Cleveland Liberalist (1836-1838)

Cleveland Liberalist (1836-1838)

“The liberal deviseth things, and by Liberal things shall he stand.”- Bible.

 Prospectus: Devoted to Morality, Literature, and Scientific Enquiry. The avowed object of which will be to give Truth fair play against error, fanaticism, superstition, and falsehood. To establish the mind in truth and fix the habits in virtue . . . . We shall advocate the rights of the laboring classes, and expose the spirit of monopoly. We shall advocate equal and universal opportunity for education for rich and poor, furnished by the States. We shall encourage the study of the natural sciences, and point out the comparative value of each. We shall communicate much useful medical knowledge derived from experience. We shall expose hypocrisy and quackery of every kind. This paper will be independent. . . .We shall expose some startling facts in relation to the temperance cause. There will be no party politics in this paper.

Examined: 1:1 (Sept. 10, 1836) – 1:52 (Sept. 16, 1837); 2:16 (Jan. 6, 1838) – 3:4 (Oct. 27, 1838).[1]

Editor: Samuel Underhill.

Publication Information:

Samuel Underhill & Son, Cleveland, Ohio. 1:1 (Sept. 10, 1836) – 2:28 (Apr. 7, 1838).

James S. Underhill, Cleveland, Ohio. 2:29 (Apr. 14, 1838) – 3:4 (Oct. 27, 1838).

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors: Nathan Adams, Sheldon Clarke, J.C. Dean, William Groves, William O’Conner, R.M.K. Ormsby, Ossa, Delazon Smith, Sybil, and William Thompson.

Subjects/Features: Sabbath Question, Marriage, Women’s Rights, Temperance, Evidences of Christianity, Universal Education, Phrenology, Political Economy, Practical Science, Abolition-Slavery, Animal Magnetism, Abner Kneeland Blasphemy Case, Poetry, and Correspondence.

Reprints/Extracts: Lysander Spooner, Deist Reply (“Alleged Miracles of Jesus”), Frederich Tiedemann, A Systematic Treatise on Comparative Physiology Introductory to the Physiology of Man, Francis Wright, A Few Days in Athens, William Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers, Conrad Malte-Brun, Universal Geography,  Robert Taylor, Diegesis, Communications to/from Delazon Smith related to the publication of his pamphlet Oberlin Unmasked (Fall 1837), and Abner Kneeland’s letters from a Boston Jail.

Periodical Reprints from: Boston Investigator, The Beacon (New York), Cleveland Messenger, The Comet (New York), Disseminator (New Harmony), New Moral World (London). and the Temple of Reason (Philadelphia).


The Movement

Untitled editorial. 1:3 (Oct. 1, 1836): 22. Underhill details his creed including his belief that “it is “wise to conclude that what we cannot investigate, does not concern our happiness,” and that “our happiness no more depends upon what occurred eighteen hundred and thirty-six and seven years ago, than upon what happened fifty millions of years ago.”

S.U. “Elder Tucker’s Lectures” and “To Elder Tucker.” 1:20-21 (Jan. 28- Feb.4, 1837): 154-55, 164-65. This series of articles is a review of Elder Tucker’s lectures on Infidelity.

“Six Rules, by which the All Important Question Am I a Christian is solved beyond a Doubt!” 1:32 (Apr. 22, 1837): 250-51. Reprinted from the Ohio Watchman.

“Prayer.” 1:38 (June 10, 1837): 297-98. This prayer of the free enquirers was originally delivered at Tammany Hall, New York in 1831 and in response to Rev. Linus Smith Everett’s essays on the “Rise and Progress of Infidelity in America.” The prayer reads, in part, “May Kingcraft, Priestcraft and all other wicked or foolish crafts, speedily come to an end, and the whole human race be emancipated from the tyranny, degradation and bondage, both civil and religious, in which they have so long unjustly been held. May peace spread her balmy wings over the whole earth, and health and happiness be the portion of every human being.”

Samuel Underhill. “To S.J. Andrews Esq.” 2:32-39 (May 12- June 30, 1838): 255, 263, 270, 274-75, 286-87, 294, 302, 306. In these letters, Underhill defends infidels against Andrew’s assertion during a trial on slander, that “should the infidel rob, steal, or murder, it would be perfectly in harmony with his principles.”

“To the Clergy of Cuyahoga County, and of the Western Reserve.” 3:2-4 (Oct. 13-27, 1838): 10-11, 21-23, 26-27.


“Liberal Convention.” 1:4-5 (Oct. 8-15, 1836): 30, 38-39. Brief summary of the convention’s proceedings held in Saratoga, New York, August 1, 1836 and the Constitution of the U.S. Moral and Philosophical Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge.

“The Convention and Celebration.” 1:17 (Jan. 7, 1837): 132. Underhill announces a convention to be held Jan. 28, 1837 at the House of Mr. Edgerly in Hudson, Portage County to organize an auxiliary to the U.S. Moral and Philanthropic Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge.

“Ohio Liberal Convention.” 1:26 (Mar. 11, 1837): 204-05. A summary of the proceedings held at the Free Meeting House in Shalersville, Ohio on January 28, 1837 and featuring the address of Samuel Underhill.

Lectures and Tours

“To the Friends of Free Enquiry.” 1:1 (Sept. 10, 1836): 7. Underhill states that he has decided to publish a liberal paper since “there is not a liberal weekly west of Rochester,” and pledges to secure subscribers by lecturing throughout upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

“Western Tour.” 1:1-3, 5-6, 8, 10 (Sept. 10- Oct. 1, 15-22, Nov. 5, 19, 1836): 8, 12, 20-21, 35, 41-42, 58, 74.

S. Underhill. “An Address to the Christian Ladies of Cleveland and Vicinity.”  1:7-10 (Oct. 29- Nov. 19, 1836): 49-50, 60, 67, 79. Underhill begins “You have heard, perhaps, that the editor of the Liberalist is a very bad man. That he would undermine the whole structure of society, and lay waste all the barriers to vice. That blasphemy and crime, and chaotic disorder will be the effects of the circulation of the Liberalist. People are warned to avoid it as a deadly poison and flee from it as from the wiles of the serpent. . . . Amid all this turmoil and confusion, I appeal to you, to you who, despite your many weaknesses, and the very numerous disadvantages under which you labor, yet would not voluntarily be wrong in judging, or severe and hasty in condemning.”

Samuel Underhill. “Lecture on Mysterious Religious Emotions.” 1:11-13 (Nov. 26-Dec. 10, 1836): 81-83, 89-91, 97-99. This lecture was originally delivered in Bethlehem, Ohio, 1829.

S.U. “Lectures on the Formation of Opinions.” 1:21-22 (Feb. 4-11, 1837): 162-63, 169.

Objects, Initiatives, and Status

Untitled editorial. 1:3 (Oct. 1, 1836): 19. Underhill contends, “Never will superstition vanish – never will Truth and reason prevail, until the advocates of Truth adopt a language which gives birth to no harsh feelings- a language which has words of pity, kindness and benevolence- where now, they use those which express censoriousness and low vulgarity.”

“Patrons of the Liberalist.” 1:27 (Mar. 18, 1837): 214. Underhill reports that the Liberalist currently has about 900 subscribers, has “got footing in about a dozen states,” and pledges at the close of the year to enlarge the paper.

“The Late Election.” 1:35 (May 13, 1837): 278-79. Underhill announces his election to the office of justice of the peace and notes, “the office will yield us a comfortable living and allow us ample time for editorial services. It gives us too, power to celebrate marriage ceremonies, placing us in this respect on a footing with our clerical brethren. This expression of confidence by our fellow citizens, commands our gratitude, and makes us very anxious to act worthy of it.”

“Constitution of the Cleveland Moral and Philosophical Society.” 1:43 (July 15, 1837): 338-39.

A letter from R. Canfield reprinted from the Beacon. 1:49 (Aug. 26, 1837): 392. Canfield announces the termination of the Temple of Reason and his “prospect of being connected with the editorial and mechanical departments of the Ohio Watchman.”

“Mr. Canfield.” 1:51 (Sept. 9, 1837): 403. Reprinted from the Ohio Watchman, the editor reports Canfield being very sick and in Philadelphia.

S.U. “The Watchman.” 2:17 (Jan. 13, 1838): 135. Underhill reports the imminent termination of the Watchman and a rumor that Delazon Smith may attempt to revive it. He also notes the paper had between four and five hundred subscribers.

Underhill reports having “Agents for the Liberalist” in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Virginia, District of Columbia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Lower Canada. 2:21 (Feb. 10, 1838): 168.

Untitled editorial. 2:23 (Feb. 24, 1838): 182. Underhill announces the publication of the Louisville Sceptic, edited and published by R.M.K. Ormsby.

S. Underhill. “Closing Address of the Editor to his Patrons, in the last No. of Vol. 2nd.” 2:52 (Sept. 29, 1838): 414-15. Underhill claims, “On every side which we turn our eye, Free Enquiry is making inroads. Agitation is the order of the day. Investigation is searching into all the old systems, both of government and religion. Scarce a sect but is shaken, and at no period has there been so much inclination to “overturn, overturn, overturn, until truth shall come reign over all.””

S.U. “The Liberalist.” 2:34 (May 26, 1838): 271. Underhill reveals that Delazon Smith will issue the Watchman from Rochester and that one thousand new subscribers are needed in order to sustain the Liberalist.

“Prospectus of the New-York Watchman.” 2:39 (June 30, 1838): 311. The prospectus reads, in part, “Our religion, is the only one true religion – the religion of nature! She is our strong rock, and her truth is our sure defense. We do not indulge a malicious hostility; but we prefer the plain, honest and simple demonstrations of Common Sense, to the bewildering fog of a dogmatical religion.”

S. Underhill. “To Our Patrons.” 3:4 (Oct. 27, 1838): 26. Underhill announces that this is the last issue of the Liberalist due to only receiving a few dollars on the last volume. He further pledges to forward his subscribers list to the New York Watchman.

Church and State

Judicial Oaths

 “Competency of Witnesses.” 2:25 (Mar. 10, 1838): 196-97. Under this heading appear the remarks of Senator Barry, delivered February 7, 1838, in favor of a bill’s provision which read “no person shall be disqualified from giving evidence, under affirmation, on account of his opinions respecting the subject of religion.” Reprinted from the Detroit Daily Free Press.

S.U. “Petition to the Legislature of the State of Ohio, on the Subject of Religious Tests.” 3:4 (Oct. 27, 1838): 27.

Religion in the Public Schools

S.U. “Mr. Barnard’s Report to the New York Legislature.” 2:24 (Mar. 3, 1838): 187. This is an editorial concerning a petition submitted by William G. Griffin on the subject of religious exercises in public schools.

Sabbath Observance

“Petition to Abolish the Sabbath Law.” 1:7 (Oct. 29, 1836): 56. A petition submitted to the legislature of Ohio.

Samuel Underhill. “Remarks on “Kingbury on the Sabbath.” 1:14 (Dec. 17, 1836): 110-11. Underhill remarks, “You seem to forget that our rights are equal, and that the feelings of Jews, Pagans and Mahometans, their rights, and even those of the Infidel are deemed equally precious and are equally entitled to protection with your own. I like to see people live up to their faith, be it what it may, so long as it interferes not with their neighbors’ equally sacred rights.”

Freedom of Speech

Abner Kneeland – Blasphemy Case

S.U. “Blasphemy of Abner Kneeland.” 2:31 (May 5, 1838): 247. Underhill exclaims, “That God has been injured by this Reverend old man, is the sentence of . . . . enlightened Massachusetts . . . . region of equality of rights and privileges . . . . We have not yet heard the sentence, if it has been pronounced, but we hope it will be imprisonment, and that no pardon will be granted. We hope this that thousands of the dupes of superstition may be awakened; and, that truth may move ahead with accelerated vigor.”

Untitled editorial. 2:39 (June 30, 1838): 307. Commenting on Kneeland being sentenced to sixty days imprisonment for blasphemy, Underhill writes, “See the old grey-headed man brought in to Court with his wife, children, and friends, to receive a sentence which is to atone for an injury done god! See the old man dragged to prison and confined – for simply publishing what he sincerely believes- and then ask yourselves if you wish to be counted among such Christians.”

S.U. “Abner Kneeland.” 2:41 (July 14, 1838): 322. Underhill writes, “The incarceration of Kneeland shall be the Alamo of the Liberalist. Let the bigot rage in our presence, we will think of thee, and draw the sword of truth, and hurl the scabbard. Let a mortal in our presence be spurned for his opinions, the memory of thy name shall rouse us to action.”

S.U. “The Blasphemy Case.” 2:43 (July 28, 1838): 343. Underhill begins, “There never was a time when the friends of Liberal principles had so much reason to put forth all their energies, as at the present. We can now give an unanswerable reason for our exertions. The imprisonment of Abner Kneeland proves what we have long asserted, but which has been constantly denied, to wit: That the spirit of persecution even unto bonds, lives and flourishes among us. The pretences of the church that it is not her wish to persecute, is proved false, and what we have often declared, to wit: That had the church the power, her principles would make it her duty, to put to death and imprison Infidels, is fully proved true.”



Alexander Campbell “Cleveland Liberalist.” 1:24 (Feb. 25, 1837): 188.

Sam’L. Underhill. “To Alexander Campbell editor of the Millennial Harbinger.” 1:24 (Feb. 25, 1837): 188.

“The Discussion with Mr. Campbell in Cleveland.” 1:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, 17 (Sept. 10- Oct. 1, 15-22, Nov. 5-19, 1836; Jan. 7, 1837): 2, 13-14, 17-18, 34-35, 42, 64, 66, 72, 131. Underhill presents his account of his discussion with Alexander Campbell, editor of the Millennial Harbinger, on the evidences of Christianity.

“Campbell Refuted: Being a correspondence between the Rev. Alex. Campbell, of Va. And Dr. Sam’l Underhill of Ohio; on the subject of the debate held in Cincinnati between the celebrated Robert Owen, and Mr. Campbell, in April, 1829.” 2:39-42, 44-47 (June 30- July 21, Aug. 4-22, 1838): 306-07, 318-19, 321-22, 329-31, 345-46, 356-57, 365-66, 375.

Religion and Morality

 “Observations on the State of Things in Western New York.” 1:15 (Dec. 24, 1836): 118. Underhill points out that “Religion claims to heal all the infirmities of human nature, and the infantile mind being denounced as originally depraved, is condemned as incapable of genuine virtue until regenerated by divine power, and brought forth into a holy life. This sentiment will, as long as it lives, exercise a benumbing influence upon education. It is only when we see clearly that human nature is not depraved at birth, that we shall look to surrounding circumstances for the cause of all moral evil.”

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Centennial Anniversary of the Birth of Thomas Paine.” 1:22 (Feb. 11, 1837): 172-73. This article briefly summarizes the proceedings of a celebration of Paine’s life held at Shalersville, Ohio on January 29, 1837 and features toasts and resolutions.

“The Celebration of Paine’s Birth Day.” 2:20 (Feb. 3, 1838): 158. Features the regular and volunteer toasts.

“Anniversary of Thos. Paine’s Birth Day.” 2:22 (Feb. 17, 1838): 172. Reprinted from the Kentucky and Ohio Journal (Cincinnati); a brief summary of a commemoration of Paine’s Birthday at the Exchange Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio where Francis Wright delivered an address and the following toast, among others, was made: “Our state legislatures – may they soon discard the services of chaplains, and listen more attentively to the prayers of the unpaid people, than the paid prayers of priests.”

“Celebration of Thomas Paine’s Birth-Day in the City of Rochester.” 2:23 (Feb. 24, 1838): 178-79. A summary of proceedings at the United States Hotel and featuring a series of adopted resolutions, including, “Resolved, that we have but one fixed and unalterable opinion of the divine authority of the Bible. The proof to us is irresistible that it is a mere combination of Pagan fables, loosely and ignorantly thrown together, without system or order, full of error, obscenity and contradictions; and therefore not entitled to the confidence and belief of a free and intelligent people, and to be cast aside amongst the rubbish and fabled legends of Paganism of a bye-gone world.”

“Celebration of Thomas Paine’s Birth-Day.” 2:24 (Mar. 3, 1838): 188. This article provides a brief summary of the proceedings in Warrenville, Cook County, Illinois.


Untitled editorial. 1:4 (Oct. 8, 1836): 30. Responding to a request that the question of slavery be discussed in the Liberalist, Underhill explains that while he is “most decidedly opposed to slavery, and in favor of immediate abolition” there are other papers dedicated to the slavery question and the Liberalist “aims to break the chains of mental slavery and unloose the bonds which enthrall the minds of a vast majority in all the states.” Underhill also states his belief that the African race is a distinct species of human beings and doubts “whether any degree of light and opportunity will raise the pure African race to an enlightened and self governing condition.”

A letter to the editor from “A Farmer.” 1:6 (Oct. 22, 1836): 47. The author asks Underhill a series of questions concerning Africans including “Can different species amalgamate?” and “Does not the African possess all those qualities and faculties of mind which is common to whites?”

“Answer to a Farmer on Negroology.” 1:7-8 (Oct. 29- Nov.5, 1836): 55, 57-58. In part, Underhill responds that Africans differ from whites anatomically and physiologically, are “an inferior species in their intellectual faculties,” but the difference between whites and Africans is not a sufficient reason to enslave Africans.

A letter to the editor from “A Farmer.” 1:9 (Nov. 12, 1836): 69-70. The author systematically refutes Underhill’s evidence that Africans constitute a distinct species.

“Honorable Mr. Bynum, Member of Congress from N. Carolina.” 1:28 (Mar. 25, 1837): 221-22. Underhill asks “Is it less than folly to talk of stability in states whose security depends upon repressing free enquiry? Must not one be blind to perceive, that the true reason why you repress free discussion, is because your condition is one at variance with truth and justice? . . . So far then from approving your denunciations in this case, against the clergy, I must say that history records few instances of devotedness marked with stronger indications of an exemption from unhallowed motives than in the untiring exertions of the Northern abolitionist.”

“Constitution of the Society for the Promotion of Equal Rights.”  1:47 (Aug. 12, 1837): 371-72. Published by request of William Thompson, the Constitution describes slavery as “an evil of the first magnitude [which] ought to cease wherever it exists.” The following page features a letter from Thompson, reprinted from the Ohio City Argus detailing his views on the subject of abolition.

Women’s Rights

A letter to the editor from “Sybil.” 1:20 (Jan. 28, 1837): 158. The author writes, “I am already a Free Enquirer and low, and mean, and priest ridden, as many of you gentlemen sometimes think us poor “weaker vessels,” women think as well as men. You can scarce imagine how many women read your paper, and secretly rejoice in its success.”

Letter to the editor from “Sybil.” 1:36 (May 20, 1837): 282. The author asks “why are women deprived of the right of suffrage in this land of freedom?” to which Underhill responds that a woman’s “right to vote ought to be as secure as any other rights. No good argument can exist against it, and everything is in favor of it.”

“Address delivered by A. Underhill before the Massillon Lyceum.” 2:50 (Sept. 8, 1838): 396-99. An address on the subject of female education and female influence.

Education and Public Schools

L.C. Todd. “The Question whether Common Schools ought to be Established and Maintained, at the Public Expense, in every District, Discussed.” 1:24-28 (Feb. 25- Mar. 25, 1837): 185-86, 194-95, 201-02, 209, 222.

Land and Labor

 Samuel Underhill. “Money, Money – Hard Times, Hard Times.”[2] 1:35-45 (May 13-July 29, 1837): 270, 287, 289-90, 299, 311, 319, 322-23, 331, 342, 350-51, 358.

“The Philosophy of Money.” 1:46-47 (Aug. 5-12, 1837): 362-63, 373-74.


 C.T. Jackson. “Lectures on Geology.” 1:38 (June 10, 1837): 300-01. Reprinted from Wesleyan Journal (Portland, Maine).

S. Underhill. Letters “To C.F. Durant.” 2:16-18 (Jan. 6-20, 1838): 125-27, 130-31, 142. These letters deal with the subject of animal magnetism.

Sheldon Clarke. “An Essay on Volition.” 2:23-25 (Feb. 24-Mar. 10, 1838): 177-78, 185-87, 193-95.

Worldcat Accession Number17430230.

The Research Library at the Western Reserve Historical Society owns the full run.


[1] Whole Nos.: 1 (Sept. 10, 1836) – 52 (Sept. 16, 1837); 68 (Jan. 6, 1838) – 108 (Oct. 27, 1838).

[2] Succeeding titles include: “Hard Times – Money – Monopolies,” Hard Times – Money, Usury,” “Hard Times – Usury – Money.”

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