Royal Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll

Royal Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll

Royal Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll

Royal Bob: The Life of Robert G. Ingersoll

Excerpt

Ardent friends compared him to Shakespeare and Lincoln. Bitter enemies wanted to transport him to the South Seas. Walt Whitman thought he was sent by heaven to save the race from itself. Worried opponents said the Devil had dispatched him to carry on the work of antichrist on earth.

The name of Robert Green Ingersoll was as well known in most American homes as the captains and the kings of his day. As a Republican he was the Big Voice of the party. As a lawyer he was frequently able to bend juries to his will. As an orator he amused, informed or disquieted auditors in almost every state in the Union. As a rationalist he preached salvation through science.

A half century after his death it is possible to look at Ingersoll in a perspective which has become more distinct with the passage of time. Much of the emotional turbidity which clouded the canvas in that day has been dissipated. It is clearly seen that many problems of the late nineteenth century--the bitter strife of party politics, the conflict of science and religion and the relationship of church and state --were not unique to his time.

Ingersoll has no counterparts, then or now. The savagely bitter Brann does not qualify. Perhaps the eloquent and melancholy Darrow comes closest, but he had little of Ingersoll's gay optimism and joie de vivre. It was these qualities which brought from President James A. Garfield the sobriquet "Royal Bob"--for an Ingersoll who played his role in regal fashion.

I am grateful to good friends for wise counsel during the evolution of this biography. The encouragement given by Dean Carl F. Wittke of the Graduate School of Western Reserve University . . .

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