The wall teetered but held–through the Haymarket Riot of 1886, which was blamed on anarchists and immigrants, through the Palmer Raids of 1919-1921, which targeted communists (and out of which was born the American Civil Liberties Union), and, most famously, through the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which pitted the fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan, against the freethinker Clarence Darrow. Of the group, Ingersoll emerges in Jacoby’s telling as the most underrated by posterity; she makes a compelling case for him as a major figure. . Jacoby utilizes “freethinkers” as a catch-all term which includes deists, agnostics and atheists–as well as Jews and liberal Protestants, especially Quakers and Unitarians–on the grounds that these very distinct groups are joined politically by “a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world.”  The book traces the struggles of freethinkers to prevent the Christian majority in the United States from installing various aspects of their religious agenda into the law of the land. They intended to found and frame a government for man, and for man alone.”  He also earned the nickname the Great Agnostic, lampooning religious certitudes wherever he encountered them: “The Catholics will give you a through ticket to heaven, and they will attend to your baggage, and keep it too. The spirit of Ingersoll hovers over the freethought movements of the early twentieth century, with Darrow eventually emerging as his and Paine’s natural heir, fighting the forces of religious orthodoxy until his death in 1938. UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS: "Whispers". 3 talking about this. Jacoby also provides a useful account of the evolution of Pledge of Allegiance–written in 1892, at the urging of the National Education Association, by a Christian Socialist named Francis Bellamy and intended as “a straightforward statement of the American public school system’s commitment to assimilation of all immigrants.”  Congress crow-barred the phrase “under God” into the pledge in 1954, during the McCarthy era, bowing to pressure from a movement led by the Knights of Columbus; the insertion would surely have appalled Bellamy, a devout proponent of church-state separation. Winnetka, IL 60093 October 1 - 31, 2020 Biography. Jacoby provides a lively intellectual panorama of the era, replete with brief but incisive portraits of William Lloyd Garrison, Lincoln (of course), Mott, Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Robert Ingersoll and Darrow–along with cameos by Douglass, the Grimké sisters, Rose, Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman. Two points are worth noting in the latter case: First, Darrow. On the whole, however, Jacoby falters as she turns to the latter half of the twentieth century. On the subject of the Founding Fathers, he remarked, “They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out. Copyright © 2020 Mark Goldblatt — Stout WordPress theme by, History is written from a point of view–inevitably. Though Ingersoll never held elected office–he lost his only bid for Congress from Illinois in 1860 because of his opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law–he acquired, in the years following the Civil War, a national reputation as a public speaker, known especially for his stirring lectures on the perils of mixing religion and government. That the colonies would eventually unite to form a single secular entity was by no means a given. . With the possible exception of the abolitionists–and even here, Jacoby argues, the Bible was used as often to justify slavery as to condemn it–each group had a clear stake in the separation of church and state; thus, every effort by conservatives to breach the church-state wall was met by an equal and opposite forging of liberal alliances. Such liaisons were often tenuous; when the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, granted black men the right to vote, at a time when women still were denied, the suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton expressed her outrage in explicitly racist and nativist terms: “Think of Patrick and Sambo . Jacoby provides a lively intellectual panorama of the era, replete with brief but incisive portraits of William Lloyd Garrison, Lincoln (of course), Mott, Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Robert Ingersoll and Darrow–along with cameos by Douglass, the Grimké sisters, Rose, Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman.
Ex-sister-in-law of April Wayne. Join Facebook to connect with Susan Jacoby and others you may know. She is known for her work on Columbo (1971), Hello, Larry (1979) and Good Times (1974). They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. . A discussion of the women’s movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s begins promisingly, but the abortion issue occasions a disquisition on moral relativism, “an honorable concept that has been poisoned by cultural conservatives and insufficiently defended by secularists.”  Maybe so, but then she asserts, a scant 13 lines later, “all decent societies do indeed prohibit murder.” Her reasoning here is, to say the least, myopic. Jacoby’s story picks up with Thomas Paine, the freethinker whose January 1776 pamphlet, The highlight of Jacoby’s book is unquestionably her account of the tumultuous hundred year period, roughly 1825-1925, which encompasses what she calls “the golden age of freethought.” Coalitions evolved among reform movements, exemplified by the presence of abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Conference of 1848. Susan Jacoby. That predicament should not detract from what she has managed to produce, which is an impassioned, eminently readable history of the secularist tradition in the United States.
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