy -- this is not living -- it is dying -- a slow, lingering crucifixion.
Labor is the only prayer that Nature answers.
Gems Concerning Whiskey and Tobacco
"I send you some of the most wonderful whiskey that ever drove the skeleton from a feast or painted landscapes in the brain of man. It is the mingled souls of wheat and corn. In it you will find the sunshine and the shadow that chased each other over the billowy fields; the breath of June; the carol of the lark; the dews of night; the wealth of summer and autumn's rich content, all golden with imprisoned light. Drink it and you will hear the voices of men and maidens singing the "Harvest Home," mingled with the laughter of children. Drink it and you will feel within your blood the star-lit dawns, the dreamy, tawny dusks of many perfect days. For forty years this liquid joy has been within the happy staves of oak, longing to touch the lips of men.
"Nearly four centuries ago Columbus, the adventurous, in the blessed island of Cuba, saw happy people with rolled leaves between their lips. Above their heads were little clouds of smoke. Their faces were serene, and in their eyes was the autumnal heaven of content. These people were kind, innocent, gentle and loving.
"The climate of Cuba is the friendship of the earth and air, and of this climate the sacred leaves were born -- the leaves that breed in the mind of him who uses them the cloudless, happy days in which they grew.
"These leaves make friends, and celebrate with gentle rites the vows of peace. They have given consolation to the world. They are the companions of the lonely -- the friends of the imprisoned, of the exile, of workers in mines, of fellers of forests, of sailors on the desolate seas. They are the givers of strength and calm to the vexed and wearied minds of those who build with thought and dream the temples of the soul.
"They tell of hope and rest. They smooth the wrinkled brows of pain -- drive fears and strange misshapen dreads from out the mind and fill the heart with rest and peace. Within their magic warp and woof some potent gracious spell imprisoned lies, that, when released by fire, cloth softly steal within the fortress of the brain and bind in sleep the captured sentinels of care and grief.
"These leaves are the friends of the fireside, and their smoke, like incense, rises from myriads of happy homes. Cuba is the smile of the sea."
Gems Concerning The Oath and Question
A lie bursts into blossom and has the perfume of truth.
So many people have sworn falsely without affecting their health that the fear of sudden divine vengeance no longer pales the cheek of the perjurer. If the vengeance is not sudden, then, according to the church, the criminal will have plenty of time to repent; so that the oath no longer affects even the fearful. Would it not be better for the church to teach that telling the falsehood is the real crime, and that taking the oath neither adds to nor takes from its enormity? Would it not be better to teach that he who does wrong must suffer the consequences, whether God forgives him or not?
There is nothing so pleases a man who has made up his mind to tell a lie as to have mixed with the mortar of that lie one hair of truth. It is delightful to smell the perfume of a fact in the hell-broth of his perjury.
Thousands and thousands of lies are told by honest stupidity and believed by innocent credulity.
He who tries to injure another may or may not succeed, but he cannot by any possibility fail to injure himself. Men should be taught that there is no difference between truth-telling and truth-swearing. Nothing is more vicious than the idea that any ceremony or form of words -- hand-lifting or book-kissing -- can add, even in the slightest degree, to the perpetual obligation every human being is under to speak the truth.
The truth, plainly told, naturally commends itself to the intelligent. Every fact is a genuine link in the infinite chain, and will agree perfectly with every other fact. A fact asks to be inspected, asks to be understood. It needs no oath, no ceremony, no supernatural aid. It is independent of all the gods. A falsehood goes in partnership with theology, and depends on the partner for success.
Men have sought to make nations and institutions immortal by oaths. Subjects have sworn to obey kings, and kings have sworn to protect subjects, and yet the subjects have sometimes beheaded a king; and the king has often plundered the subjects. The oaths enabled them to deceive each other. Every absurdity in religion, and all tyrannical institutions, have been patched, buttressed, and reinforced by oaths; and yet the history of the world shows the utter futility of putting in the coffin of an oath the political and religious aspirations of the race.
Revolutions and reformations care little for "So help me God." Oaths have riveted shackles and sanctified abuses.
If Belief affected your eyes, your ears, any of your senses, or your memory, then, of course, no man ought to be a witness who had not the proper belief. But unless it can be shown that Atheism interferes with the sight, the hearing, or memory, why should justice shut the door to truth?
In most of the States of this Union I could not give testimony. Should a man be murdered before my eyes I could not tell a jury who did it. Christianity endeavors to make an honest man an outlaw. Christianity has such a contemptible opinion of human nature that it does not believe a man can tell the truth unless frightened by a belief in God. No lower opinion of the human race has ever been expressed.
In old times they would not allow a man to swear at all if he had the interest of a cent in any civil suit. They would not allow him to testify when he was on trial for his own liberty and his own life. That was barbarism. The enemy -- the man who hated him -- he could tell his story, but the man attacked, the man defending his own liberty and his own life, his mouth was closed and sealed. We have gotten over that barbarism in nearly all the States of this Union, and now we say, "Let every man tell his story; don't allow any avenue to truth to be closed; let us hear all sides, and whatever is reasonable take as the truth, and what is unreasonable throw away."
Perjury poisons the wells of truth, the sources of justice. Perjury leaps from the hedges of circumstance, from the walls of fact, to assassinate justice and innocence. Perjury is the basest and meanest and most cowardly of crimes. What can it do? Perjury can change the common air that we breathe into the axe of an executioner. Perjury out of this air can forge manacles for free hands. Perjury out of a single word can make a hangman's rope and noose. Perjury out of a word can build a scaffold upon which the great and noble must suffer. It was told during the Middle Ages and in the time of the Inquisition, that the inquisitors had a statue of the Virgin Mary, and when a man was brave enough to think his own thoughts he was brought before this tribunal and before this beautiful statue, robed in gorgeous robes and decked with jewels, and as a punishment he was made to embrace it. The inquisitor touched a hidden spring; the arms of the statue clutched the victim and drew him to a breast filled with daggers. Such is perjury.
Is there any safety in human society if you will take the testimony of a perjured man?
He cannot knowingly weigh with false scales and believe in the correctness of the result.
What perfect fetichism it is, to imagine that a man will tell the truth simply because he has kissed an old piece of sheepskin stained with the saliva of all classes. A farce of this kind adds nothing to the testimony of an honest man; it simply allows a rogue to give weight to his false testimony. This is really the only result that can be accomplished by kissing the Bible. A desperate villain, for the purpose of getting revenge, or making money, will gladly go through the ceremony, and ignorant juries and superstitious judges will be imposed upon. The whole system of oaths if false, and does harm instead of good. Let every man walk into court and tell his story, and let the truth of the story be judged by its reasonableness, taking into consideration the character of the witness, the interest he has, and the position he occupies in the controversy, and then let it be the business of the jury to ascertain the real truth -- to throw away the unreasonable and the impossible, and make up their verdict only upon what they believe to be reasonable and true. An honest man does not need the oath, and a rascal uses it simply to accomplish his purpose. If the history of courts proved that every man, after kissing the Bible, told the truth, and that those who failed to kiss sometimes lied, I should be in favor of swearing all people on the Bible; but the experience of every lawyer is, that kissing the Bible is not always the preface of a true story. It is often the ceremonial embroidery of a falsehood.
If there is an infinite God who attends to the affairs of men, it seems to me almost a sacrilege to publicly appeal to him in every petty trial. If one will go into any court, and notice the manner in which oaths are administered -- the utter lack of solemnity -- the matter-of-course air with which the whole thing is done, he will be convinced that it is a form of no importance.
A witness was being sworn. The judge noticed that he was not holding up his hand. He said to the clerk: "Let the witness hold up his right hand." "His right arm was shot off," replied the clerk. "Let him hold up his left, then." "That was shot off, too, your honor." "Well, then, let him raise one foot; no man can be sworn in this court without holding something up."
All honest men will tell the truth if they can; therefore, oaths will have no effect upon them. Dishonest men will not tell the truth unless the truth happens to suit their purpose; therefore, oaths will have no effect upon them.
My own opinion is, that if every copy of the Bible in the world were destroyed, there would be some way to ascertain the truth in judicial proceedings; and any other book would do just as well to swear witnesses upon, or a block in the shape of a book covered with some kind of calfskin could do equally well, or just the calfskin would do. Nothing is more laughable than the performance of this ceremony, and I have never seen in court one calf kissing the skin of another, that I did not feel humiliated that such things were done in the name of Justice.
A great many persons have fallen dead in the act of taking God's name in vain, but millions of men, women, and children have been stolen from their homes and used as beasts of burden, but no one engaged in this infamy has ever been touched by the wrathful hand of God.
Guilt is always conscious that it is guilty. Guilt is always suspecting detection. Guilt is infinitely suspicious. Guilt would make all the papers as nearly right as possible. Guilt would look out for erasures. Guilt would abhor blots. Guilt would have avoided having blanks filled in with different colored inks. Guilt would want everything fitting everything else, nothing to excite suspicion. Innocence is negligent. The man with honest intentions is the one that does not care. But the guilty man does not travel in the snow. He wants no tracks left.
I care nothing about the origin of the ceremony. The objection to the oath is this: It furnishes a falsehood with a letter of credit. It supplies the wolf with sheep's clothing and covers the hands of Jacob with hair. It blows out the light, and in the darkness Leah is taken for Rachel. It puts upon each witness a kind of theological gown. This gown hides the moral rags of the depraved wretch as well as the virtues of the honest man. The oath is a mask that falsehood puts on, and for a moment is mistaken for truth. It gives to dishonesty the advantage of solemnity. The tendency of the oath is to put all testimony on an equality. The obscure rascal and the man of sterling character both "swear," and jurors who attribute a miraculous quality to the oath, forget the real difference in the men, and give about the same weight to the evidence of each, because both were "sworn." A scoundrel is delighted with the opportunity of going through a ceremony that gives importance and dignity to his story, that clothes him for the moment with respectability, loans him the appearance of conscience, and gives the ring of true coin to the base metal. To him the oath is a shield. He is in partnership, for a moment, with God, and people who have no confidence in the witness credit the firm.
The alchemist did not succeed in finding any stone the touch of which transmitted baser things to gold; and priests have not invented yet an oath with power to force from falsehood's desperate lips the pearl of truth.
Gems Concerning Racial Prejudice
Charity has no color. It is neither white nor black. Justice and Patriotism are the same. Danger does not draw these nice distinctions as to race or color. Hunger is not proud. Famine is exceedingly democratic in the matter of food. In the moment of peril, prejudices perish.
The moment a prejudice is known to be a prejudice, it disappears. Ignorance is the soil in which prejudice must grow. Touched by a ray of light, it dies.
Suspicion is not evidence.
Prejudice is born of ignorance and malice. One of the greatest men of this country said prejudice is the spider of the mind. It weaves its web over every window and over every crevice where light can enter, and then disputes the existence of the light that it has excluded. That is prejudice. Prejudice will give the lie to all the other senses. It will swear the northern star out of the sky of truth. You must avoid it. It is the womb of injustice, and a man who cannot rise above prejudice is not a civilized man; he is simply a barbarian.
I see no reason why the white and Black men cannot live together in the same land, under the same flag. The beauty of liberty is you cannot have it unless you give it away, and the more you give away the more you have. I know that my liberty is secure only because others are free.
I am perfectly willing to live in a country with such men as Frederick Douglass and Senator Bruce. I have always preferred a good, clever Black man to a mean white man, and I am of the opinion that I shall continue in that preference. Now, if we could only have a colonization bill that would get rid of all the rowdies, all the rascals and hypocrites, I would like to see it carried out, though some people might insist that it would amount to a repudiation of the national debt and that hardly enough would be left to pay the interest. No, talk as we will, the colored people helped to save this Nation. They have been at all times and in all places the friends of our flag; a flag that never really protected them. And for my part, I am willing that they should stand forever beneath that flag, the equal in rights of all other people.
As the people become educated, they become liberal. Bigotry is the provincialism of the mind. Men are bigoted who are not acquainted with the thoughts of others. They have been taught one thing, and have been made to believe that their little mental horizon is the circumference of all knowledge. The bigot lives in an ignorant village, surrounded by ignorant neighbors.
It is very easy to see why colored people should hate us, but why we should hate them is beyond my comprehension. They never sold our wives. They never robbed our cradles. They never scarred our backs. They never pursued us with bloodhounds. They never branded our flesh.
It has been said that it is hard to forgive a man to whom we have done a great injury. I can conceive of no other reason why we should hate the colored people. To us they are a standing reproach. Their history is our shame. Their virtues seem to enrage some white people -- their patience to provoke, and their forgiveness to insult. Turn the tables -- change places -- and with what fierceness, with what ferocity, with what insane and passionate intensity we would hate them!
The colored people do not ask for revenge -- they simply ask for justice. They are willing to forget the past -- willing to hide their scars -- anxious to bury the broken chains, and to forget the miseries and hardships, the tears and agonies, of two hundred years.
The old issues are again upon us. Is this a Nation? Have all citizens of the United States equal rights, without regard to race or color? Is it the duty of the General government to protect its citizens? Can the Federal arm be palsied by the action or non-action of a State?
Another opportunity is given for the people of this country to take sides. According to my belief, the supreme thing for every man to do is to be absolutely true to himself. All consequences -- whether rewards or punishments, whether honor and power, or disgrace and poverty, are as dreams undreamt. I have made my choice. I have taken my stand. Where my brain and heart go, there I will publicly and openly walk. Doing this, is my highest conception of duty. Being allowed to do this, is liberty.
The Negro who can pass me in the race will receive my admiration, and he can count on my friendship. No man ever lived who proved his superiority by trampling on the weak.
When you are asked to find a verdict contrary to the evidence, when you are asked to piece out the testimony with your suspicions, then you are bound to take into consideration all the consequences. When appeals are made to your prejudice and to your fears, then the consequences should rise like mountains before you. Then you should think of the lives you are asked to wreck, of the homes your verdict would darken, of the hearts it would desolate, of the cheeks it would wet with tears, and of the reputations it would blast and blacken, of the wives it would worse than widow, and of the children it would more than orphan. When you are asked to find a false verdict think of these consequences. When you are asked to please the public think of these consequences. When you are asked to please the press think of these consequences. When you are asked to act from fear, hatred, prejudice, malice, or cowardice think then of these consequences. But whenever you do right, consequences are nothing to you, because you are not responsible for them. Whoever does right clothes himself in a suit of armor that the arrows of consequences can never penetrate. When you do wrong you are responsible for all the consequences, to the last sigh and the last tear. If you do right nature is responsible. If you do wrong you are responsible.
The higher you get in the scale of being, the grander, the nobler, and the tenderer you will become. Kindness is always an evidence of greatness. Malice is the property of small souls. Whoever allows the feeling of brotherhood to die in his heart becomes a wild beast.
No man ever was, no man ever will be, the superior of the man whom he robs. No man ever was, no man ever will be, the superior of the man he steals from. I had rather be a slave than a slave-master. I had rather be stolen from than be a thief. I had rather be the wronged than the wrong-doer. And allow me to say again to impress it forever upon every man that hears me, you will always be the inferior of the man you wrong. Every race is inferior to the race it tramples upon and robs. There never was a man that could trample upon human rights and be superior to the man upon whom he trampled. And let me say another thing: No government can stand upon the crushed rights of one single human being; ... [it] will carry in its own bosom the seeds of its own death and destruction, and cannot stand. A government founded upon anything except liberty and justice cannot and ought not to stand. All the wrecks on either side of the stream of time, all the wrecks of the great cities and nations that have passed away -- all are a warning that no nation founded upon injustice can stand.
Liberty is not a social question. Civil equality is not social equality. We are equal only in rights. No two persons are of equal weight, or height. There are no two leaves in all the forests of the earth alike -- no two blades of grass -- no two grains of sand -- no two hairs. No two anythings in the physical world are precisely alike. Neither mental nor physical equality can be created by law, but law recognizes the fact that all men have been clothed with equal rights by Nature, the mother of us all.
The man who hates the black man because he is black, has the same spirit as he who hates the poor man because he is poor. It is the spirit of caste. The proud useless despises the honest useful. The parasite idleness scorns the great oak of labor on which it feeds, and that lifts it to the light.
I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample under foot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or color.
They are superior who have the best heart -- the best brain.
Superiority is born of honesty, of virtue, of charity, and above all, of the love of liberty.
The superior man is the providence of the inferior.
He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless.
He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.
Gems Concerning Suicide
When the house of life becomes a prison, when the horizon has shrunk and narrowed to a cell, and when the convict longs for the liberty of death, why should the effort to escape be regarded as a crime?
Of course, I regard life from a natural point of view. I do not take gods, heavens or hells into account. My horizon is the known, and my estimate of life is based upon what I know of life here in this world. People should not suffer for the sake of supernatural beings or for other worlds or the hopes and fears of some future state. Our joys, our sufferings and our duties are here.
Without doubt many suicides are caused by insanity. Men lose their property. The fear of the future overpowers them. Things lose proportion, they lose poise and balance, and in a flash, a gleam of frenzy, kill themselves. The disappointed in love, broken in heart -- the light fading from their lives -- seek the refuge of death.
Those who take their lives in painful, barbarous ways -- who mangle their throats with broken glass, dash themselves from towers and roofs, take poisons that torture like the rack -- such persons must be insane. But those who take the facts into account, who weigh the arguments for and against, and who decide that death is best -- the only good -- and then resort to reasonable means, may be, so far as I can see, in full possession of their minds.
Life is not the same to all -- to some a blessing, to some a curse, to some not much in any way. Some leave it with unspeakable regret, some with the keenest joy and some with indifference.
Religion, or the decadence of religion, has a bearing upon the number of suicides. The fear of God, of judgment, of eternal pain will stay the hand, and people so believing will suffer here until relieved by natural death. A belief in eternal agony beyond the grave will cause such believers to suffer the pangs of this life. When there is no fear of the future, when death is believed to be a dreamless sleep, men have less hesitation about ending their lives. On the other hand, orthodox religion has driven millions to insanity. It has caused parents to murder their children and many thousands to destroy themselves and others.
Death is liberty, absolute and eternal.
We should remember that nothing happens but the natural. Back of every suicide and every attempt to commit suicide is the natural and efficient cause. Nothing happens by chance. In this world the facts touch each other. There is no space between -- no room for chance. Given a certain heart and brain, certain conditions, and suicide is the necessary result. If we wish to prevent suicide we must change conditions. We must by education, by invention, by art, by civilization, add to the value of the average life. We must cultivate the brain and heart -- do away with false pride and false modesty. We must become generous enough to help our fellows without degrading them. We must make industry -- useful work of all kinds -- honorable. We must mingle a little affection with our charity -- a little fellowship. We should allow those who have sinned to really reform. We should not think only of what the wicked have done, but we should think of what we have wanted to do. People do not hate the sick. Why should they despise the mentally weak -- the diseased in brain?
If Christians would only think, they would see that orthodox religion rests upon suicide -- that man was redeemed by suicide, and that without suicide the whole world would have been lost.
If Christ were God, then he had the power to protect himself from the Jews without hurting them. But instead of using his power he allowed them to take his life.
If a strong man should allow a few little children to hack him to death with knives when he could easily have brushed them aside, would we not say that he committed suicide?
There is no escape. If Christ were, in fact, God, and allowed the Jews to kill him, then he consented to his own death -- refused, though perfectly able to defend and protect himself, and was, in fact, a suicide.
As long as there shall be pain and failure, want and sorrow, agony and crime, men and women will untie life's knot and seek the peace of death.
To the hopelessly imprisoned -- to the dishonored and despised -- to those who have failed, who have no future, no hope -- to the abandoned, the brokenhearted, to those who are only remnants and fragments of men and women -- how consoling, how enchanting is the thought of death!
And even to the most fortunate, death at last is a welcome deliverer. Death is as natural and as merciful as life. When we have journeyed long -- when we are weary -- when we wish for the twilight, for the dusk, for the cool kisses of the night -- when the senses are dull -- when the pulse is faint and low -- when the mists gather on the mirror of memory -- when the past is almost forgotten, the present hardly perceived -- when the future has but empty hands -- death is as welcome as a strain of music.
After all, death is not so terrible as joyless life. Next to eternal happiness is to sleep in the soft clasp of the cool earth, disturbed by no dream, by no thought, by no pain, by no fear, unconscious of all and forever.
The wonder is that so many live, that in spite of rags and want, in spite of tenement and gutter, of filth and pain, they limp and stagger and crawl beneath their burdens to the natural end. The wonder is that so few of the miserable are brave enough to die -- that so many are terrified by the "something after death" -- by the spectres and phantoms of superstition.
Most people are in love with life. How they cling to it in the arctic snows -- how they struggle in the waves and currents of the sea -- how they linger in famine -- how they fight disaster and despair! On the crumbling edge of death they keep the flag flying and go down at last full of hope and courage.
But many have not such natures. They cannot bear defeat. They are disheartened by disaster. They lie down on the field of conflict and give the earth their blood.
They are our unfortunate brothers and sisters. We should not curse or blame -- we should pity. On their pallid faces our tears should fall.
We know something of ourselves -- of the average man -- of his thoughts, passions, fears and aspirations -- something of his sorrows and his joys, his weakness, his liability to fall -- something of what he resists -- the struggles, the victories and the failures of his life. We know something of the tides and currents of the mysterious sea -- something of the circuits of the wayward winds -- but we do not know where the wild storms are born that wreck and rend. Neither do we know in what strange realm the mists and clouds are formed that darken all the heaven of the mind, nor from whence comes the tempest of the brain in which the will to do, sudden as the lightning's flash, seizes and holds the man until the dreadful deed is done ...
Our ignorance should make us hesitate. Our weakness should make us merciful.
The other day a man was tried ... for having tried to kill himself. I think he pleaded guilty, and the Judge, after speaking of the terrible crime of the poor wretch, sentenced him to the penitentiary for two years. This was an outrage; infamous in every way, and a disgrace to our civilization.
Is suicide a sin? I do not know whether self-killing is on the increase or not. If it is, then there must be, on the average, more trouble, more sorrow, more failure, and, consequently, more people are driven to despair. In civilized life there is a great struggle, great competition, and many fail. To fail in a great city is like being wrecked at sea. In the country a man has friends; he can get a little credit, a little help, but in the city it is different. The man is lost in the multitude. In the roar of streets, his cry is not heard. Death becomes his only friend. Death promises release from want, from hunger and pain, and so the poor wretch lays down his burden, dashes it from his shoulders and falls asleep.
To me all this seems very natural. The wonder is that so many endure and suffer to the natural end, that so many nurse the spark of life in huts and prisons, keep it and guard it through years of misery and want; support it by beggary, by eating the crust found in the gutter, and to whom it only gives days of weariness and nights of fear and dread. Why should the man, sitting amid the wreck of all he had, the loved ones dead, friends lost, seek to lengthen, to preserve his life? What can the future have for him?
Under many circumstances a man has the right to kill himself. When life is of no value to him, when he can be of no real assistance to others, why should a man continue? When he is of no benefit, when he is a burden to those he loves, why should he remain? The old idea was that God made us and placed us here for a purpose and that it was our duty to remain until he called us. The world is outgrowing this absurdity. What pleasure can it give God to see a man devoured by a cancer; to see the quivering flesh slowly eaten; to see the nerves throbbing with pain? Is this a festival for God? Why should the poor wretch stay and suffer? A little morphine would give him sleep -- the agony would be forgotten and he would pass unconsciously from happy dreams to painless death.
If God determines all births and deaths, of what use is medicine and why should doctors defy with pills and powders, the decrees of God? No one, except a few insane, act now according to this childish superstition. Why should a man, surrounded by flames, in the midst of a burning building, from which there is no escape, hesitate to put a bullet through his brain or a dagger in his heart? Would it give God pleasure to see him burn? When did the man lose the right of self-defense?
So, when a man has committed some awful crime, why should he stay and ruin his family and friends? Why should he add to the injury? Why should he live, filling his days and nights, and the days and nights of others, with grief and pain, with agony and tears?
Why should any man deem it his duty or feel it a pleasure to say harsh and cruel things of the dead? Why pierce the brow of death with the thorns of hatred?
Seneca, knowing that Nero intended to take his life, had no fear. He knew that he could defeat the Emperor. He knew that "at the bottom of every river, in the coil of every rope, on the point of every dagger, Liberty sat and smiled." He knew that it was his own fault if he allowed himself to be tortured to death by his enemy. He said: "There is this blessing, that while life has but one entrance, it has exits innumerable, and as I choose the house in which I live, the ship in which I will sail, so will I choose the time and manner of my death."
To me this is not cowardly, but manly and noble.
Judge Normile died by his own hand. Certainly he was not afraid of the future. He was not appalled by death. He died by his own hand. Can anything be more pitiful -- more terrible? How can a man in the flowing tide and noon of life destroy himself? What storms there must have been within the brain; what tempests must have raved and wrecked; what lightnings blinded and revealed; what hurrying clouds obscured and hid the stars; what monstrous shapes emerged from gloom; what darkness fell upon the day; what visions filled the night; how the light failed; how paths were lost; how highways disappeared; how chasms yawned; until one thought -- the thought of death -- swift, compassionate and endless -- became the insane monarch of the mind.
Standing by the prostrate form of one who thus found death, it is far better to pity than to revile -- to kiss the clay than curse the man.
I am an Infidel -- an unbeliever -- and yet I hope that all the children of men may find peace and joy. No matter how they leave this world, from altar or from scaffold, crowned with virtue or stained with crime, I hope that good may come to all.
It is but a few steps at most from the cradle to the grave; a short journey. The suicide hastens, shortens the path, loses the afternoon, the twilight, the dusk of life's day; loses what he does not want, what he cannot bear. In the tempest of despair, in the blind fury of madness, or in the calm of thought and choice, the beleaguered soul finds the serenity of death.
Let us leave the dead where nature leaves them. We know nothing of any realm that lies beyond the horizon of the known, beyond the end of life. Let us be honest with ourselves and others. Let us pity the suffering, the despairing, the men and women hunted and pursued by grief and shame, by misery and want, by chance and fate until their only friend is death.