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Posts Tagged ‘Robert G. Ingersoll’


Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

–NOT Abraham Lincoln


I was thinking about character this morning and came across the quote above, which has been used on occasion by political organizations in recent times and is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

Great words and most likely the truth.

But it turns out that the words were actually not from Lincoln but instead were spoken about Lincoln.  The words actually come from my new hero of words, Robert Green Ingersoll, who I briefly profiled in a blog post this past week.

In 1883, at an event in Washington DC, Ingersoll was introducing a speaker who was going to lecture on the late President Lincoln. During his introduction Ingersoll said of Lincoln’s prowess as an orator, comparing Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburgwith that of the speaker, Edward Everett, who followed him and rambled on for a very long time :

“… If you want to know the difference between an orator and a speaker, read the oration of Lincoln at Gettysburg, and then read the speech of Everett at the same place. One came from the heart, the other was born only of the voice. Lincoln’s speech will be remembered forever. Everett’s no man will read. It was like plucked flowers.

After a round of applause, Ingersoll then added:

If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity. It is the glory of Abraham Lincoln that he never abused power only on the side of mercy. [Applause]. He was a perfectly honest man. When he had power, he used it in mercy …”

Ingersoll modified these comments for a later lecture on Lincoln:

“Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except on the side of mercy.”

Over the years, Ingersoll’s words were used often in many newspapers and magazines and correctly attributed to him. But as time wore on, his words were condensed down to the form you see at the top with Ingersoll’s name being forgotten, instead replaced by the very man of which he spoke.

As great and lauded as he was, Bob Ingersoll was just destined to be overlooked by history, I guess.

But his observation on character certainly holds true today.

We have a man who holds what is most likely the most powerful position in the world, the president*** of the USA, who has been given ( and has taken) almost absolute power. It has certainly revealed his true character.

And it ain’t pretty.

A multitude of revelations have come out in recent days, all painting him (almost always with his own words) as the soulless, selfish, ugly creature, something that seems so obvious to me and many others by the simple witnessing of his actions. Yet, reading through the reactions of his ardent followers on social media, it is portrayed as some sort of character assassination.

My question is: Can it be character assassination when the character of the person ( I am giving him the benefit of a doubt here, folks) in question is fully revealed as it truly is?

His actions and his words– spoken in his recorded voice— all reveal a character that is lacking any positive attributes. It is a character that shows itself as being small in scale and weak in practice.

It is a character that would let tens of thousands–maybe even hundreds of thousands– of the citizens he was entrusted to protect die, suffer and lose their livelihoods so that he might protect his political and financial aspirations.

He has told us who he is with his own words and he has demonstrated his character day after day for the past four years.

If at this point, you still believe that he has a reverence for or loyalty to this country, a respect for its citizens, or any interests beyond his own, you, my friend, are a fool.

I am going to condense that for you, probably not in a way that would please the great Robert G. Ingersoll:

If you still support this goddamn creep, you’re a fucking idiot.

Apologies to my less profane friends out there but this a time for plain speaking. Just my opinion.

Try to have a good day.

 

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Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.

–Robert Green Ingersoll

***********************

After writing yesterday about a person* with no honor whatsoever I thought I would write just a few words about a man with honor in abundance.

Most likely you don’t know his name, Robert G. Ingersoll. I know he was unknown to me. But while looking up a quote I kept coming across quotes from well known men who spoke of this man in what can only be described as glowing terms. Thomas Edison described him as being perhaps the closest thing to a perfect man on this earth. And Clarence Darrow eulogized him with these words: 

“Robert G. Ingersoll was a great man. a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, one of the great men of the earth — and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great orators, great soldiers, great lawyers, often use their gifts for a most unholy cause. We meet to pay a tribute of love and respect to Robert G. Ingersoll because he used his matchless power for the good of man.

And Walt Whitman said this of the living Ingersoll:

“It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is ‘Leaves of Grass’ … He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen—- American-flavored—- pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.”

I found myself asking who the heck was this guy?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) was perhaps the most famous American of his day. He was a lawyer who was recognized as the preeminent orator of his time. As an enlightened freethinker and pioneer of humane, rational, and agnostic views, Ingersoll was a tireless advocate of rational thought, battling superstition and hypocrisy wherever he found it. Ingersoll would regularly address huge audiences, opening their minds to ideas that often provoked guarded whispers in private. He was a man far ahead of his time, advocating such progressive causes as agnosticism, birth control, voting rights for women, the advancement of science, civil rights, and freedom of speech. He had a wide influence in his day but somehow has been overlooked in the century or so that has passed since his death in 1899.

Ingersoll was born in 1833 not too far from here, up in Dresden, near the west shore of Seneca Lake. I just discovered that there is actually a small museum there dedicated to his life and work. I look forward to visiting it at some point. He only lived there as an infant because his father, an abolitionist preacher, was often on the move. However, a collection of his works published just after his death is called the Dresden Editions, published by the Dresden Publishing Company which was formed to publish this 12 volume set and was named specifically  after his birthplace.

I am still discovering more on this interesting fellow so I am going to urge you to do so as well on your own. I would think that someone who garnered so much openly warm praise from the great men of his time deserves a few moments and has something to offer us now.

Note:

I thought his words at the top were an appropriate response to the ignorance and abhorrent behavior we have been exposed to on a daily basis for the past four years. Also, Ingersoll was a Colonel in the Union army during the Civil War and is buried at Arlington National Cememtery, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

He was captured during the war which I guess, by current standards, makes him a sucker for enlisting and a loser for being captured.

However, even though Ingersoll might be considered a sucker and a loser, I sincerely doubt that the current occupant of our white house will have any of the greats of this age, save Kid Rock and Scott Baio, trumpeting his good works, his love for humanity or his good heart once he is stone cold and forever dead.

 

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