5. Quarterly and Monthly Beacon

Quarterly Beacon (1846-1847)[1]

and

Monthly Beacon (1847-1848)[2]

 Examined:

Quarterly Beacon, 1:2 (1846/1847).[3]

Monthly Beacon, 1:1 (May 1847) – 2:12 (July 1849).

 Editor: Gilbert Vale.

 Publication Information: New York, New York.

 Contributors: David Hartwell, Massillon Jr., Garritt Meriwether, Theodore Parker, and John Wyatt.

Subjects/Features: Astronomy, Independent Order of Liberals, West-Vale Discussion on the Evidences of Christianity, Poems, and Correspondence.

Reprints/Extracts: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and Robert Taylor ,Devil’s Pulpit.

Periodical Reprints: Weekly Chronotype (Boston), N.Y. Herald, and Regenerator (Fruit Hills, Ohio).

Quarterly Beacon:

Charles Southwell. “Christianity Proved Idolatry.” Revised and reprinted with notes by G. Vale.

The Yahoo; A Satirical Rhapsody.” According to G. Vale, this poem first appeared in England, without name, and was later published, in part, in The Comet (N.Y.). Vale states that The Yahoo is “so justly severe in its sarcasms on the follies and spiritual pretensions of the great and little vulgar, that it should be known to all; it puts the language of Scripture in its proper light, and presents the absurd pretensions of man to divine participation, in so ridiculous a position, that grave argument is unnecessary.”

O.H. “Who was Jesus Christ? Being a Short Enquiry into the Origin of the Gospel Story.”[4]

Monthly Beacon Selections:

 The Movement

Conventions

Edward J. Webb. “Address of the U.S. Infidel Society: For the Promotion of Universal Mental Liberty.” 1:7 (Nov. 1847): 87-91. Webb expresses his earnest desire that “those enlightened with liberal principles and liberal knowledge, will not “hide their light under a bushel,” but let it shine for the enlightenment and emancipation of their fellow citizens.”

Debates

“Impartial Notice or Review of the Discussion between Dr. West and Mr. G. Vale, on the Evidences of Christianity; to which is added a reply to Dr. West’s Ten Golden Axioms, by G. Vale.” 2:11-12 (June-July 1849): 129-40, 153-64.

“Report of the Discussion between G. Vale and the Rev. Dr. West.” 2:12 (July 1849): 176-82. Reprinted from the Age of Reason (N.Y.).

G. Vale. “Notes on Dr. West and his Pamphlet.” 2:12 (July 1849): 182-87.

Objects, Initiatives and Status

G.V.. “Speculations on Free Enquiry and Prospects of Free Enquirers.” 1:1 (May 1847): 7-10. Discussing the prospects of creating a secret society of free enquirers, Vale proposes that each member make the following declaration, “In becoming a member of this Order (the order of – ) I claim the right of speech on every subject, and I profess myself a seeker and lover of Truth. What I claim for myself I admit as the right of others, and expect to find in every member the practice and profession of the principles I have expressed.”

“Society or Order of Liberals, for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, Liberal Objects and Freedom of Inquiry.” 1:1 (May 1847): 11-16. Here featured are the Society’s constitution and by-laws, and an “address to the liberal public” from the Society’s secretary, P. Eckler.

G.V. ““True Fellowship.” A Secret Order.” 1:3 (July 1847): 41-44. Vale explains his support for a secret order of free enquirers.

“Correspondence.” 1:6 (Oct. 1847): 70-74. Writing from Ringgold, Tennessee, Garritt Meriwether argues, “In short, would Liberals extend their principles and sentiments through society, would they ever hope to mould society for that high moral and political destiny to which an untrammeled mental liberty would carry it, they must no longer sit quiet with folded arms leaning against that chief pillar of their philanthropic hope, that “truth is mighty, and must prevail.” Yes, truth is mighty indeed, when aided by the energies of the good and just; and the good or the just must ever rule the social world, could they be brought to co-operate- to unite their influences. Alas! Though, as society is now constituted, this never can be done, but under the power of secret organization.”

“Progress of Liberal Opinions and the Press.” 1:6 (Oct. 1847): 79-80. Reprinting the prospectus from The St. Louis Magnet which reads, in part, “Let us lay aside our hypocrisy and priestcraft in religion, aristocracy and kingscraft in politics, and murderous empiricism in medicine- let us have less law, and we will have more justice, less professional religion, and we will have more true morality- less physic, and we will have better health; let us respect the rights of others, and they respect ours.”

“New Liberal Paper.” 1:8 (Dec. 1847): 101-03. Vale announces the commencement of a new liberal paper, Age of Reason, and reprints an address from the editor. The editor notes that they have already acquired nearly 1,000 subscribers.

“Liberal Benefit Society. 2:7 (Feb. 1849): 86-87. Vale announces the formation of “The Independent Order of Liberals.”

“The Independent Order of Liberals.” 2:8 (Mar. 1849): 102-04. This article features the society’s constitution and by-laws.

Garritt Meriwether. “The Independent Order of Liberals” and “Answer from the Editor.” 2:10 (May 1849): 117-26. In response to a series of questions on the new order of liberals, Vale responds that the order will be a secret society, that persons under twenty-one, females, and “distant” liberals may be admitted as members, and that the formation of independent associations are encouraged.

G.V. “Independent Order of Liberals.” 2:11 (June 1849): 144-45. Vale announces that the new order has secured Eagle Hall to host weekly lectures and house a free reading room and library.

G.V. “The Independent Order of Liberals.” 2:12 (July 1849): 171-72. Vale explains why the order has elected to adopt “secret signs of recognition.”

G.V. “The Future Beacon.” 2:12 (July 1849): 187-88. Vale remarks, “The course then of the Beacon is to enter to the field of politics, civil, and social reform, unchecked and untainted with superstition and fanaticism, and to offer a point of union by which Liberals may know their strength. . . . The point of union referred to, is the Independent Order of Liberals, a mere benefit society – but the members of which are pledged to carry out political, social, and civil reforms, which can best be effected by association. The object of the Beacon is the same; they will be, if you please, one body and soul, and whatever is practical will be accomplished.”

Biographical Sketches

Massillon Jr. “Liberal Sermons, No. VI. On the Death of Benjamin Offen.” 2:1 (Aug. 1848): 3-9. The author observed that “The bonds of superstition were too weak for his strong and vigorous mind; and its idle fancies were cast aside like the dreams of imbecility. Its phantoms and its fears found no place in his belief. He looked upon mankind as his brethren, and to the creator of the universe, as, his father and friend. With such sentiments he laid himself down to his dreamless sleep, as calmly as to a night’s repose after a weary day.”

“Charles Francois Dupuis.” 2:2 (Sept. 1848): 20-24. A sketch of Dupuis’ life, translated from his work l’ Origin de tous les Cultes.

Religion

Christianity

G.V. “Key to the Astronomical Allusions and Various Mysteries in the Bible, referred to in the “Devil’s Pulpit,” by the Rev. Robert Taylor, B.A., and to similar allusions in Volney, Dupuis, &c.- Explanation of the Astronomical Cut.” 1:2-3 (June-July 1847): 17-22, 44-48.

“A Young Philosopher.” 1:6 (Oct. 1847): 69-70. A letter from a sixteen year-old subscriber who observes that “It is singular that men . . . . boasting of having minds and souls immortal, should believe and teach that God has performed, or ordered cruelties or injustice so black and horrible that if the like were charged to a friend, a brother, or a father, they would be utterly despised, and no death would appear too bad for them.”

“Young Philosophers.” (May 1848): 173-74. The author observes, “Like stays and corsets put on the round and beautiful forms which God has created, rendering them crooked, ill-shapen and sickly; so are the delusions of society and the church bound on to the youthful soul, cramping all that beautiful and hoyden elasticity of thought and inquiry, which would enable the young inquirer to bound forward with pleasure and cheerfulness in the paths of study and knowledge.”

Religion and Science

Massillon Jr. “Liberal Sermons, No. V.” (May 1848): 161-63. The author concludes, “Let us aid in turning all popular religions into philosophy, and the priests of superstition into teachers of the divine institutions of nature. Civilization shall enlighten them, knowledge shall convert them, and the time may yet come when the priest shall be a blessing instead of a curse to the world. This shall be when he ceases to be a priest, and shall become a teacher of the revelations of nature.”

Slavery

H. “Animated Life- The Negro.” (Mar. 1848): 132-34. The author contends that “The white man has been cruel in bringing him to a climate to which he is unsuited; and made to labor, for which God has not fitted him. His oppressor is therefore bound to treat him kindly, provide for his wants, and return him to his native country, or to a country of similar climate, suited to his natural character.”

Women’s Rights

“Address by Mrs. Rose.” 2:9 (Apr. 1849): 108-11. Rose remarks, “While we gratefully remember all that Thomas Paine has done for the rights of man, we must also remember that to us is left to achieve that greater task – the Rights of Woman! – without which, even the works of Thomas Paine, I greatly fear, will be useless, for man can never be truly free until woman has her rights as his equal, until she becomes elevated as an intellectual, independent, moral being.”

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Paine Festival.” (Mar. 1848): 134-41. This article features an address from Dr. Hull and a series of regular and volunteer toasts among which were the following: “A scientific education- The sovereign antidote to every degrading superstition; good for the bee, but inimical to the drone” and “Truth- May all honest Infidels, male or female, feel the debt of kindness they owe to their fellow beings, and fearlessly step forth to teach unbought truths, and hazard unpopular opinions.”

“The Paine Celebration.” 2:7 (Feb. 1849): 91-92. This short account features several toasts, including, “Priestcraft and the Asiatic Cholera. The first an artificial, the latter a natural scourge, the one a severe bluster for an hour, the other a sticking plaster for an age.”

Land and Labor

Theodore Parker. “Thoughts on Labor.” 2:9 (Apr. 1849): 111-14. Parker concludes, “Alas, we are still in bondage to the elements, and so long as two of the “enlightened” nations of the earth, England and America, insist on weaving the garments for all the rest of the world, not because they would clothe the naked, but that their strong men might live in fine houses, wear gay apparel, dine on costly food, and their mouths be served by other men’s hands, we must expect that seven-tenths of mankind will be degraded, and will hug their chains, and count machinery an evil.”

Spiritualism

Le Roy Sunderland. “Revelations of A.J. Davis.” 1:7 (Nov. 1847): 91-95. Reprinted from The Chronotype. Sunderland draws the reader’s attention to the plain and palpable contradictions of Davis’s “revelations.”

Miscellaneous

Massillon Jr. “Liberal Sermons, No. 4.” 1:6 (Oct. 1847): 65-69. In this sermon, the author seeks to teach his audience to rely, “in times of danger, on a noble self-possession and skill, that the Gods will not interfere to rescue, and that the laws of nature fulfill their office, regardless of our carelessness or our prayers. These are truths which Providence has taught you from your youth up. He has reiterated the lesson again and again, in tones more powerful than seven thunders. He has taught it by that most potent of all teachers, Experience – and why have you not listened to her voice. She cannot err, and why have you not grown wise with her teaching? Has the seducing priest quieted your fears by a false reliance on heaven? Has he taught you that the Gods would be won by prayers to defend you? Believe him not, it is but an ancient error, which your own observation should of informed you of, and taught you long ago of its falsity.”

G. Vale. “England after Twenty Years Absence.” (May 1848): 163-69. Under this title are two letters from Vale sent from London on Feb. 3 and Feb. 26, 1848. In the Feb. 26 letter, Vale surveys the various liberal lecture halls in London and provides an account of a Thomas Paine celebration.

“Essay on the Astronomy and Worship of the Ancients” and “Notes on the Principles of Astronomy.” 2:3-5 (Oct. – Dec., 1848). “Essay on the Astronomy and Worship of the Ancients” consists of two chapters and an appendix. “Notes on the Principles of Astronomy” includes a description of Vale’s Globe and Celestial Sphere, a letter to G. Vale from O.H. on the “Ancient Mysteries,” an article entitled “The Times and Seasons” featuring several extracts from religious papers illustrating how the press is “liberalizing,” and another entitled “A Benefit Society” outlining the basis on which an infidel society is to be formed.  In total this pamphlet, which is non-consecutively paginated with the issues of the Monthly Beacon, is 72 pages long.

 Preceding Title: The Beacon (1836-1846).

Succeeding Title: Independent Beacon (1849-1850).

Worldcat Accession Numbers: 15189594, 191123223, 191123438

Endnotes:

[1] “The Quarterly Beacon,” The Beacon 3:46 (Nov. 1, 1845): 368. Vale states that the first number of The Quarterly Beacon will contain the Three Imposters, translated from the French. Also, “On the Spirit of the Times,” which appeared in the first issue of the Quarterly may be found in the fourth series of The Beacon 3:16-17 (Apr. 11-18, 1846): 123-24, 131-33. The remainder of content found in the first issue of the Quarterly Beacon is detailed in the fourth series of the Beacon – G. Vale. “A Review of the Quarterly Beacon” The Beacon 3:22 (May 23, 1846): 169-70.

[2] Ebsco’s American Antiquarian Society, Historical Periodicals Collections, Series 3 provides electronic access to 1:2 of The Quarterly Beacon and 1:1 (May 1847)- May 1848 of The Monthly Beacon. The difficulty of determining the date range is created by the fact that the Jan. – May issues that are loaded do not have cover pages identifying the issue number and the content loaded for the Dec. 1847 and Jan. 1848 issues are the same. At the same time, the pagination from the Dec. issue to the Feb. issue is continuous. Therefore, either there was no issue published in Jan. or the dates are incorrectly assigned. For ease of reference, I have elected to assign the date provided by Ebsco.

[3] Unexamined Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Quarterly Beacon includes: G.V., “Spirit of the Times,” O.H. “Swedenborgism,” G.V. “On Time, and the Ancient Devices for Measuring It,” “The Three Imposters,” described as a rare work translated from the Latin, and Vale’s  “Elements of Astronomy and Astronomical Card.”

[4] Following the conclusion of “Who was Jesus Christ?” is a page detailing the contents of both numbers 1 and 2 of The Quarterly Beacon and a 3 page “Conclusion” to The Quarterly Beacon which also serves to announce Vale’s plans to issue The Monthly Beacon.

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