3. 3rd Series

The Beacon (1842 -1845)

“Follow that Philosophy which is According to nature.”

Examined: Third Series: 1:1 (Nov. 19, 1842) – 3:52 (Dec. 13, 1845).

Editor: Gilbert Vale.

Publication Information: New York, New York.

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors: John Alberger, S.A. Barrett, William C. Bell, Jacob Brink, B.M. Kemp, Benjamin Offen, Henry Pratt, W. Serrelwood, John Speakman, and Thomas P. Waterman.

Subjects/Features: Infidel Convention, Geology, Astronomy, Phrenology, Magnetism, Natural Religion, Thomas Paine Celebrations, Poetry, Biblical Exegesis, Organic Chemistry, Ephemeris of the Planets, Legal Reform, Land Question, Dorr Rebellion, and the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph.

Reprints/Extracts from: Writings of Thomas Paine; Percy Blythe Shelley, Queen Mab, with Notes; an English translation of Pigualt-Lebrun’s Le Citateur; M.A. Theirs, History of the French Revolution; Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary; William Maclure, Opinions on Various Subjects, Dedicated to the Industrious Producers, R.T. Claridge, Hydropathy or the Cold Water Cure as Practiced by Vincent Priessnitz; George R. Gliddon, Ancient Egypt-Her Monuments, Hieroglyphics, History and Archaeology; Facts and Arguments on the Transmission of Intellectual and Moral Qualities from parents to their Offspring, Manifesto of Robert Owen; Lord Brougham, Lives of Men of Letters and Science; Eubank, Hydraulics and Mechanics; and Thomas Herttell, Epistolary Correspondence with Dr. Thomas Cooper.

Periodical Reprints: Boston Investigator, Kendall’s Expositor (Washington D.C.), The Albion (?), and The New York Herald.

Selections:

The Movement

Thomas Herttell. The Spirit of Truth: Being an Exposition of Infidelity, or Religious Unbelief.” 3:5-7 (Jan. 18- Feb.1, 1845): 36-38, 45-46, 53-54. Herttell states in the introduction that, “Under the influence of religion, or of any superstition bearing the name of religion, man will not only become heedless of the dictates of human reason, renounce the exercise of his intellectual faculties, disclaim the use of his understanding, and disregard the evidence of his senses, but he will exult in the merit of the sacrifice of all these, and deem it the highest evidence of religious virtue to preserve his religious faith in direct opposition to the plain and palpable laws or principles of nature, logical reasoning and known truth; and will even disregard the obligations of moral rectitude, when deemed necessary for the support and propagation of the religious doctrines and dogmata which he has been taught in his childhood to believe and reverence as a supernatural revelation of the only true religion by the only true God. ”

John Alberger. “Clerical Secession.”[4] 1:26, 28-29, 31, 36-37, 39, 42-45, 49-52 (May 13, 27- June 3, 17, July 22-29, Aug. 12, Sept. 2-23, Oct. 21-Nov. 11, 1843): 205, 220-21, 228-29, 243-44, 283-84, 291-93, 307-08, 332-33, 342-44, 346-48, 356-57, 388-89, 394-96, 404-07, 413-14. 2:1-2, 4, 9, 15-18, 21, 24-27 (Nov. 18-25, Dec. 9, 1843; Jan. 13, Feb. 24-Mar. 16, Apr. 6, 27- May 18, 1844): 2-4, 11-12, 26-29, 67-68, 116-18, 123-26, 131-32, 141-43, 162-65, 187-91, 197-98, 203-05, 212-13. In this series of articles, Alberger explains the reasons which influenced his renunciation of Christianity. Alberger begins the series by stating that “the man who desires to believe in bibles, ghosts, fairies, and hobgoblins, ought to be indulged in the privilege without being subject to censure, but he should not be allowed to persecute others for not being as foolish as himself.” Alberger concludes his series by exclaiming, “I have tested the virtues of both infidelity and Christianity. I have experienced their power in prosperity, in adversity, in sickness, and in view of death. To an enemy whom I would wish to curse, I would say, “Be a Christian.” To a friend, on whom I would wish to bestow the greatest blessing of life- a blessing that would support him under adverse fate, that would open before him the purest enjoyments of life, that would tranquilize his dying hours; I would say, “Be an infidel; a stern, bold, uncompromising infidel.”

“John Reilly’s reasons for leaving the Catholic Church and becoming an Infidel, or Unbeliever.” 3:13, 16, 18, 20-21, 26, 28, 33, 41, 49, 51 (Mar. 15, Apr. 5, 19, May 3-10, June 14, 28,  Aug. 2, Sept. 27, Nov. 22, Dec. 6, 1845): 101, 124-25, 140-41, 156-57, 165-66, 205, 222, 260-61, 324, 387-88, 404-05.

Conventions

“Infidel Convention.” 1:8 (Jan. 7, 1843): 63-64. Calling for a union of materialist, the authors[1] exclaim, “If our republican institutions are to be maintained- if we are to be anything other than helots and slaves to priests- we must unite.” Vale agrees to forward the call for a convention but expresses some pessimism given the tendency of “our most eminent and skeptical men” to conceal their infidelity.

M.C.B. “Views from Kentucky.” 1:11 (Jan. 28, 1843): 86. In support of a proposed Infidel Convention, the author remarks, “The amelioration of society, by the introduction of general and equal education; by the elevation of all classes to a comparatively pure criterion of morals, is the great centre, to which the efforts of every liberal and enlightened free thinker tend. This has been derided as idle, visionary, and utopian; so has every important discovery, and every successful attempt to improve the condition of man. Our friends are now emphatically called on; let us have their names, their influence, their support of liberal publications, and the earnest of a desire to consummate the disenthralment of the mind.”

“Convention of Free Inquirers.” 1:15 (Feb. 25, 1843): 117-18. Vale proposes organizing local conventions before convening a general/national convention. He also points out the need for traveling lecturers on the natural sciences, free inquiry and rationalism.

William C. Bell. “Infidel Convention.” 1:30 (June 10, 1843): 235-36. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator. Bell concludes, “For what I have done and will continue to do in the cause of Liberty of Conscience, I ask no further reward than I possess in my own mind, where, for thirty-two years past, strengthened by daily observation and experience, rests a strong and abiding sentiment, that what is called Religion is founded in the ignorance of mankind and has been and is perpetuated with sinister views; that Truth is mighty and will prevail.”

“A Convention.” 1:32 (June 24, 1843): 253-55. Vale contends that the object of a national convention of materialists, pantheist, deists, and all other classes of free inquirers should be, “To free the country from the influence of superstition, which now obstructs science, perverts education, sullies our politics, infects our females, and through them our firesides and sociabilities, and as a consequence makes hypocrites of our clergy, lecturers, authors, teachers, politicians and men of business.”

“Convention.”1:42 (Sept. 2, 1843): 334. The free thinkers of Corning, New York[2] proclaim, “We believe that once well organized for the purpose of promoting mental freedom, scientific research, and moral goodness, we to a great extent cease to be the subject of vituperation and scandal; for then will the number of the fearless and undaunted be known; and then will our numbers be rapidly augmented by those who now through fear stand alone from our cause. Let us no longer fear to declare to the world our principles- let us associate, and let our conduct, both as individuals, and in an associated capacity, be such as to convince our fellow men of the purity of our motives and the practicability and utility of our design.”

William C. Bell. “Infidel Convention.” 2:3 (Dec. 2, 1843): Bell exclaims, “Something must be done to substitute rational sources of amusement and improvement, in the place of fanatical proceedings of the Religionists. I know nothing that can conduce to a more desirable change than associations of liberalists or rationalists, upon the principle of unlimited and inviolable freedom of thought. We may have rules without creeds. We can do nothing without concert.”

William C. Bell. “Infidel Convention.” 2:16 (Mar. 2, 1844): 127-28. Reiterating his call for association, Bell writes, “Let us have temples to meet in, to declaim, give and receive instruction; let us form societies to cultivate the social relations; let us have schools of practical, physical, and moral education: above all, let us repudiate the abomination of buying morality with a price; let us eschew the notion that we are akin to Gods; let us confine ourselves to the sphere in which nature has placed us; let us study her laws, and we may find that we may thus command her.”

Logas. “A Convention.” 2:33 (June 29, 1844): 263-64. The author contends that, “Such a Convention held in the right spirit, is destined to mark a memorable era in the history of America; and not that alone, but must constitute a notable epoch in the history of the development of humanity. I hail it as the harbinger of the intellectual, the rational era, the Millennium of the Prophets.”

“Judge [Thomas] Herttell on a Convention.” 2:44 (Sept. 14, 1844): 345-46. Reflecting on a proposed infidel convention, Herttell states, “In its practicability I have great hopes; in its utility I have much faith; of its propriety and necessity I have no doubt; and if properly got up, and wisely managed by prudent and moral men, it cannot fail to do good.”

O.W. “Suggestions from the West – Galena. The Convention.” 2:47 (Oct. 5, 1844): 374-75. The author asserts that, “if the sentiment of Infidels could be concentrated, fanaticism would even in this generation find its place. We have the facts, we have truth and reason and talent sufficient to correct the evils of society; all we want is popularity. Then let us organize, and show our numbers and strength.”

William C. Bell. “Infidel Convention. Its Rise and Progress.” 2:48 (Oct. 12, 1844): 381-83. Bell proposes circulating to newspapers throughout the United States an advertisement for the Infidel Convention which announces that, “The Infidels throughout this Union, desire to repudiate all ecclesiastical canons and dogmas which are not of universal application; to develop and introduce modes of thought and feeling in accordance with the natural laws of the social relations.”

“The Convention.” 3:6 (Jan. 25, 1845): 47-48. This article provides the meeting minutes of the convention arrangement committee.

“The Convention – By Judge Herttell.” 3:7 (Feb.1, 1845): 51-52. Herttell identifies what he believes should be the objects of an infidel convention, including, “a repeal of the judiciary law by which intelligent and honest infidels are deprived of their equal, natural, and civil right to testify as witnesses.”

W. “Work for the Convention.” 3:7 (Feb.1, 1845): 52-53. The author hopes that the forthcoming convention may aid in rescuing Jesus from “corrupt professional priests.”

Wm. C. Bell. “One Argument More for the Infidel Convention.” 3:11 (Mar. 1, 1845): 87-88. Arguing in favor of association, Bell points out, “No principles, whether right or wrong, have ever influenced the mass of mankind, without concert and cooperation.”

G.V. “The Convention.” 3:17 (Apr. 12, 1845): 133-36. In this article further reasons are identified for convening infidels, including assessing the strength of the movement, encouraging the formation of independent, local, liberal societies, building or possessing a liberal hall in New York, and establishing benefit societies among and by Free Enquirers.

“The Convention.” 3:18 (Apr. 19, 1845): 142-43. This article features extracts from letters received in support of the convention including letters from Louisiana and Kentucky.

B. “Ode for the Convention of Free Enquirers.” 3:20 (May 3, 1845): 153.

S.C. Frey. “On the Convention.” 3:20 (May 3, 1845): 158. This is a letter written from Canton, Ohio, Frey reports that the Stark County Moral and Philosophical Society has appointed five delegates to attend the convention and proposes that the convention make arrangements for sending out liberal missionaries.

G.V. “The Convention.” 3:21 (May 10, 1845): 168. Vale provides a preliminary report on the convention.

“The Late Convention.” 3:22 (May 17, 1845): 174-75. Under this heading are two letters, one from a German rationalist and another from a “student of divinity.”

“The Convention.” 3:22 (May 17, 1845): 175-76. This article features letters of support for the convention, including a series of resolutions adopted by the Free Enquirers’ Library Society of Corning, signed by Samuel Moore and E.P. Rogers.

“On the Late Convention.” 3:23 (May 24, 1845): 180-81. This is a letter from O. Welch from Galena, Illinois who provides a scathing criticism of the convention including “Had we anticipated an illiberal conventional organization, and such a contracted narrow field of objects as merely to organize ourselves into a sect with constitutions or creeds, Missionary and tract societies, and a revenue and proselytizing system, we would never have travelled 3000 miles to attend it. . . . If this is a representation of Infidelity, one thing is certain, there is not unanimity enough to form national action- we must wear the oppressors chains a little longer, and arm ourselves again for single combat, till circumstances indicate a more favorable time.”

“The Convention.” and “The Late Convention.” 3:23-25 (May 24- June 7, 1845): 182-83, 186-91, 195-99 . The convention’s proceedings as published in the Boston Investigator.

“The Late Convention.” 3:30 (July 12, 1845): 238-39. This is a letter from John Morrison to Osea Welch, questioning his criticisms of the convention.

“The Late Convention.” 3:33 (Aug. 2, 1845): 262-63. This is a response from Osea Welch to John Morrison.

“The Late Convention.” 3:35 (Aug. 16, 1845): 279-80. A letter from Samuel Ludvigh in which he exposes some of the convention’s “wire-pullers and reveals that during a preliminary meeting to the convention, “I was sorry to perceive that my first remarks on mental liberty, involving the slavery question in the South, were not received by the Southern delegates with that mental independence which is the first characteristic of a Free Inquirer, or of an Infidel.”

“The Convention.” 3:38 (Sept. 6, 1845): 303-04. This is a letter from Jas. H. Beckett defending W.C. Bell against charges of being one of the convention’s behind the scenes wire-pullers. Vale replies that Bell was not one of the convention’s wire-pullers but their dupe.

 Lectures and Tours

Benjamin Offen. “To the Liberals of the City of New York and of the United States in General.” 2:7 (Dec. 30, 1843): 53-54. Offen points out that, “Now is the time, and this is the country, for doing our best to give religious persecution and fanatic intolerance a deadly blow. Never let us, my friends, forget that our warfare is defensive; that we advocate the cause of insulted, libeled, priest-ridden man. Our weapons are science and reason, neither of which will injure our enemies, but which will eventually be a blessing to their posterity. No blood can flow from our mode of warfare; our object is to undeceive the human race, and as much as possible to open the eyes of men to their real interest, and to place their happiness on a solid foundation.”

“Address of Mr. Waterman. Delivered at National Hall, N.York, and at Camptown, N.J., January 29, 1844.” 2:13 (Feb. 10, 1844): 97-101.

Gilbert Vale. “Editor’s Tour.” 2:28, 30-31 (May 25, June 8-15, 1844): 223-24, 237-39, 246-47. Vale reports on his tour through New London, Worcester, Boston and Newburyport to introduce his globe and transparent sphere.

“Mr. Benj. Offen- Missionary Tour.” 2:35 (July 13, 1844): 280. This article announces Offen’s willingness to undertake a “missionary tour” to promote an infidel convention in 1845, propagate liberal opinions and act as agent for both The Beacon and Boston Investigator.

“A Letter from Mr. Offen.” 2:36 (July 20, 1844): 286-87. Offen provides further details on his proposed tour.

“Mr. B. Offen.” 2:45 (Sept. 21, 1844): 360. Offen details his stop in Haverstraw, New York.

Gilbert Vale. “Our Second Recent Tour to the East.” 2:42 (Aug. 31, 1844): 329. Vale reports on his trip to New Haven where he delivered four lectures on astronomy, illustrated by Russell’s planetarium and his globe and sphere.

“Address of Robert Owen to the People of the United States.” 2:46 (Sept. 28, 1844): 367-68. Delivered September 11, 1844, Owen contends that, “the first step towards rationality in the human race, will be to abandon all angry, uncharitable and unkind feelings for each other, on account of their opinions and feelings respecting the supposed will of a power utterly incomprehensible to the human race. Until this effect shall be accomplished, no solid foundation can be laid for the attainment of permanent peace, progressive prosperity and happiness among mankind; and this first and most important step can be alone gained, by all agreeing to allow all in the spirit of charity the utmost religious liberty in speech, writing and action, as long as the same liberty in others shall not be diminished or in any manner interfered with.”

“Mr. Offen’s Tour.” 2:48 (Oct. 12, 1844): 383. Vale provides a brief account of Offen’s visit to Union Springs, N.Y.. There is also a letter from Charles Farnham, “a medical man,” reporting that Offen’s health is poor and his recommendation that Offen terminate his tour.

“Theology – A Lecture by Dr. H.” 3:36-37 (Aug. 23-30, 1845): 284-86, 291-92. A lecture delivered at National Hall.

Objects, Initiatives and Status

“A German Church, or Rational Society, in New York.” 1:12 (Feb. 4, 1843): 93-94. This article reports on a group of German Rationalists organized in New York and lead by Samuel Ludvigh. Included is a reprint of Ludvigh’s creed.

“Circular.” 2:1 (Nov. 18, 1843): 6-7. This circular announces that the Jefferson Library Association joined with the Society of Free Enquirers of New York and was chartered under the General Act for the Incorporation of Public Libraries.

“Constitution of the Rationalists Association in the City of New York, founded by Sam’l Ludvigh, Speaker of the Association, 1843.” 2:22 (Apr. 13, 1844): 173-74. The introduction begins, “Renouncing the peculiarities of all religious sects and creeds, we are convinced of the Truths- That religion at all times has served the purpose of emperors, kings, priests and others in power, by keeping men in ignorance, that they might the more easily control them; that all known religions are the result of imposed presumed revelations, despotic commands and decrees; and the fruit of blind belief, instead of being the result of free inquiry; therefore we renounce all (so called) religions, and follow the dictates of reason, the laws of nature, and the voice of our conscience, in all our actions.”

“Convention – Building a Hall.” 3:14 (Mar. 22, 1845): 106-07. This article details Samuel Ludvigh and the German rationalists plans for building a hall which would include a store, bar, assembly room and school room.

“Eclectic School of Galena.” 2:45 (Sept. 21, 1844): 359-60. The article features the preamble and resolutions of the Eclectic School of Galena, the object of which is the establishment of a Religious and Political Library, based upon principles of Free Inquiry.

“Liberal Lectures and Debates.” 3:4 (Jan. 11, 1845): 32. Vale reports that National Hall, on Canal near Broadway, will be the site of liberal lectures and debates till May and will be the meeting location of the German Rationalists.

“Liberal Measures.” 3:16 (Apr. 5, 1845): 127. This is an extract from a letter from Mr. Merriwether in Kentucky, in which he encloses $40 dollars, $5 to be given to Offen, $5 to the Infidel Convention, $10 to The Beacon and $20 to the Boston Investigator. Merriwether expresses the need for liberal missionary work below the “Mason & Dixon line” and notes that “we have a little Spartan band of Liberals, hemmed in here-abouts, who have been for a long time combating the influence of religious domination and misrule.”

“Passing Events and Notices.” 3:42 (Oct. 4, 1845): 335-36. Here is a letter from Osea Welch reporting on the activities of the Infidel Society in Galena and Mineral Point, commenting on conventions, in general, and inquiring about the Free Enquirer’s Library. A reply from Vale follows.

Biographical Sketches

“Living Characters.” 1:3 (Dec. 3, 1842): 20-22. A biographical sketch of Frances Wright Darusmont, reprinted from the Boston Investigator and accompanied by Vale’s remarks concerning important omissions of the sketch.

“Biographical Sketch and Obituary of Mr. Joseph Perkins.” 1:20 (Apr. 1, 1843): 157-60. Perkins was credited with saying, ‘There is nothing more certainly known to man, than that he does not know the cause, the power, the principals or the means, which gave being to this world, or the universe. Neither has he any knowledge of the being of spiritual worlds, or a world of spirits, who influence the actions or determine the destinies of this world, or the beings which occupy it. . . . Professing or assuming as truth a knowledge of that which he knows nothing, and which is above his comprehension, as before mentioned, is Superstition; believing that of which there is no proof, of which is adverse to the evidence of the human senses, and to the natural dictates of the human mind, is credulity.”

Gilbert Vale. “The Late Col. Fellows.” 2:10 (Jan. 29, 1844): 79. Vale reports that Fellows was “one of our oldest Free Inquirers,” knew Jefferson, was friend and companion of Paine, Volney, and Stewart, and, for a brief time, editor of The Beacon.

“A Short Account of the Life and Writings of the Baron D’Holbach.” 2:31 (June 15, 1844): 242-44.

W. Hazlitt. “Character of William Cobbett, M.P.” 2:32-34 (June 22-July 6, 1844): 255-56, 261-62, 269-71.

“Miss Francis Wright.” 2:49 (Oct. 19, 1844): 389-90. Vale reprints two letters from F.W. D’Arusmont to J. Myles and the editor of the Northern Star regarding a biographical sketch of her.

“Biography and Notes of Frances Wright D’Arusmont.” 2:51-52 (Nov. 2-9, 1844): 402-04, 410-11.

“Death of Mr. W.C. Bell of Lexington, KY.” 3:30 (July 12, 1845): 239. A notice penned by J. Thompson in which he describes Bell as “one of the most useful of men, earnestly engaged in stemming the priestly tide of a degrading and contemptible superstition, and zealously endeavoring to spread abroad the light of mental liberty.”

G.V. “Death of Mr. W.C. Bell of Lexington, KY.” 3:31 (July 19, 1845): 247-48.

“Death Bed of William C. Bell.” 3:33 (Aug. 2, 1845): 261-62. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator, Bell reportedly said on his death bed that “I want to tell the world that I die in the most perfect confidence in the principles which I have advocated and published; that I believe the Religion, of the day, the fashionable Religion, to be the most gigantic fraud and oppression that it is possible to conceive of; and well known to most of the leading characters and many of the clergy to be intended to deceive the people.”

 Religion

Thomas Herttell. “The Right of Conscience and of Free Discussion.” 2:50 (Oct. 26, 1844): 395-96. Herttell observes, “When men shall be encouraged to reflect, to reason, and to make up their own opinions on the subject of religion, and be permitted unreservedly to avow and defend them, without the danger of being ruined in their business or injured in their reputation, then will there be a great accession to the number of those who will dare exercise the rights of conscience. When men shall be enabled to acquire a living by detecting, proving, and exposing religious errors and their evil tendency, the additional inducement will increase the number of those who will dare to exercise the right of free discussion.”

Christianity

H. “Sermons – Not Christian, But Better,” and “Liberal Sermons.” 1:11, 13, 16 (Jan. 28, Feb. 11, Mar. 4, 1843): 85, 99-100, 123. The author’s sermons[3] include exegesis of biblical passages as well as Shakespeare.

“Freaks of Faith, Or an Account of Some of the Many Messiahs who have Deluded Mankind.” 1:12, 39-40 (Feb. 4, Aug. 12-19 1843): 92-93, 308-09, 317-18.  Extracts include brief biographical sketches of Robert Matthew, or Matthias, Manes, and Henry Rosenfeld.

Gilbert Vale. “Leslie’s Short Method with the Deists.” 1:14 (Feb. 18, 1843): 109-10. Vale comments on Charles Leslie’s claim that he had, in fact, proven that Moses had a divine commission and performed miracles.

“Matters and Things in Middletown, N.Y.” 1:21 (Apr. 8, 1843): 164-65. In this letter to the editor, the author expresses concern that while free inquiry appears on the increase, fanaticism and superstition appear to be advancing more rapidly and concludes, “Would men who have had the scales removed from their mental vision, exert but one fourth of the labor and zeal that interested priests and their dupes do, there would be a revolution in public sentiment in less than five years.”

“Secession from the Episcopal Church.” 1:23 (Apr. 22, 1843): 182-84. Under this heading is featured a series of letters between Rev. John Alberger, Dr. W. Whyatt and Bishop W.R. Whittingham. Seeking to retire from the ministry, Alberger explains, “The reason- the sole reason which led me to this determination was an absolute conviction that Christianity is an imposition upon society, allied in its nature to despotism, fraught with superstition, delusion and fanaticism, incompatible with the full measure of happiness which man is originally capable of enjoying, subversive of the best interests of the human race, and dangerous to natural liberty.”

John Fellows. “On Hell. Descriptions of Future Torments by Celebrated American Divines.” 2:10-11 (Jan. 20-27, 1844): 76-78, 83-84.

Aaron Hinchman. “Opinions from the West.” 2:16 (Mar. 2, 1844): 126-27. Writing from Goshen, Ohio, Hinchman reports, “Priestly influence is still felt here, but it has less effect than formerly upon the minds of the people. They still continue to “pour out their vials of wrath” upon the opposers of their deception, but is insufficient either to check the spirit of inquiry which is abroad in the land, or to prevent men from seeking after the Truth. Science and knowledge is doing a great work here; it is fast overturning the old theories founded on tradition and superstition.”

Emma Martin. “A Conversation on the Being of God.”  2:47 (Oct. 5, 1844): 371-72.

“Sermon at National Hall, By Dr. H.” 3:10-11 (Feb. 22- Mar. 1, 1845): 76-78, 82-84. H concludes his sermon, “These absurdities are to be found on almost every page of the Bible, showing conclusively, as it appears to me, that the book, so far from being the work, or inspiration of divine wisdom, is the unassisted work of man, and that too, of an ignorant and priest-ridden age of the world; before the light of science had dispelled the darkness of superstition, or a knowledge of their rights had taught men equality and liberty.”

Religion and Morality

“Miscellaneous Publications, by Thomas Herttell.” 1:25, 27 (May 6, 20, 1843): 193-98, 212. Vale features extracts from the following tracts authored by Herttell – The Right of Conscience and of Free Discussion, An Address to the Committee appointed by a general meeting to express their sentiments on the stoppage of the Sunday Mail, and Rights of Conscience. In the first extract, Herttell suggests that “If the object of religion be to make mankind honest, moral and benevolent; no religious man would denounce an honest, moral and benevolent man, for having no religion. If religion influenced its professors duly to appreciate morality, and correctly to estimate the merits of moral men, would they be so illiberal, uncharitable, and intolerant as to impute moral depravity to men of good moral conduct and reputation, for having no religion?”

Radclyffe. “Query: Can a Calvinist be Consistently Moral, Honorable and Humane?” 1:32-35 (June 24- July 15, 1843): 250-51, 259-60, 266-67, 275-77.

“Judge Herttell on Cruelty.” 2:50 (Oct. 26, 1844): 396-99. Herttell concludes, “Until man shall be educated to know that justice and kindness to all animal creation, are the radical principles or basis of the whole science of morality, and that the knowledge and practice of those truths are essential and indispensable to the virtue, well-being and happiness of the human race, then, and not till then, will the moral condition and character of mankind be improved, and cruelty to dumb beasts cease to disgrace the human family!”

Religion and Science

“The Formative Power in Nature, What it Is, and What we Know of It?” 1:2 (Nov. 26, 1842): 11-15. An exchange of letters between a materialist and spiritualist regarding the “formative power of nature.”

J.A.P. “The Clergy vs. Science.” 1:24 (Apr. 29, 1843): 185-87. The author notes that “Nature has not said anything of Jesus Christ, nor of devils, nor of angels, nor of any body that is not a material body, nor of any influences which are not material both as to their origin and their effects; and accordingly, just in proportion as researches in nature have advanced, immaterial beings and influences have receded, and particularly in proportion as the scalpel has been used, the conviction (the perception it may rather be called) has obtained that life, health, disease, death, intellect, character, belief- everything about man is physical, and as necessarily subject to the laws of cause and effect as any of the more gross results in nature.”

“Astronomy and Revelation.” 2:5 (Dec. 16, 1843): 33-34. The author observes, “Now, from the present state of astronomical knowledge, and from the deep research that has been made into Nature and her laws, we have moral convictions and demonstrable proofs, that all cosmogonies are but the idle fictions of the human brain, and all tales about heaven and hell as definite places, are from the same source.”

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Paine Celebration at Camptown, N.J.” 1:13 (Feb. 11, 1843): 101. Among the “sentiments” read aloud was “Science & Education – The compass to freemen, the anchor of truth- the foe to fraud and craft, spiritual, physical, and political.”

“Boston Celebration of Thomas Paine’s Birth Day.” 1:13 (Feb. 11, 1843): 102-03. Among the regular toasts were the following, “The day we celebrate- Expunged from the calendar of despots, but engraved on the hearts of freemen” and “Our cause- The cause of civil, political, and religious freedom: may no private bias, or selfish motive, prevent any honest man from faithfully serving and openly avowing it.”

“Paine Celebration at Philadelphia.” 1:15 (Feb. 25, 1843): 119. Among the regular toasts were the following, “Religion- an immaterial compound of Credulity, Ignorance and Fraud- a compound with which animated matter, guided by Reason, has no affinity,” and “Chaplains- We are told the prayers of the ungodly, and those who receive pay for making long prayers shall not be heard: yet is this system of robbing the public continued, compelling them to reward hypocritical parasites. May the evil soon be abolished.”

“Paine Celebration at Philadelphia.” 2:18 (Mar. 16, 1844): 137-40. Delivering the oration on the night, Mr. Campbell described Paine as a “destroyer of monarchy- the architect of Republicanism- the annihilator of Burke- the hope of the oppressed- the terror of tyrants- the companion of Franklin- the denouncer of Superstition- the defender of philosophy- the associate of Washington and Jefferson- a consistent politician- the hater of anarchy, and the friend of mankind.”

Benjamin Offen. “Origin of the Paine Celebration in New York.” 2:39 (Aug. 10, 1844): 309-11.

“Paine Celebration in New York.” And “Paine Celebration at Camptown, N.J.” 3:8 (Feb. 8, 1845): 59-62. These articles feature the toasts from the celebrations and a letter from Benjamin Offen.

 Law and Government

Dorr’s Rebellion

Gilbert Vale. “To James Fenner, Governor de facto of R. Island.” 2:40 (Aug. 17, 1844): 315-16.

Gilbert Vale. “Gov. Dorr’s Sentence.” 2:46 (Sept. 28, 1844): 361-62.

“Petition of Sullivan Dorr. To the Hon. State Assembly of the State of Rhode Island, January Session, 1845.” 3:8 (Feb. 8, 1845): 64.

Education

E. Morton (Insp. C. Schools). “A Letter, Written in Answer to a Circular of the Superintendant of Public Instruction of Michigan.” 1:15 (Feb. 25, 1843): 114-15. Asked, “Where would you draw the line between moral training and religious culture, so as to avoid the evil of sectarianism and at the same time give the youthful heart a right direction,” Morton replies, “I am yet to be convinced that any of the vast number of religions that have been taught in the world, have anything of demonstrable truth to sustain them, and I will not insult a rational being by asking him if that which is not true can be good.”

“Extracts from Horace Mann’s Celebrated School Report.” 2:32-34 (June 22-July 6, 1844): 249-52, 257-58, 265-67.

Miscellaneous

W. Serrelwood. “Electro-Therman Theory.” 1:30, 33-34, 40, 45, 47-48 (June 10, July 1-8, Aug. 19, Sept. 23, Oct. 7-14, 1843): 233-35, 257-58, 265-66, 313-15, 354-55, 369-71, 377-78. Serrelwood reviews, comments and builds on Justus Von Liebig’s works on organic chemistry.

“Mr. Vale’s Lecture at the Lyceum. His Newly Invented Globe and Transparent Sphere.” 2:20 (Mar. 30, 1844): 159-60. Reprinted from the N.Y. Herald; a review of a series of three lectures covering “visible astronomy,” the earth and moon, and the planets.

G. Vale. “Preface.” 3:1 (Dec. 21, 1844): 1. Vale contends, “Were men the “lords and masters” they are said to be; or if they even sustained their natural rights, and exercised them with urbanity, then liberal papers, like any others, would be sustained by their own intrinsic merit; but the same delicate influence which props up the church, interdicts the Beacon or other liberal paper. This is sometimes done by authority, and sometimes by insinuation, but done it is; the wife directs the reading of the husband, and the minister of the Gospel directs the reading of the wife. Could the coming Convention find a remedy for this, it would confer a blessing on society and remove the chief stumbling block to woman’s improvement. Now, the bigot or the superstitious govern the ignorant, and as in fashion, the ignorant control the intelligent, and civilization is checked.”

“Mr. B. Offen.” 3:10 (Feb. 22, 1845): 79. Vale reports that Offen “has passed the three score and ten, the Scripture limit of healthy existence” and solicits subscribers for his support.

“Letter from Benjamin Offen.” 3:15 (Mar. 29, 1845): 117-18. Offen provides an update on the state of his health, his plans to finish a work on the “facts and personages of the Old and New Testaments,” and his appreciation for the support he has received from his fellow travelers.

G.V. “The Beacon – The Present, Past and Future.” 3:52 (Dec. 13, 1845): 409-10.

Notes:

“Of the Nation” date featured on each issue.

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.

Endnotes:

[1] L. Callaghan, James Carter, Orrin Newton, Joseph Major, and John Ferral.

[2] E.P. Rogers, Samuel L. Moore, Stephen March, John Dawson, Alanzon Bennett, Gillespie Armstrong, Jonathan  Brown, Almun Cowles, Norman Andrews, Paris Wheelock, Charles H. Powers, and George Gardiner.

[3] 1st Sermon  – Job XXII, 21; 2nd Sermon – Hamlet act 1st, Scene 5th ; 3rd Sermon – Matthew v. 23, 24.

[4] The following essays in the series include subheadings: 1:42 (Scriptural Interpretation), 1:43 (Ancient Manuscript), 1:44 (On the Laws of God and Those of the Scriptures), 1:45, 49-51 (Biblical Contradictions), 2:1 (History and the Bible), 2:2 (On Evidence), 2:4 (On the Prophets), 2:9 (Miracles), 2:15-17 (The Old Testament) , 2:18 (Who was Jesus Christ?), 2:21 (Writers of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles?), 2:24 (The Bible and Other Sacred Books), 2:25 (The Christian and the Heathen).

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