1. 1st Series

The Beacon (1836 -1839)[1]

“Praise and follow that philosophy which is according to nature.”

Prospectus: The object of this paper will be to excite a judicious and continued action of those faculties or powers of man, of which he is susceptible by the nature of his organization, namely, those of observation, comparison, and reflection. . . . A due exercise of these faculties, will enable us to discover the pernicious tendency of all those doctrines by which the human judgment has been confounded- all those sacred mysteries by which the mental energies have been absorbed- all the imposing ceremonies by which the conscience has been satisfied, leaving the heart unimproved. These reveries, handed down to us from ages of ignorance and superstition, have enchained moral action, and checked the progress of human intellect; and they bid fair to descend to future generations, unless stayed by the strong arm of scientific research.

Examined: First Series: 1:1 (Oct. 22, 1836) – 3:19 (Mar. 23, 1839); 3:21 (Apr. 6, 1839); 3:26 (May 18, 1839) – 3:27 (May 25, 1839); 3:31 (June 22, 1839) – 3:32 (June 29, 1839); 3:34 (July 13, 1839); 3:36 (Aug. 17, 1839) – 3:38 (Aug. 10, 1839); 3:41 (Aug. 31, 1839) – 3:52 (Nov. 16, 1839).


Board of Directors of “The United States Moral and Philosophical Society for the General Diffusion of Useful Knowledge” 1:1 (Oct. 22, 1836) – 1:26 (Apr. 29, 1837).

Gilbert Vale. 1:27 (May 6, 1837) – 3:52 (Nov. 16, 1839).

Publication Information: New York, New York.

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors: John Fellows (J.F.), Mercator, Stephen J.W. Tabor (S.J.W.T.), Thomas Thompson (T.T.), and Oliver White(O.H.W.).

Subjects/Features: Religion and Morality, Religion and Science, Education, Foreign and Domestic News, Geology, Political Economy, Banking and Currency, Electro Magnetism, Phrenology, Mormonism, Evidences of Christianity and China.

Reprints/Extracts: Voltaire’s The Monk and the Honest Man (translated by S.W.J.T.); Elihu Palmer, The Political World; G. Vale, Compendium of the Life of Thomas Paine; Robert Taylor, Diegesis; George Combe, Constitution of Man; Michael I. Quin, Society in Ancient Times; Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology; William Drummond ,Oedipus Judaicus; S.E. Curtis, Theology Displayed; Thomas Chandler Haliburton, The Clockmaker, or, the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville, and the writings of Thomas Paine and Robert Dale Owen.

Periodical Reprints: Boston Investigator, Cleveland Liberalist, Disseminator (New Harmony, Ind.), U.S. Magazine and Democratic Review (Washington D.C.), New York Watchman, and Star in the East (London).


The Movement


G.V. “Infidelity.” 1:29 (May 20, 1837): 270-71. Vale notes, “The unbeliever in the scriptures as a Divine Revelation, necessarily regards the religious faith and feelings of the mass of mankind, as an effect of accident; the consequence of their birth and associations; he looks therefore upon the Jew, the Turk, the Persian, the Catholic, Calvinist, Methodist, &c. as men of one family, the same as his own, and proper objects for the kind offices of humanity . . . .”

Objects, Initiatives and Status

G.V. “On the Progress of Knowledge- Sir Isaac Newton- The Languages- Religion of the Learned.” 1:9 (Dec. 31, 1836): 97. Vale concludes, “What too was formerly called the religion of the learned, is now becoming the religion of the people; for intelligence and superstition are at variance, and the churches themselves even minister to Tammany Hall. Inquiry frequently begins in a Sunday School, and terminates in a firm belief in whatever can be proved, a disbelief in what can be shown to be absurd, and skepticism in matters uncertain: a large portion of the immense crowds of well dressed citizens and respectable ladies who now attend Tammany Hall on Sunday evening, in spite of personal prejudices, have been superstitiously educated: but darkness will not remain in the light of a free and cheap press; this has already revolutionized the male population, and threatens to liberalize the female.”

G.V. “On the Progress of Liberal Practices.” 1:11 (Jan. 14, 1837): 117-18. Vale begins, “Liberalism does not mean Atheism, Deism, Socinianism, or any other ism but its own; neither are skeptics always liberal: liberalism, of the progress of which we hear so much, and with so much truth, consists in admitting the right of others to the same liberty of thought and action which we claim for ourselves, while at the same time we do not suffer any difference of opinion to impede those good and kind offices which constitute the harmony and happiness of society.”

“Retrospect of the Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 1:27 (May 7, 1837): 250-51. The article begins, “By liberal opinions are meant those which spring from a consciousness that a man is neither the better nor worse for his religious faith or abstract points; and that all religious opinions are proper subjects for candid examination.”

G.V. “Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 1:31 (June 3, 1837): 288-89. Vale reports the election of liberals Ransom Cook and Samuel Underhill as magistrates in Saratoga and Cleveland respectively.

G. Vale. “A Sermon. Addressed to Rev. Mr. Breckenridge.” 2:9 (Dec. 30, 1837): 67-68. Vale’s sermon is in response to Breckenridge’s contention that “Infidels now were, and long had been engaged, in propagating the abominable and blasphemous doctrine that to be free, man must be base. That throughout this wide country they were industriously disseminating the horrible opinions that in proportion as we renounced God, despised virtue, trampled on morals and violated all the finer sensibilities of our race, so were we free.” Vale begins by asking Breckenridge, “Are you a fool, or a knave?”

G.V. “Public Feeling on Liberal Opinions in England – Carlile.” 2:47 (Sept. 29, 1838): 370-72. Vale reviews two liberal English papers, Star in the East and The Church.

G.V. “Progress of Useful Knowledge, Liberal Opinions, and Correct Feelings.” 2:49 (Oct. 20, 1838): 385-86. Vale reports “We have all the respectable on the fence; for us in prosperity, against us in adversity; for us in private, against us in public; for us among men, and away from home, against us at home, in ladies company, in trade, and in the church: and this forms an enormous class, divided into sections, but all ready to join the pursuit, and to pick up the spoil when others have gained the victory.”

Biographical Sketches

S.J.W.T. “Tammany Hall.” 1:3 (Nov. 5, 1836): 31- 32. A report on a lecture delivered on free discussion by Mr. Hewitt and Benjamin Offen. Remarking on Offen as a lecturer, Tabor notes “no man, perhaps, exceeds him in native eloquence, in happy pleasantry, or in sound good sense. He possesses in an extraordinary degree the faculty of pleasing an audience. His elucidations and comparisons are occasionally so witty and so apposite that the gloomiest Calvinist could not refrain from laughter. Indeed, Tammany Hall is greatly indebted to Benjamin Offen for its present flourishing condition.”

Church and State

Religion in the Public Schools

G.V. “Republican Principles. Singular Petitions.” 2:12-13 (Jan. 20-27, 1838): 92-93, 99-100. Vale reports the following petitions submitted to the assembly of New York: one requesting that prayer and Bible reading be prohibited in the public schools and another requesting the repeal of all laws which prohibit labor on the Sabbath.

“Convention on Primary Schools.” 2:13 (Jan. 27, 1838): 101. Reprinted from the Cleveland Liberalist, the editor announces his intention to present at the next convention a series of resolutions including, “Resolved, That the time has fully come, when a joint volume, made up of the Bible and the Theological Works of Thomas Paine should be introduced into all our common schools, there to be read without comment [by instructors], and free discussion permitted thereon between all the pupils.”

J.L.G. “Indirect Influence of Orthodoxy.” 2:52 (Nov. 10, 1838): 414-15. Writing from McConnelsville, Morgan Co., Ohio, this correspondent expresses grave concern about religious content in school books and asks, “Cannot the liberal part of the world find an individual who can collate a set of school books . . . . which if they do not contain all that the religious community desire, will at least have nothing in them that it will object to?”

John Eastmond. “A Spark Becoming a Little Flame.” 3:2 (Nov. 24, 1838): 15-16. Responding to J.L.G., Eastmond recommends Caleb Hoskins’ The School Library of Useful and General Knowledge as school texts “perfectly free from nonsense.”

Freedom of Speech

Blasphemy – Case of Abner Kneeland

“Mr. Kneeland’s Prosecution and Judgment.” 2:25 (Apr. 21, 1838): 196-97. Reprinted from the Boston Advocate, includes Vale’s remarks.

G.V. “Mr. Kneeland and the City of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts.” 2:34 (June 30, 1838): 269. Vale states, “Now is the time for agitation; now is the time to fix the bigot’s brand on the brow that deserves it; and to separate the liberal (whatever be his profession) from the scoundrel: let public meetings be held, remonstrances published, societies formed for the protection of equal rights and religious liberty: and above all, let these be preserved in.”

Viator. “Prosecution of Mr. Kneeland.” 2:35 (July 7, 1838): 277. Reprinted from the Ohio Statesman. The author remarks, “That prosecution, I venture to predict, will prove to have been one of the expiring spasms of theological domination in that State – and not unlikely in the whole land. . . . It was instituted professedly to arrest the progress of Atheism – but in reality to suppress not merely unbelief in a Supreme Being, but also in Christianity. Now, although there may not be much Atheism in this country, yet it is perfectly well understood by intelligent men, that a very large proportion (some say a majority) of the male adults in the United States are unbelievers in Christianity.”

“Mr. Kneeland’s Case, with the original Articles.” 2:37 (July 21, 1838): 289-94.

“Mr. Kneeland’s Case, The Original Article, containing the Legal offence on which a conviction was Obtained.” 2:38 (July 28, 1838): 300-01.

“Mr. Kneeland’s Case, with Original Articles, to be kept for Reference.” 2:39 (Aug. 4, 1838): 306-09. This entry features Ben Krapac’s “On Prejudice. Cogitations of an Infidel.”

“Public Spirit at Flint Creek, N.Y.” 2:44 (Sept. 8, 1838): 351-52. This is a report on a meeting of “friends of Equal Rights and Liberal Principles, who adopted a series of resolutions in light of the recent Kneeland case. The preamble read in part, “Whereas, Free Enquiry is the only sure and direct way to the discovery of truth, and the more universal happiness of man; and whereas, perfect Liberty of Speech, and Freedom of the Press are essentially necessary to the perfection of universal, bold, free, and fearless enquiry; and whereas these inalienable rights, liberties, and blood bought privileges, have been set aside, wholly disregarded and trampled upon in the case of Abner Kneeland; and whereas, this same disposition- and the influences which have given birth and sustenance to it- are still at work; and whereas, prompt and efficient action is highly requisite on our part, to quench the raging spirit of bigotry, and its offspring intolerance, with the view to the preservation of our own peace and rights, and the future well being of posterity.” Signed by D.S. Titus and E.P. Averill.

James Watson. “Letter from a London Bookseller.” 2:46 (Sept. 22, 1838): 362-63. Reflecting on Kneeland’s case, Watson writes, “I was in hopes that this barbarous method of retaliating on an antagonist to the superstition of the day, was at an end, and especially in America. The fierce and savage spirit of religious intolerance is as strong as ever, and whatever freedom the freethinker in America or England enjoys, is attributable rather to the want of power to enforce uniformity of faith, than to any disinclination to prosecute, on the part of the followers of a religion said to be sent from God, but which, in more truth, its whole history proves to be the parent of discord, hatred, and blood.”

“The Trinity.” 3:34 (July 13, 1839): 267-69. An extract from Kneeland’s Defence.



P.D. “Superstition.” 1:23 (Apr. 8, 1837): 218-19. The author observes, “Religious impostors, by wielding this mighty scepter over the minds of timid and credulous men have enslaved thousands of intellectual beings, and led them to the perpetration of crimes of the deepest dye. Tyrants and ambitious despots have awed and ruled multitudes by entrenching themselves in the strongholds of supernatural influence; and the sword and the firebrand have been extensively employed in asserting and maintaining the rights of those who have been the dupes of superstition.”

Robert Dale Owen. “Influence of the Clerical Profession.”  2:7, 10-11 (Dec. 16, 1837; Jan. 6-13, 1838): 53-54, 76-77, 85. In the first article of the series, Owen confesses, “I have no religion; that is, my reason assents to the spiritual creed of no sect; I have not accustomed myself to personify a first cause; I embody no superhuman spirits, angelic or infernal; I acknowledge the infallibility of no book, and the accuracy of no preternatural conceptions. If I dream of anything unearthly, I keep my dreams to myself. And I think all men and women would enjoy more of habitual serenity and permanent happiness, if all theological imaginations were discarded.”

 “The Messiah – Faith – and the Kentish Murders.” 2:51 (Nov. 3, 1838): 404-06. Reprinted from Star in the East, in reference to Sir William Courtenay, “an assumed Messiah, lately killed.”

John Fellows. “On the Supposed Necessity of Deceiving the Vulgar.” 3:18-19 (Mar. 16-23, 1839): 139-40, 147-49. The author remarks, “But the grand support of superstition is from those whose greatest interest is to put it down. Physicians, historians, legislators, schoolmasters, newspaper editors, and political economists, uphold and protect their arch-enemy, by maintaining the fatal maxim, that it is necessary to deceive the vulgar.”

“The Resurrection.” 3:31 (June 22, 1839): 243-45. Reprinted from the Star in the East. The author notes, “We all know that children at an early age are prone to believe the most wild and contradictory, and improbable narrations, they delight in the marvelous; and so, in the early ages of the world mankind have been prone to believe the most incongruous and inconsistent narrations. There is no ancient history which does not abound with marvels, and prodigies, and monstrosities, which the intelligent reader at once discards on the ground of their improbability.”

S.E. Curtis. “Review of Christian Evidences.” 3:37 (Aug. 3, 1839): 292-93.

S.E. Curtis. “A Review of Christian Evidences.” 3:41 (Aug. 31, 1839): 323-24.

S.E. Curtis. “Christian Evidences. – St. Paul.” 3:42 (Sept. 7, 1839): 331-32.

S.E. Curtis. “Internal Evidences of the Bible.” 3:44 (Set. 21, 1839): 347-49.


G.V. “Mormon Preachers in New York.” 2:8 (Dec. 23, 1837): 59-60. Vale concludes “It is curious that believers alone are humbugged by new religions. . . . The exemption of skeptics from these follies, while they have full effect on sincere believers, is a strong collateral proof that conversion, and faith in mysteries are delusions; and that reason aided by knowledge, is the best guide on religious subjects.”

E. “Two Bibles. The Mormon Discussion.” and “Mormonism.” 2:11, 13 (Jan. 13, 27, 1838): 34, 100. The author reports on a discussion between Parley Pratt and Origen Bachelor “On the Truth of the Mormon Doctrine” and concludes, “Mormonism does not clash with Christianity; it is in fact a confirmation of it . . . . for Christians to try to “show up” the principles contained in this new book, will be as destructive to them as cutting their own throats- a very act of suicide.”

“The Mormons.” 3:44 (Sept. 21, 1839): 350-52. This article features extracts from a pamphlet entitled Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons, published by John P. Green.

Religion and Morality

S.J.W.T. “Infidelity.” 1:7 (Dec. 17, 1836): 80-81. Tabor answers the editors of the New York Weekly Messenger who insist on equating infidelity with lasciviousness and skepticism with immorality by stating in part, “The Infidels are not immoral as you pretend, but as you well know, our prisons are filled with believers, and encouragement is in a measure held out to crime by the atonement you preach.”

C. “Difference between Religion and Morality.” 1:12 (Jan. 21, 1837): 124-25.

“On Belief and Opinions as Objects of Moral Approbation and Disapprobation, Rewards and Punishments.” 1:26 (Apr. 29, 1837): 241-42.

Religion and Science

H. “Warfare of Misguided Zeal upon Science.” 1:10-12 (Jan. 7-21, 1837): 105-06, 113-14, 121-22. Reprinted from The Knickerbocker (N.Y.). The author concludes, “Curiosity is but excited by opposition; and the surest means of disturbing the balance of the judgment, and driving inquirers into the extreme of skepticism, is to denounce a real progress toward truth as falsehood and infidelity. We are persuaded that in deprecating misguided and intolerant zeal, we attack the strongest obstacle to the spread of pure religion.”

“Links in Nature.” 1:38 (July 22, 1837): 339-40. Reprinted from Disseminator, the author begins, “The signs of resemblance among animals as described as links in creation, as such, are worthy of our notice. In examining these links, it would appear that Nature has pursued a great and universal plan in producing a system of animal organization, rising gradually from the most simple to the most complex. So obvious has this principle been, that some writers have not scrupled to allege that Man,  who occupies the highest rank in creation, has sprung from the lowest atom, and by a series of progressions has arrived at what he now is. But this is mere idle fancy.”

G.V. “Popular Religion and the Physical Sciences.” 2:1 (Nov. 4, 1837): 4-5. Vale remarks, “Were the popular religion of this city deserted by those who no longer believe it, it would stand like the dregs of a wine bottle, contemptible in quantity, and nauseous in quality.”

“The Physical Sciences a Little at Variance with the Letter of the Bible.” 2:47 (Sept. 29, 1838): 372. Reprinted from The Church, the author informs that, “Physiology and Comparative Anatomy will not tolerate the literal idea of a supernatural conception and a virgin birth of a son, nor of a resurrection to life of the really dead, nor of bodily ascension through the earth’s atmosphere, nor of fasting forty days, nor of bodily walking upon water without artificial means, nor of an anatomical God, Devil, Angel, or Spirit.”

G.V. “Science, Morals, and Religion.” 2:52 (Nov. 10, 1838): 409-10. Vale begins, “The man of science and of genius sometimes looks through nature up to nature’s God, and becomes religious in his own conceit; thus, Lord Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and Burns, were religious in their way; that is, they acknowledged and reverenced (the peculiarity of religion) a superior power to man, as manifested in the wisdom and beneficence displayed in the world: yet such are despised by the man of genuine religion, in the sense of the religious world. The real orthodox man regards the world as an abortion, or monster, begotten in mistake and brought forth in corruption; the dwelling place of a degraded being, naturally depraved, and influenced by the Devil.”

G.V. “Men of Science and Popular Religion.” 3:18 (Mar. 16, 1839): 137-38.

G.V. “Science and Assumed Revelation.” 3:21 (Apr. 6, 1839): 161-62. Vale begins, “Every nation has had a popular religion, with which to amuse and dupe the vulgar. This from necessity has always been at variance with science, and the educated of every age have always excused themselves from belief. It is curious to observe in our own day the wreathings and contortions of revelation to suit the several discoveries in nature which science is daily exposing to the people in so palpable a manner, that in spite of the politeness of writers and lecturers in their endeavors to reconcile the two, the most unpalatable truths become gradually indisputable, and revelation yields step by step, in the most decent order she can assume, before the light of science.” To illustrate his position, Vale provides an extract from Buckland’s Geology.

G.V. “An Introduction to a Lecture on God and Science.” 3:46 (Oct. 5, 1839): 363-65. This article is based on notes used for a series of lectures on God and Science delivered in Philadelphia.


S.J.W.T. “Frances Wright Darusmont.” 1:2 (Oct. 29, 1836): 17-18. Tabor reports on a discourse on slavery delivered by Wright at the Masonic Hall.

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Supplement to The Beacon by order of the Committee of Arrangement for the Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Birthday of Thomas Paine.” 1:15 (Feb. 11, 1837): 153-60.

“Celebration of the Paine Anniversary.” 2:14 (Feb. 3, 1838): 110-12. Features volunteer and individual toasts, including, “Liberal Principles. May they spread over the habitable globe, and soon cause the great fabric of Superstition to fall prostrate at the feet of Reason.”

J.U. “Celebration of Paine’s Birthday in Cincinnati, Ohio.” 2:17 (Feb. 24, 1838): 132-33. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator, the author begins, “The anniversary of the birthday of Thomas Paine had never been celebrated in the Queen of the West; and when the proposal was made, alarm and consternation seemed to have seized the enemy’s camp. The bankocrats stirred in their corruption and their foulness dirtied the pages of their journals. The craft of the mystifiers caused its votaries to make strenuous exertions to bewilder and terrify all who are not wise enough to rely on their own experience as to the common course of events.”

“The Paine Celebration- Standing Toasts.” 3:12 (Feb. 2, 1839): 89. Among which was a toast to “Universal education – The proper basis of universal suffrage. The common right of man, a check to aristocratic insolence, and an antedote to superstition and bigotry.”

“Volunteer Toasts. At the late Paine Celebration” and “Individual Toasts, handed to the Chairman at the late P.C. for Presentation.”  3:13 (Feb. 9, 1839): 99-101. Among the volunteer toasts were the following two sent by a lady: “The rights of woman – May the spread of liberal opinions destroy all opposition to her just claims to their enjoyment,” and to “Paine’s Common Sense and American Rifles. May the former never be out of print and the latter ever primed for the cause of liberty.”

“Paine Celebration at New Harmony, Ind.” 3:16 (Mar. 2, 1839): 125-26. This article includes a brief account of the proceedings, regular toasts and volunteer toasts.

Richard Owen. “Address Delivered on the Anniversary of Paine’s Birthday, January 29, 1839.” 3:17 (Mar. 9, 1839): 129-30.


G. Vale. “Visit to the Tomb of Thomas Paine.” 1:37 (July 15, 1837): 331-32.

G.V. “Monument to the Memory of Thomas Paine.” 1:38 (July 22, 1837): 345-46.

G.V. “Thomas Paine’s Monument.” 1:42 (Aug. 19, 1837): 371-73. Includes a reprinting from the Boston Investigator of a “rude attack”” on Vale and the Beacon for their efforts to restore the Thomas Paine monument.

G.V. “Paine Monument.” 1:43 (Aug. 26, 1837): 379-80.Vale continues his reply to the “rude attack” on his efforts to restore the Paine Monument.

G.V. “Abner Kneeland and Paine’s Monument.” 1:44 (Sept. 2, 1837): 387-89.

“The Gentlemen behind the Scenes.” 1:46 (Sept. 16, 1837): 409-10. Vale discovers the identity of the author of the “rude attack.”

G.V. “Paine’s Monument.” 2:3-4 (Nov. 18-25, 1837): 17, 28.

“Large Meeting at Tammany Hall.” 2:5 (Dec. 2, 1837):39-40.

“Handsome Subscription at Tammany Hall for the Paine Monument.” 2:6 (Dec. 9, 1837): 47-48.

J.L.G. “Aid to Paine’s Monument.” 2:7 (Dec. 16, 1837): 51-53.

“The Paine Monument. Its Commencement­– state of the Funds, &c.” 2:21 (Mar. 24, 1838): 167-68.

G.V. “Visit to the Marble Quarries where the Monument to Paine is being Formed.” 2:42 (Aug. 25, 1838): 329-30.

“The Paine Monument.” 2:44 (Sept. 8, 1838): 359-60.

“To the Inhabitants of New Rochelle.” 2:48 (Oct. 6, 1838): 377-79.

“Paine Monument.” 2:50 (Oct. 27, 1838): 399-400.

G. Vale. “The Paine Monument.” 3:16 (Mar. 2, 1839): 126-27.

Monument; Cottage. Foundation of a Cottage or Saloon, accompanying the Paine Monument.” 3:21 (Apr. 6, 1839): 167.

“The Paine Monument Abroad.” 3:26 (May 18, 1839): 206-07. Includes an extract from the Boston Investigator.

G.V. “The Paine Monument.” 3:27 (May 25, 1839): 215-16.

U.S. Moral and Philosophical Society for the General Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

Stephen J.W. Tabor. “United States Moral and Philosophical Society for the General Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” 1:1 (Oct. 22, 1836): 1-3. This report announces the formation of this society in Saratoga, New York, August 1836 and emphasizes that “the establishment of a rational system of universal education” will be one of the society’s chief objectives.

Gilbert Vale, Thomas Thompson, and Oliver White. “The U.S. Moral and Philosophical Society.” 1:49 (Oct. 7, 1837): 428-29. This article features an address to the citizens of the U.S. which asserts “that the great body of the intelligent male population are more or less skeptical on the subject of the divine authority of the old and New Testaments. That the great body of intelligent females are more or less, under the influence of superstition, and the clergy: that the consequence of this is, that children are molded to superstition, and men are restrained in the exercise of their knowledge; that these act a hypocritical part, and under restraint aid a superstition they despise: thus sapping the foundation of morals & perpetuating ignorance.”

G.V. “The Beacon and the Moral and Philosophical Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” 2:44 (Sept. 8, 1838): 345-46.

“U.S. Moral and Philosophical Society, for the General Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” 3:47 (Oct. 12, 1839): 375-76. The proceedings of the society’s fourth annual convention.

Vale/Brownlee Correspondence Controversy

G.V. “Pulpit Eloquence.” 2:15 (Feb. 10, 1838): 115-16. Vale reviews a lecture by the Rev. Dr. W.C. Brownlee on Infidel literature.

“Singular Communication from Dr. Brownlee.” 2:18 (Mar. 3, 1838): 142-43. An extremely hostile letter in which Infidels are alternately referred to as villains, blackguards, ignorant knaves, vicious and profligate atheists and whores of the sixth ward.

G. Vale. “Letter to Dr. Brownlee” and “More Communications from Dr. Brownlee.”  2:18 (Mar. 3, 1838): 151-52.

G.V. “Distinguished Clergymen. Dr. Brownlee.” 2:20 (Mar. 17, 1838): 155.

“Clerical Insolence and Impudence.” 3:4 (Dec. 8, 1838): 31-32.

G. Vale. “To Dr. Brownlee.” 3:6 (Dec. 22, 1838): 47-48.


G.V. “Phrenology.” 2:7 (Dec. 16, 1837): 49-50. Vale remarks, “Phrenology has not had fair play; its friends who have been numerous, have crouched to vulgar opinions and to church influence; they have expressed themselves doubtfully when they might have been positive; and they have ranked phrenology among the uncertain sciences, when they felt conscious that they could demonstrate its truth in all leading points.”

G.V. Phrenology. Anatomy of the Brain.” 2:11 (Jan. 13, 1838): 81-82.

G.V. “Phrenology. Anatomy of the Brain and Its Application.” 2:25 (Apr. 21, 1838): 194-95.

G.V. Phrenology. Anatomy of the Brain.” 2:41 (Aug. 18, 1838): 321-22.

Phrenology – Grouping of the Organs or Faculties – Of Combativeness and Destructiveness, and the Organs which Surround Them.” 3:19 (Mar. 23, 1839):145-46.   .


J.F. “Fasts.” 1:5 (Dec. 3, 1836): 58-60. A history of fasting from antiquity to the present

“On the Independence of Belief on the Will.” 1:21-22 (Mar. 25-Apr. 1, 1837): 201-02, 209-10

“On the Circumstances which have led men to regard belief as Voluntary.” 1:23 (Apr. 8, 1837): 217-18.

 “On the Sources of Differences of Opinion.” 1:24 (Apr. 15, 1837): 225-27.

“On the Sources of Differences of Opinion in the Feelings and Passions of Mankind.”  1:25(Apr. 22, 1837): 233-35.

 “Newspaper Personal Fame.” 2:16 (Feb. 17, 1838): 127-28. Vale reveals, “We do not know a single case where any serious attempt has been made to attach infidelity on religious subjects to any candidate for office, properly qualified, which did not terminate in the election of that individual, and not only in his election, but in his retention of office. This was the case with Judge Herttell, Ely Moore, Robt. Dale Owen, Dr. Underhill, Mr. Cook, of Saratoga, &c.”

“From the Minutes of the Discussion between Dr. West and Delazon Smith.” 3:37 (Aug. 3, 1839): 296.


G.V. “The Beacon.” 2:1 (Nov. 4, 1837): 8. On commencing the second volume, Vale declares, “Our great object has been to establish an independent, literary, and liberal paper, in which we may boldly investigate all mysteries, with the assurance that truth must be compatible with virtue and good citizenship. We wish too, to pursue science without trammels; and to investigate calmly, but thoroughly, and then draw proper conclusions without apology; whether those conclusions militate against any received superstition or not.”

Agents: New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Alabama, Rhode Island, Missouri, North Carolina, Michigan, Lower Canada. 1:6 (Dec. 10, 1836): 72.

Worldcat Accession Number: 8506409.

Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division and the New York Historical Society Library own the full run of the Beacon (1836-1846).

American Antiquarian Society’s Historical Periodicals Collection, series 3 has scattered issues from January 26, 1839 to May 10, 1845.


[1] In October 1838, Vale boasted having over 1,000 subscribers and between three and four thousand readers. Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850 (New York: Octagon Books, 1974), 50.