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Robert G. 



By Mark A. Plummer 

Robert G. IngersoU 

Robert G. IngersoU 

Peoria's Pagan Politician 

Mark A. Plummer 

Western Illinois Monograph Series, Number 4 

Western Illinois University 

Macomb, Illinois 

The Western Illinois Monograph Series is published by the College of Arts and Sciences 
and University Libraries at Western Illinois University. The Editorial Board includes A. 
Gilbert Belles. Carol G. Covey, Evelyn M. Schroth. Robert P. Sutton, and Donald W. 
Griffin. Chairman. The series supports studies in the history, geography, literature, and 
culture of the western Illinois region. Corresp>ondence about monographs in print or the 
submission of manuscripts for review should be sent to the Chairman of the Editorial Board, 
Western Illinois Monograph Series, College of Arts and Sciences. Western Illinois Univer- 
sity. Macomb. Illinois 61455. 

Copyright 1 984 by Western Illinois University 

Cover design by David J. Kelly 


The name Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899) evokes the image of the "great 
agnostic." Peoria evokes the image of political opinion in middle America. Inger- 
soll and Peoria came together between 1858 and 1877 when the great orator, 
lawyer, and politician became Peoria's most famous citizen. In 1876, Ingersoll 
burst upon the national scene, not as an agnostic, but as America's premier politi- 
cal orator. The purpose of my study is to describe Ingersoll 's formative "Peoria 
years" with an emphasis upon his unfulfilled political ambitions whether as a 
Douglas Democrat, a Lincoln Republican, or a Radical Republican. 

The study also enabled me to answer some old questions and, quite unexpec- 
tedly, to pose and answer some new ones as well. Included among the questions 
are: How was President Andrew Johnson's challenge to "look at Peoria' ' (the pre- 
cursor to "played in Peoria") met by Ingersoll? Was Ingersoll denied the guber- 
natorial nomination in 1868 because of his agnosticism? Why did his "plumed 
knight" phrase in his presidential nomination of James G. Blaine become so 
prominent when it was not the intended climax of the 1876 speech? What were 
the Peoria antecedents for Ingersoll 's famous "visions of war" campaign speech? 
What vengeance did he demand in his eulogy on the assassination of Lincoln? • 

Ingersoll' s first "Pagan" lecture (the Gods) opened by perverting Alexander 
Pope's statement to read: "An honest God is the noblest work of man." So much 
has been written which either worships or damns Ingersoll that I might have 
opened this monograph with: "An honest Ingersoll is the noblest work of man." 
In my search for the "honest (political) Ingersoll" I have relied largely upon origi- 
nal documents. My search for those original sources put me in contact with many 
helpful and dedicated persons. Roger Bridges, Cheryl Schnirring, and the late 
Paul Spence were especially helpful at the Illinois State Historical Library in 
Springfield. Wayne Temple and the staff of the Illinois State Archives went 
beyond duty for me. The newspaper file and the Ingersoll collection at the Peoria 
Public Library were useful and Alexander C. Crosman, Jr., the director, offered 
appropriate photographs. Garold Cole of the Illinois State University Library was, 
as always, an indefatigable searcher for sources. The staff of the Manuscript Divi- 
sion of the Library of Congress was efficient. 

Thanks be to the National Endowment for the Humanities which provided a 
"travel to collections" grant and to Illinois State University which supported my 
research in various and sundry ways. My greatest debt is to my colleague, L. 
Moody Simms, who offered helpful (yet tactful) advice through each step of the 
process. Professor Emeritus, Dale B. Vetter, also read the entire manuscript and 
administered aid and comfort. Donald W. Griffin, as editor of the monograph 
series, graciously accepted and improved the manuscript. Despite their herculean 
efforts, errors may remain; if so, it is my responsibility because I was the last to 
tamper with their suggestions. 



1 . Douglas to Lincoln 9 

2. Look at Peoria 23 

3. Lost Nomination 39 

4. Patriot Infidel 55 

5. Plumed Knight 71 
Notes 85 


Douglas to Lincoln 

Robert Green Ingersoll is best remembered as "Pagan Bob," or the "Great 
Infidel," or even as "Robert Godless Injuresoul," because of his many iconoclas- 
tic lectures. He is remembered for his "Plumed Knight" speech nominating 
James G. Blaine in 1876 and his "Visions of War" bloody shirt campaign speech 
the same year. His reputation as an attorney for government officials accused of 
fraud is also considerable. Although much of his notoriety came while he lived 
in Washington, D. C, and New York City during the last two decades of his life, 
he distinguished himself in philosophy, law, and politics while living in the city 
which has become identified as a symbol of America's heartland, Peoria, Illinois, 
between 1858 and 1877. His departure from Peoria did not come until he had es- 
tablished a national reputation as an agnostic (with the lecture "The Gods" in 
1872), as a lawyer (with the Munn case in 1876), or as a politician (especially 
in political speaking). During his score of years in Peoria, politics was his vice, 
a vice which he could neither win at nor break. In 1865, he wrote: "If there is 
any life in the world that is absolutely devoid of everything like real happiness, 
I believe it is called a political life. A low dirty scramble, through misrepresenta- 
tion, slander, falsehood, and filth, and success brings nothing but annoyance and 
fear of defeat next time, and yet if one gets started in that kind of business it is 
very hard to get out. I find myself planning and scheming all the time, thinking 
what I will try for, and calculating the chances. ' ' ' 

Although he was consistently unsuccessful in his quest for elective office, it 
was not for want of "scheming" and "calculating." His ambitions for Congress 
(as a Democrat) in 1860, congressman-at-large (as a Republican) in 1864 and 
1866, and for the Republican nomination for governor in 1868 were all thwarted. 
His attempts to obtain an appointive office were not much more successful. He 
failed in his attempts to obtain the position of U. S. district attorney in 1865 and 
1 869 and minister to Berlin in 1 877 . Success came in the form of one appointment 
(Illinois attorney-general, 1867-69) and in managing his brother's Fifth District 
congressional campaigns from 1864 to 1870. But while Ingersoll could do little 
to ensure his own success, he became the most coveted political stump speaker 
in America. It was only after success as a political speaker (especially in 1876) 
had propelled him into the national limelight that he left Peoria. Ingersoll's new 
recognition as a great orator enabled him to become wealthy and ensured an audi- 
ence for his unorthodox views on religion. During his "Peoria Years," he de- 
veloped his ideas and style and an aversion (mixed with envy) toward politicians. 
How Bob Ingersoll's politics played in Peoria makes an amusing, earthy, and 
sometimes profound story. 

In the midst of his reluctant transition from Douglas Democrat to Lincoln Re- 

10 Robert G. Ingersoll 

publican. Ingersoll proclaimed: "I am neither a Democrat, a Republican, an 
Abolitionist or the other thing." But during his residency in Illinois he was all 
those and more. He would be characterized, in turn, as a Jacksonian Democrat, 
a Douglas Democrat, a War Democrat, a Lincoln Republican, an Abolitionist, 
and a Radical Republican. In following this pattern, Ingersoll was not unique; the 
American Civil War and Reconstruction period saw thousands of Northern Demo- 
crats take this path, traveling at various speeds. Bom on August 1 1 , 1833, in Dres- 
den, New York, of a father who was a preacher, an abolitionist and a Democrat, 
Robert was the youngest of five children bom of Mary Livingston Ingersoll, who 
died when Robert was two years old. The Reverend John Ingersoll seldom stayed 
in his Congregational or Presbyterian churches more than a few months. He 
moved to a dozen cities in New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois, usually with 
the children and, in tum, with his two new wives. At age eighteen, Robert com- 
mented that " Father intends to see the whole world before many years . " "^ 

In spite of the Ingersoll family travels, Robert was introduced to literature. 
His father, who had studied Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, encouraged him and 
Robert briefly attended school in various cities, including an academy in Green- 
ville, Illinois, where he studied under Socrates Smith. He read Gibbon, Byron, 
Keats, Shelley, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Volney and, most important, Shakes- 
peare and Robert Burns. (A wag later commented that the agnostic's epitaph 
would be "Robert bums.") Robert's photographic memory made leaming easy 
and he was teaching school at age eighteen. While teaching in Waverly, Tennes- 
see, he witnessed the sale of slaves. He wrote: "People here ask me ... if I think 
slavery wrong and I tell them I do and that I believe it is wrong enough to damn 
the whole of them, and they take it in good part. "^ 

Robert and his brother Ebon Clark Ingersoll were introduced to politics when 
they began to read law in the office of Democratic Congressman Willis Allen and 
Son in Marion, Illinois, in 1854. Ebon wrote: "For the last three months Roby 
& I have been applying ourselves to the study of law. . . . We were admitted to 
the bar 'ex gratia' in one month after we commenced studying. We have several 
cases . . . and have been successful in every one. ..." Robert clerked in various 
federal, county, and circuit courts in southern Illinois as Ebon began his legislative 
career. Robert's older (by two years) brother Ebon was elected to the Illinois 
House of Representatives from the Fourth District (Gallatin and Saline counties) 
as a Douglas Democrat. After attending the legislative session which convened 
on January 5, 1857, Ebon married a Pennsylvania woman and chose not to retum 
to Shawneetown. The brothers had some legal business with Peoria clients, and 
they chose to move to the Illinois River city which showed great promise for 
growth. Ebon apparently went first with his new bride. The February 19, 1858, 
Day Book entry reads: "Robt Ingersoll commenced boarding at the Peoria House 
at $15 per month.'"* 

The brothers Ingersoll arrived in Peoria as Douglas Democrats, but the Civil 
War would convert them to Republicans. In 1858, the Democratic Party was split 
between Douglas and Buchanan Democrats. Ebon Clark Ingersoll was a delegate 

Douglas to Lincoln 11 

to the Douglas Democratic State Convention which met in the house chambers 
in Springfield on April 21. The Buchanan Democrats met concurrently in the 
smaller senate chamber. In this year of the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the U.S. 
Senate, Ebon became the Douglas candidate for the General Assembly for the 
Forty-First District (Stark and Peoria counties), but he received very little public- 
ity in either of the party newspapers. The Peoria Democratic Union was published 
by G. W. Raney, who wanted to be Peoria postmaster and favored anti-Douglas 
Democrats, including Sidney Breeze for U.S. Senator and a slate of representa- 
tives for the general assembly. The Republican candidates won when the Democ- 
ratic vote was split between Ebon and the Buchanan Democrat. The Republican 
paper, the Daily Transcript, opposed Ebon on grounds that he was a stranger in 
town, "a man who has not been in the district long enough to make him legally 
eligible to the office of Representatives," and it also characterized him as a 
"Douglas worshiper." Although the Democrats polled a majority of the Peoria 
voters, the Transcript contended that the result was only accomplished because 
Douglas had come to town with his Catholic wife and a Bishop to attract the Irish 
voter. ^ 

Robert IngersoU's views on the 1858 campaign were expressed in a letter to 
his brother John: "In the political world of course it is here as with you nothing 
but Douglas and Lecompton. Most of the 'Democracy' are for Douglas except the 
district attorneys and the post-masters. I suppose they think 'there is no harm in 
holding the dish right side up when it rains porridge.' As for myself I think Doug- 
las is right on the 'Great Bugger Boo' though I don't care one cent whether Kansas 
is a slave state or not." This letter also shows that the Ingersoll brothers were 
doing very well as lawyers in Peoria: "Clark and I are still getting more and more 
business and our prospects are as bright and flattering as we could ask. And think 
we already have the confidence of the substantial men, by substantial I mean those 
who have the spondoolicks, and of all men they are the men to have on your side. 
I wish you had studied law instead of medicine. I know you would have liked it 
better and made more money . "^ 

The extraordinary oratorical talent of Robert G. Ingersoll came to the attention 
of the community on the Fourth of July, 1860, when the scheduled speaker was 
indisposed and Robert was called to give the major address with only a few hours 
notice. The Peoria Daily Democratic Union reported: "The oration by Robert G. 
Ingersoll . . . was pronounced the most perfect and patriotic affair of the kind that 
has been delivered in this city in many years." The Republican paper conceded 
that IngersoU's speech was "quite creditable" especially when "he turned off 
... the limited range of his political vision" and uttered "free-soil" sentiments. 
But after the Democrats of the Fourth Congressional District nominated him as 
their candidate on August 2, 1860, the Transcript was not so flattering: "He was 
not nominated to be elected, but he was nominated to traverse the counties and 
create a laugh, tell stories, and please the 'boys'." The Transcript noted that In- 
gersoll had a reputation as a wit but ". . . his wit is rather too deep. He dives 
so far that he brings up mud with it. It is almost invariably dirty. ' '^ 

12 Robert G. Ingersoll 

The Transcript paraphrased Robert Ingersoll's acceptance speech: "In speak- 
ing of the principles of the two parties he declared that the Republicans believe 
that Congress should act as a wet nurse and go over into the territories and bind 
diapers on the people." The Transcript added that the Democratic party was cer- 
tainly qualified to go into the "diaper business." The Republican paper spoke of 
Ingersoll as the "diaper candidate" throughout the campaign. Ingersoll embarked 
upon a vigorous campaign in which he challenged the incumbent Republican con- 
gressman William Kellogg to a Lincoln-Douglas style series of debates. Accord- 
ing to Clark Carr, Ingersoll surprised a mostly Republican audience in Galesburg 
by stating: "The Fugitive Slave Law is the most infamous enactment that ever 
disgraced a statute book. ' ' In Democratic Peoria, however, Ingersoll admitted that 
slavery was evil, but took the position that its extension was the exclusive concern 
of Kansans.*^ 

The Republican newspaper, which was edited by Enoch Emery, who would 
one day become Ingersoll's chief supporter, accused him of being crude and pro- 
fane-a drunk, a libertine, and a brawler. According to the Transcript, Ingersoll 
assaulted editor Emery on the streets a few days before the election. But the Demo- 
cratic paper's version of the incident published on November 1 , 1860, is as fol- 
lows: "The Transcript of yesterday devotes half a column to a sympathy-solicit- 
ing subject-the 'talking to' which Mr. Ingersoll gave the editor of that paper two 
or three days since. The low and villainous abuse of Ingersoll, by the Transcript, 
is notorious. Meeting its editor. Bob simply asked him 'if he knew that he was 
a low-lived liar and a contemptible puppy?' Editor began to open his jaws to an- 
swer. Bob told him he shouldn't speak. Editor didn't speak, but drew a small 
knife. Bob told editor to put it back, or he would knock editor's head off. Editor 
put back knife. Bob gave his opinion of editor, but did not strike editor-he only 
told editor that if editor weighed fifty pounds more he would thrash ground with 
editor. Cowhide wasn't in the scrape at all-Bob don't use houvene epidermis in 
any v^ay-editor imagined that. Editor needn't carry pistule any longer-Bob's in 
the country. It is not true, as circulated round town, that Bob shook td\iox-editor 
shook himself-Boh only put his hand on editor's shoulder to keep editor from 
going into 'conniption fits' . ' '"^ 

Although the Transcript prepared a long list of the youthful Ingersoll's sins, 
neither the Republican nor the Democratic Peoria papers introduced the subject 
of religion. The Galeshurg Observer suggested, however, that it was being used 
by Ingersoll's "unscrupulous enemies, whoareready to adopt any means, no mat- 
ter how dishonorable to secure his defeat." The Democratic Union warned: 
"They will tell you he is irreligious. If this is true, we would that it were other- 
wise. . . . They tell you that Mr. Ingersoll is somewhat 'wild!' This may be in 
part correct." While seeming to acknowledge these weaknesses the paper con- 
tended that Robert Ingersoll was: "the brilliant orator, the profound reasoner, the 
keenest of all wits; Bob Ingersoll the wonder of the old, the idol of the young men, 
and the pet of the ladies. Our Bob-the Standard Bearer of the Democracy in this 
Congressional District. Gallant Bob-who never fails to drive the competition to 

Douglas to Lincoln 13 

the wall by sound logic, historical argument, withering sarcasm and brilliant re- 

In 1860, Lincoln led the Illinois Republicans to victory. Robert Ingersoll car- 
ried normally Democratic Peoria County by only about 200 votes while losing in 
the Fourth Congressional District by 4,500 votes. Robert's reputation as a witty, 
sarcastic, and popular stump speaker, however, propelled him at the age of 
twenty-seven into the limelight among the city's orators. After the election cam- 
paign, Robert continued to build his reputation for eloquence by giving lectures. 
Under the heading THE YOUNG MAN ELOQUENT, the Democratic Union an- 
nounced Ingersoll's lecture on "History" at Rouse's Hall for February 26, 1861. 
Later the newspaper pronounced the oration as an "eloquent and scholarly . . . 
Social History" of the world, with which "every one was charmed."' ' 

When the Civil War began, the Ingersoll brothers instinctively took a strong 
pro-Union stand, as did their mentor. Stephen A. Douglas. Robert wired Republi- 
can Governor Richard Yates for permission to raise a volunteer regiment. At about 
the same time, Stephen A. Douglas appeared in Springfield to rally his party to 
thecauseof the Union. "Donotallow the mortification . . . of defeat [in the recent 
election] to convert you to traitors," he warned his fellow Democrats. While in 
Springfield he made arrangements with Republicans to ensure a united front 
against the South. Upon his return to Chicago, he proclaimed on May 1, 1861, 
that "there can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots or traitors/' Weakened 
by illness and overexertion, Douglas died on June 3, 1861 , shortly after uttering 
his last words: "Tell them [his sons] to obey the laws and support the constitution 
of the United States." The forty-eight year old leader was mourned in Peoria as 
he was across the North . ' ~ 

Robert Ingersoll was called upon to be the Peoria funeral orator for Douglas, 
as he would be for Lincoln almost four years later. Ebon took the lead in introduc- 
ing resolutions in the circuit court and at the bar association instituting a period 
of mourning. He was also chosen to be in the small committee delegated to attend 
the Chicago funeral. One June 7, 1861 , a great funeral parade proceeded to the 
Peoria Court House square where Rev. Mr. Hibben "invoked the Divine blessing 
upon the exercises ... in a fervent and appropriate manner" and Robert Ingersoll 
was introduced as the orator of the day. The account in the Peoria Daily Democra- 
tic Union is short on quotations and long on praise for the speech. "It fully sus- 
tained the reputation which its author has won all over Illinois, as the 'young man 
eloquent'," it reported. "His inner-soul was inspired with his theme, and the 
eloquent sentences came gushing from his lips in those deep, heart-spoken utter- 
ances which sway hearts at will," it continued. "As a eulogy upon the life and 
death of Judge Douglas, this oration will be long remembered by all who heard 
it," the newspaper concluded. '-^ 

Following the "martyred" Douglas lead, Robert Ingersoll exhorted the Union 
cause. At the August 31 . 1861 , Peoria Democratic Caucus, he spoke in favor of 
supporting the government in the supression of the rebellion. The Republican 
paper said his remarks were "proof positive that there was and need be no issues 

14 Robert G. Ingersoll 

between honest Union men. no matter how they previously have differed." Inger- 
soll "accorded to President Lincoln, a pure and honest purpose" but "he didn't 
believe there was ability enough in the cabinet to set a hen, or if there was there 
was so much dishonesty that they would suck eggs." The Democratic County 
Convention declared "That the present civil war had been forced upon us by the 
disunionists of the southern states," and resolved: "That we are in favor of pro- 
secuting the present war with all the vigor and energy that a loyal people can sum- 
mon to their aid. till rebellion is entirely crushed."'"* 

Robert IngersolTs patriotism was expressed in words and deeds in September 
of 1861 . His initial request to Governor Yates for permission to raise a regiment 
had been denied because of an over-abundance of such offers, but ex-Republican 
presidential candidate General John C. Fremont later authorized the recruitment. 
Judge B. D. Meek of Woodford County and R. G. Ingersoll were chosen to raise 
a cavalry regiment. The Democratic Union remarked that "They [Meek and In- 
gersoll] are made of the right stuff-particularly Bob-to lead a brave regiment to 
certain victory." Bob certainly had the "right stuff" to recruit. Everywhere he 
spoke he aroused "a spirit of patriotism which will tell with good effect for the 
Union." An observer warned the citizens of Eureka that Ingersoll would speak 
at a Union meeting there: "Look out for a full company of cavalry from Eureka, 
after Bob has been there. It's a sure thing." Robert was aided by a nonpartisan 
effort of both newspapers and by both Democratic and Republican politicians. Re- 
publican William Pitt Kellogg and E. C. Ingersoll sometimes addressed the same 
"rousing union meetings" in support of recruitments. Robert was mustered into 
service as a colonel for his Eleventh Illinois Cavalry in December of 1861 . Before 
departing for Benton Barracks in St. Louis with his regiment, he joined another 
force as well. On February 13, 1862, he married Eva A. Parker of nearby Grove- 
land. She admired his Pekin "Progress" speech, his legal success, and his agnos- 

The horrors of war made a great impression on Ingersoll . Even the camps were 
frightening because of the disease and death. He counted 1 ,500 graves in the camp 
cemetery in St. Louis. '^Gen. Hospital is the most effective officer in the ser- 
vice," he wrote. From the "Seat of War" he wrote on April 1 1 , 1862, after the 
bloody battle of Shiloh, that an "awful Terrible battle, the most terrible I ever 
conceived of" had occurred. "War is horrid beyond the conception of man," he 
asserted. He even invoked the protection of "My father's God" for his men. He 
was also impatient with the officers such as Illinoisian General John Pope, who 
was defeated at Second Bull Run, and of Lincoln, who had appointed him and 
other "incompetents." "To allow troops to be led by such a jackass is murder. 
When will Lincoln stop appointing idiots because they come from Ills, or are re- 
lated to his charming wife." he complained."' 

Robert Ingersoll's disgust with the shortcomings of the generals and the ad- 
ministration were countered by hissenseof loyalty and patriotism. Back in Peoria, 
his brother Ebon was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic 
party's lack of loyalty and patriotism. When the 1862 Democratic State Conven- 

Douglas to Lincoln 15 

tion failed to adopt a series of "Loyal" resolutions, he began to advocate a rump 
meeting of the "War Democrats" to nominate loyal candidates. A number of Re- 
publicans suggested that Ebon be recruited into the (Republican) Union State Con- 
vention "because he has stood up manfully and battled successfully against all 
the old fossils of the Democratic Party." On September 24, 1862, the Republican 
convention nominated Ebon for congressman-at-large on the third ballot. Enoch 
Emery, the old Ingersoll nemesis, was a member of the convention and he appar- 
ently supported Ebon. Ebon Clark Ingersoll responded by giving a "rebel and cop- 
perhead" damning speech. He was happy to be in a convention where he saw no 
traitors as he implied he had in the Democratic convention. He was for emancipa- 
tion and for punishing the rebels. He was against all those who were not uncondi- 
tionally for the Union, and he wouldn't mind seeing a few traitors in Illinois, as 
in South Carolina, hanged if it would help crush the rebellion in a short time. Ebon 
continued to speak of himself as a "War Democrat" but as one who would not 
"be driven from principle and patriotism by the cry of abolitionism." He called 
on the friends of Stephen A. Douglas to carry out Douglas's admonition: "Let 
there be but two parties-patriots and traitors . " ' '' 

When Robert Ingersoll, who was with his regiment at Corinth, Mississippi, 
heard of Ebon's criticism of the Democrats, he applauded. On September 22, 
1 862, he wrote: "I glory in the position you have taken. . . . The present Democra- 
tic party are like the Jews under Moses. They are longing for the 'flesh pots' of 
slavery. . . . The effect of the Springfield (Democratic) Convention is to throw 
cold water upon the present enthusiasm of the North. It is a fire in the rear, it dam- 
pens the ardor of the army. . . . Slavery is unspeakable-detestable-destroy it." 
When Ebon received the nomination of the Republican Union ticket, Robert 
wrote: "I was considerably surprised when I first heard of your nomination. I am 
not surprised now. The Republicans were obliged to run a war Democrat. I am 
glad you were selected. ... I glory in you much more than myself. I had rather 
see honors crown your head than mine . I believe you will be elected. ' ' ' ^ 

When Ebon allowed Robert's letter of September 22 condemning the Democ- 
rats for setting a "fire in the rear" to be published in the Republican newspaper, 
Robert was angered: ' 'Today I saw the Transcript and was surprised to find a letter 
of mine. I suppose you knew my aversion to having anything of mine published 
that I never intended to have made public. I am sorry it appeared. I have been 
abused too much by religious fanatics to feel friendly toward them now. I certainly 
never wanted to see a word of mine in the Transcript. Of course they want & only 
want to abuse my old friends by pretending to praise me. Damn them and their 
praises. D— n their blame and everything they may ever do or say . ' ' ' '^ 

By election time in 1862 Ingersoll was profoundly discouraged with the war 
effort, with politicians, and with the prospect that his brother would be defeated. 
He wrote Ebon a letter meant to prepare him for the defeat; the letter also displays 
Ingersoll 's misgivings about democracy. The November 1 letter was severely 
edited by Eva Wakefield, and it is therefore reproduced in full here. Words omit- 
ted by Wakefield are in italics. ^^ 

7(5 Robert G. Ingersoll 

Comith [Mississippi! Nov. 1st 1862 

DcarBro. |Ebon| 

Before this reaches you the election will probably have been de- 
cided, if you are defeated, take the disappointment with the best possi- 
ble grace. 

The Democracy will do all they can to embitter you. to make your 
defeat if possible more than a defeat-a humiliation. 

You will have the con.sciousness of having done right, with that 
consciousness, a cross is more glorious than a crown. 

For the mere matter of going to Congress-a collection of fools and 
knaves-I should care but little, it has ceased to be an honor even to 
be President of the Great Republic. 

I believe that the life of the politician is one of misery. You have 
to be the friend of every booby-to put up with every indignity. You 
have to be the skillet of in which little hungry puppy editors sop 
their miserable crusts. As long as you arc supposed to have plenty of 
bones, there will be plenty of dogs to follow you. Get out of bones, 
and down goes your meat house . 

A popular man is like a hitch in [heat. Kvery?! pup is wilUn^^ to 
[erased | " But every pup expects pay. " " ' 

I believe a man is happier in his own individual business, to make 
his own bread and eat it with his family. To let the Government take 
care of itself, to let the dear pcoplc-the garlic-breathed-grcasy capped 
and rufiged arsed multitude go to the Devil . 

When men like (William) O'Brien & [Hnoch) Emery aspire to 
make laws for two millions of people, and the people are such asses 
as to allow either of them to do so. it proves that Democracy is a hum- 
bug. Free institutions won't work after that. Let us have Czars, an Em- 
peror, a dictator or even a rotten tator. 1 hope however that just for 
the sake of success that you will be elected, but for your own sake & 
your own happiness and that of your wife and dear children defeat 
would be better. I am coming home whenever I can get the chance. 

I send love to all, kiss noble little John. Today I hear that Mobile 
has been taken. I pray God that it may be true. 

Love to yourself-dear dear brother. 

Yours Robert 

[on the top margin of page one Ingcrsoll wrote:) Did Capt - blast it 
I can't think of his name-send .^0 dollars to you forme. 

Robert's pessimism with politics and war was more Justified than he realized. 
Ebon was defeated in the November, IS62, election losing by 1 5. ()()() votes to a 
copperhead (peace Democrat), James C. Alien. A majority of the Illinois Democ- 
ratic congressional candidates were elected, and both houses of the legislature 
came under Democratic control in a reaction to Lincoln's preliminary emancipa- 
tion proclamation and the lack of battlefield victories. On December 18, Robert 

Douglas to Lincoln 17 

was captured near Lexington, Tennessee, by Confederate General Nathan B. For- 
rest. Ingersoll was outflanked and thirty of his men from his small detachment 
were killed or wounded. He later recalled: "I was the last to leave the guns. Away 
I went over field, and away they went after me. They shot at me it seemed hun- 
dreds of times. ... I came to a high fence. I made my horse jump. It was too 
much for him. He jumped the fence clear and fine, but when he came down on 
the other side his knees gave way and he fell flat-Off I went, and surr [sir] Sesesh 
[Secessionists] bagged the aforesaid." Four days later Forrest parolled Ingersoll 
(later the legend grew that Forrest had sent him home because he was converting 
his staff to Unionism with his oratory). He was placed in command of a parole 
camp at Benton Barracks, St. Louis, but when an exchange of prisoners could not 
be arranged, he resigned his commission. On June 26, he wrote to Ebon: "I have 
seen enough of death and horror. ... I have passed through days and nights 
enough filled with apprehension. I can go out now honorably, respected and I 
might say loved by every man & officer of the 1 1th Illinois. ... 1 have been in 
rather poor health, having had the ague a couple of times and the flux all the time. 
Now I am all right again. ... I shall spend the 4th 'day of Independence' with 

Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg on July 3-4, 1863, raised the 
hope that the war was near an end, but when summer turned to autumn, a "peace 
without victory" movement began to gain strength in the North. Robert Ingersoll, 
the ex-Colonel, quickly joined the forces determined to see that the sacrifices of 
the soldiers should not have been in vain. In doing so, he began to move away 
from his party. On August 28, he spoke at a Union mass meeting in Smithville. 
The Transcript reported: "He was in good fighting condition, and for one hour 
and a half dealt such blows to traitors, copperheads, and the rebellion that the audi- 
ence were perfectly carried away with him." At the beginning of his speech, he 
said that "he was responsible for no party, no party was responsible for him, I 
am in my own canoe." He declared: "I am neither a Democrat, a Republican, 
an Abolitionist or the other thing. . . . If there is any man here today who believes 
that slavery is right, that man ought to be a slave. ... I am opposed to the Union 
as it was. . . . We tried to serve God and the devil at the same time and failed." 
Although he was strongly for emancipation, he wanted blacks "put in a territory 
by themselves. ' ' He continued: "I don't care for Abraham Lincoln, but I am with 
him when he attempts to make this country all free. . . . Were it not for northern 
copperheads, we should have had peace months ago. The southern people ask me 
to sustain slavery. I will see them dead first. . . . Hang them and they will be nearer 
heaven than they ever were before. . . . There are but two parties now, the pro- 
slavery party and the anti-slavery party. I am on the free side. ""^ 

On September 3, a great Union rally was held in Springfield. Lincoln, realiz- 
ing the desperate need to muster the Union to complete the job, wrote an effective 
letter to be read at the mass-meeting. It was widely reprinted and together with 
the Gettysburg Address, it may have helped turn the tide. In Springfield, Ebon 
gave a major address at one of the seven speakers' stands at the rally which was 

18 Robert G. Ingersoll 

attended by 50.000 people. The Springfield organ of the Republican party called 
Ebon's speech "one of the best made" and recalled that he had been the Union 
candidate-at-large for Congress the preceding fall. Robert's future political men- 
tor. Richard J. Oglesby, spoke for three hours, appealing to the crowd to swear 
to pledge their lives to crushing the rebellion and "the people rose, and with up- 
lifted hands, made oath to do so. """^ 

Both Robert and Ebon campaigned vigorously for the Union candidates in the 
November 3. 1863. county and circuit court campaigns. Each day they were a 
little more Republican than they had been the day before. On October 27. Robert 
maintained that he was as good a Douglas Democrat as ever and argued for coloni- 
zation and "total separation of the white and black races." He claimed, as did 
many moderate Republicans, that making a Negro a soldier did not make him 
equal to a white man and that taking a Negro into the service did not qualify him 
to vote anymore than it "would a dog who helped fight off an attacker." Three 
days later he was still rationalizing Democratic party history and Douglas's views 
to say that all must stand by the government, but he was also favoring "confisca- 
tion and emancipation as war measures." He separated himself from most Demo- 
crats by favoring arbitrary arrests which were "necessary to crush out this rebell- 
ion." " The law of self-preservation is first' ' he reasoned. By election eve he was 
demanding: "Call me abolitionist, call me negro equality man, amalgamationist- 
anything, so you don't call me a Copperhead." He added: "So far as Abraham 
Lincoln is concerned, I do not agree with him in a great many things . . . [but] 
Before God, I believe the principle of that [emancipation] proclamation was right. 
. . . Abraham Lincoln is right on the main question, and that is enough for me." 
The Ingersoll brothers had almost completed their "metamorphosis" into the Re- 
publican party. ■^'^ 

The depth of Ingersoll's emotional commitment to abolition is illustrated by 
the incident of March 14, 1864. When Sheriff John Murray entered the Ingersoll 
brothers' office on business, the talk soon turned to politics. Murray sympathized 
with the copperhead Chicaf>o Times and the South, and charged that the Lincoln 
administration was carrying on the war solely for the liberation of the Negroes. 
"Col. Ingersoll replied that perhaps that was true, as the Negroes had undoubtedly 
as good a right to their freedom as the Sheriff or any other man." Whereupon 
"Ingersoll seized a chair and struck at him." Ingersoll pursued the sheriff into 
a corner where others present separated the two. According to the Republican 
paper, the two parties discussed the altercation and the sheriff agreed that it was 
a small matter, but he later changed his mind and filed a complaint with Justice 
Bailey charging assault and battery. According to the Democratic paper. Ingersoll 
broke the chair over the sheriff's head. The constitutional right to a speedy trial 
was exercised and a jury trial was held the same day as the incident. Robert Inger- 
soll made rousing speeches before the jury and was loudly cheered by some in 
the gallery. Five jurors favored imposing a fine on Ingersoll while one held out 
against any punishment. A second trial was scheduled for the next day but " Inger- 
soll got rid of a due for assaulting Murray on a technicality [double jeopardy]. "^^ 

Douglas to Lincoln 19 

On March 25, 1864, the abolitionist Congressman Owen Lovejoy died. In 
1861 , the state congressional districts had been reapportioned, and Peoria became 
part of the new Fifth District. The Peoria Daily Transcript, recalling Ebon Clark 
Ingersoll's support for the Union ticket in 1 862, began to advocate his nomination 
for the vacancy. The Republican nominating convention was held at Princeton on 
April 26, 1864, and Ebon was selected on the fifth ballot. Both Ebon and Robert 
made speeches there damning the copperheads. Ebon paid "eloquent and feeling 
tribute to the lamented Lovejoy" for which he was congratulated by ' 'the old anti- 
slavery guard who pressed forward to greet the young and rising star. ' ' According 
to the Transcript: Colonel Bob was ". . . if possible more severe on the cop- 
perheads than his brother." Robert proclaimed: "This Nation has been one of 
idolators, worshiping slavery, now the image must be broken. Yes, I am an uncon- 
ditional abolitionist. Copperheads may add damn if they wish. ""^ 

As a result of the May 7, 1864, special election. Ebon was elected over Judge 
H. M. Wead, Democrat of Peoria, to take the place of Lovejoy. Ebon traveled 
to Washington where he was seated on May 20. Robert kidded Ebon: "I saw in 
the Chicago papers that you had taken your seat, glad of it as you must have been 
tired standing since the 7th day of May." Ebon called on President Lincoln on 
May 28. Lincoln, in turn, introduced him to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells 
with the following note: "This introduces Hon. Mr. Ingersoll, successor to our 
lamented friend Lovejoy. Please see him." In Congress on June 20, Ingersoll 
made a speech favoring a constitutional amendment ending slavery. After praising 
his predecessor, "the lamented Lovejoy," he asserted "... Destroy the mother 
and the child will die. Destroy the cause and the effect will disappear. Slavery 
has ever been the enemy of liberal principles. "~^ 

Despite his oft expressed repugnance for politics, Robert also aspired to be 
a congressman. He was elected as a Peoria delegate to the 1 864 Republican State 
Nomination Convention where he was a candidate for congressman-at-large. He 
had failed as a Democrat in 1 860; perhaps he thought he could win as a Republican 
in 1864. He polled 120 votes but S. W. Moulton was victorious with 363 votes. 
On May 27, Robert wrote Ebon from Peoria: "Well as I expected I failed to get 
the nomination. Had you not been in Congress or had you not have beaten Moulton 
two years ago I would have been." He added: "I made a speech to the convention 
& laid them in the shade. Moulton would not speak, [Jackson] Grimshaw did and 
wished he hadn't. I am satisfied. All there said I was the best stumper in the state." 
Robert immediately set about working for Ebon's renomination. He recom- 
mended that Ebon write or send something, anything, to his supporters: "There 
is a little lawyer in Toulon by the name of Hewitt. Send him Census or agricultural 
pictures of fiM//5fiag5 etc. or a dissertation on tape worms. . . ."""^ The following 
letters, dated June 2, and 17, 1864, are transcribed in full because they have not 
been previously published and because they reveal much about the love and rivalry 
between the brothers and Robert's view of Democrats :'*^ 

20 Robert G. IngersoU 

Peoria June 2nd 1864 

DcarBro. [Ebon) 

I just returned from Stark. Penn township. Had a large meeting. 
Three thousand at least were present. Everything went off in fine style, 
and every Union man was pleased to death with my speech 

You need not think that I am disheartened by the action of the state 
convention. 1 had no particular claims. You beat [S. W.] Moulton & 
[Jackson] Grimshaw two years ago. I suppose they thought it too bad 
to be beaten by the whole family. 

I think I did myself great good at the convention. Everybody com- 
plimented my speech, and 1 was the real choice of the convention had 
there been no trading. When I see you I can explain all 

Instead of feeling down in the mouth i am perfectly satisfied. There 
is nothing of any interest happening in these parts. 1 am on the watch 
about your prospects for August. 1 think there is no danger. Knox &. 
Peoria are certain. We must look after Bureau. Don't think 1 want your 
place. Hell I don't want to go to Congress. I had rather have you there 
a thousand times. I don't think that 1 could do half that you can. I know 
1 could not. I am too impulsive to succeed as a politician with any cer- 
tainty. You are where you ought to be & where I want you to stay till 
you get in the Senate. You can be the next senator I believe if you work 
your wires having that end in view. I don't know whether I shall go 
to Baltimore Conlvcntion] or not. I[tl would cost something like 100$ 
I suppose, though the Springfield trip only cost me 14$. Temperance 
is cheap. Eva & baby well as can be. So are your wife & children. 

1 made hundreds of friends at Springfield. Oglesby was very sorry 
that I was not nominated, and said that he would feel much surer of 
his own election if I had been. You could have been nominated there 
without a struggle. 1 heard a thousand compliments for you from every 
part of the state, and many delegates said they would go for me because 
I was your brother. All spoke in the highest terms of your canvass in 
62 & expressed great joy at your election. Well dear brother Goodbye. 
May God bless you forever. I love you better than I do myself. 

Yours Robert 

Peoria June 17. 1864 

DearBro. [Ebon] 

Tomorrow I will send you the names of all the delegates in the 
Princeton Convention, so that you can notice them all. Nothing is 
going on here very exciting. Most of the talk is about the Ohio martyr 
(Clement L. Vallandigham). What will the Govt do' I believe it would 
be best to let him alone long enough for him either to divide the 

Douglas to Lincoln 21 

Chicago [Democrat National) Convention or force them to adopt a 
peace platform. And if let alone that length of time he & his particular 
friends would become so emboldened by the lenity of the Govt, that 
they would commit treasonable acts. Then hang a few, and so end I 
mean rope's end, the matter. 

I saw in the paper a condensation of your remarks on Constitutional 
Amendment questions. "" Your friends are pleased with what you said. 
They think it manly and outspoken. You have made many friends by 
a few words. 1 am proud of you dear brother. Take noble, grand, just, 
broad ground. Speak for liberty, progress, light, man & God. 

Well goodbye. Eva sends her love. I write this letter at home. 

All well Your affBro 

Robert campaigned vigorously for Ebon's renomination while Ebon sat in 
Congress. So confident of victory were the brothers that Ebon went on vacation 
"by the sea" in July. Bob chided: "You are probably luxuriating in breezes from 
the sea. Neptune blows with distended cheeks upon your velvet hide." By con- 
trast. Bob noted from Peoria: "The weather is perfectly scorching. ... A wind 
envelops me. It comes from down the river, from the slop tubs [distilleries], from 
the droppings of cattle, from the hog victims of cholera . . . from under the arms 
of Irish butchers . . . from decaying horses, from the dirty under shirts of the lousy 
occupants of the city hall. . . . Pray for me poor miserable sinner." Ebon was 
renominated by acclamation when the Fifth Congressional Convention met in 
Peoria on September 6, 1 864. Robert spoke over the state on behalf of gubernato- 
rial candidate Richard Oglesby, and he came out "wholehog for Lincoln" and 
the Republican party. He spoke every day for Ebon during the last days of the 
campaign. The Republicans won impressive victories in Illinois. Ebon won by 
a 6,000 vote majority, although he failed to carry Peoria County which was Demo- 
cratic territory. Robert Ingersoll's oratorical skills contributed much to the victory 
of President Lincoln , Governor Oglesby , and Congressman Ebon Ingersoll . ^"^ 

But what of Robert's own political ambitions? If one Ingersoll in Washington 
was enough, perhaps there was an office in Illinois for another. Only a few days 
after Oglesby 's election as governor, Robert wrote to him: "After Congratulating 
you, the State, the Country and the World upon the great victory won by Pat- 
riotism and Humanity, I wish to say, that I am anxious to be appointed U.S. Attor- 
ney for the Northern District of Ills. ..." Oglesby wished him success but the 
appointment was not forthcoming. Lincoln appointed Perkins Bass of Chicago in- 
stead, and Robert Ingersoll was returned to the drudgery of riding the circuit. On 
March 17, 1865, he wrote to brother John: "I have been busy for the last few 
months travelling all over the Country. I get nearly sick of this kind of life and 
sometimes wish that I was living in some quiet neighborhood on a small piece 
of land, with a horse & cow-a weekly newspaper and 'Weems' life of 
Washington." The birth of two daughters, Eva Robert on September 22, 1863, 

22 Robert G. Ingersoll 

and Maud Robert, on October 4, 1864, may have also contributed to his desire 
for domesticity. ^"^ 

Ingersoll was also looking forward to peace in the nation. News of Lee's sur- 
render to Grant, on April 9, 1865, soon reached Peoria. But a few days later news 
came of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Ingersoll saw the act as more than 
an assassination; it was a symbol of the South's role in enslaving millions of 
people and starting an unspeakable war, for which they were utteriy unrepentant. 
It stirred in him a demand for vengeance which propelled him quickly into the 
camp where most of his fellow veterans were heading-into the ranks of the Radical 


Look at Peoria 

The process by which Robert Ingersoll became a Radical Republican (i.e. one 
who favored equal political rights for blacks and a controlled readmission of the 
Southern states) moved swiftly between the assassination in 1 865 and the Johnson 
impeachment in 1868. The assassination of Lincoln and the revelation of the An- 
dersonville prison atrocities did much to push Ingersoll toward radicalism. In 
1866, most Americans were forced to choose between the lenient reconstruction 
policy of Andrew Johnson and the more stringent policy of Congress. It was in 
this setting that the Ingersolls accepted the president's ' 'Look at Peoria" challenge 
(from Johnson's interview with the London Times) and demonstrated that 
Johnson's policy would not "play in Peoria." Robert's political, personal, and 
philosophical friendship with Radical Republican Governor Richard Oglesby led 
to his appointment as Illinois Attorney-General in 1867. It was the only public 
office Robert ever held. Even that was too much for some later "Ingersollphobes" 
who invented the mystery of the "disappearing inscription" from the state house 

Peoria was stunned and angered by the assassination of President Lincoln. In 
common with most American cities, "Solemnities" were prepared. On April 19, 
1 865 , all the churches conducted special services at eleven in the morning. At 2:30 
p.m. Spencer's band began to play the mournful "death march" in the Court 
House Square and a crowd of 5,000 assembled. The Hon. Washington Cockle 
presided. He introduced, for brief remarks, the Rev. Mr. McLaren, who eulogized 
Lincoln and exclaimed: "Great God! can it be! Can it be that this great sacrifice 
of greatness and goodness was necessary in order to bring us out of bondage? Yes 
so it seems." After asserting that Lincoln's religion was "something better than 
Deism," he gave vent to his (and the nation's) need for vengeance: "Conciliation 
is good. Christlike but . . . You can't tame a tiger . . . and there are those of our 
foes who are so much like tigers that they must be ground down into the dust by 
the iron heel of justice. Let there be no more sickly sentimentalism!" The speech 
was followed by a resolution (that contained many phrases similar to Ingersoll's 
style) which viewed the assassination as a calamity and pledged to fight the "un- 
holy rebellion." "We should not parley with treason or compromise with Slav- 
ery," they wrote. The resolution charged that "Human Slavery" was "directly 
responsible before God and man for this atrocious crime." The writers of the re- 
solution also charged that the president had been struck down by the same spirit 
that had "hunted man with blood hounds," massacred black troops at Ft. Pillow, 
and "shot, froze, tortured and starved" 60,000 prisoners at Andersonville. ' 

Robert Ingersoll's major address had much in common with Rev. McLaren's 
views on vengeance. He insisted that the assassination was no greater a crime than 

24 Robert G. Ingersoll 

others committed by the South and its Northern sympathizers. Firing on Fort Sum- 
ter was a crime which led to other crimes, including the Fort Pillow massacre and 
Andersonville. But, he rejected the idea that the assassination was providential: 
"Assassination is contrary' to the will and the express command of the Most High, 
but he did not believe that the laws of the universe are such that no good can result 
from the evil-doer." He argued that "the great Republic has been cemented by 
the blood of her patriots. Patriotism itself has been made sacred by the blood of 
heroes. Christ illustrated and endeared eveiy virtue to the human heart by religion. 
We will think better of patriotism for the blood shed. Lincoln's blood, smote down 
as he was, will cement the foundation of this government and the great principle 
of human liberty will be advanced. Human liberty is the basis of every great and 
good end itself."" 

Because the account by the Peoria Daily Transcript (April 20, 1 865) is appar- 
ently the only extensive report of Ingersoll's speech, it is published here in full. 


APRIL 19, 1865 

Mr. Ingersoll was then introduced. Standing in the presence of 
death, on the threshold of the great unknown, it was fitting that he 
should declare that he believed he did not mourn for Lincoln any more 
than he did for any dead soldier of the Union. He did not. He did not 
sympathize with the widow of the President any more than he did for 
the widow who awaits her husband's returning footsteps, and will 
await them until the earth closes over her form. The assassination of 
President Lincoln is among the least not the greatest crimes that slavery 
has committed. 

Selling women, whipping them, robbing them, and heaping upon 
them every cruelty that can be imagined, is a greater crime than to as- 
sassinate a man. 

it is a greater crime to uphold the perpetrators of such acts than it 
would be today to say "I believe Booth to have been right." The Con- 
federacy did a greater crime than this when she fired upon Sumter, be- 
cause that act involved all that has followed. Hvery one of our friends 
who has been lost in this war has .sacrificed just as much as Lincoln 
did when he breathed his last. The crimes of slavery are greater than 

The man who went down South to defend the old flag, under which 
the Southern States had accumulated wealth and power, who having 
been taken prisoner has been starved until he becomes a driveling idiot, 
and yet hundreds and thousands of men up North defend the men who 
did this. The crimes of these men are greater than assassination. Some 
of men live in Peoria. (1 want no the occasion is too 
.solemn for it.) It has been said that this great crime is providential. He 
did not believe it. Assassination is contrary to the will and the express 

Look at Peoria 25 

command of the Most High, but he did not believe that the laws of the 
universe are such that no good can result to the evil-doer. Good may 
spring from evil, and ever will, but not to the perpetrator. It seems as 
if it always takes martyrdom to endear truth to the human heart. The 
great Republic has been cemented by the blood of her patriots. Pat- 
riotism itself has been made sacred by the blood of heroes. Christ illus- 
trated and endeared every virtue to the human heart by religion. We 
will think better of patriotism for the blood shed. Lincoln's blood, 
smote down as he was, will cement the foundation of this Government, 
and the great principle of human liberty will be advanced. Human lib- 
erty is the basis of every great and good end itself. We do not fight 
to preserve this Government alone but fight to preserve this Govern- 
ment in order to preserve liberty. So we do not fight to preserve Lin- 
coln's Government but to preserve liberty through the Government. 
Liberty is greater than all. The right or wrong of any man's life has 
not been able to influence the world for any great length of time. The 
principles of the Almighty are eternal-they govern the universe. These 
principles, in their onward march down the feeble voice of man, as the 
advancing wave engulphs [sic] all obstacles that seek to arrest its prog- 

The speaker went on to say that we had nursed a viper in our 
bosom-the viper of slavery. It had raised its head and struck down the 
President of the United States, and as long as he had strength he was 
going to fight that viper. He was not going to eulogize Lincoln, there 
was a principal [sic] greater than he that assassinated him. When the 
war broke out he thought the President was too slow, but Lincoln had 
the sense to see that he couldn't lead thirty millions of people. Had 
some brilliant genius been in the chair he would have gone beyond the 
people into a despotism or foundered the Ship of State forever; but Lin- 
coln went right on, and all at once the armies of the enemy began to 
waver and fall. Grant and Sherman, Farragut and Sheridan, with Lin- 
coln at their head marched on until Richmond is ours. He knew when 
he heard the bell toll in the Congregational Church, the other day, (and 
the bell of that church always tolls when there's a victory), that that 
old apostle of liberty, Mark M. Aiken, was at the bell rope, and the 
war was over at last. Lincoln had opened the door of reconciliation. 
What shall we do? Shall we still offer them the same terms? Forbid 
it. Almighty God! Shall we say come back, take the reins of the Gov- 
ernment and run it as you did before. He was opposed to giving a rebel- 
lious State a vote on either side until they repent. He thought that the 
rebels were under our feet and wouldn't shake hands with them or with 
any of their friends in the North when they come around the coffin of 
Lincoln with their crocodile tears, he would receive them as foes. He 
thought that if they had been false foes they will not suddenly be true 
now. The men who have staid by Lincoln four years are abundantly 
able to put down the rest of the rebellion. He didn't want any one to 
come in at the eleventh hour unless they were going to stay the balance 
of the day. What should we say more of Lincoln unless it was that he 

26 Robert G. Ingersoll 

had always been true; that having as much power as any potentate ever 
had he had never abused that power; the master of guns and bayonets, 
he never had wronged the poorest but had always respected his rights. 
He did not believe that the same thing could be said of any other man 
that ever lived under the same circumstances, and yet he has been 
called a tyrant, and this idea had led to his assassination. The speaker 
declared it to be an established principle that we always admire men 
who do any good for the human race. He admired the men who ob- 
tained the Magna Charta, the men who brought about the French revo- 
lution and American revolution; but to him that day of September on 
which he issued his proclamation of emancipation was the sublimest 
day the sun ever looked down upon in America, and when the emanci- 
pation took effect; on the first day of January, he thought it the crown- 
ing point in Lincoln's history. Lincoln was, in his view, the Great De- 
fender of the Republic, and the name of that defender he believed to 
be the first on the roll of fame. Washington was second. He went on 
to say that Washington had established the Country when it was weak, 
but Lincoln had saved it when it was the most powerful on the globe, 
and he had saved it, too, in accordance with the eternal principles of 
God. The President is to be buried in Illinois. Illinois that had been for- 
tunate enough to produce a Grant, the ablest General in the world, and 
Lincoln, the emancipator and the sublime martyr to liberty. The audi- 
ence were now going home to carry out the great principles, for which 
Lincoln had laid down his life. He hoped some lurid bolt of Heaven 
would dash into pieces any man who will defend the infamous system 
of slavery, whose evil is crime, murder, assassination. He ended in a 
burst of eloquence that cannot be reported with any degree of success. 
It could not be appreciated unless heard. 

Soon after Lincoln's assassination the war ended and the regiments returned 
home one by one. Ingersoll began to develop the "bloody-shirt" technique as a 
means of attracting the ex-soldiers to the Republican party. When the Eighty-Sixth 
Illinois Regiment arrived home to a celebration, he could not forbear warning 
them that, although "this is not a political meeting," they should realize that the 
Copperheads (Democrats) had "laughed at your wounds, they sneared at your 
scars, they mocked the corpses of your comrads, they prophesied your defeat, 
. . . they despised the cause for which you were battling." When Ingersoll' s own 
former regiment, the Eleventh Cavalry, arrived home on October 12, 1865, he 
warned that the Democrats would welcome them home but he said: "The impu- 
dence of the copperheads in giving this reception to the soldiers could only be 
equalled by Judas Iscariot getting up in Heaven on the last day and delivering an 
address of welcome to the rest of the apostles." The Women's National League 
sponsored a large reception for all of the returned soldiers on October 19. Gover- 
nor Oglesby made a radical speech and Ingersoll followed by damning the South 
and the copperheads and praising the soldiers, including the blacks who fought 
"side by side with white soldiers." The soldier should "vote the same way he 

Look at Peoria 27 

shoots," he advised.^ 

Ingersoll's speech to his old regiment indicates that he was out in front of the 
public in his attitude toward Negro suffrage. Although he said he was not "what 
they call a Negro Equality man," yet he added, "so help him God he would never 
help put a disability upon him." He also argued that "This is the country of the 
Negro as much as it is that of the white man." Ingersoll's emphasis on the race 
question was based upon intelligence and learning. He asserted: "Freeing the 
Negro didn't make him more equal than he was before. It didn't give him a single 
additional idea, but it did give him an opportunity to acquire ideas, and become 
a man." A few months later Robert exhorted his congressman brother to adopt 
the public posture that Negroes ' 'ought to have an equal opportunity with the white 
to become intelligent." He took the position that "intelligence cannot be danger- 
ous . . . whether the intelligence is in a brain bound in white or black leather." 
He concluded that ' 'a mans complexion certainly has no more to do with his sense 
than the binding of a book has with its contents. ' "* 

Governor Richard J. Oglesby was one of the close friends with whom Robert 
IngersoU shared his private, unorthodox religious views. Oglesby had made a 
"Holy Land" tour in 1857 and he gave lectures on his experience throughout 
much of his life. He presented the lecture "Observations on Palestine" in 
Springfield on January 2, 1 866. An enthusiastic listener from Chicago wrote a let- 
ter to the editor of a Chicago paper contending that Oglesby 's lecture proved the 
reliability of the scriptures because the governor had said that leeks and onions, 
which were mentioned in the Bible, could be found in Egypt. From Washington 
D.C. , where he was visiting his brother Ebon, Robert wrote the governor a good- 
natured letter agreeing that leeks and onions made a strong argument and chiding 
him for throwing his official position in favor of the Bible. The letter anticipates, 
by six years, Ingersoll's first "point-blank" atheistic lecture ("The Gods") and 
by thirteen years his "Some Mistakes of Moses" lecture, which is similar to the 
letter. Ingersoll's effort, which was apparently dashed off in great haste but with- 
out need of correction, is perhaps the most humorous private letter he ever wrote. 
It displays mastery of the stories of the Bible. The letter includes some mention 
of politics, especially his incredulity as to how Methuselah could have lived a 
thousand years without running for any office. A complete transcription of the let- 
ter, which is in the Illinois State Historical Library, follows.^ 


Washington Jan 22, 1866 

My Dear Governor: 

The within slip I cut from an Illinois paper a moment ago, and of 
course was greatly gratified to learn that you had thrown the weight 
of your official position in favor of the book of books-The Bible-by 
saying, that as a railroad guide through the Holy Land it had no equal . 

28 Robert G. IngersoU 

If what Mr. Colton (the writer of the enclosed slip) says is true, 
you are the first man who has used in favor of the truth of the blessed 
Scriptures, an argument half as strong as either leeks or onions. 

I used to doubt the truth of the story, that all the children of Israel 
(some three millions) assembled at a given place with only a notice of 
a few hours-whcn they were scattered over a vast territory with very 
limited means of communication. 

It has also been very wonderful to me that after the Egyptians had 
murdered all the male children of the Jews-There were still as many 
boys as girls. But since it has come to light that there are leeks in the 
land of Goshen who can doubt? 

Some hard hearted and bad men (instigated by the Devil) have re- 
fused to believe that walking sticks turned into Copperheads and went 
about swallowing one another, in a manner that would have perfectly 
astonished "Signor Blitz. " 

They say that it is not reasonable that God would have covered the 
land with lice without having furnished the antidote in the shape of fine 
tooth combs and mercurial ointment. But to what lousy shifts arc these 
poor infidels driven! They even pretend that Moses could not turn all 
the water into blood, and at the same time leave some for the Egyptians 
to experiment on. They say that the great God of Heaven would not 
go about giving cows a murrain, and man[ulfacturing frogs to croak 
over the misfortunes of Pharaoh. Vain men! to pretend to understand 
the inscrutable & senseless. 

I think your onion argument if properly applied will bring tears to 
the eyes of the most hardened and profane . 

My Dear Governor you do not know how delighted 1 am to learn, 
that you actually stood, on the identical spot where the manna fell. 

How touching it is-to have the words of Moses verified by the Gov- 
emorof Illinois. 

Who in the name of Credulity will deny that God in his goodness 
sent millions of quails, broiled, buttered, on toast to satisfy the hunger 
of those patient, pious and honest people after it becomes generally 
known that your Excellency in the year 1 856 or thereabouts saw in that 
same region of country, some of the very same A/Wof birds? 

Put the three facts together-that you saw the Iccks & onions-the 
quails and rode on a camel, and they prove beyond a doubt the story 
of Jericho and the horns-Jonah & the whale. Lots wife and a lump of 
salt, Samp.son and the jaw bone-Balaam and the eloquent ass, and last 
but not least decide the great and important question as to whether the 
golden calf was a bull or a heifer. 

I am astonished and thank God. 

Was the bush burning when you rode by? 

Did you cross that stream that gushed from a rock and followed the 
Jews through all their wanderings for forty years up hill and down? 
Since the days of Newton water has acquired the habit of running 

When riding through the wilderness did you happen to see any of 

Look at Peoria 29 

the clothes worn by the Jews which "waxed not old"? How I should 
like to see a pair of breeches that would wear forty years, and still boast 
a rear unimpaired-knees unglazed and absolutely smell like new cloth. 

These are things that modem tailors cannot comprehend. Even 
Andy Johnson thinks that no breeches could run forty years without 
adopting some plan of re-construction. Were you at the place where 
General Joshua stood when he stopped the sun & moon? 

How wonderful to think that God stopped the whole Universe in 
order to give Joshua time to thrash a few wretches that he could have 
whippedjustas well after dark. 

But this was nothing to what was done in the time oi Ahaz. Then 
the sun was absolutely made to go the wrong way in order that a man 
might be convinced that he would recover of the measles. 

This happened however before the days of Kepler, LaPlace or 

Did you while traveling through that terrible wilderness happen to 
find any of those little paddles which the Lord commanded every Jew 
to carry upon his "weapon" and that when he attended to a call of na- 
ture he should turn and cover it up? And the reason given is so consis- 
tent and striking - "For, says the Holy Book, "The Lord God walkelh 
in the Camp at «/g/?/." 

The reference is that there was danger of soiling the divine mocca- 

You probably heard the story that when Long John Wentworth was 
elected Mayor of Chicago, he procured the passage of a law, making 
it a misdemeanor to hang a clothes line nearer to the ground than eight 
feet, and the law might also have ended by nearly quoting the passage 
of scripture just refered to, ' "For the Mayor Long John walketh in back 
yards at night/' 

I hope that you will not for a moment think that I am trying to make 
light of holy things. On the contrary I am a firm believer in the snake 
and apple story - that the first woman was made of a rib - and as a 
consequence women have been heavy on rib bone ever since. I would 
not have my faith shaken in the Tower of Babel for the world. If that 
story is untrue, how do you account for wild Irish & low Dutch? 

And to show to you that I am perfectly orthodox I will add that the 
only reason that I have for believing the Bible is its improbability. Faith 
my dear Sir consists in believing the impossible. There certainly can 
be no merit in believing the reasonable. 

I deplore the spread of knowledge - Science I abhor. Art is an 
abomination, because they deny the word of God, And therefore allow 
me to say in conclusion that I am rejoiced to learn that you are in favor 
of the good old times, when Moses was God's clerk and geologist, 
when Joshua was his General and Astronomer. When the Earth was 
flat. When the sky was a solid vault. When the stars moved in grooves 
and were boosted by Angels. When the sons of God came down and 
cohabited with the daughters of men. When children were born who 
grew to be Eight hundred feet high & refused to be weaned and abso- 


30 Robert G. Ingersoll 

lutcly swallowed their mothers. When Methusalem [Methuselah) lived 
about a thousand years without having been a candidate for any office. 
When Noah was secretary of the Navy. When God himself came down 
and cut out and made Adam & Eve breeches & petticoats hoop skirt 
and a clawhammer coat. When jackasses made set speeches to angels 
that they met in the road. When people went to Heaven in an Omnibus 
office - horses to match - and dropped their ponchos to wondering 
crowds. When Ezekiel made sweet cake of cow dung. And that intrepid 
mariner Mr. Jonah finding himself in the belly of a whale - did not 
blubber. And although in the midst of the great and mysterious deep 
- without any compass, tracts, bibles, playing cards, or tobbacco. With 
nothing but fish balls to eat - The subject of a scaly trick - without 
knowing what country he was near - only knowing that he was in Fin- 
land - still had the presence of mind to thrust an oar out of the whales 
alimentary canal and pull himself triumphantly ashore. 

In the name of Ancient Geography, Astronomy, Geology, and 
Navigation, I thank you again, and again. 

And subscribe my.self your convinced, concerted and most obe- 
dient servant. 

Robert G. Ingersoll 

Oglesby answered in the same light-hearted manner: "For many years I have 
been mysteriously beset with the constant inquiry-what shall I do to be saved . 
. . or what good can I do in the brief space of one short life to repay the [Being] 
who sent me here. I feel better now . . . since I have brought conviction and conso- 
lation to the inquiet mind of yourself. ... I carefully schemed and counted every 
dollar spent in the Land of Leeks and Onions and the wilderness of Sin and won- 
dered if time would ever repay the outlay. All is settled now, the account is 
squared. I see my way clear to the promised land. . . . Like all new currents there 
is a freshness in what you say truly elegant and irresistible. I do not know when 
I have read so good a letter. . . . You must not object to my reading it to my friends 
... I knew there was much virtue in an onion but never supposed [it would pro- 
duce] such a letter. . . . Come by and see me on your way home." The "Leeks 
and Onions" letter was the beginning of a long correspondence between the two 
men on both religion and politics. Apparently. Ingersoll sent Oglesby a copy of 
Voltaire's Philosopical Dictionary. Oglesby wrote to Robert: "Wait [Oglesby's 
law partner] stole the Philosopical Dictionary and is entertaining the Reverend 
gentlemen of Decatur with it [but] I have not had a chance to read three pages 
of it." Oglesby also found Robert a useful medium for contacting Congressman 
Ebon Clark Ingersoll.'' 

The winter and spring of 1 866 in Peoria was occupied with an editors meeting, 
a great revival, Ingersoll's "Progress" speech, and politics, including a city elec- 
tion. The editor of the Geneseo Republican, after attending an "editorial conven- 
tion" in Peoria, wrote of the city: "This city is set on a hill, or principally, and 

Look at Peoria 31 

is one of the best mannered and liveliest burgs in all Illinois. It boasts of fine resi- 
dences, tall business houses, broad streets, splendid sewerage, . . . handsome 
women, brave men and the meanest hotels this side of Kingdom Come, to say 
nothing of its whisky." Many Peoria citizens who thought whisky sinful became 
very involved with the revival meetings being conducted at Rouse's Hall and in 
someof the churches in March by a circuit rider. Rev. Mr. Hammond. The revival 
"awakened" Democrats, Sheriff O'Brien, publisher Raney, and judges Gale and 
Loucks who "made public acknowledgements of their repentance." IngersoH's 
"Progress" oration was delivered after the revival season to the Women's Na- 
tional League as a benefit. This May 1 4 version of "Progress" was probably rela- 
tively tame and had more in common with the one given in Pekin in 1 860 than 
the revised oration given in 1869. Editor Emery said it was an eloquent lecture 
"showing the successive steps up which humanity has climbed," and it reviewed 
the superstitions of "former years. ' ' Emery promised to publish the entire oration 
but he never did. ^ 

Robert's letters to Ebon during 1866 and 1867 indicate that he was reviewing 
"the superstitions of former years" by reading the ancient philosophers and histo- 
rians. He reported reading Eusebius, Polybius, Sallust, Herodotus, and Socrates. 
He also read Comte, Rabelais, and Milton, but he found the latter full of "Chris- 
tian lies and pagan mythology." For one who had an encyclopedic mind, it is not 
surprising that he purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica (for $220) in 1 866. One 
discovery was worth the price, on the day after Christmas, he wrote: "I say that 
it gave great pleasure to find that the Christians did not even know what time their 
God was bom. "^ 

As the April 2 township and April 9 Peoria city elections neared and the recon- 
struction fight between Congress and President Johnson heated up, it became diffi- 
cult to separate religion from politics. To counter the National Democrat's parti- 
san treatment of the "present religious awakening" in Peoria, the Transcript 
charged that many Democrats had "repented" to impress the voters. "Judge 
Loucks may be a Christian," Emery protested, "but we tell him that before he 
gets to heaven he has to rid himself of his Copperheadism. " The Democrats swept 
the township election and the Democratic candidate for mayor. H. T. Baldwin, 
beat Republican McKinney 1 ,623 to 1 , 104 votes. The Transcript rationalized that 
Republicans were divided by local questions about Sunday laws and temperance. 
Meanwhile Congress had passed, on March 13, 1866, a civil rights bill intended 
to overcome President Johnson's objections to an earlier bill, but he vetoed it on 
March 27 to the consternation of many of the moderate Republicans. The Peoria 
Democrats under the leadership of W. T. Dowdall, the editor of the National 
Democrat, staged a "ratification" rally on April 2 to praise Johnson's veto. The 
Transcript commented that it was correct for the Democrats to praise Johnson: 
"The man who promised to be the Moses of the colored race, and at the first con- 
venient opportunity became their Judas. The Copperheads can understand and ap- 
preciate Judas. They couldn't Moses. ' ''^ 

After Johnson's veto of the first civil rights bill , Dowdall had sent the president 

32 Robert G. IngersoU 

a telegram dated February 26, stating that a resolution had been "unanimously 
adopted" at a Peoria rally: "Resolved that we telegraph the following message 
to the President of the U. S. Well done good & faithful servant, the defender of 
the constitution, the champion of the people & the savior of the country." On 
April 4, Dowdall again telegraphed to the president: "On the night of Feb. 24 
[26] I had the honor of telegraphing you that Peoria, the second city in our state, 
in mass meeting, endorsed your veto message & policy with their voices & now 
sir I have the honor to inform you that the same people have endorsed your policy 
[with] their votes today. Our entire [township] ticket was elected by from one to 
three hundred (300) majority. Last year it went radical. Asking the blessing of 
an all wise deity upon you in your noble work, I am truly yours." The telegrams 
became the basis of Johnson's "Look at Peoria" interview of April 12, but the 
interview was not published in American papers until May 14. '" 

President Johnson's veto of the first civil rights bill on February 19, 1866, and 
his tirade against the Republican Congress on Washington's birthday shocked and 
angered many Republicans. Most congressmen were not yet ready to break with 
the president, however, both because they hoped he might change his attitude and 
because he was in a position to remove their supporters from federal offices. But 
Robert was decisive and he urged Ebon to act on principle: "All the little questions 
about Collectors and Assessors sink into insignificance compared to the great & 
absorbing question of whether the Country and Liberty are to be preserved, or 
whether the Confederate army with ballots instead of bayonets with Genl. Andy 
Johnson at the head are to conquer at last. Stand by principle old boy. Let every 
office in the district go to pot. Stand firm by the idea that every vestige of slavery 
must perish before reconstruction is possible or even desirable." During the local 
political campaign, Robert first publicly "dissected and repudiated" Johnson and 
his reconstruction policy at a "Union" political rally on April 6. He argued that 
Johnson, once a Union man, "had gone over to the camp of the enemy." Ebon 
followed with his April 9 telegram to the Transcript announcing the House's over- 
ride of the president's veto of the civil rights bill. "Universal liberty and equality 
before the law has been vindicated. The People are greater than the President," 
he concluded." 

Johnson retaliated with what the historian Eric L. McKitrick called "some ex- 
perimental tampering" and "erratic handling of patronage" in Illinois, especialy 
in Ebon Ingersoll's congressional district. On April 18, Johnson nominated a re- 
placement for Peoria postmaster Emery. Under the heading "GUILLOTINED" 
the editor Emery noted in the Transcript: "There is amnesty at the White House 
for traitors, but none for loyal men." Next the President tried to remove the 
Princeton Collector of Internal Revenue, another IngersoU supporter. Replace- 
ments acceptable to Illinois Democrats were nominated by Johnson. Ebon Inger- 
soll's response was his "most radical and telling speech of the session," delivered 
on May 5. The speech attracted the attention of the London Times which described 
the "obscure" congressman's speech: "He was determined, he said, to unmask 
Mr. Johnson and reveal the deception which he had practiced upon the people. 

Look at Peoria 33 

Had the President shown more patriotism and less egotism there would have been 
no difficulty in reconstructing the Union, but he wanted to make himself conspi- 
cious; he was 'filled with the malaria of slavery'; he had betrayed the party which 
elected him and 'given the lie' to all his principles. ' ' ' " 

The expression "Look at Peoria" is probably the earliest version of the famous 
"How does it play in Peoria" phrase, connoting Peoria as typical of political opin- 
ion in the great American heartland. On April 12, 1866, the American correspon- 
dent of the London Times interviewed Andrew Johnson. The president noted that 
although the radicals "have raised the cry of 'mad dog' at me. . . . They will un- 
derstand me better by-and-by." Referring to his policy of rapid [white] recon- 
struction, he insisted: "Yet there were signs that people were beginning to be alive 
to the truth. 'Look at Peoria' -and he mentioned several other towns where meet- 
ings in support of the president's policy have lately been held since the passage 
[and his veto] of the Civil Rights Bill. 'It is like watertricklingalong the ground,' 
said Mr. Johnson. 'You can see the damp places here and there, and you know 
that it will gradually spread' . ' ' The meetings the president referred to were appar- 
ently those reported in Dowdall's telegrams. The London Times story was 
datelined April 16 and it was published in London on May 1 . The New York Times 
saw the story and reprinted it on May 14. The Transcript apparently noticed the 
interview on May 3 1 , noting: "The allusion of President Johnson, in his conversa- 
tion with the correspondent of the London Times, to our city, has given Peoria 
a rather unenviable notoriety . " ' "* 

Ebon's supporters were quick to realize that the "Look at Peoria" challenge 
could be used to gain his renomination. Ebon had considerable opposition because 
he was not a Civil War veteran and because other personalities and cities coveted 
the congressional seat. Fortunately for Ebon, he had followed Robert's advice and 
had early become identified as a chief protagonist of Johnson. He could "out-radi- 
cal" even the veterans such as General Thomas Henderson, who aspired to the 
office. On June 9, the Transcript approvingly reprinted a column from the Bureau 
County Republican which argued that E. C. Ingersoll should be reelected because: 
"The President in his interview with the London Times said exultingly, 'Look 
at Peoria and you will see how the people support my policy' .... Now let a new 
man be taken up in place of Mr. Ingersoll, and there will be more proud pointing 
at Peoria as endorsing my [Johnson's] policy." The strategy was used in the 
county conventions to perfection. In Peoria County, Bob debated Republican 
challenger Alexander McCoy, a state legislator and former district attorney, and 
McCoy soon withdrew. Colonel Ingersoll also spoke in Galesburg and Princeville 
onbehalf of Ebon. After all challenges to Ebon werefought off in Henry County, 
the Transcript headed a story from the Henry County Chronicle: "LOOK AT 
PEORIA. Look at Peoria we repeat, and see the verdict she rendered fit her pri- 
mary election."'"^ 

Robert found it exhilarating to instruct Ebon on his conduct in Washington 
("wake up and say 'I will be a little more radical today than I was yesterday'") 
while standing in for him in his home congressional district. After the Peoria de- 

34 Robert G. Ingersoll 

bate with McCoy, he wrote to Ebon: "When 1 walked up to the platform the people 
cheered like Hell. I saw that I had him . . . suffice it to say that I did not leave 
a gut in him." After the Galesburg success, he wrote of the opposition: "I busted 
them wide open. " Robert also used money to ensure Ebon's success. At the Peoria 
County Convention he "used $400 to get carriages & men to work." The "ex- 
penses" at Princeton were $500 and Toulon cost $830. White, of the Stark County 
newspaper, was given a $600 interest-free loan to ensure his support. "But d-n 
money so we can beat the pimps," he wrote. He added a postscript to assure Ebon: 
"I shall spend no more money, the goose hangs high enough." The next goose 
was General Thomas Henderson, who had been too slow to take a radical position. 
He withdrew and Robert could write: "What a splendid victory for you. You have 
a life lease upon the position , those who opposed you are dead. ' ' ' '' 

The "Look at Peoria" campaign had worked so well that Robert could afford 
to be magnanimous-selectively. The Ingersoll brothers had a letter which could 
incriminate one of their opponents, but Robert wrote to Ebon: "He has tried to 
hurt you; but has not succeeded & if I publish his letter it will hurt him greatly. 
He is married; has a family & is poor, so I will let him go. I think I had better 
give him the letter & tell him in the future to do you justice." But he was less 
forgiving to another opponent whose apparent opposition was religious. Recom- 
mending that he not be reappointed to his government position, Robert wrote: 
"D-n him. I don't understand him. I believe he is opposed to us because he thinks 
we are infidels."'^ 

Robert's optimism about the campaign was justified. The Fifth Congressional 
District Convention was held in Peoria on July 18. Robert "addressed the Conven- 
tion in an eloquent and telling speech" and the congressman was unanimously 
renominated. The Transcript crowed: "LOOK AT PEORIA. The compliments 
of the Union men of Illinois are presented to Moses Andy [Johnson] with the inti- 
mation that Peoria is one of the lovely places to look at. . . . The president adver- 
tised the World through the London Times of the conflict he intended to wage in 
Peoria. He also boasted that in the conflict the people were rallying to his sup- 
port." Perhaps these "damp places" he professed to see had come from the cop- 
perheads, certainly not from the Republicans, the Transcript ch\ded.^^ 

The "critical year" congressional elections of 1866 were seen as a plebiscite 
to determine whether the voting public preferred the white suppremacy policy of 
President Johnson or the more vindictive reconstruction policy of the Radical Re- 
publicans. Many moderate Republicans became radical Republicans during the 
summer of 1866 because they believed that the South had not accepted defeat. 
When some of the Southern states, acting under Johnson sanctioned governments 
adopted discriminatory "black laws," elected ex-Confederate officials to the U. 
S. Congress, andallowedhundredsof blacks to be killed in the Memphis and New 
Orleans riots, most Republicans rallied around Congress. In an attempt to unite 
Democrat and conservative Republican forces, Johnson called a National Union 
Convention for Philadelphia in August. He also decided to embark on a whistle 
stop "swing around the circle" to back his supporters. The ostensible purpose 

Look at Peoria 35 

of the August 28 to September 15 tour was to speak at the ground-breaking cere- 
mony at the Stephen A. Douglas monument in Chicago. '** 

Robert Ingersoll's response to the Philadelphia convention was to charge that 
only rebels and copperheads would be there. If any real Republicans attended, he 
cautioned, they would have "to shake hands with those who starved our soldiers 
at Andersonville." At the invitation of Indiana Governor Morton, Governor Og- 
lesby and Colonel Ingersoll set off on a speaking tour through Indiana which lasted 
from August 22 to September 3. Ingersoll and Oglesby were perhaps the two best 
patriotic speakers in the West, and they became even closer friends during the 
tour. In Indianapolis they spoke before tens of thousands of people at a giant Re- 
publican rally. Their speeches were in enormous demand in Indiana. A Jackson- 
ville newspaper asserted that Ingersoll had become "the most powerful and attrac- 
tive stump orator in America." Governor Oglesby refused an invitation to hear 
the president speak at the Douglas monument ground-breaking and managed to 
be out of town when Johnson visited Springfield and Lincoln's tomb. The Democ- 
rats of Peoria invited Johnson to Peoria, but Peoria was not included on his itiner- 
ary. The president met a largely hostile crowd as he traveled through Illinois. ''^ 

Peoria and Ebon's congressional district were important to the Republicans 
because Johnson had made "Looking at Peoria" an issue. The Republicans im- 
ported General Ben Butler from Massachusetts and George W. Julian from In- 
diana. Ebon and Robert returned to the Fifth District to conduct vigorous cam- 
paigns during the month before the election. The Democrats ran Silas Ramsey 
against Ebon while encouraging Republican defections from among veteran and 
the "anti-Ingersoll family" factions. Under pressure of events and party regular- 
ity. Ebon Clark Ingersoll won the most decisive victory of his career, beating 
Ramsey by 18,437 votes to 9,665. Illinois Republicans were victorious in twelve 
of fourteen congressional races and a radical Congress was seated in 1867. The 
president had failed to rally Peoria and the heartland and had been repudiated. 
"Now Look at Peoria," the Radical Republlicans demanded. "^° 

The strategy of supporting the incumbent congressmen who opposed President 
Andrew Johnson was effective, but it stifled Robert's ambitions to be elected con- 
gressman-at-large. Robert understood this as early as March 1, 1866, when he 
wrote to Ebon, urging him to "stand by principle old boy" but noting that "the 
action of Johnson knocks all my aspirations for the state at large square in the 
head." On July 5, in Galesburg, Robert was forced to disavow any intention of 
running. He explained to Ebon: "I told them that I was no candidate. You see 
I would not hurt your chances by saying I was because [incumbent congressman- 
at-large] Moulton has been radical . . . and if I want to beat him it would contradict 
the position that we have taken-that all members who have stood firm should be 
returned. You see we must carry this district or die. To be beat now would be 
political death to us both." When Ebon's nomination seemed certain, he urged 
Robert to run anyway. But Robert rationalized that he did not really want the office 
because redistricting would soon eliminate the at-large seat, his law business 
would suffer ("two years in Congress would ruin one in law"), and he would have 

36 Robert G. Ingersoll 

to "trim my little sails to catch the breath of the ignorant admiration & paid flat- 
tery." Besides: "Hardly a great politician in this country has died great. Webster 
died on his knees, asking to be president. Clay died, as he supposed in great hor- 
ror, because he had just finished a compromise for the purpose of giving slaver>' 
a new lease on life. Douglas went away repeating a senseless prayer after an ignor- 
ant priest. . . . I care very little for political preferment."-' 

The only public office Robert Ingersoll ever held was Illinois Attorney-Gen- 
eral (Februar>- 28. 1867 to January 1 1, 1869). Governor Richard J. Oglesby ad- 
mired Ingersoll for his oratory and his wit. Both declared the other the best stump- 
speaker in the country. Their friendship started during the war and blossomed dur- 
ing the election campaigns of 1864 and 1866. Both thought President Johnson a 
traitor, and they toured Indiana together in August and September of 1866 in op- 
position to his candidates. When the legislature re-created the position of attorney- 
general in February of 1867 and made the first term appointive, Oglesby quickly 
chose Ingersoll over several other friends. The Republican newspapers applauded 
the appointment and characterized Ingersoll as a good lawyer and a great speaker. 
No mention was made about his religious views in either the Chicago Republican 
or the Tribune. Ingersoll wrote exuberantly to Ebon that the position would pay 
$3,500 per annum (the governor's salary was $1 ,500), and it would only require 
his attention part-time. "My rivals were Milton Hay and Lawrence Weldon. I had 
no electioneering to do. The Governor told me before the bill passed that I should 
have the place as against the world," Robert exclaimed. Ebon wrote to Oglesby 
to send "... deepest and most heart felt thanks . . . for your kind and generous 
act in appointing one who is dearer to me than my own life. . . . You can hardly 
imagine how deeply this good and noble action of yours touched my heart, the 
more deeply because it was so freely and disinterestedly done. " Robert later con- 
fessed that he was "never so well situated, and so happy," as during his term 
as attorney-general . " 

Ingersoll was indeed "well situated" as attorney-general and it was all the 
more fortuitous because he had not had to ' 'electioneer. ' ' Ingersoll apparently per- 
formed well but without excessive effort. Among his assignments were to appear 
regularily as the state's representative before the Illinois Supreme Court, to lobby 
in Washington, D. C, for improvement of Illinois canals and rivers, "to look a 
little after the (Joliet convict's) labor contracts," and to defend the constitutional- 
ity of the county equalization laws. He won special note for his success in the Cook 
County tax equalization case. Yet, Ingersoll was seldom required to be in 
Springfield and he continued his lucrative private law practice. He was hired by 
El Paso to help gain the Woodford County scat (he failed). He excused himself 
to the governor by writing: "I would like to attend to the Woodford affair as it 
would put money in my purse. Governor, I want you always when you want me 
to telegraph. I am at your disposal and want to be of use to you. I never want you 
to regret the great favor you did me a greater one than any other man ever did." 
Although he continued to try dozens of private cases around the circuit, even after 
having lost his law partner, Sabin Puterbaugh (Ingersoll helped him be elected 

Look at Peoria 37 

circuit judge), he could remark, "Business is quite lively here, though I steal 
plenty of time to enjoy myself. "--^ 

Oglesby's impatience with his attorney-general's long absences from 
Springfield may have been mitigated by Ingersoll's frequent witty letters. They 
were filled with excuses for not coming ("the heat and dust stopped me ... I 
pray thee send Lazarus"), reports on his work, concerns for the ill Mrs. Oglesby, 
greeting from daughters Eva and Maud to the Oglesby children, Olie and Robin, 
and his sarcastic observations about public figures and policies. When the old 
abolitionist editor, Horace Greeley posted bail for Jefferson Davis, Ingersoll 
wrote: "Poor Horace, his jig is danced." When planning a Chicago trip, Ingersoll 
excused himself by noting: "As soon as I heard the martyrs widow [Mary Todd 
Lincoln] was at Hyde Park House, I concluded I would save my hide by staying 
home." On anticipating the impeachmentof President Johnson, he wrote: "I think 
our friend Johnson has at last got his foot or rather both feet, fairly in it-and Con- 
gress will now be able to get his stern out of it." When commenting on the scarcity 
of money, he wrote: "Times are getting hard . . . and consequently our party get- 
ting a little shaky. There must be an expansion of the currency. Men will never 
act good unless times are good. When a man has his pocket full of money he feels 
like a gentleman and when a man feels like a gentleman he votes our ticket. But 
when his pocket is empty, and his shirt tail out he naturally slides over to the De- 

Robert Ingersoll also liked to entertain his brother Ebon with his witty letters. 
On visiting Mt. Vernon, Illinois, his former residence, Robert wrote from "this 
ancient & decaying town" that he felt he was again in a heathen land. "A little 
while ago, I saw the house where I used to live. May God spare me a second 
sight." He also included a paragraph which used the "a vision rises before me" 
technique as if it were an "in-joke" between the two. In 1870 Robert would use 
the "vision" device in a classic Decoration Day speech, and he became famous 
in 1876 when he repeated much of the 1870 oration to the Veteran Soldiers of 
the Rebellion in Indianapolis as "A Vision of War" (see chapters 4 & 5). But 
in Robert's June 6, 1867, letter to Ebon Clark Ingersoll the technique was used 
in derision: "A vision rises before me-I see shapeless felt hats, surmounting heads 
covered with long lenk 'yaller' hair. ... I see dogs 'follering,' I see women in 
sun bonnets, and home spun dresses, I see sore eyes, and long, flabby breasts, 
hanging down upon leathery bellies. ... I see people without education, without 
thought-without ambition." The derision and the "vision" technique continued 
in his New Years letter in which he described a score of their Peoria friends in 
unflattering terms. Included was William Reynolds about whom Robert's vision 
was of his "expressing anxiety about my 'supposed' soul.""'' 

Ebon Ingersoll partially repaid Oglesby for Robert's appointment during the 
congressional debate on the impeachment of President Johnson. On February 22, 
1868, Oglesby sent a telegram demanding impeachment and labeling Johnson a 
"presumptuous demagogue." Illinois Democrat Congressman Albert Burr rose 
to attack Oglesby as "a drunkard." Ebon "called him to order" and characterized 

38 Robert G. Ingersoll 

the governor as a "sober, patriotic, high-minded and honorable man." who "car- 
ries in his body minie balls fired from rebel muskets." Oglesby wrote to Ebon 
to thank him for his able defense and to suggest that his Burr must be some relation 
to the traitor Aaron Burr. Robert wrote to Ebon: "I was highly pleased with your 
defense of Oglesby. Burr must be a perfect puppy to assail Oglesby in such a 
beastly manner."-^ 

The 1867 legislative session which created Ingersoll's attorney-general posi- 
tion also authorized the construction of the new state capitol. Sometime in the 
early twentieth century a myth was created that the cornerstone, which had con- 
tained the names of all the 1868 state officials, including that of Robert G. Inger- 
soll, had been wiped clean or secretly removed because of Ingersoll's religious 
heresy. Actually, the engraved cornerstone was dedicated in an elaborate cere- 
mony presided over by the Masonic fraternity on October 5, 1 868. The November 
23, 1870, Illinois State Journal reported that the immense stone, however, 
"worked very poorly, and owing to splits and cracks . . . [and] it was found to 
be unworthy to be retained or built upon." It was "removed from the wall and 
buried in the ground in front of the corner and on yesterday a new (Joliet quarry) 
comer-stone was placed in position ... No ceremonies whatever took place 
... No inscription has yet been placed upon it." The myth of the "disappearing 
inscription" persisted until the state historians clarified the facts in 1937 and again 
in 1944 in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society-. The original in- 
scribed stone was unearthed in 1944 and it has since been placed on the northeast 
corner of the building, adjacent to the replacement stone. "^ Had Ingersoll's ambi- 
tions been realized, the replacement cornerstone might have listed him as gover- 


Lost Nomination 

Under the old Illinois Constitution, Richard J . Oglesby was not eligible to suc- 
ceed himself as governor in 1868. It was widely assumed that General John M. 
Palmer, one of the founders of the Republican party in Illinois, would be his suc- 
cessor. As a result, most of the aspiring politicians looked elsewhere for office. 
Palmer, however, had doubts about serving. He had a very large family and the 
job did not pay much. By February of 1868, stories were circulating that he would 
not be a candidate but most of the politicians were skeptical, thinking he wished 
to be drafted. Palmer's denials, however, created some speculation as to who 
would be nominated by the Republicans if Palmer was serious about declining. 
Shelby Cullom and John A. Logan, both of whom were destined to become pow- 
erful political leaders and members of the U.S. Senate, were mentioned, but held 
back. Robert G. Ingersoll, not yet thirty-five years old, believed Palmer's denials, 
perhaps because Palmer personally assured Ingersoll that he would not run. Inger- 
soll's political ambition began to chum and he soon convinced himself that he 
could win. The Peoria Republican Nominating Convention of 1868 was a turning 
point for Ingersoll for if beaten, it might, as he confided to his brother, "end me 
politically. " ' If his political career were thwarted, where would he turn for gratifi- 

On February 29, the Peoria Grant Club met and endorsed Ingersoll for gover- 
nor and urgently requested that he allow his name to be announced for the office. 
Two days later, Ingersoll wrote brother Ebon a long letter about the congressman's 
course on the Johnson impeachment. Finally, on the fourth page, he confided: 
"The 'Grant Club' of this place had a meeting last Saturday night and resolved 
. . . that I was their choice for Govr. What effect would my running for gov. have 
on your prospects in this district? I don't think it would hurt. Tell me your ideas." 
The next day he again wrote to Ebon: "Write quick or I shall be on the track 
... All our friends here are nearly crazy to have me run for governor." On the 
same day Robert wrote Governor Oglesby: "I have been thinking for a few days 
that maybe I would announce myself as a candidate for governor. I want your hon- 
est square advice." He added flatteringly if not entirely truthfully: "Under any 
and all circumstances I would prefer you to any one (not excepting myself) politi- 
cally." Impatient to hear Oglesby's reply, Ingersoll went to Springfield where 
Oglesby gave Robert his blessing on March 5 or 6. On the sixth, Ingersoll returned 
to Peoria where he probably conferred with Enoch Emery of the Transcript.^ 

If the National Democrat is to be believed, a letter was found on the cour- 
thouse yard which was an embarrassment to the Ingersolls. It was dated March 
9 and was addressed to Friend [Ebon] Ingersoll and signed by E. E. [Enoch Emery 
of the Transcript]. The letter contained Emery's assessment of the political situa- 

40 Robert G. Ingersoll 

tion in regard to Ebon's renomination as congressman and Robert's nomination 
as governor. "Your case now being a fixed fact [because certain newspapers had 
been paid and Ebon had promised a new district court], we are looking to Bob's 
interest for Governor, and if he would only follow your plan, he would go in like 
a flash, but he says he will see the churches and church going people in h-1 and 
the fire kindled by newspapermen, before he will knuckle to the former or buy 
the latter." Emery allegedly added: "Now you know that will do well enough 
to talk quietly to ourselves, but it won't win in our party. But the convention being 
here, we may succeed anyhow."'' 

On March 9. 1868, the Transcript endorsed Ingersoll for governor. Emery as- 
serted that Palmer could have the governorship if he would take it, but since he 
"positively declines to run," Ingersoll should be endorsed quickly to avoid the 
selection of some fourth- or fifth-rate man. "On the stump, he [Ingersoll] has no 
superior anywhere," the Transcript declared. "As the field now stands. Col. In- 
gersoll can walk over the course without opposition, and we earnestly hope he 
will allow his name to be used . . .," Emery concluded. The next day the Democ- 
ratic paper of William T. Dowdall answered with a sarcastic headline: "DONT 
WANT TO BE GOVERNOR." In Dowdall's view, the Ingersoll family already 
held the best offices. He contended that the Ingersoll brothers left the Democratic 
party about three days after it would no longer cater to them. Since joining the 
Republican party, they "cling to the teats of the government like barnacles to the 
ship bottom and with about the same effect. ' "* 

Meanwhile, Ingersoll had journeyed to Chicago. On March 13, he wrote to 
Ebon: "I have been here all week, looking about and calculating my chances for 
Govr. ... I have not talked with a single man in this town that is not for me. 
The [Chicago] Journal and Wilson [the owner] says he is for me over all com- 
petitors. If I fail, of course I will not care a cent, but would a little rather succeed." 
The Chicago Tribune wrote that if nominated, Ingersoll "would make a brilliant 
canvass." The Tribune also listed ten newspapers which had expressed a prefer- 
ence for Ingersoll. The good press, Oglesby's blessing, and the apparently suppor- 
tive statements which he had begun receiving from politicians over the state, made 
Ingersoll exuberant about his political future. "If I get the nomination, I will bet 
my ears that I break into the senate in 1871 ," he wrote to Ebon on March 24, 

On March 26, Ingersoll made a stirring speech to the Springfield Young Men's 
Republican Club in the Hall of Representatives. He contended that the Republican 
party was the "grandest that ever existed beneath the stars." He argued that the 
party had "saved a nation, enfranchised a people, dedicated a continent to free- 
dom, and given a new and grander impulse to civilization." He piously declared 
that "school masters and missionaries" had replaced bloodhounds in the South 
and that "the auction-block" had been replaced by the pulpit. He asserted that 
the issue in the 1868 election was whether or not slavery would be reestablished. 
He conceded that whites might be superior to blacks, but, as Lincoln, he believed 
they should have an equal chance to succeed. "Honor for those who get ahead- 

Lost Nomination 41 

kindness for those who fall behind, andjusticeforall" was his motto. ^ 

The state Democratic party organ, the Springfield Register, was not slow to 
charge Ingersoll with being a hypocrite and an infidel. It charged that the ex- 
Democrat had uttered mostly "clap-trap" when he spoke to the Young Men's Re- 
publican Club (the "radical club"). It also implied a religious hypocrisy when 
it wrote: "The speaker had a great deal to say about the 'almighty,' and a stranger 
would have thought that he was a regular minister in one of our churches. But 
he is the same who shocked some of his old acquaintances, who witnessed his 
performance a short time since at the Opera House in this city, when on that occa- 
sion, it is reported, he declared openly that he was an infidel, and he did not care 
a G-d d-n who knew it." Two days later, the Register's Democratic counterpart 
in Peoria picked up the same theme by charging the Peoria Republican editor with 
holding up "as the Apollo of the party" the "brawling Atheist Bob" and forcing 
"all 50M/7^ Republicans" to fall down and worship him.^ 

Undeterred by the infidel charge or anything the Democrats might say, Inger- 
soll made his candidacy official by answering the Peoria Grant Club's request that 
he run. On March 28, he wrote ". . .1 have concluded to allow the use of my 
name" in connection with the candidacy for governor.^ 

Once in the race, Ingersoll was determined to win. He peppered Ebon with 
letters asking him to try to gain support from the Illinois congressmen, including 
the powerful John A. Logan. Although he was "naturally for Oglesby," he urged 
Ebon to make any necessary combinations to protect his and Ebon's interest and 
promised to abide by them. But it was a delicate matter to protect the interests 
of the brothers equally. Soon the Tribune was praising Robert but damning Ebon 
for serving the "corrupt ring of distillers" in the Peoria area. Robert wrote to Og- 
lesby that he had written Joseph Medill of the Tribune objecting to his treatment 
of Ebon Clark. "This may play hell with me in the Tribune. I don't care whether 
it does or not. God D— n them. They can't pat me on the back and abuse Clark." 
Robert told Ebon that he had written to Medill objecting to the charges and assert- 
ing that he would stand or fall with his brother. He wrote: "Medill will likely be 
against me. God damn him! Let him howl. I can beat him at his own game." On 
receiving a copy of the letter to Medill , Ebon wrote: ' 'There is not another brother 
in the world that has the heart or the pluck ... to write such a letter. We will 
sink or swim together. ' '"^ 

There were other clouds on the horizon. The Tribune of March 30 quoted 
Palmer as having acknowledged a debt to the Republican party which would ob- 
lige him to run for governor if drafted. Ingersoll rushed off to Chicago to confront 
the situation, remarking that "Barkis [the David Copperfield character] is willing 
after all." Ingersoll's strategy was to smoke Palmer out. On April 3, from 
Chicago, he wired Palmer: "I most respectfully ask that you . . . answer by tele- 
gram, and state explicitly, whether you are a candidate for Governor or will accept 
the nomination." Palmer answered the next day: "I am not and do not intend to 
be a candidate for Governor. ' ' Ebon congratulated Robert for having "undertaken 
to smoke the rabbit out." He added, however, an ominous warning from 

42 Robert G. Ingersoll 

Washington: "There is not a member of Congress . . . who can do you any good 
and if there was he would not dare to. They are each and all looking anxiously 
for the bull's bag to drop. I hardly dare trust Logan and shall let him rest for the 
present." Logan was fast becoming the most powerful politician in the state and 
as an aspirant for next available U.S. Senate seat, he could ill afford to support 
Ingersoll, who was regarded as a friend of a rival for that seat, Richard Oglesby . '° 

Some of Logan's supporters thought the Ingersoll threat was so serious that 
Logan would have to run for governor i n order " ' to break up a combination ' ' which 
was deemed hostile. But Logan apparently felt that his chances for a senate seat 
were better as congressman-at-large than as governor and he refused. D. H. Phil- 
lips, one of his chief lieutenants, replied that his suggestion that Logan run had 
been "in harmony with my wishes to defeat at all hazzards. Bob Ingersoll. You 
could do that. But as you prefer your present position, I am for you for that and 
so for any other place. I am for you for the Senate. You have earned it." S. W. 
Moulton had solicited Logan's support for governor in February, promising 
"there is no other office I desire." Logan apparently did not answer. He wrote 
on the back of Moulton's letter: "S.W. Moulton wants to be governor needs no 
reply." Logan probably preferred to force Palmer's hand so that he would have 
two years left on his term as governor when the senatorial election of 1871 oc- 
curred, but Moulton was probably more acceptable than Ingersoll. ' ' 

Many Illinois politicians were puzzled about Palmer's intentions. He was a 
popular figure and few wanted to oppose him. But, J.D. Ward, an important 
Chicago politician, wrote to Oglesby that Palmer had treated his friends rather 
badly, if he secretly intended to run. Ward preferred Ingersoll, "but I don't want 
to get into a fight for him which will do no good and perhaps injure all," he con- 
cluded. Toothers who asked Oglesby forhis view of Ingersoll, the governor wrote 
that Palmer could have the position if he wanted it and he would gladly support 
him, but, as he apparently intended to decline, he would support Ingersoll. For 
those unacquainted with Ingersoll (most knew only of his oratory), Oglesby noted 
that, although he was only thirty-four, he is "sound and earnest . . . naturally anti- 
slavery" [even though a former Democrat] and would be a good governor. '~ No 
questions were raised or answered in Oglesby's correspondence concerning Inger- 
soll's religious views. 

Unfortunately for Ingersoll, Oglesby was in the lame duck portion of his term 
and Palmer and Logan were becoming the real political powers. Also, Oglesby's 
wife was gravely ill and he would not be able to attend the state convention in 
Peoria. Ingersoll's popularity was built on his reputation as a speaker, but his 
power base was not much broader than Ebon's Fifth Congressional District and 
there was a revolt going on there. There were several available politicians who 
had more power than Ingersoll, but they were unwilling to announce as long as 
the possibility existed that Palmer could be drafted, thus leaving them vulnerable. 
By default, Ingersoll appeared to be the strongest of those willing to run. 

But Palmer's home area newspaper, the Carlinville Democrat, kept the idea 
alive that Palmer was still available. The Chicago politicians, under A. C. Hesing, 

Lost Nomination 43 

seemed to share the same view, but the Transcript explained it as an "operation 
of a set of men who have an ax to grind and want Gen. Palmer to run the stone." 
The Peoria National Union, however, suggested that Ingersoll's chances were 
growing "small by degrees and beautifully less" because "We hear it whispered 
by some of the wise ones of the [Republican] party that the disposition of 'the 
[IngersoU] family' to monopolize all the offices they can get, as well as the 'habits' 
of the 'Brothers,' have something to do with Palmer's being a candidate."'-' The 
bad "habits" were intemperance, vulgarity, andirreligion. 

Robert was deflated about the turn of events. He wrote to Ebon on April 29, 
1868, from Chicago: "It looks as though Palmer really wants to be Governor after 
all. He will likely beat me; but I am going to fight it out to the bitter end. If he 
allows himself to run, he will simply prove himself a dirty dog. To be beaten now 
I think will end me Politically. I can't afford to run any more for anything, I will 
then have been whipped too often." He complained: "I don't think people know 
me. My friends are enthusiastic when I am helping them, but when I want anything 
they generally prefer another man. This may be the experience of everybody. I 
am pretty nearly sick of the whole thing. After the Convention is over I will settle 
down to the practice of that miserable profession known as law, and bid goodbye 
to all political aspirations. Heartily disgusted-knowing that I have been throwing 
pearls before swine-that my party has not the sense to understand me. " Ingersoll's 
pessimism was well founded. The next day the Cook County convention voted 
to instruct its delegates for Palmer. A.C. Hesing, who introduced the resolution 
in favor of Palmer, argued that IngersoU was a "bar-room politician" who was 
not the man for the most important office in the state. '^ 

A Republican rally was held on convention eve at Rouse's Hall. It would be 
Robert Ingersoll's last opportunity to influence the public and the delegates with 
his most potent weapon, his speech-making ability. Earlier in the day. Ebon Clark 
IngersoU had won renomination for Congress at the Galesburg convention . Robert 
could take comfort that he had not jeopardized his brother's renomination and that 
Ebon was back in Peoria to aid him. At the rally, Spencer's band played and dele- 
gates from around the state rose to make short speeches, praising various candi- 
dates, the party principles, and thanking Peoria for its hospitality even though its 
Metropolitan Hotel had burned on March 1 . Soon the hometown candidate was 
called for and he rose to make a short speech. To the surprise of many, rather than 
displaying his extraordinary oratorical skills with generalities and his usual wit 
and charm, he seriously insisted that the party should boldly support racial equal- 
ity. "If you believe in giving all men the same privileges, say so. If you do not 
believe it, join the Democratic party," was his unsettling advice. "You have got 
to put it in your platform," he argued. He also advocated repaying the government 
bonds in gold. '^ Both unqualified racial equality and gold payments were unpopu- 
lar with some Republicans and most Democrats. 

Ingersoll's convention-eve speech apparently unknowingly impressed one re- 
ligious person with interesting results. Robert wrote to Ebon after the convention: 
"I learned a pretty good thing about myself. You know I told you about the 

44 Robert G. IngersoU 

Methodist conference pups sending down a letter against me. It turns out in evi- 
dence now that the man who brought the afd [aforesaid] letter heard me speak on 
the evening before the convention & was so well pleased with the speech that he 
never showed his letter-kept it in his pocket & used his influence for me. That's 
pretty good." '^ 

The Illinois State Nominating Convention met in Peoria at noon on May 6. 
1868. Reverend Johnson of Peoria opened with a prayer. Committees were duly 
appointed and after a brief adjournment the convention proceeded to an informal 
ballot for governor. John M. Palmer. Robert IngersoU. and S.W. Moulton were 
nominated. The friends of Anson Miller said that he would not be a candidate if 
Palmer was a candidate. General Richard Rowett of Macoupin declared that 
Palmer was his friend; but he stated that a dispatch had recently been sent to Gen- 
eral Palmer asking if he would accept the nomination. Palmer's reply was: "Do 
not permit me to be nominated. I cannot accept the nomination." This statement 
caused great confusion in the hall, and Robert V. Chelsey of Vermillion County 
moved to nominate IngersoU by acclamation. The Tribune account said the motion 
was met with laughter. A neighbor of Palmer who said he was convinced that the 
general was not available spoke in favor of S.W. Moulton. Jesse Dubois, a per- 
p)etual candidate, was also nominated. The result of the informal ballot was: 
Palmer 263 (a majority), IngersoU 117, Moulton 82, and Dubois 42. E.A. 
Eastman of Chicago, then read a letter dated April 1 1 , addressed to Horace White, 
"stating that if nominated, he (Palmer) would be governed by the duty of the 
hour." The convention proceeded to a formal vote which showed: Palmer 317, 
IngersoU 1 18, Moulton 52, and Dubois 17. As the Transcript reported "the con- 
vention was predetermined to nominate Gen. Palmer for Governor whether he 
wanted the office or not . " ' ^ 

There remained the question of whether Palmer would accept the nomination. 
A committee, which included John H. Addams, his nominator, was instructed to 
wire Gen. Palmer the results of the convention. "A delegate from Macoupin 
stated that now that Gen. Palmer had been vindicated before the people from the 
charge of seeking the office, he thought he would take it." Palmer, however, had 
no opportunity to refuse while the convention was in session because a great thun- 
derstorm and flood knocked out the telegraph lines from Peoria. Palmer, who had 
made much of his obligation to the Republican party, could hardly decline after 
the convention had adjourned. Actually four of the seven positions at Peoria were 
filled by "noncandidatcs" for state office. The Tribune noted: "Col. IngersoU 
had remarked that he would beat any man for the office of Governor who was not 
a candidate. He was mistaken, but the terseness of the observation as well as the 
drollery of the result will save his friends from mortification in view of his failure 
to accomplish an impossibility."'^ 

Various biographers, including Cameron Rogers, Edward Garstin Smith, Her- 
man Kittredge, and Ingersoll's granddaughter. Eva IngersoU Wakefield, have as- 
serted that IngersoU lost the nomination because of his agnostic views. These 
biographers rely heavily upon a dramatic account given by one Edward Fox to 

Lost Nomination 45 

the 5/. Louis Globe-Democrat (October 26, 1889) which was reprinted in the 
Peoria Daily Transcript (October 27, 1 889) and in the Weekly Transcript (October 
31 , 1889). The clipping is also in the Ingersoll Collection at the Library of Con- 
gress. According to Fox, when asked by a committee of Republican delegates to 
suppress his religious views during the campaign, Ingersoll had answered: "I have 
in my composition that which I have declared to the world as my views on religion. 
My position I would not, under any circumstances, not even for my life, seem 
to renounce. I would rather refuse to be President of the United States than to do 
so. My religious belief is my own. It belongs to me, not to the State of Illinois." 
The validity of the Fox story can better be judged by examining the internal evi- 
dence in the article. None of the biographers have quoted the article in full. Eva 
Wakefield quoted most of it but her omissions are interesting. The complete text 
as taken from the Peoria Daily Transcript of October 27, 1889, appears below. 
Material omitted by Wakefield is in italics. '^ 


[St. Louis Globe Democrat]'^ 

Robert G. Ingersoll's political career turned on the Illinois State 
Convention of 1868. That convention was held at Ingersoll's home- 
Peoria. Before the delegates came together it was known that the bril- 
liant orator was the first choice of five-sixths of them for Governor. 
Other candidates were scarcely canvassed. Yet Ingersoll was not nomi- 
nated, and from that day to this he has never held office, elective or 
appointive. The Republican party has frequently drawn upon Inger- 
soll's powers as a campaign speaker, but it has never tendered him offi- 
cial recognition in return. 

Ingersoll had worked up no boom. He had done nothing to enhance 
his position as a candidate. The almost unanimous association of his 
name with the nomination for Governor was purely spontaneous. In- 
gersoll had been a cavalry colonel during the latter part of the war. He 
had Loyally Championed the cause of his brother. Ebon C, who was 
older and a member of Congress. He had made speeches in various 
parts of the state. But he had asked nothing for himself. Unpledged and 
uninstructed, but anxious to put Ingersoll at the head of the ticket, the 
delegates arrived at Peoria. What happened constitutes one of the 
strangest incidents in American politics. 

Edward P. Fox of St. Louis, tells the story. He was not only a dele- 
gate to the convention, but he was a member of the Committee which 
acted as pallbearers at the burial of Ingersoll's political ambition. Mr. 
Fox's home at that time was in Jacksonville. 

"That Convention at Peoria," said Mr. Fox, "stood toward Mr. 
Ingersoll as the Convention at Chicago last year stood toward Mr. 
Blaine. Five-sixths of our delegates were for Ingersoll, as five-sixths 
of those delegates were for Mr. Blaine. There was but one obstacle in 

46 Robert G. Ingersoll 

the way. At Chicago it was Mr. Blaine's consent. At Peoria it was Mr. 
Ingersoll's views on religion. After he came back from the war Mr. 
Ingersoll began his attacks on the orthodox creeds. In 1868 he was re- 
ceiving a good deal more attention from the ministers than he does 
now. When the delegates came together the question was raised as to 
the possible effect of religion being Dragged into the Campaign. We 
wanted to nominate Ingersoll, but wc were afraid of that kind of cam- 

"The Convention met and organized. Mr. Ingersoll's name was 
presented. Some one. a known friend of the eloquent Peorian, arose 
and moved the appointment of a committee to wait on Mr. Ingersoll. 
I don't remember that the precise reason for this committee was men- 
tioned, but everybody understood what was meant. We felt that unless 
wc could have beforehand such an understanding with our nominee as 
would keep religious discussions out of the campaign it would not do 
to put him at the head of the ticket. Morgan County was one of the 
strong Republican counties, and, furthermore, Jacksonville was 
known as "The City of Churches." Perhaps for that reason the Chair- 
man .selected me as one of the eight or ten members of the committee. 
The Convention took a recess until after dinner. The members of the 
committee got together immediately and consulted. Then we went 
across the street to the law office of the Ingersolls. I remember as well 
as if it was only yesterday the reply which Mr. Ingersoll made, and 
I remember, too, just how he said it. Our chairman said to him: 

"Mr. Ingersoll, this Convention wants to nominate you for Gover- 
nor. There is a point raised as to your religious convictions, and the 
possible effects they may have upon the campaign if they arc dis- 
cus.sed. It is a question with the Convention whether it will be wise to 
nominate a man who has the Pronounced Views Which You Have. 

This committee has been appointed to wait upon you and see 
whether you arc willing to ignore these issues and keep them out of 
the campaign. We do not ask that you renounce your convictions, but 
wc wish to have clear understanding with you, so that we may report 
to the Convention.' 

"You see." continued Mr. Fox, "we were unwilling to give up 
the idea of nominating him. Yet we felt that we must mu/zle him in 
advance on the religious question, or it would not do to go into the cam- 
paign with him. Mr. Ingersoll drew himself and replied: 

"'Gentlemen, I am not asking to be Governor of Illinois, and it is 
a grave question with me whether I would accept this nomination if 
offered. I have in my composition that which I have declared to the 
world as my views upon religion. My position I would not, under any 
circumstances, not even for my life, seem to renounce. I would rather 
refuse to be President of the United States than to do so. My religious 
belief is my own. It belongs to me, not to the state of Illinois. While 
I believe in the right of every man to think as he pleases, yet I have 
the moral honesty to Declare from the Housestops My Convictions. I 
feel deeply the interests of the Republican party, yet, gentlemen, I must 

Lost Nomination 47 

say to you again my belief is my own. I renounce nothing. I 
nothing. I ask nothing of the convention. But rest assured that no mat- 
ter whom the Republican party nominates, you can depend upon Bob 
Ingersoll to lalce off his coat and worlifor him " . ' " 

'The committee retired and consulted. It was evident to all of us 
that if we nominated Mr. Ingersoll we should have his views upon reli- 
gion injected into the campaign within a week. He had no idea of allow- 
ing himself to be muzzled on that topic which was dearest to him. The 
very first attack would set him going. Very reluctantly we decided that 
the party could not afford to take such chances. Our Chairman was au- 
thorized to report to the convention. He stated that the committee had 
waited upon Mr. Ingersoll. After a frank interchange of opinion it had 
seemed best to the committee to recommend that Mr. Ingersoll's Name 
Be Dropped from consideration for the nomination. Without any dis- 
cussion the convention adopted the report, although it went against the 
grain of many a warm admirer of the man. Within half an hour we had 
nominated Gen. John M. Palmer. The convention adjourned about 5 
o'clock. That evening from the top of a dry goods box in the public 
square of Peoria Bob Ingersoll made what I shall always say was the 
finest speech of his life. There was not the slightest reference in it to 
religion or to his personal relations to the convention. But it was full 
of patriotic sentiment and of devotion to the Republican party. 

The article is incorrect in several of its assertions of fact. Ingersoll was a Col- 
onel in the Cavalry early, not late, in the war; he was not receiving "more attention 
from the ministers than he does now" [1889]; and he did not "take off his coat 
and work for him [Palmer] in the general election. ' ' Wakefield deleted these asser- 
tions, perhaps because they would reduce the credibility of the rest of the story, 
while Rogers embellished the story. Contemporary lists of delegates from Morgan 
County (Jacksonville) specify twelve names but Fox is not among them. The 
available Jacksonville city directories show no Edward Fox among the residents 
in 1866 and 1871 .^' Although there was an adjournment sometime between noon 
and two o'clock, there is no report concerning the selection of a special committee 
to call on Ingersoll. If any special information was wanted, it concerned Palmer's 
availability, but no special committee was reported in the press. Had such an inci- 
dent occurred, it seems likely that either the opposition press or Ingersoll or one 
of his friends would have revealed it in either the election post-mortems or in their 
memoirs of Ingersoll. Nor was Ingersoll accustomed to shouting his unorthodox 
religious views from the housetops. His developing views were largely expressed 
to his close friends with only an occasional public outburst. His speeches were 
about patriotism, not religion, and he sometimes clothed his orations with biblical 

E. F. Baldwin, writing in 1 876 (he repeated some of the story at the unveiling 
of the Ingersoll statue in Peoria in 1911), also tended toward the dramatic explana- 
tion for Ingersoll's political failure in 1868. According to Baldwin, Ingersoll's 

48 Robert G. Ingersoll 

friends tried to persuade him to avoid a confrontation with Horace White and the 
Chicago Tribune over its attack on Ebon. It was also implied that if Robert would 
allow the Chicago politician A.C. Hesing to manage his appointments. Ingersoll 
could be governor. Ingersoll proudly replied, according to Baldwin that "no man, 
Hesing, nor White, nor Medill, nor any body else could run him," and that he 
would rather "let the Governorship go rather than recede from his position [pro- 
tecting Ebon] though at that time it seemed to him to be ruin of all his political 
hopes." Baldwin's story is more credible than Fox's because he had been a local 
editor of the Transcript when the events were transpiring and because there is 
ample evidence that a confrontation occurred between Robert and the Tribune 
managers. White, however, was not powerful enough to single-handedly side- 
track Ingersoll and the Tribune ofttimes praised his candidacy. Ingersoll may have 
wanted to believe that the Tribune managers were responsible for his defeat be- 
cause such an explanation would prove his great love for his brother . ~- 

There is one credible contemporary account which revolves around Ingersoll's 
views of religion. The New York Times correspondent filed a story from Peoria 
on May 7, 1868, concerning the state convention: "Gen. Palmer absolutely did 
not want the nomination, and if the convention could have been secured without 
a doubt for either Moulton or [Anson] Miller, he would have positively with- 
drawn. Moulton was his favorite. But there were many objections to the nomina- 
tion of Col. Ingersoll, based chiefly on his well-known religious views. As the 
friends of Gen. Palmer were not positive of carrying the convention for Moulton 
against Ingersoll, the General consented to be a candidate; and, another thing, the 
people wanted Gen. Palmer and were determined to have him." The New York 
Tribune editorialized on the religious issue being injected into the Illinois cam- 
paign by insisting that "we feel impelled to insist that they (Ingersoll's religious 
views) nowise affect his fitness for a political office, and should have had no intlu- 
ence one way or another upon his nomination." Soon after the convention, Inger- 
soll was reported to have quipped that he was defeated "owing ... to the fact 
that he was not right on infant baptism." Years later (in 1882) he remembered: 
"The truth is, that a good many people did object to me because I was an infidel, 
and the probability is, that if 1 had denied being an infidel, I might have obtained 
the office."-^ 

Had there been no concern about Ingersoll's religious views, he might have 
been elected governor in 1868 but such a result appears unlikely. Although Inger- 
soll was greatly admired for his oratory and his patriotism, he had no real base 
of political power. He had never been elected to anything and he had no executive 
experience. Oglesby had appointed him attorney general and what little political 
clout Robert had was through Oglesby and his brother Ebon. But Oglesby was 
a lame duck governor, and Ebon kept adding enemies until he was defeated for 
congress in 1870. Robert was too young, too recently a Democrat, too minor a 
war hero, and too mercurial to be a likely candidate. Those attributes and his ex- 
traordinary speaking talent could be put to good use on behalf of some other candi- 
date, but they could not easily be utilized for his own political ambitions. The real 

Lost Nomination 49 

power, in 1868, lay with politician-generals. John Logan, lately the best of the 
volunteer generals and incumbent Illinois congressman-at-large, could have had 
the position, but he was involved in the presidential impeachment trial and he was 
more anxious to have the senate seat (it was rumored that Senator Yates was about 
to resign after his alcoholism was exposed). Logan could ill afford to have an Og- 
lesby-sponsored man in the governor's seat because Oglesby would be a senatorial 
candidate. Palmer, for reasons of family, finance, and politics, was reluctant to 
campaign, but he was unwilling to have just anyone become governor, especially 
someone from the ' ' sinful ' ' city of Peoria who had the reputation of being a some- 
times inebriated, indiscreet, inexperienced, inexorable, and perhaps infidelic 
young man. 

Three days after Robert Ingersoll's defeat in the 1 868 Republican convention, 
he lamented to his brother who had returned to Washington after his congressional 
renomination: "I feel lonely today and a little as though the world was against 
me." A few days later he wrote that he would probably not attend the national 
Republican convention in Chicago: "I am sick of the whole thing. I am thinking 
of bidding a long farewell to all my greatness." But he could not let his "great- 
ness" go without reflecting: "You are the luckiest fellow in the world from the 
fact that all your enemies are d — d fools. Mine are pretty smart.'' Perhaps they 
should both quit politics; "I wish we were both in [New?] York practicing law 
without any hankering for politics," he opined. But his ego was revived by an 
invitation by James G. Blaine to take part in the Maine campaign in September. 
Robert reported that after his speech in Augusta, Maine: "As soon as I concluded, 
[Senator William Pitt] Fessenden came to me, took me by both hands and said 
'That is the best speech I ever heard. There never was a better speech made in 
this world.' [Senator and future Vice-President Henry] Wilson said substantially 
the same thing. . . . Blaine told me that it was incomparably the greatest speech 
he ever heard. "^'^ 

Reinspired by his reception in Maine and Indiana, Robert joined Ebon at home 
in making an effective canvass of Ebon's Fifth District. During the last two weeks 
of the campaign, Robert spoke every day except Sundays. Although Ebon was 
accused of being a drunk, a debaucher, and a nonresident (he maintained no home 
in Peoria and his children attended school in Washington, D.C.), the Democrats 
had little chance to stem the Republican tide with their congressional candidate. 
Dr. John N. Nigias, a former Peoria coroner. Although there was much talk of 
Republican defections, most voters were unwilling to bolt the party of the Union. 
Robert jested by reporting that a Peorian at a state Sunday school convention had 
"asserted that Peoria county was emphatically for Jesus and would go for him 
this fall." If "aforesaid J. C. is running for Congress . . . there is one consolation. 
. . . The republicans of this county or district can't support Jesus without bolting 
the regular nominee," he allowed. Ebon defeated Nigias by a 7,300 majority. "^^ 

With Ebon safely reelected, perhaps there would be something for Robert as 
a reward for his political campaigning for Grant and the Republican party . Perhaps 
it was time for a change of scene as well . On November 22, 1 868 , Robert Ingersoll 

50 Robert G. IngersoU 

wrote to Governor Oglesby: "I am again on the hunt of an office. I have made 
up my mind to leave Peoria and also to go to Chicago. My mind is also made up 
to keep out of politics as/ar as possible. I am in favor of making some money. 
I have therefore concluded to get if possible appointed U.S. District Attorney for 
the Northern District of Illinois." On January 15, 1869, he sent recommendations 
from the Illinois house and senate to Ebon. "It seems to me that my appointment 
is now pretty certain," he wrote, but he instructed Ebon to tell John Logan he 
was not pledged to Oglesby for the Senate. He continued: "I am beginning to feel 
a little anxious to get away from this small and pinched-up town. The fact is there 
is but very little to do here. The fees are small. The whole practice of law here 
is simply arduous to me. ... A great many men in Chicago seem anxious for 
me to come to Chicago. I know that I can get a large practice there outside my 
dist atty business if I get that place." On March 6, he sent his own letter to Grant 
to be delivered with others, including Oglesby's recommendations. He asked 
Ebon to push Henry Wilson to influence Attorney-General E. R. Hoar, on his be- 
half. But no appointment was forthcoming. He would have to be content with his 
office at number 47 Main Street in Peoria, in partnership with his brother-in-law, 
Eugene McCune. On April 1 , he wrote to Ebon: "Illusions of childhood have van- 
ished . . . and the future is daily losing its brightness and beauty. ... I constantly 
ask 'Is this all? Is there nothing more than I have seen'?"-^^ 

Lost Nomination 


Gubernatorial Aspirant, 1868. 


Robert G. Ingersoll 

Patriot Infidel, 7877. 

Lost Nomination 


Robert G. Ingersoll, c. 1890. 


Robert G. Ingersoll 

The Ingersoll statue in Peoria's Glen Oak Park, unveiled on October 28, 191 1. 


Patriot InHdel 

As Robert Ingersoll's disillusionment with politics increased, the cloak of pat- 
riotism began to open slowly to reveal his agnosticism (he called it "infidelity"). 
IngersoU believed that the Republican party, in emancipating the slaves, had freed 
the body-politic physically. But he also wanted the mind freed from institutions, 
especially the church. As a popular Fourth of July and Decoration Day speaker, 
he often linked freedom to his attack on superstition in a manner which was accept- 
able to the community. Until Ebon IngersoU was defeated for reelection in 1870, 
Robert was restrained in presenting his agnostic views, but beginning with "The 
Gods' ' lecture in January of 1 872, he eschewed politics and proclaimed his philos- 
ophy. Patriotism would pull him back into politics in 1 876, but during the 1 868-75 
period his chief interests were philosophy and law. 

On Decoration Day, May 30, 1868, IngersoU delivered the "Eulogy" in 
honor of Peoria's Civil War "fallen heroes," thirty-four of whom were buried 
in the Springdale Cemetery. His oration was delivered in the Courthouse Square 
before a "large assembly." In his attempt to be epical he sometimes became lyri- 
cal, as when he spoke of the "relentless rushes roaring raging round the ragged 
rocks." Although patriotism was the theme, his evolving religious views were 
subtly introduced. "Progress is the religion in which I believe," he asserted. But 
he coupled the statement with, "Liberty is forever, tyranny but for a time. Liberty 
is the condition precedent to all progress." IngersoU did allow that "If there is 
beyond this life a better and nobler, these men are in Paradise."' The complete 
text of the speech as reported in the Peoria Daily Transcript is as follows: 


Again we have assembled to honor the heroic dead, and to consec- 
rate ourselves anew to the great cause for which they sacrificed all. To 
their sacred memory this monument rises, and for their dear sakes it 
is again covered with flowers and the air filled with perfume. There 
is no more sacred duty than to honor the ashes of the grand dead. These 
men, whose names are upon this marble, were the defenders of more 
than their country-of more than the Union. They were the defenders 
of Humanity, Liberty, and Progress. With their strong arms they 
leveled to the dust as many prejudices as enemies. In the name of the 
Future, they slew the monsters of the Past. They destroyed the false, 
but they established the true. 

They abolished the infinitely infamous institution of slavery. They 
established the first, and the only free government in the world. They 
finished what the Revolutionary fathers commenced. They took the 
flag where it fell from their august hands and carried it to a sublimer 

56 Robert G. Ingersoll 

victory. They dedicated our country to Freedom. They laid the founda- 
tions of the great Temple in which future generations will perform the 
grand rites of the religion of Humanity. They rolled the stone from the 
sepulcher of Progress, and found therein two angels, clad in shining 
garments. Liberty and Union, who said to them. Progress is risen. With 
their blood, they purified the flag. Their victories allowed us to tear 
from the statute books, laws made in the interest of robbers. Their 
achievements made it possible for courts to do justice. They took a liv- 
ing coal from the altar of Progress, touched the lips of the people, and 
all overour fair land men speak for. and are willing to die for the rights 
of men. 

They broke the shackles from four million bodies and from thirty 
million souls. Your country was in danger, your institutions had been 
attacked: armies were in the field endeavoring to destroy you. Some 
one had to go, or the United States would be erased from the map of 
the world-some one had to go or the old flag would be torn forever 
from the heavens-some one had to go, or the experiment of free gov- 
ernment was an eternal failure-some one had to go, or liberty was in 
danger of perishing from among men; and these heroic men whose 
names are on this monument went. 

To defeat the enemy some one had to die. In order that the splendid 
eagle of victory might alight on our standard, some one had to die, and 
these men died. 

They met death everywhere, and in every form-upon the weary 
march-on guard in darkness and in the storm-on the deadly skirmish 
line-amid the roar of battle-in the infinite excitement of the charge- 
where victory was achieved-in defeat and disaster-in the hospital filled 
with pain-in the prisons of the South, face to face with famine-upon 
the treacherous waves of the inconstant sea-everywhere where honor 
called they laid down their lives, dying nobly, grandly, sublimely for 
the right. Dismay they never knew, hear was a stranger. Grander than 
the Greek, braver than the Roman were these soldiers of liberty, attack- 
ing the strongholds of treason. Man after man, company after com- 
pany, regiment after regiment sprang to the conflict, scaled heights, 
laughing at shot and shell, shouting defiance in the very face of death, 
sweeping to victory as wave on wave of the great sea, by some wild 
storm in apelled |sic|, relentless rushes roaring raging round the ragged 

These men wc cannot honor. We can honor ourselves, by defend- 
ing the principles for which they died, by endeavoring to pay the debt 
of gratitude we owe them, by reciting to others the deeds they did, and 
keeping their dear memory in our hearts forever. 

These men gave victory to our country-victory to humanity, to prog- 
ress. Had it not been for them and their comrades, we should have been 
a miserable and disgraced people today. But thanks to their achieve- 

America is still the first nationof the world. 

We praise them because they fought for man-wc remember them 

Patriot Infidel 57 

because they destroyed the barbarism of our century, and left our flag 
without a stain. As the earth sweeping through the constellations shall 
bring again this day-again the graves of all the glorious dead will be 
garlanded-again and again will be told their shining deeds-again and 
again will they be tearfully thanked in the name of all that is dear to 
the heart of man. Men will become truly free. Civil and religious lib- 
erty will be the birthright of all. Slavery in all its forms of caste, pre- 
judice, superstition, and robbery will have fled the earth. 

We are for more liberty now than ever before. We are more in favor 
of education. We have more respect for the rights and feelings of 
others, and so it is all over the world. Everywhere we hear the mutter- 
ings of the coming storm that will level thrones with the earth. We feel 
the tremblings of the earthquake that will finally devour the wretches 
who are robbing and oppressing the people in the name of law, govern- 
ment, and security, and even in the name of God. Tyranny is as insec- 
ure the world over as snow on the lips of a volcano. 

Prejudices are dying-man is becoming splendid-Liberty is begin- 
ning to abide with us. We can now speak for the right. During the war 
the moral atmosphere was purified by the roar of cannon as the material 
air is purified by the artillery of heaven. Men grew grand then, and they 
are growing grander still . 

We have concluded to give to others all the right we claim for our- 
selves. We say to all, you shall own your own labor-you shall own 
your own soul, and you shall be protected in these sacred rights wher- 
ever the flag floats and the eagle flies. 

It is unnecessary for me to say anything of the issues of today. 
Every man knows how he stood during the war-whether he was for 
or against his country-whether he honors the dead who died for the 
country, or not. I shall judge no one. But here, by this monument 
covered with immortal names, I thank all who were on the side of Lib- 
erty-all who were in favor of preserving the nation, that freedom might 
be given to all. 

And now that the fearful struggle is over, I am willing to forgive 
even those who fought on the other side the moment they are in favor 
of liberty for all men-the moment they from their hearts are in favor 
of doing justice to all, that moment I am willing to take them by the 
hand and forget the past. 

In a little while we go to our homes. Let us consecrate ourselves 
again to the cause of Liberty. Human Liberty is the shrine at which I 
worship. Progress is the religion in which I believe. Liberty is forever, 
tyranny but for a time. Liberty is the condition precedent to all prog- 
ress. Let us talk for liberty, work for liberty and all are free. The people 
have eyes-give them light. They have lungs-give them air. They have 
souls-give them liberty. 

Do not forget the debt we owe to these dead soldiers whose graves 
you have adorned today. 

If there is beyond this life a better and nobler, these men are in 
Paradise. If after the storms of this world, there is rest, these men are 

58 Robert G. Ingersoll 

at peace. If it is given to the departed to know of the affairs of earth, 
these men are looking upon us filled with unutterable joy that their sac- 
rifices were not made in vain. 

To their comrades now living we render again and again our more 
than thanks-the love of our hearts . 

The dead-the immortal dead, whose bodies rest beneath the tlow- 
ers-we leave clasped in the loving arms of the Infinite forever. 

On August 3, 1868, Ingersoll addressed "The Colored People's Celebration" 
at the Peoria Fairgrounds. In celebration of the end of slavery in the West Indies, 
Ingersoll told the blacks (he was unique at that time in using the term) that slavery 
had been supported by the government and the church. He argued that John Brown 
was the greatest of men but he concluded: "You owe no great debt to the whites. 
The Truth is we had to give you your liberty. "" 

Ingersoll ventured further in using a mixture of patriotism and agnosticism 
when he addressed the German societies on the Fourth of July, 1869. Because 
it was a Sunday, most Protestants refused to attend. But Ingersoll argued that it 
was a holiday "not because it is the sabbath but because it is the day on which 
we celebrate the great cause of human liberty." "I propose," he continued, "to 
say something about the tyranny of thrones and the superstition of churches." The 
church and the throne had done much to resist freedom: "Every man that stood 
up for liberty of the human soul has been denounced. They have been called in- 
fidels, philosophers, freethinkers, and mathematicians," he concluded. "* 

Meanwhile, Ingersoll had taken a more systematic version of his emerging re- 
ligious views on the road. On March 11,1 869, he delivered an expanded version 
of his lecture "Progress" in Bloomington. Ingersoll lived up to the promise of 
the promoters who warned that "... old fogies who ... are afraid of the free 
spirit of the Nineteenth Century . . . had better stay away, as the Colonel is a thor- 
ough believer in Progress." Ingersoll criticized the lack of religious toleration in 
"a masterly and eloquent and sometimes exceedingly humorous manner," the 
Bloomington Pantagraph reported. The main thrust of the lecture was: "Reason 
is the only safe guide to all things." When the same lecture was given in Decatur 
two weeks later, however, the local newspaper was not so magnanimous. "Does 
the gentleman mean to teach that there is no God but law," the editor queried. 
"The doctrine is not point blank Atheism, but it is practically so," he concluded. 
Back in Peoria, Ingersoll more subtly aired his views on the occasion of his 
speech, "Delivered at Peoria, Illinois at the Unveiling of a Statue of Humboldt 
on September 14, 1869." The main theme was that "The Universe is Governed 
by Law.""* 

The minds of Peorians seem to have been in unusual ferment in the winter of 
1870. Susan B. Anthony. Frederick Douglass, John Wesley Powell of Grand Ca- 
nyon fame, and ahostof minstrels came to town. Beginning in January a revivalist 
movement began to capture the attention of most Peorians. No less than seven 
churches scheduled noon prayer sessions and "hell-fire preaching" every eve- 

Patriot Infidel 59 

ning. Visiting committees canvassed the city to pray with families and went 
"through distilleries, saloons, houses of ill-fame . . . trying to win them by the 
simple story of the Cross. ..." Ingersoll warned that baptism was the fashion 
and that "little boys that can't swim will have to stand back." Ingersoll confided 
to Governor Oglesby that he liked "mythology better than theology." After read- 
ing a version of Rig-Veda Sanhita, which filled his mind with "ghostly embraces, 
heavenly adulteries and divine fornications," he was ready to "bid adieu to the 
cold religions of the North. ' '^ 

On March 15, 1870, a women's suffrage convention was held at Rouse's Hall 
where Susan B. Anthony spoke in favor of equal rights for women. Colonel Inger- 
soll was placed in nomination for a seat on the resolutions committee, but he pro- 
tested that "he was neither a politician nor a woman" and should not serve. He 
spoke, however, in favor of a constitutional amendment for equal rights. He ar- 
gued, in an eloquent speech, that voting should not be a privilege but a right. ' 'The 
world was beginning to be governed by thought, and the women had as much of 
that as man had . . .," he contended. Interestingly, W. T. Dowdall, the editor 
of the opposition Democrat newspaper, joined Ingersoll in demanding women's 
rights. This led Enoch Emery of the Republican Transcript to snipe: "Dowdall 
made an energetic speech, showing his readiness to shake hands, feet and toe nails 
with Colonel Ingersoll . "^ 

The women's suffrage movement in Peoria was concurrent with the debate 
being carried on in Springfield at the state constitutional convention. Emery gave 
prominent coverage to the opposition under the heading "AGAINST WOMAN 
Wheaton was fresh from a well-received, anti-suffrage lecture at the convention 
site. On March 31 , Professor Hewitt of Illinois State Normal University debated 
Susan Anthony on the suffrage issue before "a slim audience assembled, at 
Rouse's Hall. " The capstone of the debate may have been Robert Ingersoll' s April 
29, 1870, address at the meeting called to select delegates to a National Suffrage 
Convention. Emery headed his report: "WOMAN SUFFRAGE CONVENTION 
SUFFRAGE, but he offered a fair summary of the speech. The speech is revealing 
as it combines references to religion, slavery, and women's suffrage. On May 6, 
1870, the Illinois Constitutional Convention voted to strike the article providing 
for woman suffrage, but Ingersoll had spoken out, perhaps to the detriment of his 
career, and by implication, his brother's political future. The following is the com- 
plete text of Ingersoll's suffrage speech as reported by the Peoria Daily Transcript 
on April 30, 1870.^ 


The evening session was mainly occupied by an address by Col. 
R. G. Ingersoll. The speaker announced at the outset that neither the 
ladies' suffrage association nor anyone else was responsible for what 
he was going to say. He had some dear friends who differed entirely 

60 Robert G. Ingersoll 

from him in political and religious opinions. It was the sheerest cowar- 
dice not to grant others the privilege of believing as they deem best. 
If he were either an atheist or a religious enthusiast, he would boldly 
declare what he believed. America was full of the most abject moral 
cowardice. It was time that we had more individuality. It was time that 
someone dared to disregard the tenets of either churches or political 
parties if he chose. This zoological garden system was about worn out. 
It was time to quit making an inventory of human beings as so many 
millions of one sect or denomination, and so many millions of another, 
and to fmd those who utterly disregarded public sentiment and dared 
to believe what they chose, and to agree with themselves at least. He 
chose to regard woman as a reasoning, responsible human being, and 
his equal at least. The history of woman was the history of slavery. 
In early times the wife was such, only at the pleasure of the husband, 
and females were only the subjects of bargain and sale. Early religious 
people have been responsible for holding women as much inferior to 
men as men are inferior to the Deity. Early theologians used to hold 
that all the evils of life grew out of the sin of woman in eating the apple, 
and that a cannon ball would not have killed, nor water drowned, had 
not woman been guilty of that crime. Celibacy was regarded as the 
highest type of excellence, and marriage only a sin and snare, indulged 
in by the giddy and thoughtless. Women were not allowed to be heard 
in public, they were commanded to keep their veils down, and mouths 
shut, and were simply the slaves of slaves. We are indebted to the an- 
cient Hindoos for the beautiful sentiment that he who strikes a woman, 
even with a flower, is guilty of the basest crime. There men were re- 
stricted to one wife each, and were allowed at least a brief courtship. 
In free America, a man may beat the face of his dying wife, and gener- 
ally pays, seldom more and never less than three dollars in cash, while 
he goes to prison for three years for stealing a worthless horse. Among 
the Spartans, affection had nothing to do with the subject of mat- 
rimony. Among the Chinese and Mohammedans the candidate for mat- 
rimony is kept closely veiled, except for examination, and had nothing 
to say in thechoiccof a husband. It is only in the higher stages of civili- 
zation that woman has been recognized as the equal of man . 

In the late debate in this city it was claimed that if women were 
to vote, society would become corrupt and immoral. If the argument 
means anything, it means that woman's virtue is dependent upon priva- 
tion of liberty; make a woman dependent and she will be honest and 
virtuous, make her free and she will become bad. If that be true, those 
who enjoy freedom and independence are necessarily corrupt. Politics 
are indispensible to the management of the government, and if neces- 
sarily degrading, then those who toil for popular liberty are inevitably 
base and vicious. Virtue depends upon no such basis. Politics never 
can degrade. Bad people may make them bad. Good people can make 
them pure, and if woman would not elevate the political affairs, it only 
shows a disbelief and want of confidence in the natural purity and vir- 
tue of woman. 

Patriot Infidel 61 

The opponents of female suffrage say that woman ought not to vote 
unless she can shoulder a musket and defend the country. We already 
have vast numbers who vote, but do not go to the front and fight, but 
whose offices and efforts are just as valuable to safety of the country, 
as those who do. The offices of woman in raising the soldier and in 
furnishing hospital supplies, are just as valuable as those of the soldier 
and just as worthy of being represented at the ballot-box . 

One of the bug-bears of the opponents of suffrage is that women, 
if they vote, must be elected constables and serve on juries. Men over 
sixty years of age vote now, yet cannot serve on juries according to 
the laws of this state. Whether or not women would serve on juries 
would be entirely a matter of legislative enactment. Another fear is that 
women's rights tend to free love. He would have no marriage made 
permanent, where the wife was forced to marry as the only means of 
getting bread, and where courtship ceased at the altar and love ceased 
at the threshold of married life. If McFarland was kind to his wife he 
ought to be acquitted for killing Richardson. If cruel and abusive to 
her, he ought to be hung for killing the man who rescued her from his 
grasp. He would have an end of tying together permanently the Kil- 
kenny cats, and would have an end of offspring born of hatred and dis- 
gust. Another fear was that the families would suffer from want and 
neglect, if mothers went to vote. Now, if women voted, they would 
be called upon to do so once or twice a year only, and we may with 
equal solicitude ask, what becomes of babies when mothers attend 
church fifty-two times a year? He would have woman neither an in- 
ferior nor a superior, but an equal and a companion . 

The Ingersoll brothers may also have been injured politically by their sponsor- 
ship of "probably the first colored appointee of the federal government in the 
state" in the person of Civil War veteran W. L. Barnes of Peoria to the office 
of the revenue storekeeper. Robert had a reputation for befriending blacks includ- 
ing Frederick Douglass, the most prominent Negro leader of the era. In his auto- 
biography, Douglass describes an incident in Peoria in which he was welcomed 
by the "infidel" when Christian ministers had been less solicitious. Douglass, 
fearing that he would not be allowed to stay in any Peoria hotel, had expressed 
his concerns to a friend in a nearby town. The friend had assured him that Ingersoll 
"would gladly open his doors to you," that he was a man "who will receive you 
in any weather ... at midnight or at cockcrow." Douglass was accommodated 
in a Peoria hotel, but he called on Ingersoll the next day and "received a welcome 
from Mr. Ingersoll and his family which would have been a cordial to the bruised 
heart of any proscribed and storm-beaten stranger, and one which I can never 
forget or fail to appreciate."^ Douglass, who had married a white woman, was 
an embarrassment to some Republicans and an anathema to most Democrats. 

Robert Ingersoll's Decoration Day, 1870, address at the dedication of the sol- 
dier monument in Springdale Cemetery was more patriotic and less agnostic than 
his 1868 Decoration Day oration, but it was no less epical. Interestingly, it con- 

62 Robert G. Ingersoll 

tains almost the entire "A Vision of War" section of the speech for which Inger- 
soll became famous six years later. The speech "Delivered to the Veteran Soldiers 
of the Rebellion" in Indianapolis on September 20, 1876, is the most quoted of 
Ingersoll's political speeches. Known both as the "Bloody-Shirt" and as the "Vi- 
sion of War" speech, it was in fact two speeches, one damning the Democrats 
for disloyalty and praising the Republicans and another repeating verbatim about 
half of his 1870 address. Ingersoll did not publish the 1870 oration in his twelve 
volume Works, perhaps because it would have made the Indianapolis speech ap- 
pear less original. It is published here as it appeared in the Peoria Daily Transcript 
(May 31,1 870). The material which is verbatim from the 1 870 speech in the 1 876 
speech is in italics. Words that were added or changed for the Indianapolis speech 
are in brackets.*^ 

MAY 30, 1870 

Again, we have assembled to honor our heroic dead-to scatter 
flowers upon their silent home.s-to again thank them that we have a 
nation-that we are free, and they the sky still blos.soms with the flag. 
Again, we thank them, and with them, all the heroes of the world, liv- 
ing and dead. All that we have, all that we are, we owe to them, and 
to-day our hearts go out and scatter flowers upon them all. Those who 
lingered and languished in prisons that we might be free-thosc who 
wore shackles that we might be chainless, we thank again, and again, 
and again. 

And not only do we honor those who have broken the chains of 
political slavery, but those who have given us intellectual frec- 
dom-thc grave thinkers who have groped their way into the dreary pris- 
ons of ignorancc-the damp and dropping dungeon.s-the dark and silent 
cells of Fear, where the souls of men were chained to floors of stone- 
greeted them like a ray of light-like the song of a bird-like the murmur 
of a stream-took the poor souls gradually into the blessed light of day- 
let them .see again the happy fields, the sweet green earth, and hear the 
everlasting music of the waves-wiped the dust from their swollen 
knees, the tears from their blanched and furrowed face.s-reaved the 
heavens of insatiate monsters, and wrote upon the eternal dome, glit- 
tering with stars, the sacred word, "Liberty." 

To-day we honor all the heroes. They who have unbound the martyr 
from the stake-thcy who have broken all the chains in our native land- 
thcy who have quenched the fires of civil war, stayed the sword of the 
fanatic, put out the flames of perdition with the sweet tears of pity-they 
who have made us truly, grandly free, and have torn the bloody hands 
of superstition and slavery from the white throat of Progress. 

These men upon whose graves we have scattered flowers were the 
founders of the first and only free government of the world-thc first 
to rise above the vile prejudice of caste, the ignorant hatred of color, 
and to declare humanity sacred everywhere and forever. They were the 

Patriot Infidel 63 

first to make men equal before the sublime bar of justice. They were 
the saviors of a nation, the founders of a new and purer republic, and 
above all, they were the defenders of universal freedom. There is no 
liberty except in the new world, under our flag, and in the land made 
sacred by these graves. 

The liberty of Europe is a delusion and a fraud. There, the political 
power is lodged with noble robbers and titled thieves, and in the church 
.ludas Iscariot has complete control of the other eleven. Infallibility and 
Divine Right are the watch-words of retrogression, brutality and cun- 
ning. Here, and only here, man at last is free. Here the tree watered 
by all the sacred blood first bloomed, and the first fruit fell upon these 

As we look upon this monument and read the names by which it 
is adorned, the past rises like a dream before us. Again we are in the 
great struggle for national life. We hear the sounds of preparation-the 
music of the boisterous drums-the silver voices of heroic bugles. We 
see thousands of assemblages, and hear the appeals of the orators: we 
see the pale cheeks of women, and the flushed faces of men; and in 
those assemblages we see all the dead whose dust we have covered with 
flowers. We lose sight of them no more. We are with them when they 
enlist in the great army of freedom . We see them part with those they 
love. Some are walking for the last time in quiet woody places with the 
maidens they adore. We hear the whisperings and the sweet vows of 
eternal love as they lingeringly part forever . Others are bending over 
cradles, kissing babes that are asleep. Some are receiving the bles- 
sings of old men. Some are parting with mothers who hold them, and 
press them to their hearts again and again, and say nothing, [Kisses 
and tears, tears and kisses-mingling of agony and love!] and some are 
talking with wives, and endeavoring with grave words spoken in the 
old tones to drive from their hearts the awful fear. We see then part. 
We see the wife standing in the door with the babe in her arms-standing 
in the sunlight sobbing-at the turn of the road i handkerchief waves- 
she answers by holding high in her loving hands [arms] the child. He 
is gone, and forever. 

We see them all as they march proudly away under the flaunting 
flags, keeping time to the wild grand music of war-marching down the 
streets of the great cities-through the towns and across the prairies- 
down to the fields of glory, to do, and to die for the eternal right . 

We go with them one and all. We are by their side on all the gory 
fields-in all the hospitals of pain-on all the weary marches. We stand 
guard with them in the wild storm, and under the quiet stars. We are 
with them in ravines running with blood-in the furrows of old fields . 
We are with them between contending hosts, unable to move, wild with 
thirst, the life ebbing slowly away among the withered leaves. We see 
them pierced by balls and torn with shells in the trenches by forts, and 
in the whirlwind of the charge, where men become iron, with nerves 
of steel. 

64 Robert G. Ingersoll 

We are with them in the prisons of hatred and famine; but human 
speech can never tell what they endured. 

We are at home when the news comes that they are dead. We see 
the maiden in the shadow of her first sorrow. We see the silvered head 
of the old man bowed with the last great grief. We see the white face 
of the wife as she thinks in her broken heart. There is no God, while 
the babes laugh and prattle as before. 

We see orphans clinging to the torn and faded dresses of the poor. 

The past rises before us. and we see four millions of human beings 
governed by the lash-we see them bound hand and foot-we hear the 
strokes of cruel whips-we see the hounds tracking women through 
tangled swamps. We see babes sold from the breasts of mothers. 
Cruelty unspeakable! Outrage infinite! 

Four million bodies in chains-four million souls in fetters. All the 
sacred relations of wife, mother, father and child, trampled beneath 
the brutal feet of MIGHT. And all this was done under our own beauti- 
ful banner of the stars . 

The past rises before us . We hear the roar and shriek of the bursting 
shell. The broken fetters fall. These heroes whom we honor this day- 
died. We look. Instead of slaves, we see men. and women and children. 
The wand of progress touches the auction block, the slave-pen, the 
whipping post, and we see homes and fire sides, and school houses and 
books, and where all was want and crime, and cruelty and fear, we 
see the happy faces of the FREE! 

[These heroes are dead. They died for liberty-they died for us. 
They are at rest. I 

Peace came with justice-eternal .security with liberty. 

The forts arc crumbling away. The hatreds engendered by war arc 
dying out of the hearts of men, and over the broken cannon clamber 
the roses of joy. 

We are the heirs of all the heroes. We have the fruits of all the vic- 
tories. All the homes have been made desolatc-thc widows have wcpt- 
the children have been fathcrlcs.s-the whole earth has been red with 
blood and covered with brave dead, for us and for our children forever. 
Down the ages yet to be will How blessings from these graves, and the 
children of the future will be grander far than we. We have pas.sed mid- 
night in the world's history, and the morning of freedom blushes over 
the earth. A few more years-a few more revolutions-a few more hertxis 
dead-a few more graves like these -and men, and women, too, will be 
truly free. Justice will sit in the courts, and wisdom in the councils of 
the world. Charity will take the place of greed, and industry, guided 
by the holy light of .science, will feed and clothe mankind. Kor all this 
we thank the heroes, living and dead. 

The human race must progress. The heart of man will not always 
be stained with crime-beggars will not always ask for bread-prisons 
will not always scar the earth. The shadow of the gallows will not al- 
ways curse the ground. Children will not always be deformed by labor. 

Patriot Infidel 65 

and misery will not abide with man forever. The human race must 

The prophecies of the grand and good must be fulfilled-the dreams 
of the enthusiast must become real, and joy must clothe the earth as 
with a garment. 

The visions fade away-the thunders of conflict die in the far dis- 
tance , and over us al 1 are the wings of Peace . 

Again, we must bid our brave dead-Farewell. They have passed 
from us, and forever. They need nothing that we can give. We need 
them. Liberty draws inspiration from these graves, and new life from 
these dead. They have been gathered home by the Universal Mother. 
They sleep in the land they made free-under the flag they rendered 
stainless-under the solemn pines-the sad hemlocks-the tearful wil- 
lows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the 
clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless 
palace of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars. They are at peace. 
In the midst of battle-in the roar of conflict they found the serenity of 
death. [I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for 
the living; tears for the dead.] While gratitude has memory, these men 
can never be forgotten. When we are dust, other voices will tell their 
deeds and recount their sacrifices, and as long as flowers bloom, other 
hands will lovingly adorn these graves. 

Soldiers and Saviours of the Great Republic Farewell . 

Robert Ingersoll's views on women, blacks, and "progress" account only in 
part for Ebon Clark Ingersoll's failure to gain reelection as the Fifth District con- 
gressman in 1870. Trouble had been brewing within the party since Ebon's first 
election in place of the deceased abolitionist Owen Lovejoy in 1864. As a late 
convert to the Republican party and a nonveteran. Ebon met opposition from cer- 
tain segments in the party. But events, and Ebon's popular radicalism (plus 
Robert's skillful management and powerful patriotic speeches) kept him in office 
through 1870. Enoch Emery, as the Peoria party leader. Republican newspaper 
editor, and federal officeholder, also contributed to Ebon's tenure, but he too 
gradually gained enemies from other cities within the district. Powerful aspirants 
for the congressional seat included John H. Bryant of Princeton, the brother of 
the distinguished editor of the New York Evening Post, Clark Carr, postmaster 
of Galesburg and editor of the Galesburg Republican, and General Thomas Hen- 
derson, who had challenged Ebon in previous contests. When an anti-Ingersoll 
rump convention supported General Henderson for the nomination, the Ingersoll 
forces cleverly instituted the new primary election system which gave the nomina- 
tion to Ebon.' ° 

The dissident Republicans were not satisfied and they ran B.N. Stevens of 
Tiskilwa as an independent. The Democrats did not nominate Stevens as their can- 
didate but they "recommended" him to the voters. Democratic and other opposi- 
tion presses made the most of Ebon's nonresidence, his recent trip to Europe, his 

66 Robert G. IngersoU 

connection with the Whiskey Ring, his Greenbackerism (for which the Chicago 
Tribune also opposed him) and, most of all, his alleged profanity, intemperance, 
and atheism. A statement making these charges was circulated by numerous pas- 
tors and temperance men on the eve of the election. Between Ebon's absence dur- 
ing much of the campaign and Robert's less spirited (in both the physical and re- 
ligious sense) campaign, the IngersoU "clique" was defeated by a 1,500 vote 
majority (compared to Ebon's 7,000 vote majority in 1868). A few days after the 
election, Robert wrote to Gov. Oglesby: "You have probably heard something 
drop over in the 5th district. Well! Goodbye politics, I have had all I want. From 
this day henceforth and forever I am out of the business. Hoping you will succeed 
in being the Senator to represent the d — d fools."" Unfortunately for Robert, 
Oglesby was defeated for the Senate, and his brother Ebon shook the Peoria dust 
off his boots and returned to Washington to resume his already flourishing law 

With the defeat of his beloved brother for Congress and his benefactor Oglesby 
for the Senate in 1870-71 , all restraint concerning the public airing of Ingersoll's 
religious views was removed. He wrote to Oglesby: "I am busy as a bee, having 
nothing to do with politics-don't care a d-n what party succeeds-feel no interest 
in anything but infidelity and law-the first gratifies my mind-the second feeds 
and clothes my body and the bodies of those I love." Between 1870 and 1876 
Ingersoll's talents were channeled away from politics into the law and philosophy. 
His oratorical skills gave him instant gratification and made it easy to forget past 
political failures. On January 30, 1871 , IngersoU and about twenty of his Peoria 
friends took a train to nearby Fairbury to join in the celebration of the 1 34th an- 
niversary of the birth of Thomas Paine. IngersoU made an oration on Thomas 
Paine which was pronounced by his friends as superior even to his Humboldt lec- 
ture. About 600 people attended and a banquet followed. A group of "free-thin- 
kers" who had migrated from New England had built a hall for such occasions. '"^ 

The next Tom Paine Celebration in Fairbury on January 29, 1872, was the 
occasion for Ingersoll's first "point-blank" assault on religion. A month earlier, 
Robert had written Ebon that he was preparing a lecture on "The Gods" and he 
promised to send a copy "to get your idea as to the propriety of its publication." 
Several of Ingersoll's friends chartered a special railroad coach and the Peorians 
were joined by others en route. Some 600 ladies and gentlemen filled the hall in 
the evening to hear Parker Pillsbury speak on Paine for one and one-half hours 
and Colonel IngersoU speak on "The Gods" for two and one-half hours. After 
the speeches, there was a "splendid supper" followed by "dancing and social 
enjoyment. ' ' The special train did not return until eight o'clock the next morning. 
Word soon circulated around Peoria about the address and IngersoU was per- 
suaded to repeat his performance at Rouse's Hall on February 23, 1872. Soon the 
preachers and Enoch Emery of the Transcript were answering Ingersoll's irreligi- 
ous arguments with considerable verve. But Robert received the praise he most 
wanted when Ebon wrote: "You are the bravest and most heroic thinker and talker 
of this or any other age. "' "* 

Patriot Infidel 67 

' 'The Gods" opened: "An honest God is the noblest work of Man . ' ' Ingersoll 
then proceeded to ridicule the gods, making it clear that he included the Judeo- 
Christian God. He charged that the gods, because they were created by ignorant 
people, "are woefully deficient in geology and astronomy." Ingersoll could not 
keep his political views out of the oration completely. "As a rule, they [the Gods] 
were miserable legislators, and as executives, they were far inferior to the average 
of American presidents," he dead-panned. Ingersoll continued with his rapier wit 
to destroy with overstated criticism his unseen enemies while defending his views 
as rational. He could not abide a god which was wrathful, ignorant, and above 
all, one which condoned slavery of the body or the mind. The god of the old-testa- 
ment or the Calvinist god of his father, the Rev. John Ingersoll, was little better 
than the other "pagan" gods which superstitious people the world over had 
created. Ingersoll concluded that a better future would only come when 
"REASON, throned upon the world's brain, shall be the King of Kings, and the 
God of Gods. "'^ 

Henry Ward Beecher took note in the Christian Union (May 15, 1872) that 
people in Illinois were "muchexercisedby one of the utterances of a lawyer, Col- 
onel Robert G. Ingersoll, who has the temerity to pervert the words of (not the) 
Pope, and says: 'An honest God is the noblest work of man.' It strikes us as a 
very ingenious parody, and a very sensible remark." The Beecher quotation was 
reprinted in many newspapers and Robert Ingersoll began to claim a bit of fame. 
But it was infamy in the eyes of most people and IngersoU's "God is the noblest 
work of man" became the straw man which most preachers were obliged to knock 
down well into the twentieth century. Ingersoll followed, in 1873, with a new lec- 
ture, "Individuality." He argued that institutions and customs as well as orthodox 
theology inhibited "individuality and mental freedom." The lecture, "Heretics 
and Heresies," given in Chicago at the invitation of the Free Religious Society 
on Sunday, May 3, 1874, was IngersoU's next effort. He reveled in being called 
a heretic because, as he saw it, men who were individualistic and honest were, 
by orthodox definition, heretics. "The Bible burned heretics, built dungeons, 
founded the Inquisition, and trampled upon the liberties of men. How long. Oh 
how long will mankind worship a book," he asked. The 7ran5cr/;7r called the lec- 
ture "Another Ingersollian Fulmination." In June of 1874, Ingersoll published 
"The Gods," "Humboldt," "Thomas Paine," "Individuality," and "Heretics 
and Heresies," in book form. The Gods received favorable notices from most 
Chicago and St. Louis newspapers. The publisher anticipated sales of 25,000 

Although Robert IngersoU's religious views were an anathema to most citizens 
of Peoria, including editor Emery, they enjoyed his company. Soon after he deliv- 
ered "The Gods" in Peoria, "a large number of respectable and influential citi- 
zens, of all shades of politics and religion-probably those of the colonel's peculiar 
views predominating," gathered at IngersoU's "capacious drawing rooms" in his 
home and presented him with a silver service valued at $375. Enoch Emery, on 
behalf of the donors, made the presentation, "not on account of any particular 

68 Robert G. I ngersoll 

act, expression of sentiment of yours, but it is out of their regard for you as a fellow 
citizen, a neighbor and a friend." While they did not altogether agree with the 
colonel, "politically and otherwise, yet they admire your intellect, your generous 
disposition, your honesty of sentiment and your fearless independence of charac- 
ter and expression in all that appertains to life and the civil and religious views 
and questions that grow out of life." The presentation was made on the assump- 
tion that even though a man "who goes honestly about his business, acting as he 
thinks is honorable and right," may enjoy a "serenity and peace of mind" based 
upon his own judgment, yet "there is a little additional zest given to his happiness 
by the fact . . . that he possesses the approval and esteem of his fellow citizens." 
Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll responded, perhaps more pointedly than they had 


Gentlemen: To say that I am gratified and proud, so far as expres- 
sing my real feelings is concerned, is about the same as saying nothing. 
A hundred years ago. in any country where Christians had the power, 
a man, for the expression of my sentiments, would probably have been 
burned as Calvin burned Servetus, with a slow fire, fed with green 
wood, while people who prayed for their enemies would have made 
mouths at his heroism, or jccringly imitated his cries of pain. 

For the expression of my sentiments, fifty years ago, even in this 
republic, a man would have been mobbed and impri.soncd by Chris- 
tians who carried out the fugitive slave law and made a whipping-post 
ofthe cross of Christ. 

Thanks to the brave men of the past, we arc at last beginning to 
be free, and now we can express our real thoughts without the fear of 
lash or chain. 

it is our good fortune to live in a better and grander age, and when 
thinking of what we now enjoy it is impossible to forget the sufferings 
endured by the pioneers in the sacred cause of freedom . 

To-night I can see Galileo in his cell. I .sec the flames creeping 
around the grand Bruno. Through the smoke I see his white, intrepid 
face, i am looking at Savonarola, and 1 hear the shouts of the christian 
mob when the fire reaches his serene eyes. I see Wightman at the stake. 
i sec pious people piling fagots about him and 1 see ministers of God 
trample upon his charred remains. 1 see Leighton pursued, whipped, 
multilated and imprisoncd-l see him, by christian outrage, driven to 
insanity and tortured to death while a maniac, i sec LaBarrc burned 
to ashes for an indignity offered to a statue. I .see thousands of infidels 
in prison. I see their families in want. I see courts tearing children from 
fathers and mothers in the name of religion, and everywhere. I .see the 
friends of intellectual liberty despised, ostracised and insulted; and 1 
can hear even ministers slandering the dcfen.seless dead. But the world 
is better now. and wc are reaping the priceless harvest of the heroic 
acts ofall the ages. 

Patriot Infidel 69 

To-night, I thank every man who has expressed his honest 
thoughts. And, gentlemen, I thank you, and through you, every one 
who has in the least contributed towards this splendid testimonial, not 
only for your friendship and kindness to me, but for your courage and 
for your devotion to principle . 

Most of all, I thank you for being the friends of mental freedom. 
I have no idea that you agree with me in many of my religious, or rather 
irreligious opinions; but I know that you believe in liberty of thought 
and speech , and for that you have my thanks and respect . 

Although the intrinsic value of your gift is great, still that is as noth- 
ing, when compared with the reason for which you give it. That renders 
it priceless to me. And to-night I pledge myself to you, that while I 
live the sentiments I entertain shall be expressed. 

Again and again, gentlemen, I thank you for this magnificent gift. 

Robert Ingersoll's disgust with the Republican party coincided with the Lib- 
eral Republican movement of 1 872. Both the regular Republicans and the Liberal 
Republians vied to recruit the great stump speaker, but Ingersoll's disdain for both 
parties and his general weariness of politics caused him to sit out the 1872 presi- 
dential campaign. Ingersoll's dislike for Grant was fed by the president's failure 
to appoint him U.S. attorney and by the Republican party's acceptance of Con- 
gressman Stevens who, as an independent, had beaten Ebon in 1870. When it was 
rumored that Oglesby was being urged to run for governor again in order to help 
the party, IngersoU wrote to his friend: "I will not support Grant and am very sorry 
to see you pocket the insults of years and again give your time and talents for the 
purpose of putting small and mean men into responsible positions." Ingersoll's 
assessment was that Oglesby and, by implication, IngersoU, was being courted 
because: "The party needs you to carry the state and the moment the party does 
need a man he begins to be treated decently. I wish you would keep out of politics 
this campaign and let Grant and his d — d minions run things alone. ' ' ' ^ 

Enoch Emery approached Oglesby to contact President Grant through Indiana 
Senator Oliver Morton with an eye to "getting a mutual friend. Col. IngersoU 
again on the Republican track." Emery suggested that IngersoU might speak 
against the president if some accommodation was not made. Oglesby returned 
from a meeting with Morton with assurances that Grant had "feelings of utmost 
kindness and respect" for IngersoU and that he regretted that he had not been able 
to fill Ingersoll's patronage recommendations. Oglesby asked IngersoU to help out 
with Grant's campaign but finally concluded: "If you cannot do so I will heartily 
excuse you and go on alone . " ' ^ 

Jesse Fell, who was active in the Liberal Republican party, asked IngersoU 
to attend their Cincinnati National Convention to speak for candidate David Davis 
of Bloomington. IngersoU replied: "You must not expect me to make a speech 
at Cincinnati. I am done. ... If ever in this world a man was thoroughly sick 
of political speaking, I am that man. ... I am going to take no active part for 
any body. " IngersoU did support his old Republican friend Oglesby for governor. 

70 Robert G. Ingersoll 

He also hosted and introduced Senator Morton at a Peoria Republican rally, but 
Ingersoll was silent on Grant. If Ingersoll was tempted to join Grant's opponents, 
the urge was quelled by the knowledge that most of his old enemies, especially 
John M. Palmer and Lyman Trumbull, had joined the Liberal Republican party. 
Ingersoll's retirement from politics held until 1 876. ''^ 

Without politics, Ingersoll had only his philosophy and the law to fuel personal 
ambitions. For the moment, his philosophy paid no monetary dividends but his 
law practice was lucrative. On June 17, 1874, the Peoria Transcript reported: 
"Col. Bob Ingersoll's long silence on all the leading religious questions of the 
day was explained on yesterday by two hugh volumes," which he filed in the 
United States courts concerning the foreclosure on a $6,200,000 mortgage on the 
Toledo, Peoria, and Warsaw Railroad.-" 

At various times Ingersoll represented the Illinois Central and the Peoria and 
Rock Island railroads; and he was elected president of the P. & R.I. in 1876. He 
also served as prosecutor and defense attorney in various cases involving fraud. 
At various times during his twenty-year career in Peoria, he was in partnership 
with his brother Ebon. J.J. Weed, George and Sabin Puterbaugh. and his brother- 
in-law, Eugene McCune. The firm advertised that it served "Peoria, Tazewell, 
Woodford, Stark and Mason counties and in the Federal and Supreme Courts." 
Ingersoll made local partners in various counties as well. The firm had offices at 
45 Main Street, then 46 Main Street and-in I874-in the Second National Bank 
building at Main and Washington streets.'' 

Although the Colonel sustained certain losses of business because of the 
Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Panic of 1873, he prospered. The law provided him 
with gratification and money, but he usually contended that he was only involved 
because it "feeds and clothes my body and the bodies of those I love." It appar- 
ently fed them well. In 1874, he wrote that he weighed 221, his wife 178, 
daughters Eva Robert (named for her mother and father) age eleven, 100, and 
Maud Robert, age nine, 97. "So you see we are not Dwarfs," he wrote, adding: 
"We are all good Infidels, and believe in no nonsense." Before leaving Peoria, 
they lived in a mansion at 201 North Jefferson. They also had the leisure time 
to make a grand tour of Europe in 1 875 . -' 

Ingersoll had become a big fish in a small puddle. When Peoria dedicated its 
new chamber of commerce by inviting guests from the nation's major cities to 
attend a banquet, the Chicaf^o Times reported: "The governor and state officers 
favored the dedication with their presence; the theological anarch. Ingersoll, (who 
heaps residential honor on the locality) made loud laughter by quaint remarks to 
the festal occurrence." But greater "festal occurrences" were in store for Inger- 
soll in 1 876 as a lawyer, political speaker, and "theological anarch. ""^^ 


Plumed Knight 

In 1876, Ingersoll burst upon the national scene. His oratorical skills brought 
him prominence as a trial lawyer and as a political speaker. His nomination speech 
for James G. Blaine at the Republican National Convention thrust his name into 
the limelight. Blaine, for whom Ingersoll coined the phrase "the Plumed Knight" 
in his nomination speech, faltered but Ingersoll 's fame was assured thereafter. The 
"Plumed Knight" appellation fit Ingersoll better than it suited Blaine. Ingersoll, 
the orator, was prepared to charge off on a crusade to save the nation from the 
Democrats and the people from the churches. The reputation he had gained in ac- 
complishing the former helped him gain a nationwide audience for the latter after 
the election. During the centennial year, Ingersoll won the Munn case, delivered 
an eloquent centennial oration on the Fourth of July, nominated Blaine, and gave 
dozens of campaign speeches, including the famous "Bloody Shirt" address to 
the veteran soldiers. His campaigning brought no political rewards but after the 
election campaign, he delivered "Ghosts" and "The Liberty of Man, Woman, 
and Child," in dozens of cities at very substantial fees. By late 1877, Ingersoll 
had outgrown Peoria and he accepted his brother Ebon's oft-repeated invitation 
to join him in Washington, D.C. 

In the early months of 1876, there were no indications that Robert Ingersoll 
was considering a return to politics, a return which would propel him into national 
fame. When the Republican County Convention met on May 1 3 to select delegates 
to the state convention, Ingersoll was neither present, nor was he selected as a 
delegate or an alternate. But, without politics, Ingersoll was far from idle. On 
March 14, he was elected president of the Peoria and Rock Island Railroad. On 
May 2, he gave a benefit lecture for the Peoria Women's Centennial Fund. He 
traced the history of the United States from the colonial period and, although he 
refrained from partisan themes, he was quoted as saying: "I would rather they 
would sell traderships than human bodies and human souls," referring to the 
charges of corruption in the Grant administration. He was also concerned about 
his mother-in-law who had fallen and broken her arm on March 1 . A few weeks 
later her husband Benjamin Parker died. Ingersoll gave a moving eulogy at 
Springdale Cemetery. The Democrat reported that he was so overcome with emo- 
tion that his words were "inaudible," but the oration has been preserved in Inger- 
soll's Works.^ During the same period he was often in Chicago representing 
Daniel W. Munn, who had been charged with corruption. 

Munn, a deputy supervisor of internal revenue, was accused of defrauding the 
government of large sums of money due on the whiskey tax. The prosecution's 
chief witness was Jacob Rehm, who was involved in the fraud and had turned 
state's evidence. The Transcript i\\xoi&di Ingersoll's speech to the jury: "There was 

72 Robert G. Ingersoll 

no one in the jury box who could, without shame, go to the old father, the invalid 
wife, or the child of Daniel Munn, and say, I sent your son, your husband, your 
father to the penitentiary on the testomony of Jacob Rehm." Ingersoll argued that 
Rehm was an admitted perjurer and a thief and that Munn was an honest man. 
On May 24, the jury agreed with Ingersoll and found Munn not guilty. The result 
led a dubious Chicago Post and Mail editor to remark that "an honest Munn is 
the noblest work of Ingergoll. "" Ingersoll 's victory brought him national attention 
and a future as an attorney for officials accused of defrauding the government. 

On the same day that Ingersoll won the "not guilty" verdict in the Munn trial, 
James G. Blaine was protesting his innocence before a sub-committee of the Judi- 
cial Committee of the House of Representatives. Blaine had made a large profit 
by selling some railroad bonds under questionable circumstances and the Democ- 
ratic majority on the committee intended to expose the potential Republican presi- 
dential candidate. The Illinois State Republican Convention was also meeting on 
that day (May 24). Most of the delegates were Blaine supporters. Without public 
discussion, they inserted the name of Robert G. Ingersoll as a delegate to the na- 
tional convention. The Transcript reported: "When Hon. R. G. Ingersoll's name 
was read out as one of the delegates at large to Cincinnati, it was received with 
prolonged applause . "-^ 

In Cincinnati, the Blaine forces worked to capture the maximum number of 
Illinois delegates. The Illinois delegation caucused on June 13 and gave Blaine 
thirty-four votes. Benjamin Bristow received four votes and there was a scattering 
of votes for other candidates. Senator John Logan then urged the delegates to sup- 
port Blaine in a "harmonious and unanimous" way. Col. Ingersoll followed with 
"an eloquent and effective plea" for Blaine. He argued that "Blaine was a man 
wounded by the enemy while serving the Republican party, and for that party to 
desert him now, would damn it forever." At the end of the speech the delegates 
again caucused and Blaine's vote rose to forty while Bristow's vote declined to 
two. An earlier report had asserted that Congressman William P. Frye, of Maine, 
would nominate Blaine at the national convention. The report added: "Col. Bob 
Ingersoll of Illinois will be called upon to second the motion of Blaine and, of 
course, will make the biggest speech of the day." The information was half right; 
a June 15 dispatch reported that "Col. R.G. Ingersoll of Illinois, is now nominat- 
ing Blaine in a strain of unusual eloquence."'* 

According to Charles A. Church in his History of the Republican Party in Il- 
linois, Blaine told Illinois Congressman Stephen A. Hurlbut that he wished to 
have an Illinois man nominate him in order to strengthen his patriotic and national 
image. Hurlbut told Blaine that Ingersoll was a great orator, who if he would "quit 
his nonsense long enough," would be ideal. Blaine had heard an Ingersoll speech 
in Maine in 1868 and had told Ingersoll that "it was incomparably the greatest 
speech he ever heard." Perhaps Blaine could strengthen himself with a critical 
delegation and obtain the services of a great speaker with one .stroke. Hurlbut was 
apparently dispatched to approach Ingersoll and arrange it with the Illinois state 
convention. Hurlbut and Ingersoll shared an admiration for Blaine because he had 

Plumed Knight 73 

denounced the "Southern brigadier generals" who had returned to Congress. 
Blaine also opposed amnesty for Jefferson Davis and held him responsible for the 
Andersonville atrocities. IngersoU believed that the Democrats intended to op- 
press blacks in the South once again and he wanted a knight who would stop them. 
Blaine was such a warrior, he believed. Of course such a speech would also give 
IngersoU the prominence of a national platform from which he could display his 
extraordinary oratorical skills.^ 

According to IngersoU' s granddaughter, Robert IngersoU did not write his 
"Plumed Knight" speech until the early morning hours before the afternoon pre- 
sentation on June 15, 1876. The story is that Ebon, sharing a room on June 14, 
insisted that he write the speech, but Robert, ever nonchalant, retired without com- 
pleting it. Robert woke up about 3:00 a.m. and quickly wrote out the ten-minute 
speech which he read to Ebon after breakfast much to his brother's delight. The 
speakers who preceded IngersoU were those who had put the name of the reformer 
Benjamin Bristow in nomination. R. H. Dana praised Bristow's unblemished re- 
cord and attested to his loyalty. He also argued that only Bristow could carry Mas- 

IngersoU altered his prepared speech by adding a few sentences at the begin- 
ning to deal with Dana's assertions. "Massachusetts may be satisfied with the loy- 
alty of Benjamin H. Bristow; so am I; but if any man nominated by this convention 
can not carry the State of Massachusetts, I am not satisfied with the loyalty of 
that State," he countered. The issue was thus quickly shifted to loyalty. IngersoU 
linked loyalty to opposition to ex-confederates who, he asserted, were trying to 
take over the government to the detriment of the blacks of the South and the loyal 
people of the North. Certainly "a man whose political reputation is spotless as 
a star" is needed, he conceded, but the candidate need not have "a certificate of 
moral character signed by a Confederate congress." Eighteen seventy-six was a 
"grand year" he continued, "a year in which the sons of freedom will drink from 
the fountains of enthusiasm, a year in which the people call for the man who has 
preserved in Congress what our soldiers won upon the field." Blaine was the man 
who had "torn from the throat of treason the tongue of slander," and he was the 
man who had "snatched the mask of Democracy from the hideous face of rebell- 
ion." Next, came one of the most famous sentences in the history of nomination 
speeches: "Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine 
marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance 
full and fair against the brazen foreheads of the defamers of his country and the 
maligners of his honor. ' ' At this point, the convention broke into prolonged cheer- 
ing and IngersoH's allotted time expired.^ 

The "plumed knight" sentence may not have been IngersoH's intended 
climax. Because IngersoU had inserted material at the beginning of his speech, 
his ten-minute time limit expired as he completed the sentence. The chairman in- 
terceded to inquire if it was the will of the convention that the speaker's time be 
extended, and the colonel was allowed to continue with his final paragraph which 
was apparently intended to be the memorable part of the speech. "In the name 

74 Robert G. Ingersoll 

of the Republic, the only Republic that ever existed upon this earth ... in the 
name of all soldiers living . . . dead . . . and in the name of those who perished 
in the skeleton clutch of famine at Andersonville," he concluded. "Illinois nomi- 
nates the next President of this country, the prince of parliamentarians-that leader 
of leaders-James G. Blaine." Perhaps the unplanned pause after the "plumed 
knight" sentence burned the epithet into the delegates' vocabularies and Blaine 
was labeled forever, not the "prince of parliamentarians" but the "plumed 

The complete text is as follows: 


Nominating James G. Blaine for the President, June, 1876. 

By Robert G. Ingersoll 

Massachusetts may be satisfied with the loyalty of Benjamin H. 
Bristow; so am I; but if any man nominated by this convention can not 
carry the State of Massachusetts, 1 am not satisfied with the loyalty of 
that State, if the nominee of this convention can not carry the grand 
old Commonwealth of Massachusetts by seventy-five thousand major- 
ity, I would advise them to sell out Faneull Hall as a Democratic head- 
quarters. I would advise them to lake from Bunker Hill that old monu- 
ment of glory. 

The Republicans of the United States demand as their leader in the 
great contest of 1876 a man of intelligence, a man of integrity, a man 
of well-known and approved political opinion. They demand a states- 
man; they demand a reformer after as well as before the election. They 
demand a politician in the highest, broadest and best .sensc-a man of 
superb moral courage. They demand a man acquainted with public af- 
fair.s-with the wants of the people; with not only the requirements of 
the hour, but with the demands of the future . They demand a man broad 
enough to comprehend the relations of this government to the other na- 
tions of the earth. They demand a man well versed in the powers, 
duties, and prerogatives of each and every department of this govem- 
ment. They demand a man who will sacredly preserve the financial 
honor of the United States; one who knows enough to know that the 
national debt must be paid through the prosperity of this people; one 
who knows enough to know that all the financial theories in the world 
can not redeem a single dollar; one who knows enough to know that 
all the money must be made, not by law, but by labor; one who knows 
enough to know that the people of the United States have the industry 
to make the money, and the honor to pay it over just as fast as they 
make it. 

The Republicans of the United States demand a man who knows 
that prosperity and resumption, when they come, must come together; 
that when they come, they will come hand in hand through the golden 
harvest fields; hand in hand by the whirling spindles and the turning 
wheels; hand in hand past the open furnace doors; hand in hand by the 

Plumed Knight 75 

flaming forges; hand in hand by the chimneys filled with eager fire, 
greeted and grasped by the countless sons of toil . 

This money has to be dug out of the earth. You can not make it 
by passing resolutions in a political convention. 

The Republians of the United States want a man who knows that 
this government should protect every citizen, at home and abroad; who 
knows that any government that will not defend its defenders, and pro- 
tect its protectors, is a disgrace to the map of the world. They demand 
a man who believes in the eternal separation and divorcement of church 
and school. They demand a man whose political reputation is spotless 
as a star; but they do not demand that their candidate shall have a certifi- 
cate of moral character signed by a confederate congress. The man who 
has, in full, heaped and rounded measure, all these splendid qualifica- 
tions is the present grand and gallant leader of the Republican party- 
James G. Blaine. 

Our country, crowned with the vast and marvelous achievements 
of its first century, asks for a man worthy of the past, and prophetic 
of her future; asks for a man who has the audacity of genius; asks for 
a man who is the grandest combination of heart, conscience and brain 
beneath her fiag-such a man is James G. Blaine. 

For a Republican host, led by this intrepid man, there can be no 

This is a grand year-a year filled with the recollections of the Revo- 
lution; filled with proud and tender memories of the past; with the sa- 
cred legends of liberty-a year in which the sons of freedom will drink 
from the fountains of enthusiasm; a year in which the people call for 
a man who has preserved in Congress what our soldiers won upon the 
field; a year in which they call for a man who has torn from the throat 
of treason the tongue of slander-for the man who has snatched the mask 
of Democracy from the hideous face of rebellion; for the man who, like 
an intellectual athlete, has stood in the arena of debate and challenged 
all corners, and who is still a total stranger to defeat. 

Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine 
marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shin- 
ing lance full and fair against the brazen foreheads of the defamers of 
his country and the maligners of his honor. For the Republican party 
to desert this gallant leader now, is as though an army should desert 
their general upon the field of battle . 

James G. Blaine is now and has been for years the bearer of the 
sacred standard of the Republican party. I call it sacred, because no 
human being can stand beneath its folds without becoming and without 
remaining free. 

Gentlemen of the convention, in the name of the great Republic, 
the only Republic that ever existed upon this earth; in the name of all 
her defenders and of all her supporters; in the name of all her soldiers 
living; in the name of all her soldiers dead upon the field of battle, and 
in the name of those who perished in the skeleton clutch of famine at 
Andersonville and Libby, whose sufferings he so vividly remembers. 

76 Robert G. Ingersoll 

Illinois-Illinois nominates for the next President of this country, that 
prince of parliamcntarians-that leader of leaders-James G . Blaine . 

Ingersoli's speech created such enthusiasm for Blaine that many observers be- 
lieved he would have been nominated if the roll call would have begun the same 
day. But nomination speeches for Roscoe Conkling, Rutherford B. Hayes, and 
J. F. Hartranft continued until dusk. Blaine's floor manager asked that the hall 
be lighted but was informed that the gas lights could not safely be lit. When the 
balloting opened the next morning, Blaine led with 285 of the 378 votes needed 
for nomination. Eventually, most of the candidates were withdrawn in favor of 
a dark horse candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, who was nominated on the 
seventh ballot. Blaine's vote had gone up to 351 but Hayes had increased from 
1 13 to 384 votes. Ingersoll was quoted by the Peoria Democratic paper as comp- 
laining "the only mortifying thing is the fact of having been defeated by a d-n 

Ingersoll returned to Peoria a few days after the convention. The National 
Democrat noted: "Col. Ingersoll is now at home and is taking his defeat like a 
little man." But, although Blaine may have lost, Ingersoll became a household 
word across the nation. The Republican newspapers, and a few Democrat papers 
as well, were filled with superlatives about his speech. The Illinois State Journal 
noted that "Every sentence of Col. Ingersoli's speech was as clean cut and bril- 
liant as a new American coin, and called out a succession of ringing cheers from 
the audience." The Chicago Times called the speech "impassioned, artful, bril- 
liant, and persuasive." Much of the Eastern press made similar compliments. The 
Springfield paper noted that the Peoria Transcript had found it difficult: "to copy 
all the complimentary things said of Bob Ingersoli's speech at the Cincinnati con- 
vention. If it means to succeed it will be compelled to enlarge." Inevitably, how- 
ever, the joke was that "An honest Blaine is the noblest work of Bob. " '" 

Blaine's defeat may have convinced Ingersoll, temporarily, that he had been 
right to stay out of politics for the last eight years. On June 17, the Democrat 
noted: "The band engaged to serenade Col. Ingersoll on his return from Cincinnati 
have been notified that they are not needed as Robert desires it understood that 
he is not in politics." Whether he was in politics or not, the people of Peoria were 
anticipating his Fourth of July centennial speech. The celebration was perhaps the 
biggest ever in Peoria. There were parades, decorations, and seven divisions in 
a procession to a grove for the speaking. The Star Spangled Banner was played, 
a prayer was given, and the Declaration of Independence was read before the 
chairman introduced Ingersoll as "the greatest orator east or west of the Allegheny 
mountains." The colonel spoke "in his majestic way of the signing of the declara- 
tion." He characterized the Declaration of Independence as the "grandest, the 
bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed." He also 
gave an exposition on religious toleration which he clothed in patriotism. "Our 
fathers founded the first secular government," he asserted. He called for ' *a decla- 
ration of individual independence" which would ensure even greater progress dur- 

Plumed Knight 77 

ing the next hundred years. After a benediction by another minister, there followed 
a regatta, fireworks, flag presentations, and many "accidents, burglaries and rob- 

When the Republican county convention met on August 3 to select delegates 
to the congressional convention, it was clear that Peoria's Bob was back in poli- 
tics. He was elected as a delegate from Peoria's Fifth Ward. The delegates elected 
him president of the convention and demanded one of his famous speeches. He 
obliged with an hour and a half effort, "replete with wit and wisdom," including 
the damning of the Democratic presidential candidate, Samuel J. Tilden. Asked 
why he was taking more interest than usual in the campaign, he answered: "I will 
tell you, and tell you honestly. It is because I tremble for the future of the colored 
people of the south if a democratic president is elected." The Transcript com- 
mented that the colonel's return to politics "was hailed with gladness by the 
friends of true progress and reform everywhere." The newspaper also predicted 
that he would "make a few speeches during the campaign, at such times and in 
such places as will not interfere with his professional duties. ' ' ' "^ 

Actually, Ingersoll was about to be consumed by the national campaign. On 
August 8, 1876, Hayes wrote to him noting that Blaine had doubts about the Re- 
publicans carrying Maine and thought it would be well to invite Ingersoll to help 
out. Hayes wrote: ". . .as Maine is the first contested State to hold an election 
... I have taken the liberty to write to you to say that if it is possible for you 
to make a few speeches in Maine, you will do the cause much service. ..." Inger- 
soll accepted the pious Methodist's request and set off for a whirlwind tour of 
Maine which whipped up great enthusiasm. The New York Tribune pronounced 
Ingersoll 's August 21 speech in Lewiston, Maine, "the most powerful yet made 
in the canvass." The Transcript added that Illinois has furnished a Lincoln "in 
time of extremist peril," a Grant "to lead our armies to victory," and an Ingersoll 
"when it comes to a discussion of political questions." The Portland Press de- 
clared that Ingersoll 's speech of August 22 was "one of the most brilliant stump 
speeches ever made" in that city. It added: "The Colonel is posted for speeches 
in Maine every night up to the 7th of September. ' ' The Bangor speech of August 
24 is the best remembered of the Maine campaign. Ingersoll opened: "I have the 
honor to belong to the Republican party; the grandest, the sublimest party in the 
history of the world. This grand party is not only in favor of the liberty of the body, 
but also the liberty of the soul." He then damned the Democrats for their disloy- 
alty. As the Bangor Whig and Courier put it, Ingersoll swayed the audience alter- 
nately "from enthusiasm for the grand principles advocated, to indignation at the 
crimes of the Democracy, as the record of that party was scorched with his invec- 

At Cooper Union, in New York City, Ingersoll opened by reading a telegram 
from Blaine announcing that the Republians had won a large victory in Maine. 
Ingersoll charged that the Democratic presidential candidate, Samuel J. Tilden 
was a "little dried up old bachelor," who "... belongs to the Democratic party 
of the city of New York, the worst party ever organized in any civilized country." 

78 Robert G. Ingersoll 

The city machine, as Ingersoll saw it, had "but two objects-grand and petit lar- 
ceny." The colonel followed with similar speeches at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, 
Columbus, and Indianapolis. He wrote to his family: "I have had a continual and 
continuous ovation." The old politico. Chauncey Depew, called the Cooper 
Union oration the "greatest speech he had ever heard." When the Democrats 
complained that Ingersoll was anti-Christian, the colonel would customarily an- 
swer, "I have made the Democratic party use what time they could spare between 
drinks in quoting Scripture." He thought making the Democratic party a pious 
party was, "certainly a miracle." He added: "Let every man do his own thinking, 
let every man have a brain of his own. Let every man have a heart and a conscience 
of his own. "'"^ 

It is ironic that IngersolTs tour inadvertently motivated the writing of Ben Hur. 
According to Lew Wallace, a fellow Union officer with Ingersoll, the two met 
on the train from Crawfordsville to Indianapolis where they were to attend a great 
rally. Colonel Ingersoll wanted company and General Wallace asked him about 
his religious views. Wallace remembered: "I sat spellbound, listening to a medley 
of argument, eloquence, wit, satire, audacity, irreverence, poetry, brilliant antith- 
eses, and pungent excoriation of believers in God, Christ, and Heaven, the like 
of which I had never heard." Ingersoll's diatribe, Wallace maintained, shocked 
him out of his "absolute indifference" and forced him to study. The result for 
Wallace was, "first, the book Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to 
absolute belief in God and the divinity of Christ. ' ' ''' 

On September 20, in Indianapolis, Ingersoll delivered one of the most famous 
speeches in the annals of political history to the "Veteran Soldiers of the Rebell- 
ion." In classic "Bloody Shirt" style, he claimed that the Republican party was 
the party of liberty, while "every Union soldier that has a scar upon his body today 
carries with him a souvenir of the Democratic party." Ingersoll charged that John 
Wilkes Booth "was a Democrat." The Indianapolis speech is also the source of 
"a poetic flight of oratory" known as "A Vision of War." Ingersoll's vision re- 
called the atrocities of slavery when "Four million bodies" were in chains. The 
"Vision of War" section of the speech is mostly verbatim from the Decoration 
Day address Ingersoll gave in Peoria in 1870 (see Chapter 4). A month after the 
speech the Transcript was reporting that "Colonel Ingersoll's brilliant apostophe 
to the soldiers . . . seems destined to immortality in the schoolboys' speaking 
books. It has already been introduced among the selections of some of the popular 
elocutionists. . . .""' 

Amid reports from the East about his triumphant tour, Ingersoll returned to 
Peoria on September 22, 1876. Before the day was over, Peorians were demand- 
ing "some little taste of the feast which he has . . . been so freely bestowing upon 
others." Centennial Hall was quickly booked and filled; a band led a number of 
citizens to his residence and then the colonel accompanied them to the hall. After 
assuring Peorians that "I have seen nowhere a city so beautiful as Peoria," he 
damned the Democrats in his usual "Bloody-Shirt" fashion. A few days later he 
was back on the campaign trail in Ohio and Indiana, the "October states," where 

Plumed Knight * 79 

critical elections were to be held on October 10. Ingersoll not only spoke every 
night before tens of thousands of voters but his fame was such that he could not 
even change trains without being called out for a speech on the depot platform. ' ^ 

Ingersoll returned to Peoria to another political rally in Centennial Hall on Oc- 
tober 1 2. He expressed pride in the Republican party in Ohio and Indiana for hav- 
ing made gains in their state elections. Before a crowd of 3,000 people, he re- 
peated his explanation that he cared about the election only because he feared that 
a Democratic victory would deprive men of their rights. On October 21 , he spoke 
at Rock Island. An extra train was run from Peoria for those who wanted to follow 
Ingersoll. The high point of his Illinois tour came at Chicago on October 20. The 
Tribune reported that he spoke "at the Exposition Building to the largest audience 
ever drawn by one man in Chicago." The Tribune claimed 50,000 persons-some 
on the roof peering through the skylight, some in the organ-loft, some "every- 
where that a human being could sit, stand or hang"-were there to hear the orator. 
Once again he eulogized the Republican party and damned the Democrats for their 
role in the Civil War. To the cry of "Let bygones be bygones," he reminded the 
audience of the story of the young man who was convicted of the murder of his 
father and mother but asked the judge to take pity because he was a poor orphan . ' ^ 

Peorian Republicans were flattered by the national attention they were given 
when James G. Blaine and his wife came to stay with the Ingersoll family. Blaine 
agreed to speak on October 25. Even the Democrats took a certain pride that "Our 
Bob' ' had made an honest man of the corrupt Blaine. A commerical advertisement 
in the Democratic paper was headed: "BLAINE AND INGERSOLL may draw 
large houses," but their store would draw larger crowds by "offering to the public 
500 white blankets at great savings." According to the Republican paper, Blaine 
addressed 10,000 citizens; the Democratic paper said 3,000. The Transcript re- 
ported that Blaine's made "one of the soundest, most forcible and argumentative 
addresses ever heard here." Yet it added that "Mr. Blaine has not the wonderful 
eloquence of our own Ingersoll." After Blaine's speech, Ingersoll immediately 
resumed his Illinois and Wisconsin swing and finished the campaign on election 
eve in Davenport, Iowa. The Transcript commented: "He has now been on the 
stump almost constantly for three months, and it is not too much to say that to 
him more than any other man, will be due the success which the Republican party 
will achieve on the 7th of November." The National Democrat observed sarcasti- 
cally that "Col. Ingersoll is the idol of the Peoria Republicans. Without him they 
could scarcely breath or move or have their being. They drink from the fountain 
of his fertile tongue as the nectar of the gods . . . His epigrams are to them the 
edicts of political omniscience."'*^ 

While basking in the limelight as the most powerful orator in the country, In- 
gersoll may have had thoughts of using his "political omniscience" to gain a Sen- 
ate seat. As a reformed addict, however, he was afraid of the needle. In response 
to a preacher friend who was considering running for the legislature, Ingersoll 
warned, on August 5, that politics "will make your ordinary everyday life dull, 
and you will get an appetite for political excitement, and the first thing you know 

80 Robert G. Ingersoll 

you will be as one of the wicked." Ingersoll concluded: "Politics is a mean low 
business-a business where lying and bribery and slander constitute the principal 
stock in trade-a business that I wish I had never engaged in for a single hour." 
But the New York Tribune reported that there was a good deal of talk about Inger- 
soll as the next senator from Illinois if Logan faltered. "Like Senator Logan, he 
has a magnificent voice, but unlike him, he has something behind it," the Tribune 
opined. When Thomas Cratty, Republican candidate for the state legislature, in- 
troduced Ingersoll at the "ratification" meeting in Peoria on October 12, he prom- 
ised to vote for him for the Senate. Ingersoll responded that he was not a candidate 
"for any political position in the gift of the people." He said "he would not sur- 
render one billionth part of his independence to be emperor of the whole world. "■^^ 
A week after the election it was clear that neither the Democrats nor Logan, 
the incumbent senator, would have a majority of the Illinois legislature. Perhaps 
a new face was necessary. Andrew Shuman, lieutenant governor elect and editor 
of the powerful Chicago Evening Journal, thought Ingersoll was the ideal person 
for senator and then president. His enthusiastic letter is published here for the first 

Chicago, Nov. 14, 1876 

Dear Ingersoll: 

1 hope you appreciate your position as a public man in this country 
at the present time. I hope you appreciate your own .sW/-your powers, 
your elements of greatness, your peculiar qualities as a leader. I hope 
you appreciate the fact that you would be the }>iant of the National Sen- 
ate. I hope you appreciate the fact that at the end of four years in the 
Senate, you would-cr^w/J, be promoted to the Chief Magistracy of the 
Republic. I hope you will authorize your friends to do that which is 
best for you and for all of us. Say the word! "Young America"-free 
and independent in mind and body-will be {\\c future ruling power of 
this country and "Young America," in his impulses, aspirations, con- 
victions, tendencies, is in majority with Robert G. Ingersoll. Don't 
doubt that. 

I wanted to .sec you. Friend Gilbert will tell you what all this is 

Thine, right heartily, 
Andrew Shuman'' 

Ingersoll probably could have been drafted for the Senate seat, but he was not 
as unrealistic in his appraisal of the situation as was Shuman. His economic views 
were too orthodox and his religious views too unorthodox to make him a viable 
independent candidate. On January 12, 1877, Shuman 's Journal was forced to 
concede that "he has earned the right to do as he pleases . . . and his preference 
is for private life. That is the reason he is not in the field." On January 25, 1877, 

Plumed Knight 81 

after forty ballots in the Illinois legislature. Supreme Court Justice David Davis 
was elected to the Senate seat by a coalition of Democrats and Independents. The 
situation in Washington was even more confused. Neither presidential candidate 
had a clear-cut majority in the electoral college because certain states had sent in 
conflicting sets of returns. Ingersoll apparently had some role as "an efficient and 
valued counsellor in the peculiar scenes which resulted in the accession of Presi- 
dent Hayes," according to the Transcript. Some months later in his "Eight to 
Seven Address" in Boston, Ingersoll alluded to his presence in Washington when 
the "Commission" which settled the election was being negotiated. The great 
orator had opposed the idea of a commission at that time, but he liked the final 
result. He asserted "that if the Democratic party had swept into power, it would 
have been the end of progress, and the end of what I consider human liberty be- 
neath our flag."^'^ Considerable time would have to pass before Ingersoll would 
come to realize that the "redemption" of the South was inevitable, even if the 
Republican party held on to power. The blacks of the South, whom he wanted 
so desperately to protect, would be driven from participation in government. 

After the election there was no decrease in the demand for Ingersoll 's oratori- 
cal performances whether as political observer, lawyer, or philosopher. "There 
is no person whose words command greater attention than Col. Ingersoll," the 
Transcript crowed. His political observations were in great demand as attested by 
his performance at Steinway Hall in New York on March 14, 1877. As an attor- 
ney, he often conducted business before the Supreme Court and had undertaken 
the defense of another government official accused of corruption, William H. 
Harper, a grain inspector in Chicago. As philosopher, he found time to write and 
deliver "Ghosts," "My Reviewers Reviewed," and "The Liberty of Man, 
Woman, and Child" in 1877. The addresses, which were even more outspoken 
in their opposition to religion than before were made to immense paying audiences 
in such cities as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. 
"Col. Ingersoll is bringing Peoria into notice more than any other of her citizens, 
and we doubt not that his friends, among whom are men of all parties and creeds, 
will be glad to read the accounts of his enthusiastic progress," the Transcript 
wrote. ^'^ 

But Ingersoll's ' 'enthusiastic progress" was taking him out of Peoria more fre- 
quently. The demand for his speeches was so great and the remuneration so high 
that he could choose his place and price. In 1877, he was away from Peoria more 
than he was at home. Already in 1 876 he had ceased to include his usual "business 
card" in the newspaper directory. In the city directory for 1877, only his residence 
was listed as an office. He was outgrowing Peoria. As early as June 16, 1875, 
Ebon, upon the dedication of his new office in Washington, D. C. was beckoning 
his brother: "Although it is much the most comfortable and most elegant office 
I have ever had, it is lonesome and dreary without you." Ebon continued: "The 
day cannot and must not be far distant when we shall again be together. Life would 
be so much more hopeful and charming could we work, live and love in the light 
of each other's eyes!" Ingersoll did make a final major address at the Central II- 

82 Robert G. Ingersoll 

linois Fair on September 13. 1877. The topic was "About Farming in Illinois," 
about which he knew little, but he later included the address in his published 
works. Enoch Emery of the Transcript, irritated because Ingersoll furnished the 
manuscript to a rival, small circulation paper, suggested it might have been be- 
cause "'The Colonel concluded to send it where it would reach the least number 
of farmers."""* 

Perhaps Ingersoll had delayed making a decision about joining Ebon while 
there was a possibility that he might receive an appointment from a grateful presi- 
dent. Ingersoll had been mentioned for attorney-general and for ambassador to 
France, but others were chosen. On November 1, 1877. IngersolTs old friend. 
Senator Richard Oglesby wired: *'Our Republican delegation unanimously desire 
to present your name for the Mission to Berlin . . . If nominated by the President 
will you be willing to accept." The news created great excitement in Peoria. In- 
gersoll answered: "The idea of accepting anything had long ago paid its bill and 
left my mind. To tell you the truth, my better judgement tells me not to have any- 
thing more to do with politics in any form." He added: "At the same time I would 
like to know how the President feels. I am disposed ... to give him an opportunity 
of expressing himself in regard to me. I suppose the religious people, or rather 
the people who wish to be considered cxixtmoXy pious, will have but little hesita- 
tion abo''t expressing their views. ""'' 

While Ingersoll was traveling to Washington, the pious were not reluctant to 
express their opinions. They joked that he would not be acceptable in Berlin be- 
cause he could not say Mein Gott. It turned out that Secretary of State William 
M. Evarts had only suggested that Illinois could have a major diplomatic appoint- 
ment, without agreeing on a person. The Illinois congressional delegation had of- 
fered the defeated Senator John A. Logan the recommendation, but he had 
promptly refused. They then agreed on Ingersoll. Apparently. Evarts was even 
more opposed to Ingersoll than was the president who had developed a friendship 
with the great orator. However, Ingersoll wrote to his family: "I do not believe 
Hayes dare appoint me. He is afraid of the religious world. I must be and am per- 
fectly willing to pay for the privilege of saying what I think." When it was clear 
that the appointment was not forthcoming, Ingersoll wrote to Oglesby asking that 
his name not be considered. On November 19, the two called on Secretary Evarts 
to inform him that Ingersoll did not wish the position. The Transcript expressed 
a bitterness that may have been shared by Ingersoll. It noted that Ingersoll had 
"largely assisted in placing" men in power who were so busy "conciliating 
enemies" [Southern ex-confederates] that they have forgotten their friends. Inger- 
soll passed it off by saying he had come to Washington to practice law, not to 
seek a foreign appointment. Ebon's offer to renew a partnership in Washington, 
D. C, was accepted and Ingersoll left his political ambitions in Peoria. Thereaf- 
ter, he would be only a "visitor" in politics and in Peoria. ^^ 

When Robert Ingersoll moved to Washington, D. C, at age forty-five, his 
reputation as a trial lawyer, lecturer, and political speaker was already well estab- 
lished. His career in Washington (to 1885) and in New York (until his death in 

Plumed Knight 83 

1899) reflected the beliefs and techniques already well developed in Illinois. Be- 
cause of his prominence, the demand for his services escalated. As a lawyer he 
became more famous by successfully defending certain Republicans implicated 
in the "star route" fraud cases in 1882-83. He became wealthy through his success 
in New York in corporation and estate cases. He also continued to write and de- 
liver (to large paying audiences) his rationalist and biographical lectures. Typical 
of his agnostic lectures were: "Some Mistakes of Moses" (1879); "What Must 
We do to Be Saved" (1880); "The Great Infidels" (1881); "Myth and Miracle" 
(1885); "About the Holy Bible" (1894); "Why I Am an Agnostic" (1896); 
"Superstition" (1898); and "The Devil" (1899). He wrote biographical "ap- 
preciations" about Robert Burns (1878), Shakespeare (1891), Walt Whitman 
(1891), and Lincoln (1894).^^ 

Although IngersoU became friends with presidents (Rutherford B. Hayes and 
James A. Garfield) and lived on Lafayette Square near the White House, his politi- 
cal ambitions were buried in Peoria where his "Paganism" was revealed. He con- 
tinued, however, to speak out effectively on behalf of "orthodox" Republican 
candidates concerning monetary and patriotic issues. If IngersoU had further polit- 
ical ambitions, he was destined to be disappointed. Nor was he destined to gain 
the satisfaction of working with his beloved brother Ebon in Washington, D. C. 
Soon after Robert's return from a tour of Europe, Ebon died in 1 879. Robert found 
solace in his family and his new friends. His "wit and wisdom" attracted indi- 
viduals as diverse as Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, and Walt Whitman as 
friends and admirers."^ 

When death came to Robert Green IngersoU at his summer home at Dobbs 
Ferry, New York, on July 21 , 1899, the Chicago Inter-Ocean devoted an entire 
page to his obituary. It noted that "Look at Peoria" was an expression Peorians 
had adopted to express their pride in the development of the city. But the Inter- 
Ocean contended that while Peorians had many reasons to be proud, "the fact that 
she was the home of Bob IngersoU" was their greatest source of pride: "Every 
Peorian loved and honored IngersoU, and shared in the glory that he gained for 
himself and his home." Although Peorians were (and are) divided about "honor- 
ing" IngersoU, they did take a certain pride in his notoriety. In 1911, they erected 
the only monument to him in Glen Oak Park. Over the years, this endangered 
statue has been threatened by vandals and wartime patriots who wanted to melt 
it down for scrap. Nevertheless, the statue of Robert G. IngersoU still stands de- 
fiantly on its pedestal, a symbol of the diversity that "played in Peoria. ""'^ 


1. Douglas to Lincoln 

' Robert G. Ingersoli (hereafter RGI) to John L. Ingersoll, 17 Mar. 1865, in Ingersoll 
Papers, Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield (hereafter ISHL). 

^ RGItoJohnL. Ingersoll, 30 May 1852, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

^ David D. Anderson, Robert Ingersoll (New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1972), 
pp. 21-26; C. H. Cramer, Royal Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll (Indianapolis: The 
Bobbs-Merrill Co. Inc., 1952), pp. 26-29. Anderson presents the best brief summary inter- 
pretation and Cramer is the best documented of the Ingersoll biographies. RGI to John L. 
Ingersoll, 29 Dec. 1853, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

"^ Ebon Clark Ingersoll (hereafter Ebon) to John L. Ingersoll, 5 Nov. 1854, Ingersoll 
Papers, ISHL; Illinois State Journal {Spnngf\e\d), 5 ian. 1857, p. 2, col. 2; "Day Book," 
19 Feb. 1858, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

^ Illinois State Journal, 22 Apr. 1858, p. 2, col. 5; Peoria Daily Democratic Union, 
5 Oct. 1858, p. 2, col. 2; Peoria Daily Transcript, 21 Oct. 1858, p. 1 , col. 2 and 25 Oct. 
1858, p. l,col. 1. 

^ RGItoJohnL. Ingersoll, 23 Mar. 1858, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. This letter was pub- 
lished in Eva Ingersoll Wakefield, The Letters of Robert G. Ingersoll (New York: 
Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 510. The Wakefield book (hereafter Wakefield, Letters) 
omitted the sentence about not caring about Kansas. 

^ Peoria Daily Democratic Union, 6 July 1860, p. 4, col. 1 ; Peoria Daily Transcript, 
6July 1860,p. 2,col. land 3 Aug. 1860, p. 2, col. 2. 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 3 Aug. 1860, p. 2, col. 3; 1 Oct. 1860, p. 2, col. 2. I have 
been unable to find any contemporary account which verifies Carr's story in My Day and 
Generation (Chicago: A. C. McClurg&Co., 1908), pp. 335-36. While Carr's version may 
be correct, it was written almost half a century after the event. Many biographers rely too 
heavily on this account to prove that Ingersoll was an abolitionist early in his political care- 

cnpr view is dated 26 Oct. 1860, p. I, col. 3 and 31 Oct. 1860, p. 2, col. 3. 

'" Clipping from the Galesburg Observer, 23 Oct. 1 860, found in Ingersoll Scrapbook, 
Library of Congress (hereafter LC) . 

" Peoria Daily Democratic Union, 22 Feb. 1860, p. 4, col. 2 and 27 Feb. 1860, p. 
4, col. 2. According to Cameron Rogers, Colonel Bob Ingersoll (Garden City, N. Y.: 
Doubleday, Page & Co., 1927), p. 1 14, Ingersoll gave his "first anti-theological lecture," 
entitled "Progress" in Pekin, Illinois, in I860. I have been unable to find any contempo- 
rary evidence to support this assertion. "Progress" was written or rewritten in 1866 and 

'- Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press, 
1973), pp. 864-68. 

86 Robert G. IngersoU 

''' Peoria Daily Democratic Union, 6 June 1861, p. 2, cols. 2-3; 8 June 1861, p. 2, 
cols 2-3. 

' "* Peoria Daily Transcript , 2 Sept . ! 86 1 , p . ! , col . 2 ; Peoria Daily Democratic Union , 
10 Sept. 1861,p. 3,col.2. 

'-'' Peoria Daily Democratic Union, 12 Sept. 1861, p. 1, col. 2; 14 Sept. 1861, p. 2, 
col. I; 25 Sept. 1861, p. 2, col. 1; 14 Sept. 1861, p. 2, col. I; Wakefield, Letters, pp. 


"' RGl to John L. Ingersoll. 20 Mar. 1862; RGl to Ebon, 1 1 Apr. 1862 and 5 May 
1862; RGl to John L. Ingersoll, 9 Mar. 1862 and 10 Sept. 1862, all in Ingersoll Papers, 
ISHL and in abridged form in Wakefield, Lf/z^r.?, pp. 112-19. 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 19 Sept. 1862, p. I, cols. 2-5; Illinois State Journal, 22 
Sept. 1862, p. 2. col. 3; Peoria Daily Transcript, 23 Sept. 1862, p. 2, col. 4; Emery was 
listed as adelegate in ibid. p. 2, col. 3; p. 2, col. 3, gives Ebon's acceptance speech; Illinois 
State Journal, 3 Ocl. 1862, p. I, cols. 2-3. 

'^ RGl to Ebon, 22 Sept. 1 862 and 29 Sept. 1 862, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. Both letters 
are quoted in Wakefield, Letters, pp. 124-28. In the September 29 letter, Robert criticizes 
Lincoln's susf)ension of habeas corpus even though Ebon was justifying it during the cam- 

''^ RGl to Ebon, 7 Oct. 1862, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

'^^ RGl to Ebon, I Nov. 1862, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. Compare to Wakefield, Lm^T.^, 
pp. 1 30-3 1 . Wakefield did not indicate any deletions by the use of ellipses. 

^' Wakefield omitted this sentence from her transcript of the letter. Someone appar- 
ently tried, with .some success, to erase the sentence from the original letter, which is at 
the Illinois State Historical Library. 

^~ RGl to John L. Ingersoll, 16 Mar. 1863; RGl to Ebon, 26 June 1863, both in Inger- 
soll Papers, ISHL. 

-^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 Sept. 1863, p. 2, cols. 3-4. 

2"* Chicago Tribune, 5 Sept. 1863, p. 1, col. 3; 4 Sept. 1863, p. 4, cols. 2-3; 7 Sept. 

1863, p. 2, col. 2; Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham 
L/mo/n (New York: Mentor, 1978), p. 389. 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 20 Oct. 1863, p. 2, col. 1; 29 Oct. 1863, p. 2. col. 3; 2 
Nov. 1863, p. 2, col. 3 and p. 2, cols. 5-6. Two important articles on Ingcrsoll's "transi- 
tion" or "metamorphosis" are C. H. Cramer. "The Political Metamorphosis of Robert 
Green Ingersoll," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 36 (1943). 271-83 and 
Donald E. Angel, "Ingcrsoll's Political Transition-Patriotism or Partisanship," Journal 
of the Illinois State Historical Society, 59 (1966), 354-83. 

'^^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 15 Mar. 1864, p. 4, col. 2; Peoria Morning Mail, 15 Mar. 

1864, p. 4, col. 1; 16 Mar. 1864, p. 4, col. 1; 16 Mar. 1864, p. 4, col. 1; 18 Mar. 1864, 
p. 4, col. 1. Michael Richardson called my attention to this incident when he sent me a 
copy of C. L. Dancey's column in the Peoria Journal-Star, 5 May 1983, and his letter 
to the editor. 

^"^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 14 Apr. 1864, p. 2, col. 1; 28 Apr. 1864, p. 2, cols. 1-2; 

Notes 87 


2^ RGI to Ebon, 21 May 1864, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL; Lincoln to Gideon Welles, 28 
May 1864, in Roy Basler, ed.. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, 
N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953) 7:366; Peoria Weekly Transcript, 30 June 1864, 
p. 4, cols. 2-4. 

^^ Illinois State Journal, 29 May 1864, p. 2, col. 5, RGI to Ebon, 27 May 1864 and 
3 June 1864, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

^0 RGI to Ebon, 2 June 1 864 and 1 7 June 1 864, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

^' The House of Representatives voted on the proposed thirteenth amendment to the 
constitution on 15 June 1864. Ebon and his party failed to muster the necessary two-thirds 
vote. It passed the House, however, on 31 Jan. 1865. The amendment to end slavery was 
put in force on 18 Dec. 1865. See J. G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and 
Reconstruction (Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1961), p. 396. 

^2 RGI to Ebon, 9 July 1864, Ingersoll Papers, ISHL; Illinois State Journal, 8 Sept. 
1864, p. 2, col. 2; 27 Sept. 1864, p. 2, col. \;Chicago Tribune, 1 Oct. 1864, p. 4, cols. 

^^ For the 17 Nov. 1864 letter and about thirty other original letters to Gov. Oglesby, 
see my '"Goodbye dear Governor. You are my best friend.' The Private Letters of Robert 
G. Ingersoll to Richard J. Oglesby, 1867-1877," \n Journal of the Illinois State Historical 
Society, 73 (1980), 79-1 16. The 17 Nov. 1864 letter is on pp. 80-81. The 17 Mar. 1865 
letter is in Wakefield, Letters, p. 32. Ibid. , p. 32 gives the birthdates of the daughters. 

2. Look at Peoria 

' Peoria DailyTranscript, 20 Apr. 1865 p. l,cols. 1-3. 

- Ibid. 

^ Ibid., 13 Oct. 1865, p. 2, col. 3 and p. 3, col. 2; 20 Oct. 1865, p. 2, col. 3. 

'* Ibid.; Robert G. Ingersoll (hereafter RGI) to Ebon Clark Ingersoll (hereafter Ebon), 
3 Apr. 1866, Ingersoll Collection, Library of Congress (hereafter LC). 

^ I published this letter for the first time under the title, "Robert G. Ingersoll on Leeks 
and Onions in the Holy Land," Illinois Quarterly, 43 (1980), 5-10. It is reprinted here 
because the Illinois Quarterly has ceased publication and its back issues are not readily 

^ Richard J. Oglesby to RGI, 22 Jan. 1866 and 1 1 June 1866, Oglesby Collection, Il- 
linois State Historical Library, Springfield (hereafter ISHL). 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 21 Mar. 1866, p. 2, col. 3; 22 Mar. 1866, p. 3, col. 3; 15 
May 1866, p. 3, col. 3. 

^ RGI to Ebon, 5 May 1866, 14 July 1866, 25 July 1866, 26 Dec. 1866, 25 Jan. 1867 
and 2 June 1 867, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

"^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 2 Apr. 1866, p. 2, col. 2; 4 Apr. 1866, p. 3, col. 2; 10 
Apr. 1866,p. 2,col.3;2Apr. 1866, p. 2, col. 3. 

'" Telegrams, W. T. Dowdall to Andrew Johnson, 26 Feb. 1 866 and 4 Apr. 1 866, An- 
drew Johnson Presidential Papers, Microfilm reel 41; The Times (London) 1 May 1866, 

88 Robert G. Ingersoll 

p. 7 cols. l-3,A'^wKor^7'jm«, HMay 1866,p. l,col.3. 

" RGI to Ebon, 1 Mar. 1866, Ingersoll Collection, LC, also in Eva Ingersoll 
Wakefield. The Letters of Robert G. Ingersoll (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), 
pp. 1 38-39 (hereafter Wakefield, Letters); Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 Apr. 1 866, p. 2. col. 
1; 10 Apr. 1866,p.2,col.2. 

'- Eric L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1960). p. 383; Peoria Daily Transcript, 23 Apr. 1866, p. 2, col. 2; 14 May 
1866.p. 2,cols.2-5;r/i£'r/me5(London),22May 1866,p. 10, cols. 1-2. 

'-^ The Times (London), 1 May 1866, p. 4, cols. 1-3; New York Times, 14 May 1866, 
p. 1 , col. 3; Peoria Daily Transcript, 3 1 May 1 866, p. 2, col. 2. 

'■* Peoria Daily Transcript, 9 June 1866, p. 2, col. 4; 23 June 1866, p. 2. col. 2; 6 
July 1866, p. 2, col. 2;9 July 1866, p. 2, col. 3. 

'^ RGI to Ebon, 27 June 1 866, 6 July 1 866, 8 July 1 866, Ingersoll Collection. LC. 

'*• RGI to Ebon, 6 July 1866, 16July 1866, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 18 July 1866, p. 2, col. 1; 19 July 1866, p. 2, col. 3; p. 
2, col. 2. 

'^ J. G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston: D. 
C.Heath&Co., 1961), pp. 586-89. 

'■* O. P. Morton to Gov. Oglesby, 1 i Aug. 1866, Oglesby Collection, ISHL; Arthur 
C. Cole. The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870, Centennial History of Illinois, three vol- 
umes (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919), pp. 398-99; W. T. Dowdall, 
Peoria, to Andrew Johnson. Chicago. 3 Sept. 1866. Andrew Johnson Presidential Papers, 
M\CTof\\mTCc\ 24; Peoria Daily Transcript, 6 Ocl. 1866. p. 2. col. 2. 

-" Peoria Daily Transcript, 12 Oct. 1866. p. 2, col. 2; 17 Oct. 1866, p. 2, col. 2; 24 
Sept. 1866. p. 2, col. 2. Election results from D. W. Lusk, Politics and Politicians: a Suc- 
cinct History of Politics in Illinois from 1856 lo 1884 (Springfield: H. W. Rokker. 1884), 
pp. 199-200. 

2' RGI to Ebon, 1 Mar. I866,6July 1866, I4July 1866, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

" RGI to Ebon. 27 Feb. 1867. Ingersoll Collection. LC; comments from the Chicago 
newspapers in Illinois Stale Journal, 4 Mar. 1867, p. i . cols. 3-4; Ebon to Oglesby. 29 
Apr. 1867. Oglesby Collection. ISHL; C. H. Cramer. Royal Boh: Life of Robert G. Inger- 
soll (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Mcrrill Co. Inc. . 1 952), p. 70. 

-' RGI to Ebon, 27 Feb. 1867, Ingersoll Collection. LC; Oglesby to RGI. 6 Mar. 1867. 
Oglesby Collection. ISHL; RGI to Oglesby, 15 Mar. 1867, Governor Ogle.sby Papers, Il- 
linois State Archives. Springfield; RGI to Oglesby. 7 Aug. 1867. Oglesby Collection. 
ISHL; Peoria Daily Transcript, I ! Feb. 1868, p. 2. col. 1; RGI to Ogle.sby, 8 July 1867, 
Oglesby Collection. ISHL; RGI to Ebon, 6 June 1867. Ingersoll Collection. LC; RGI to 
Oglesby. 10 July 1867,Oglesby Collection. ISHL. 

-•* All letters are from RGI to Oglesby in my "Goodbye dear Governor." Journal of 
the Illinois State Historical Society, 73 ( ! 980). 78-116. The letters are dated 22 July 1 867. 
21 Sept. 1867. 22 Dec, 1867. and 26 Feb. 1868. 

" RGI to Ebon, 6 June 1867; 1 Jan. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

Notes 89 

2^ Illinois State Journal, 24 Feb. 1868, p. 4, col. 4; 2 Mar. 1868, p. 1, col. 2; RGI 
to Ebon, 2 Mar. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC. Wakefield, Letters, pp. 144-5, quotes 
this letter but omits, without ellipsis, Robert's comments on Oglesby . 

" Illinois State Journal, 5 Oct. 1868, p. 4, col. 5; 6 Oct. 1868, p. 4, cols. 1-8; 23 
Nov. 1870, p. 4, col. 2; Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 30(1937), 261-64 
and 37 (1944), 264-65; reprint of Wayne Temple, "Reminders of Lincoln in a Cor- 
nerstone,'' Illinois Blue Book, 1967-68, pp. 29-39. 

3. Lost Nomination 

' Peoria Daily Transcript, 3 Feb. 1 868, p. 3, col. 1 . The editor quotes "a private letter 
from Springfield from a gentleman worthy of implicit confidence," as saying: "Palmer 
has signified his intention of not being a candidate for the nomination of Governor. I know, 
because the General told me so." Ingersoll may have been the "worthy gentleman." The 
"end me politically" quotation is from Robert G. Ingersoll (hereafter RGI) to Ebon Clark 
Ingersoll (hereafter Ebon), 29 Apr. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, Library of Congress 
(hereafter LC); also transcribed in Eva Ingersoll Wakefield, The Letters of Robert G. /«ger- 
5o//(New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), pp. 149-50 (hereafter Wakefield, Lew^r^) 

2 Peoria Daily Transcript, 2 Mar. 1868, p. 2, col. 1 ; RGI to Ebon, 2 Mar. 1868, Inger- 
soll Collection, LC; RGI to Ebon, 3 Mar. 1868, Ingersoll Papers, Illinois State Historical 
Library, Springfield (hereafter ISHL); RGI to Oglesby, 3 Mar. 1868, Oglesby Collection, 
ISHL. On 24 March 1868, at the height of his confidence, RGI wrote to Ebon: "If I get 
the nomination, I will bet my ears that I break into the Senate in 1871 ." (Ingersoll Collec- 
tion, LC) Oglesby aspired to the same seat. On the back of Ingersoll's 3 Mar. 1868 letter, 
Oglesby wrote: "I made no reply as I met him and talked the subject over." See my "Good- 
bye dear Governor, ' ' Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 73 ( 1 980), 99, ff. 67 . 
RGI reported to Ebon on 6 Mar. 1868 that he had gone to Springfield on March 5, Ingersoll 
Collection, LC. 

' Peoria Daily National Democrat, 1 1 Mar. 1868, p. 2, col. 2. 

* Peoria Daily Transcript, 9 Mar. 1 868, p. 2, col. 1 ; Peoria Daily National Democrat, 
lOMar. I868,p. 2,col.2. 

-' RGI to Ebon, 13 Mar. 1 868 and 24 Mar. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC. The rn7?M«e 
wasquotedrnthe Peoria Daily Transcript, 21 Mar. 1868, p. 2, col. 2. 

^ Decatur {week\y) Republican, 2 Apr. 1868, p. 2, cols. 4-5; From Washington, D.C., 
Ebon wrote to RGI, 6 Apr. 1868, Ingersoll papers, ISHL: "You are the greatest talkist." 
Ebon wrote after having read RGI's Springfield speech. 

^ Illinois State Register (Springfield), 27 Mar. 1868, p. 1 , col. 2 and 1 May 1868, p. 
I, col. 3; Peoria Daily Democrat, 29 Mar. 1868, p. 2, col. 3. 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 30 Mar. 1 868, p. 2, col. 2. 

^ RGI to Ebon, 29 Mar. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC: Chicago Tribune quoted in 
Peoria Daily Transcript, 21 Mar. 1868, p. 2. col. 2; Chicago Tribune (damning Ebon), 
27 Mar. 1868, p. 2, col. 3; RGI to Oglesby, I Apr. 1868, in "Goodbye dear Governor," 
100; RGI to Ebon, 9 Apr. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC; Ebon to RGI, 16 Apr. 1868, 
Ingersoll Papers, ISHL. 

90 Robert G. Ingersoll 

'^ Chicago Tribune, 3>0 Mar. 1868, p. I . col. 5. The exchange with Palmer was quoted 
in the Illinois State Journal, 1 Apr. 1868, p. 2, col. 3; Ebon to RGl, 6 Apr. 1868, Ingersoll 
Papers, ISHL. The Illinois State Register, 4 Apr. 1868, p. 1 , col. 3, remarked that Inger- 
soll's nomination would put "Oglesby's peg ahead in the senatorial contest. ' " 

" D. L. Phillips, Springfield (to John Logan], 20 Apr. 1868; Moulton to Logan. 9 
Feb. 1 868 and 1 7 Feb. 1 868, all in Logan Collection, LC. 

'- J. D. Ward,Chicago, toOglesby,8Apr. 1868; Oglcsby to W. R. Rowley, 14 Apr. 
! 868; both in Ogiesby Collection, ISHL. 

'"* Peoria Daily Transcript, 2S Apr. 1868, p. 2, col. \; Peoria Daily National Democ- 
rat. 2S Apr. 1868,p. 2,col.2. 

'■* RGI to Ebon, 29 Apr. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC; Peoria Daily Transcript, 2 
May 1868, p. 2, col. 5. Years later, E. F. Baldwin remembered that Hesing had been rebuf- 
fed by RGI, see Bloomington Daily Pantagraph,! Oct. 1876, p. 2, col. 3. 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 6 May 1868, p. 2, cols. 3-4; Peoria Daily National Democ- 
rat, \3May ]S6S, p. 2, co]. 2. 

'^ RGI to Ebon, I ! June i 868, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

" This account is based principally on the account in the Illinois State Journal, 8 May 
1868, p. l.cols. \-2; Chicago Tribune,! May 1868, p. I , cols. \-2;Tazewell Republican, 
15 May 1868, p. 2, col. 4; Peoria Daily National Democrat, 7 May 1868, p. 3, col. 3; 
and Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 May 1 868, p. 2, col. I . The accounts vary as to the number 
of votes each candidate received. 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 May 1868. p. 2. col. I and 8 May 1868, p. 3. col. 3; 
Tazewell Republican, 15 May 1868. p. 2. col. 4; Palmer's letter of acceptance, dated 8 
May 1868, is quoted in Illinois Slate Journal, 9 May 1868. p. 2, col. 2; Chicago Tribune, 
8May 1868,p.2,col. 1. 

'■^ Cameron Rogers, Colonel Bob Ingersoll (Garden City, N.Y.: Doublcday, Page & 
Co.. 1927), pp. 185-88; Edward Garstin Smith, The Life and Reminiscences of Robert G . 
Ingersoll (^cw York: National Weekly Publishing Co., 1904). p. 42; Herman Kittredge, 
Ingersoll. A Biographical Appreciation (New York: The Dresden Publishing Co.. 191 I), 
p. 64; Wakefield. Letters, pp. 77-80. More recent biographers such asC. H. Cramer, Royal 
Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1952), pp. 74-5 
and David D. Anderson. Robert Ingersoll (New York: Twaync, 1972), p. 30, reject the 
story. Wakefield used ellipses to denote her omissions here, something she often failed 
to do when transcribing Ingersoll letters in her book. 

-"' The original article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 26 Oct. 1889, p. 4, col. 5, 
was headed: "A POLITICAL REMINISCENCE. Burial of Bob Ingersoll's Ambition for 
Office-The Story Told by One of the Pal I- Bearers." The Peoria papers copied the story 
verbatim except for the headings. 

^' Peoria Daily Transcript, 6 May 1 868. p. 2, col. 5; Sangamon County Gazeteer To- 
gether with IH66 City Directories of Springfield and Jacksonville (Springfield: John C. W. 
Bailey, 1 866); Holland's Jacksonville City Directory, for IH7I-72 Containing a Complete 
List of all the Residents (Chicago: Western Publishing Co. . 1 87 1 ). 

"Bloomington Daily Pantagraph, 7 Oct. 1876, p. 3, cols. 3-4. See also "Address of 

Notes 91 

E. F. Baldwin" at the "Unveiling of the Statue of Robert G. Ingersoll at Glen Oak Park, 
Peoria, Illinois, Saturday, Oct. 28, 191 1 at 2 P.M.," p. 8 (copy at Peoria Public Library). 
On 14 May 1868, RGl wrote to Ebon: "If there is a meaner paper than the Tribune I have 
never seen it." From Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

" New York Times, 1 1 May 1868, p. 1 , col. 5; The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll In 
Twelve Volumes (New York: The Dresden Publishing Co., 1902), Vol. 5, p. 302 (1883 
"Interviews on Talmage"); New York Tribune, 1 1 May 1868, p. 4, col. 2; Illinois State 
Journal, 8 May 1 868, p. 4, col. 2. 

-^ RGI to Ebon, 9 May 1868, 14May 1868, I9June I868,20June 1868,7Sept. 1868, 
Ingersoll Collection, LC. Robert did attend the Chicago Convention. He wrote to Ebon, 
29 May 1868, Ibid.: "I was at the Chicago convention. Saw John there ... he came down 
to visit father's grave. " 

--** RGI to Ebon, 13 June 1868, Ingersoll Collection, LC; Peoria Daily Transcript, 13 
Nov. 1868, p. 2, col. 1. 

-^ RGItoOglesby,22Nov. 1868, 14 Jan. 1869, and 3 Mar. 1869, Oglesby Collection, 
ISHL;RGItoEbon, 15 Jan. 1869, 6 Mar. 1869, 1 Apr. 1869, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

4. Patriot Infidel 

' Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 June 1868, p. 2, cols. 3-4; also in Peoria Weekly Trans- 
cript, 4 June 1868, p. 2, cols. 6-7. Ebon Clark Ingersoll apparently thought the Decoration 
Day speech was his brother's best, but Robert replied: "I hardly see why you think my 
little oration my best. I don't think it equal to the address I delivered before the 86th Ills." 
Robert G. Ingersoll (hereafter RGI) to Ebon Clark Ingersoll (hereafter Ebon), 23 June 
1868, Ingersoll Collection, Library of Congress (hereafter LC). Robert's speech to the 86th 
Illinois Regiment was delivered 12 Oct. 1865. 

~ Peoria Daily Transcript, 4 Aug. 1868, p. 2, cols. 2-4. "The Colored People's Cele- 
bration" speech appears to be similar to one delivered at Galesburg in 1867, which was 
published in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll in Twelve Volumes (New York: The Dresden 
Publishing Co., 1902), Vol. 9, pp. 5-17 (hereafter cited as Works). 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript ,5 ]u\)/ 1869, p. 2, cols. 3-5. 

■* Bloomington Daily Pantagraph, 1 1 Mar. 1869, p. 4, col. 3; 12 Mar. 1869, p. 4, col. 
2; Decatur iweek\y) Republican, 1 Apr. 1869, p. 6, col. ];Works,Wo\. I, pp. 93-117. 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 23 Jan. 1870, p. 3, col. 4; RGI to Ebon, 20Jan. 1870. Inger- 
soll Collection, LC; The Rig-Veda Sanhita letter is published in full in my "Robert G. In- 
gersoll and the Sensual Gods: An Unpublished Letter," Western Illinois Regional Studies, 
3(1980), 169-72. 

^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 16Mar. 1870, p. 3, col. 2andp. 3, col. 4. 

^ Ibid., 27 Apr. 1870, p. 3, col. 3; 1 Apr. 1870, p. 3, cols. 3-4; 30 Apr. 1870, p. 3, 
cols. 3-4; 7 May 1 870, p. 2, col. 4. 

^ Ibid., 24 May 1870, p. 2, col. 1; Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick 
DoMg/a55( 1892, reprinted, London: Collier-MacMillan Ltd., 1962), pp. 461-62. 

^ See Works, Vol. 9, pp. 157-87 for the text of the Indianapolis speech. An editorial 
note on page 167 designates the beginning thus: "This poetic flight of oratory has since 

92 Robert G. Ingersoll 

become universally known as 'A Vision of War'." The "Vision" section ends on page 

'" Peoria Daily Transcript, 24 Aug. 1870, p. 2, cols. 3-4; 17 Sept. 1870, p. 2, col. 


" Ibid., 30 Sept. 1870. p. 3, cols. 4-5; 5 Nov. 1870, p. 2, cols. 4-5; 15 Nov. 1870, 
p. 2, col. 2; RGI to Oglesby, 12 Nov. 1870, Oglesby Collection, Illinois State Historical 
Library (hereafter ISHL). See also "How Ebon C. Ingersoll Was Defeated for Congress," 
in D. W. Lusk, Politics and Polilicians(Spnngne\d: H. W. Rokker, 1889), pp. 438-45. 

'- RGI to Oglesby, 11 July 1871 , Oglesby Collection, ISHL; P^onaDa/Vv 7ra/j«T/>/, 
1 Feb. 1871, p. 4, col. 3; Christopher C. Strawn, Fordyce B. Johnson, and George H. Fran- 
zen, eds.. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and the History of Livingston County, 
(Chicago: Munsell Publishing Co., 1909), p. 784; Alma Lewis-James, Stuffed Clubs and 
Antimacassars, Accounts and Tales of Early Fairbury, Illinois (Fairbury: Record Printing 
Co., 1967), pp. 7-8; "Thomas Paine," Works, Vol. 1, pp. 121-65. Joy Craig called my 
attention to the Fairbury histories. 

'^ Wakefield, Letters, p. 158; Peoria Daily Transcript, 31 Jan. 1872, p. 4, col. 2; 24 
Feb. 1872, p. 4, col. 3; 26 Feb. 1872, p. 1, col. 2; 27 Feb. 1872, p. 1, col. 2; Ebon to 
RGI, 25 Mar. 1 872, Ingersoll Collection, LC. 

'■* Works, Vol. 1 , pp. 7-90; David D. Anderson, Robert Ingersoll (New York: Twayne 
Publishers, Inc., 1972), pp. 83-89. 

'"^ Bccchcr quoted in Peoria Daily Transcript, 25 May 1872, p. 1, col. 3; Anderson, 
Robert Ingersoll, pp. 89-92; Works, Vol. 1 , pp. 169-206 and 210-53; Peoria Daily Trans- 
cript, 28 Apr. 1872, p. 4, col. 2; 5 May 1874, p. 1, col. 2; 13 June 1874. p. 2, col. I. 
Clippings from various newspapers praising T/j^- Cotii are in "Ingersoll Scrapbook 1874," 

'^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 28 Mar. 1 872, p. 4, col. 3. 

'^ RGItoOglesby,23Mar. 1872, Oglesby Collection, ISHL. 

"* E. Emery to Oglesby. 25 June and 27 June 1872; Oglesby to RGI, 6 Aug. 1872, 
Oglesby Collection, ISHL. 

'^ RGItoJcsscFell,6Apr. 1872, Wakefield, L<'»er.s, pp. \ 59-60; Peoria Daily Trans- 
cript, 2\ Aug. 1 872, p. 4, cols 1 and 3. 

-" Peoria Daily Transcript, 1 7 June 1874, p. l,col.3. 

'' From various city directories, newspaper business cards, and Edward Garstin Smith, 
The Life and Reminiscences of Robert G. Ingersoll (New York: The National Weekly Pub- 
lishing Co., 1904), pp. 28-29. 

^^ RGItoCandiceSykcs, 18Jan. 1874, quoted in Wakefield, Z.^//<'r,v. p. 517. 

^^ The Chicago Times article was cited in the Peoria Daily Transcript, 17 Dec. 1875, 
p. I, col. 2. 

5. Plumed Knight 

' Peoria Daily Transcript, 17 May 1876, p. 2, col. 2; 14 Mar. 1876, p. 4, col. 2; 3 
May 1876, p. 4, col. 3; 2 Mar. 1876, p. 4, col. 3; Peoria Daily National Democrat, 25 

Notes 93 

May 1876, p. 3, col. 3; The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll in Twelve Volumes (New York: 
The Dresden Publishing Co., 1902), Vol. 12, p. 385 (hereafter Wor/ts). 

- Peoria Daily Transcript, 23 May 1876, p. 1 , col. 4; Chicago Post and Mail as cited 
inibid.,27May I876,p. 2,col. !. 

^ David Muzzey, James G. Blaine (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. , 1935), pp. 87-89; 
Peoria Daily Transcript, 25 May 1876, p. l,col. 2. 

* Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 14 June 1876, p. 1 , col. 4; 13 June 1876, p. I , 
col. 3>\ Bloomington Daily Pantagraph, 16 June 1876, p. l,col. 3. 

^ Charles A. Church, History of the Republican Party in Illinois (Rockford, III.: Wil- 
son Bros. Co., 1912), pp. 1 26-27; Roberto. Ingersoll (hereafter RGI) to Ebon Clark Inger- 
soll (hereafter Ebon), 7 Sept. 1868, Ingersoll Collection, Library of Congress (hereafter 
LCy,M\xzzt)/, James G. Blaine, pp. 77-79. 

^ Eva Ingersoll Wakefield, The Letters of Robert G. Ingersoll (New York: Philosophi- 
cal Library, 1951) (hereafter Wakefield, Letters), pp. 83-84; Muzzey, James G. Blaine, 
p. 111. 

^ ^Vor^5,Vol.9,pp.55-60. 

^ New York Times, 16 June 1876, p. 3, col. \;New York Tribune, 16 June 1876, p. 
5, col. 5; Illinois State Journal, 16 June 1876, p. 1, col. 5. These three accounts show 
that the break and call for extended time came after the "Plumed Knight" sentence. See 
the authorized text in Works, Vol. 9, pp. 55-60, which indicates no break in the speech. 

^ Muzzey, James G. Blaine, pp. 111-12; Peoria Daily National Democrat, 20 June 
1876, p. 1, col. I. 

'° Peoria Daily National Democrat, 20 June \S16, p. l,col. \; Illinois State Journal, 
17 June 1876, p. 2, col. 2 and 21 June 1876, p. l,col. \; Chicago Times, 16 June 1876, 
as cited in Works, Vol. 9, pp. 55-56 ff. The New York Times, 16 June 1876, p. 2, col. 
7, ran a verbatim copy of the speech. "Honest Blaine," cited in C. H. Cramer, Royal Bob. ■ 
The Life of Robert G . Ingersoll (Ind'ianapoWs: Bobbs-MerrillCo. Inc., 1952), p. 80. 

" P eoria Daily Transcript, 6 }\x\y\%l(i, p. l,cols. 1-6; WorA:^, Vol. 9, pp. 63-93. 

'" Peoria Daily Transcript, 4 Aug. 1 876, p. 4, cols. 2-3 and p. 2, col. 2. 

"'* Hayes letter cited in Muzzey, James G. Blaine, p. 1 33 ff; Peoria Daily Transcript, 
28 Aug. 1876, p. 2, col. 5; 29 Aug. 1876, p. 1 , col 2; WorA:5, Vol. 9, pp. 97 ff. 

'-* Works, Vol. 9, pp. 125, 132, 138, 152, 154; Peoria Daily Transcript, 15 Sept. 
1976, p. 2, col. 4; Illinois State Journal, 16 Sept. 1876, p. 2, col. 4. The "continuous 
ovation" quotation is RGI to Clint and Sue Farrell, cited in Cramer, Royal Bob, p. 8 1 . 

'-'' Lewis Wallace, The First Christmas from Ben Hur' (New York: Harper & 
Brothers, 1902), iii-vii. Frank Hosscalledmy attention to this story. See also Lew Wallace, 
An Autobiography (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906), Vol. 2, p. 929. According to 
Robert E. and Katharine Morsberger, Lew Wallace: Militant Romantic (New York: 
McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1980), p. 298, the Ingersoll-Wallace meeting took place on 19 
Sept. 1 876. See also Irving McKee, ' 'Ben-Hur' ' Wallace: The Life of General Lew Wallace 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1947), pp. 166-70. 

'^ Wor/:5, Vol. 9, pp. \ 57 -SI; Peoria Daily Transcript, 20 Oct. 1876,p. l,col.2. 

94 Robert G. Ingersoll 

'■^ Ibid.. 23 Sept. 1876, p. 4, cols. 4-8 and p. 4, col. 3; 2 Oct. 1876, p. 2, col. 1. 

'^ Ibid., 12 Oct. 1876, p. 4, col. 4; 19 Oct. 1876, p. 4, col. 3; 24 Oct. 1876, p. 2, 
col. 3; Works, Vol. 9, p. 206. 

'"^ Peoria Daily National Democrat, 22 Oct. 1876, p. 4, col. 3; 25 Oct. 1876, p. 2, 
col. 2; 26 Oct. 1876, p. 4, col. 3; Peoria Daily Transcript, 25 Oct. 1876, p. 1, col. 1; 
3! Oct. 1876, p. !,col.2. 

-^ RGI to Rev. Henry Apple, Peoria Journal Star, 1 Dec. 1948, Vertical File, Peoria 
Public Library; Peoria Daily Transcript, 4 Aug. 1876, p. 2. col. i; 13 Oct. 1876, p. 4, 
col. 4. 

-' Andrew Shuman to RGI, 14 Nov. 1876, Ingersoll Papers, Illinois State Historical 
Library, Springfield. Gilbert may have been Alvin Gilbert, Vermillion County, who was 
elected to the state legislature in 1 876. 

■^- Chicago Evening Journal, reprinted in Peoria Daily Transcript, 12 Jan. 1877, p. 
2, col. 1; 30 Mar. 1877, p. 2, col. 1; WorA:5, Vol. 9, pp. 227-63. 

-' Peoria Daily Transcript, 30 Mar. 1877, p. 2, col. I; 15 Mar. 1877, p. 1, col. 5; 
17 Apr. 1877, p. 2, col. 2; 7 July 1877, p. 2. col. I; 27 Mar. 1877, p. 2, col. 2. For the 
complete text of "Ghosts" and "The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child," see Works, 
Vol. 1, pp. 235-398; Robert D. Anderson, Robert Ingersoll (New York; Twayne Pub- 
lishers, Inc., 1972), pp. 93-98, offers synopses ofthe two speeches. 

-•* Ebon to RGI, 16 June 1875, cited in Wakefield, Letters, p. 518; Works, Vol. 1, 
p . 40 1 ; Peoria Daily Transcript , 24 Sept . 1 877 , p . 2 , col . 2 . 

^^ See my ' 'Goodbye dear Governor, ' " Journal ofthe Illinois State Historical Society, 
73(1980), 114. 

-^ Peoria Daily Transcript, 6 Nov. 1877, p. 2, col. 4; 9 Nov. 1877, p. 2, col. 2; 10 
Nov. 1877, p. 2, col. 3; 16 Nov. 1877, p. 2, col. 1; 19 Nov. 1877, p. l,col. 5; 21 Nov. 
1877, p. 2, col. 1; 23 Nov. 1877, p. 2, col. 2; RGI to "Dear Folks," II Nov. 1877, 
Wakefield, Le//er.y, p. \62. Thclllinois State Journal , I40ct. 1877, p. l,col. I , reported: 
"A Washington special announces that Col. R. G. Ingersoll, of Peoria, will move to 
Washington, this winter, to practice law." On 19 Feb. 1878, p. l,col. I , the same newspa- 
per wrote; "The Peoria Transcript regretfully announces 'that Col. R. G. Ingersoll and 
family have probably finally abandoned Peoria as a place of residence." He is now residing 
in Washington, and his Peoria residence is offered for sale." Boyds Directory or the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. IH7H (Washington, D. C: Mohur Brothers, 1877) includes no listing 
for Robert. The 1879 directory (copyright, 1878) lists Robert G. and tbon C. Ingcrsoll's 
law office at 141 7 G Street, Northwest and Robert's residence at 45 Lafayette Street. 

-'' See F. L. P|axton|, "Ingersoll, Robert Green," Dictionary of American Biography 
( 1934) and /Kn(\cxson, Robert Ingersoll. pp. ! 6 and 80- 1 25. 

'** Cramer, /?ova/flo/7, pp. 179-266. 

^^ The Chicago Inter-Ocean, as quoted in the Peoria Star, 22 July 1 899.