6. Independent Beacon

Independent Beacon, A Liberal, Political and Social Paper (1849-1850)

Prospectus: In religion it will still advocate Free Enquiry, avoiding no subject of fair discussion; regarding only truth as an end, and claiming friendship with every shade of opinion where this great principle is admitted; our objects on this subject will be unity, not division; the object of union being Free Enquiry, the right of private judgment, and freedom of speech on all subjects for:“He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.”

In politics, we shall advocate sound republican principles, “The greatest good to the greatest number.” The constant enemy to privileges, and the staunch advocate of political equality and human improvement. Our object will be to level upwards; to instruct the ignorant, refine the rude, emancipate the degraded from every kind of slavery, sustain the right of labor as well as that of property, and to supplant errors by philosophy.

Examined: 1:1 (Aug. 1849) – 1:12 (July 1850).

Editor: Gilbert Vale.

Publication Information: New York, New York.

Frequency: Bimonthly.

Subjects/Features: Independent Order of Liberals, Paine Farm, Association, Socialism, Rev. John Hughes, Roman Catholic Bishop of New York, Politics, Foreign and Domestic News Summaries, Literature, Poetry, and Mutual Banking.

Reprints/Extracts: George Jacob Holyoake, The Life and Character of Richard Carlile

Periodical Reprints: Boston Investigator, New York Tribune, Portland Pleasure Boat (Portland, Me.), Banner of Liberty (?), Young America (New York, N.Y.), and Spirit of the Age (New York, N.Y.).


The Movement

Lectures and Tours

G.V. “Tales of a Liberal Missionary, Founded on Facts.” 1:4, 7, 10, 13 (Sept., Nov., Dec., 1849; Feb. 1850): 120-22, 213-17, 312-14, 400-06.  Under this title appear tales from Vale’s liberal lecturing tour during the summer of 1841.

Objects, Initiatives and Status

G.V. “To the Reader on Things in General.” 1:1 (Aug. 1849): 1-6. Vale contends, “Society in New York, the West, and in many parts of the union, are now substantially liberal; large numbers no longer want to be convinced that the popular religion of every country, in every form, is of human contrivance, not always a cunningly devised fable, exercised for crafty purposes, but a thing of accident, and continued from custom. This class concede the human origin of popular religion; they had rather we should assume this than prove it, and go on to something better; by moulding society and institutions based on the broad principles of Equal Rights and Free Enquiry.”

“The Independent Order of Liberals.” 1:1 (Aug. 1849): 8-10. Vale reveals that the order contemplates “buying a farm for the purposes of a Liberal Cemetery, a Boarding-House, and ultimately as an Asylum for aged or infirm Liberals” and “in the not distant future, manufactures, schools and colleges.”

“Suggestions for the Independent Order of Liberals.” 1:5 (Oct. 1849): 133-36. A letter from Galena, Illinois, signed by Oscar Welch, W.G. Gamer and M.P. Silverburgh which suggests, among other things, that the order should devise marriage and funeral ceremonies.

“Independent Order of Liberals – Incorporated.” 1:5 (Oct. 1849): 136-38.

Biographical Sketches

G.V. “Reminiscences of Jefferson.” 1:3-4, 6 (Sept.-Oct. 1849): 77-78, 108-13, 176-81.

“Henry Hetherington.” 1:9 (Dec. 1849): 257-65. This article features extracts from Hetherington’s will and from the funeral address of George Jacob Holyoake.

“Letter on Thomas Paine. An Original Letter from the Celebrated Painter, Jarvis, on Paine.” 1:13 (Feb. 1850): 385-87.

Church and State

Sabbath Observance

“Sunday Law, Petition to the Legislature of the State of New-York.” 1:18 (Apr. 1850): 576-79. In commenting upon the petition, Vale recalls the arrest of some Germans attending a Sunday dance at a boarding house and remarks, “It is time to abolish these stupid Sunday Laws, and to administer an equal justice. No partiality. No billiards or grog for the rich on a Sunday, and a prison for the rustic poor just landed, and ignorant of our language and customs.”


R.L.B. “The Folly of Fearing Death.” 1:23 (July 1850): 715-19.


“Appendix to the Debate and Reply to Dr. West’s Ten Golden Axioms, On God and the Scriptures, Prayer and Praise.” 1:1 (Aug. 1849): 22-28.

G.V. “Bishop Hughes.” 1:2 (Aug. 1849): 33-38. Vale notes, “At different periods and at different places, we have known a great many Catholic priests; all we have known have been well informed, intelligent men, and perfectly liberal; we never put any one to the necessity of denying his profession; on the other hand, we never knew one attempt even to defend it as true. Their voluntary defence which was generally forced on us, consisted in a declaration of its utility to the poor, and as the means of exercising an influence over them, which might be for good or bad; and in support of confessions, it was always said with some truth, that it restrained youths and ignorant people from much vice.”

G.F. Secchi Di Casait. “The Roman Republic and Bishop Hughes.” 1:2 (Aug. 1849): 59-62. Reprinted from the New York Tribune.

G.V. “Bishop Hughes and Integrity.” 1:7 (Nov. 1849): 193-95.

“Religion by Law, Gorham versus the Bishop of Exeter.” 1:20 (May 1850): 628-34. A sketch of the proceedings, reprinted from The Albion.

Other Religions

James Glenn. “On the Heaven of the Jews or Christians with an Inquiry into the Entire Omission of Goddesses.” 1:8 (Nov. 1849): 246-49. Glenn remarks, “What a pity it is that the Christian women have not a single tender hearted Goddess to address, and there is no place accorded them in heaven; and it is even doubtful whether the Jews ever considered their women as having souls. How revolting must it be to the feelings of a chaste, virtuous woman to be told that, after death, she will be transported to the bosom of Abraham! – to the bosom of a man with a long beard!! This is not only ridiculous and appalling to a woman of sound sense, but it is not even agreeable to a man.”

O.H. “The True Exodus, or Early History of the Israelites and their Expulsion from Egypt.” 1:12 (Jan. 1850): 366-81.

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“The New-York Paine Celebration on the 29th January, 1850, by Ball and Supper, at the Superb Chinese Rooms.” 1:13 (Feb. 1850): 415-18. During this celebration it was announced that the Paine farm would serve as an asylum for infirm liberals and provide a cemetery.

Boston Celebration of Paine’s Birth-Day.” 1:14 (Feb. 1850): 433-42. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator, this article features pages of toasts, including from J.P. Mendum, “The memory of Abner Kneeland, Thomas Herttell, and Benjamin Offen – master spirits who nobly stood forth as the energetic and benevolent champions of the intellectual, moral, political, and religious rights of the people.”

“Mrs. Rose’s Speech at the Late Paine Celebration in New-York.” 1:14 (Feb. 1850): 442-48. Rose declared, “The most cowardly usurper of her rights, dare not say that the heroic and devoted women of Rome, and Mademoiselle Jagello, who bravely fought by the side of the Hungarian heroes were out of their sphere. I mention this not, my friends, because I would wish to see woman thus engaged; for I deplore the necessity for it, alike in man or woman. To my mind the whole state of things is wrong.  Society is based on falsehood, force, and fraud, instead of truth, kindness, and a well directed union of men: and I trust that the time will come, when the causes that transform our fair earth into one great battlefield and carnage house, will be removed – when the present state of slavery and violence will be superseded by freedom based on human rights, without distinction of sex, class, party, country, or color.”


G.V. “The Celebration of the Next 4th of July on the Paine Farm.” 1:14 (Feb. 1850): 419-22. Vale provides more details on the Paine farm and how one may become a proprietor through subscription.

G.Vale. “The Paine Farm.” 1:17 (Apr. 1850): 515-17. Vale reports that he legally holds title in the Paine farm but that the management of the farm is in the hands of the subscribers and that the cemetery is now being laid out.

G. Vale. “The Purchase and Object of the Paine Farm.” 1:18 (Apr. 1850): 547-49.

G. Vale. “The Paine Farm Association.” 1:20 (May 1850): 617-20. Vale announces that “the subscribers to the Paine farm are now an incorporated body” and identifies the establishment of a cemetery, industrial school and college and rural retreat as their three great objects.

“The Paine Farm – School or College.” 1:23 (July 1850): 707-08.

Cooperative Associations

O.M. “The Rappites, or Community of ‘Economy.’” 1:3 (Sept. 1849): 69-77. Reprinted from the New York Tribune.

“Association.” 1:5-6 (Oct. 1849): 129-33, 161-67. Vale points out, “While, therefore, we wait to see successful examples of socialism: we are witnessing every day the value of association. By this the tyrant is robbed of his power; by this the weak may become the stronger, the poor the richer, the unlearned, learned. By this every human enjoyment may be had for moderate labor or expense.”

Worldcat Accession Number: 1752717.

New York Historical Society Library owns vol. 1 (Aug. 1849 – July 1850).