Correspondent (1827-1829)

The Correspondent (1827-1829)[1]

“Magna est Veritas et Prevalebit.”[2]

 Prospectus: The object contemplated by this Journal, is the diffusion of correct principles, which alone form the basis of morals and happiness. Nothwithstanding the vast number of publications that are daily issuing from the press, there is still wanting a paper which will fearlessly advocate the paramount importance of the laws of Nature, and the dignity of Reason. It is by departing from these that good sense has been nearly banished from the earth; that mankind are in darkness as to their true interests; and that all the miseries which afflict society have originated.

Examined: 1:1 (Jan. 20, 1827) – 2:23 (Dec. 29, 1827); 2:25 (Jan. 12, 1828) – 5:26 (July 18, 1829).

Editor: George Houston.[3]

Publication Information: New York, New York.

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors/Correspondents: Aristides, Cato, Henry A. Fay, Julian, Joseph Lawton, Looker On, Octavia, C. Schultz, Philo Veritas,[4] and Zeno.

Subjects/Features: Deism, Evidences of Christianity, Authenticity of the Bible, Bible Inconsistencies and Contradictions, Existence of Jesus, Immortality of the Soul, Argument from Design, Blasphemy, Sabbath Laws, Sunday Mails, Free Press Association Lectures, “Progress of Liberal Opinions,” and Practical Education.

Reprints/Extracts: Apocryphal Gospels, Voltaire, Questions of Zapata and The Catechumen, Samuel Francis, Watson Refuted[5], Francis Wright, Lectures on Knowledge, C.-F Volney, History of Samuel, Voltaire, Important Examination of the Holy Scriptures,[6] John Noorthouck, The Life of David, or the History of the Man After God’s Own Heart.

Periodical Reprints/Extracts: The Antidote (Albany), New Harmony Gazette (New Harmony, In.), March of Mind (Cincinnati), Western Tiller (Cincinnati), and The Lion (London).

Selections:

The Movement

Lectures and Tours

“Free Press Association.” 1:7-9 (Mar. 10-24, 1827): 106-9, 123-26, 138-41. George Houston[7] delivers an address “on the pernicious tendency of what is called revealed religion.”

“Free Press Association.” 1:12-13 (Apr. 14-21, 1827): 183-86, 197-99. An address from the Association’s chairman “on the influence of the invisible world over the visible.”

Henry A. Fay. “Opening Address Spoken before the Society of Free Enquirers, at Military Hall, New York, on Sunday, Feb. 24, 1828.” 3:11-12 (Apr. 5-12, 1828): 168-72, 184-89. Fay rants, “In every age, in every country, the obstacles in ambition’s frenzied career, the terror of aspiring demagogues, and the revolutionizers of empires, have been free enquirers. It seems as if, in the sicklied frame of corrupted society, there always lurks that latent constitutional vigor- free enquiry. Every superstitionist may be deemed an Adam, to damn the human race to sin, misery, and moral death; every free enquirer- a savior, a redeemer. A superstitionist is the lazy worm, which crawls groveling in the mud and mire of mystery. A free enquirer launches forth his noble curiosity into the sea of space- roams from star to star, almost losing for a time the puny fears and anxieties of humanity.

“Liberal Publications,” “Home Prospects,” “Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 4:9, 11-12, 16, 18 (Sept. 20, Oct. 4-11, Nov. 8, 22, 1828): 143-44, 174-75, 211, 268-71, 302-04. These articles are made up of reports of Benjamin Offen’s lecture tour through the northern and western parts of New York. Also featured is an address delivered by Offen in Utica.

“Progress of Liberal Principles.” 4:20 (Dec. 6, 1828): 335-36. Featured here is a letter from Robert L. Jennings in which he reports, “The results of my lectures in different towns [in western states], has proved similar to that of Mr. Offen’s; and Frances Wright’s lectures have produced an excitement that can hardly be imagined, and which has led to the open avowal of liberal principles by (I think I may truly say) hundreds.”

“Miss Wright’s Lectures.” 4:25 (Jan. 10, 1829): 414-15. The author reports that “Night after night, have thousands crowded the Masonic Hall, and City Hotel, to listen to, to applaud, and to be instructed by the lessons of philosophy which flowed with so much sweetness, and so much force from the lips of this unrivalled orator.”

Objects, Initiatives, and Status

Constitution of the Free Press Association.” 1:4 (Feb. 17, 1827): 63-64.

A. Deist. “Free Press Association.” 1:6 (Mar. 3, 1827): 83-84. A. Deist concludes, “Like Caesar we will say Veni vide vincit. “Truth” is our shield; with it we enter the lists against superstition, mystery and fraud. Our success cannot be doubtful.”

“Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 1:10 (Mar. 31, 1827): 157-58. The editor announces the formation of an Association for Mutual Instruction in Natural Science in Cincinnati; the preamble from their Constitution is included.

“Object of the Free Press Association.” 1:23 (June 30, 1827): 363-65.

“Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 2:13 (Oct. 20, 1827): 203-06. The editor profiles the activities of the Paterson New Jersey Free Reading Society who have created “a library of scientific and philosophical works” and “have commenced regular public lectures.” Included is an address from the Free Reading Society which declares, “Aware that “knowledge is power,” and that tyranny of every description exists only where ignorance predominates, it is our determined purpose to make every effort to diffuse liberal principles, and thus emancipate the human mind from mental slavery; for although in this country we justly boast of possessing more political liberty than any other people on the earth, it is a melancholy and undeniable fact, that superstition has erected an empire here more extended and fatal than in those countries where religion is established, and protected by civil power.”

“Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 3:1 (Jan. 26, 1828): 9-10. This article features a letter from the secretary of the Society of Mutual Instruction in Natural Science at Cincinnati who reports that since the publication of the Western Tiller, they regularly have 40-50 visitors at their lectures.

“Western Tiller.” 3:1 (Jan. 26, 1828): 10-12. Houston praises, James W. Gazley, the editor of the Western Tiller, for his liberal sentiments and moderate tone, and provides an excerpt from an article entitled “Reformation” to illustrate Gazley’s “talents for theological discussion.”

“Progress of Liberal Opinions.” 3:2 (Feb. 2, 1828): 30. Houston announces the formation of The Society of Liberal Friends in Philadelphia.

“Progress of Liberal Principles.” 3:6 (Feb. 29, 1828): 89. Houston celebrates the enactment of a law in Rhode Island which reads “that no man’s opinions in matters of religion, his belief or disbelief, can be legally inquired into, or be made a subject of investigation, with a view to his qualifications to hold office, or give testimony, by any man or men acting judicially or legislatively.”

“Society of Free Enquirers.” 3:6 (Feb. 29, 1828): 89. Houston observes, “The establishment of the “Society of Free Enquirers,” while it meets the approbation of every well wisher to mental improvement, and is calculated to enlarge the circle of knowledge, cannot fail, in cooperation with the Free Press Association, of paralyzing more effectually the efforts of bigotry and fanaticism.”

“Western Tiller.” 3:9 (Mar. 22, 1828): 135-40. Houston reports that Gazley was forced to suspend his labor on the Western Tiller due to ill health and reprints here Gazley’s final “exposition of the impositions practiced by an idle and profligate priesthood to extract money from the pockets of the industrious.”

“Liberal Publications.” 3:19 (May 31, 1828): 298-302. Houston announces the commencement of two new liberal periodicals, The March of Mind (Cincinnati) and Priestcraft Exposed (Lockport, NY) and reprints an article from each.

“Another Liberal Press.” 3:20 (June 5, 1828): 318. Houston announces the commencement of another liberal paper, The Liberal Press (Philadelphia) and reprints the papers prospectus.

“Another Liberal Paper.” 3:23 (June 28, 1828): 367. Houston announces the commencement of the Cincinnati Free Press, edited by Robert L. Jennings.

“Baltimore Association of Liberals.” 5:16 (May 9, 1829): This article reproduces the preamble and constitution adopted by a newly formed liberal society in Baltimore.

 Biographical Sketches

Aristides. “Death-Bed Repentance of Liberals.” 5:13-14 (Apr. 18-25, 1829): 193-97, 213-15. The author refutes the claims that Voltaire, Hume and Paine recanted their infidelity on their death-beds.

Church and State

 “On Liberality.” 4:10, 12 (Sept. 27, Oct. 11, 1828): 150-54, 206-10. The author remarks, “When my right of giving evidence in court, or of my employing my time is touched, it interferes with those rights secured by the constitution, and fixed by nature. If this is yielded, what next will it be? Why the right of property, of voting, of holding offices. . . . It requires but a step to go from one of these to the other; and surely if the civil or judicial authorities possess the power to abridge a citizen of his right of giving evidence in court, on account of his religion, or prescribing to him how he shall or shall not use his leisure time, they cannot but have the same power of taking from him his property, both personal and real. In fact, it does that same thing, for if he cannot give evidence he cannot go through those formalities which secure him his property; neither can he go through those which enable him to vote if challenged, and even take the oath of office if elected. Thus all the rights, privileges and enjoyments of citizenship are swept off by the religious test act, and a man might as well be under the despotism of Europe.”

“Law of the Land.” 2:10 (Sept. 29, 1827): 155-57. The author opines, “Although it may be regretted, that the records of our judicial proceedings, exhibit a case, where a citizen was dragged before our civil tribunals, and a penal sentence passed on him by the judges, for expressing his disbelief in some religious dogmas, the rapid advance of knowledge that has taken place since that intolerant decision was pronounced, precludes all idea of it being ever recognized as a precedent.”

“Constitutional Rights of Opinion.” 5:13-15 (Apr. 18-May 2, 1829): 202-05, 219-21, 234-38. This article reproduces the constitutional provisions dealing with religion and speech from the federal and state constitutions of the United States.

Fast Proclamations

 A Republican. “Fast Days.” 1:21 (June 16, 1827): 325-26. Commenting on the practice of governors proclaiming fast days, the author asks, “In what part of the laws or the constitution of any state in the union, is the governor of the state . . . . authorized to command a citizen to go down on his knees and to perform religious worship, because he, the governor, chooses to command it? Is this not an assumption of authority in direct contravention of the rights of a free people under a republican government?”

Judicial Oaths

 Julian. “Future Punishment.” 2:21 (Dec. 15, 1827): 321-24. The author reports the rejection of two witnesses in a Providence, Rhode Island court on account of their “disbelief in a future state of rewards and punishments.”

“Competency of Witnesses.” 4:9 (Sept. 20, 1828): 139-40. Reprinted from the National Observer; featuring the remarks of Solomon Southwick on a Canandaigua court’s rejection of Mr. Edward Giddins as a witness on account of his religious opinions.

“Legality of Witnesses.” 4:14 (Oct. 25, 1828): 230-33. This article features a letter from Edward Giddins, “which was read at a late trial in Ontario county, for conspiracy, and which the court held as sufficient evidence to authorize the rejection of Mr. G. as a witness.” Following Giddins’ letter are the editorial remarks of the National Observer concerning the statutory and common law basis of the court’s decision.

C. Schultz. “Judge Herttell’s Demurrer.” 5:25 (July 11, 1829): 391-92. This article reviews Herttell’s work entitled “The Demurrer, or proofs of error in the decision of the Supreme Court of the state of New York, requiring faith in particular religious doctrines, as a qualification for witnesses; thence establishing by law a religious test, and religious creed.”

Sabbath Observance

 George Houston. “On the Observance of Sunday.” 2:7-8 (Sept. 8-15, 1827): 105-09, 121-27. Houston begins with the following observation: “Of such magnitude, indeed, does superstition regard a strict observance of the Sabbath, that its votaries have openly avowed their determination to oppose the appointment to public office of every person who refuses to subscribe to their puritanical ideas; thus endeavoring, in opposition to our natural rights, to introduce a religious test, to fill a civil office, every way hostile to the spirit as well as to the letter of our free institutions.”

“Corporation of the City of New York vs. Miles Chambers.” 3:18 (May 24, 1828): 285-88. This article reports the court’s proceedings (arguments, examination of witnesses, opinion of the court, and disposition) in a case involving an alleged violation of New York City’s Sabbath law.

Benjamin Offen. “Sunday Law. An Address.” 3:21 (June 14, 1828): 328-32. Delivered at Bethel Academy, Elizabeth Street in New York City on June 1, 1828. Offen examines New York City’s Sunday law “in three lights- as a civil ordinance, as a moral ordinance, and as a religious ordinance.”

“United States Mail” and “Reactions.” 4:23-24, 26 (Dec. 27, 1828; Jan. 3, 17 1829): 380-83, 397-98, 426-29. These articles feature meeting proceedings from Rochester, Lockport, Lewiston, Geneva and Buffalo on the Presbyterians’ attempts to prevent the transportation of the mails and the opening of post offices on Sundays.

“Sunday Mail.” 5:2 (Jan. 31, 1829): 23-28. This article features the U.S. Senate Committee Report submitted by Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky on the transportation of the mail on the Sabbath, dated January 29, 1829. The report finds that “Should congress in their legislative capacity, adopt the sentiment, it would establish the principle, that the legislature is a proper tribunal to determine what are the laws of God. It would involve a legislative decision in a religious controversy; and on a point in which good citizens may honestly differ in opinion, without disturbing the peace of society, or endangering its liberties. If this principle is once introduced, it will be impossible to define its bounds. Among all the religious persecutions with which almost every page of modern history is stained, no victim ever suffered, but for the violation of what government denominated the laws of God.”

“Sunday Mail.” 5:3 (Feb. 7, 1829): 45-47. This article includes the preamble and resolutions adopted during a Sunday mail meeting at Tammany Hall in New York City.

 Freedom of Speech

 “Freedom of the Press.” 1:7 (Mar. 10, 1827): 102-03. The author contends that “It matters not to what country we turn our eyes; if the laws of that country do not emanate from the people, the press cannot be free. . . . A free press is the terror of civil and ecclesiastical tyrants; the guardian of just governments; the best protector of honest and upright magistrates; and the last and best hope for slaves.”

 Zeno. Letter to the editor. 1:11 (Apr. 7, 1827): 172-73. Responding to a letter commending the establishment of the Correspondent, the editor reveals that “Our prospectus has been refused admission by the conductors of almost every press in the United States, and the very few journals that have deigned to notice us, have done so for the avowed purpose of exciting the fanatics to burn our paper, which, we are well assured, they have actually done on several occasions.”

Joseph Lawton. “Calumny Refuted.” 2:17 (Nov. 17, 1827): 257-62. Responding to the editors of Christian papers who have described books advertised by Lawton as “horrid blasphemy” and “disgusting obscenity,” Lawton replies, “It is the duty of the moralist to blaspheme that which he considers to be false; but the blasphemy which is founded in truth cannot be “horrid” and further adds, “I know of no book that describes more pointed obscenity than is to be found in the Bible; and were some of these scenes to be delineated by the painter, they would form fit subjects to embellish a brothel.”

C. Shultz. “”Libels,” or the Christian art of Suppressing the Truth, in Law, in Morality, and in Religion.” 3:18 (May 24, 1828): 274-76. This is an op-ed on Virginia’s libel law, “to which, the truth of the matter published is no defense.”

Philo Veritas. “Free Discussion.” 5:10 (Mar. 28, 1829): 145-48. The author remarks, “The prevailing religion of any country either is erroneous in whole, or in part; or it is not. If it be erroneous, a full and free discussion of its errors, real or supposed, is the only way to mend it. If it be perfect, and incapable of being proved erroneous, what possible injury can arise from discussion? Discussion, and that alone, is sure to dispel the doubts and fears of the weak-minded, and confirm the faith of the ignorant, and the wavering. Magna es veritas, et prevalebit. To dread discussion and investigation belongs to error- not truth.”

Blasphemy

“Blasphemy.” 3:23 (June 28, 1828): 362-64. Houston opines on a Pennsylvania Commissions recommendation to the Pennsylvania legislature that Pennsylvania enact a penal code prohibiting blasphemy. Houston notes, “It is easy to understand how one man may injure the character or person of another man. But no such contact or intercourse exists between deity and man, as between man and man. It is therefore, a mere bugbear of the priesthood to talk of blaspheming God. It is themselves they mean. Exposing their deceptions affects their interest, and makes them tremble for their salaries and luxuriant fare.”

Aristides. “Blasphemy.” 3:25 (July 12, 1828): 385-86. The author concludes, [T]here is no man, or set of men, on earth, that has a right to make laws respecting the religious opinions of individuals- let those opinions be what they will. The law should take cognizance only of immoral actions, leaving to each individual the absolute right of modifying his theological ideas according to the best judgment which human reason can form on the subject.”

“Intolerance.” 5:12 (Apr. 11, 1829): 187-89. The editor reports that the New Hampshire legislature enacted a law prohibiting the willful blaspheming of the name of God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost and the cursing or reproaching of any of the canonical scriptures of the old and new testaments.

“Prosecutions in England for Blasphemy; or Speaking Evil of the Bible and the Christian Religion.” 5:14-15 (Apr. 25-May 2, 1829): 221-23, 238-40.

 Religion

 Christianity

 “The Origin of Christianity; Or, Truth Drawn from Fables.” 1:3-19 (Feb. 10-June 2, 1827): 33-36, 55-59, 65-67, 91-93, 97-100, 115-19, 132-36, 149-52, 167-70, 180-83, 199-202, 213-16, 231-34, 248-51, 257-59, 279-81, 289-92.

 “Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet.” 1:5-8, 10-11 (Feb. 24-Mar. 17, 31-Apr. 7, 1827): 67-70, 86-87, 103-06, 120-23, 145-48, 170-72. Translation from the Spanish, of Tribus Impostoribus (The Three Imposters), originally written in French.

 D. “Sunday Schools.” 1:10 (Mar. 31, 1827): 155-57. D begins, “Among the various plots and schemes that have been devised to bring man into a state of mental slavery, there is none that appears to be more effectual than that priestly contrivance called Sunday Schools.”

George Houston. “On the Inconsistencies, Contradictions, and Absurdities of the Bible.” 1:14-23, 26 (Apr. 28-June 30, July 21, 1827): 218-22, 234-38, 252-54, 266-68, 282-85, 296-99, 313-16, 331-34, 349-52, 365-68, 408-11; 2:3-5, 9-14 16-23, 25-26 (Aug. 11-25, Sept. 22- Oct. 27, Nov. 10-Dec. 29, 1827; Jan. 12-19, 1828 ): 44-46, 58-61, 75-77, 137-41, 151-55, 169-72, 185-88, 200-03, 217-20, 247-50, 265-68, 279-82, 295-97, 312-15, 328-31, 345-48, 361-65, 390-94, 405-09; 3:7, 13-15, 20 (Mar. 8, Apr. 19-May 4, June 5, 1828): 104-07, 200-04,214-218, 231-35, 314-18; 5:1, 7-8, 10-12, 17-18, 23 (Jan. 24, Mar. 7-14, 28- Apr. 11, May 16-23, June 27, 1829): 9-12, 104-06, 120-22, 153-56, 167-71, 184-86, 263-65, 280-84,  A series of nineteen lectures.

H. “Life of Moses.” 1:14 (Apr. 28, 1827): 209-13. The author presents a fragment from On the Life of Moses, described in Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, as “an apocryphal book of the highest antiquity.” H concludes, “The fact is, Moses was no other than the fabulous Bacchus of antiquity, who was supposed to have been born on the confines of Egypt, and to have performed a vast number of prodigies.”

Susan. “The Miraculous Conception.” 1:16 (May 12, 1827): 245-48. Susan notes that Joseph learned that “Mary’s child was of the Holy Ghost” from an angel while dreaming. Susan then remarks, “For myself, I place but little confidence in my own dreams, and certainly I should be a fool to consider those of others as of much consequence.”

“Revelation, Prophecy, and Miracles.” 1:17-19 (May 19-June 2, 1827): 262-66, 276-79, 292-94. On revelation, the author remarks, “If Emmanuel Swedenborg, Joanna Southcote or Jemima Wilkinson, in our days, tell you that they daily and nightly converse with angels, with Christ and with God, face to face, you pity their delusion, or execrate their hypocrisy. But if Moses, or someone else you know not who, tells you that God appeared to them, in a burning bush . . . . you, not only swallow the whole story, without a doubt or a question, but you are ready to regard as an infidel, a wretch, and a reprobate, everyone who will not do the same.”

In a letter to the editor, Philo-Veritas challenges the editors of The Antidote to a discussion of any of eight points including that “the Pentateuch was not written by Moses,” and that “there is no evidence whatever for the existence of Jesus.” 1:25 (July 14, 1827): 397.

“Spirits and Demons.” 2:1-3 (July 28-Aug. 11, 1827): 1-3 19-22, 39-42. The author notes “The proof ought always to be equal to the importance of the thing told; for when it is more probable that a man should tell a lie, or be deceived, than that a strange phenomenon should exist, there can be no difficulty to determine on which side of the question truth is to be found.” The author quotes heavily from An Essay on the Existence of the Devil, and his Supposed Influence on the Human Mind by Richard Wright.

Philo-Veritas. “On the Authenticity of the Scripture Books.” 2:5 (Aug. 25, 1827): 68-71. The author asserts that “the Old Testament could not have been written till after the times of the kings,” and that the four canonical books of the New Testament are forgeries, adding “Literature has never known a set of more unprincipled liars and forgers than the ancient Christians.”

Philo-Veritas. “Antiquity of the Jews.” 2:8 (Sept. 15, 1827): 113-15. The author responds to an attempted refutation of his assertion that “there is no evidence of the Jews having existed as a nation till we hear of their subjugation by the Romans; and that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch.”

H. “A Future State.” 2:11-13 (Oct. 6-20, 1827): 161-63, 179-81, 196-97. The author begins, “The belief in a future state of existence is so flattering to human vanity, that to question its correctness may seem like a wanton attack upon human happiness. But error can never be more beneficial to man than truth; and what is error, can, so far as man is concerned, be tested only by subjecting the proofs in relation to it to the investigations of reason.”

Eusebius. “Authenticity of the Pentateuch.” 2:14-16 (Oct. 27-Nov. 10, 1827): 209-11, 227-30, 241-45. The author concludes “Independent of the numerous facts, by which it is demonstrated that Moses could not be their author, do not the books themselves afford sufficient evidence that they are unworthy of the countenance of any intelligent being? Is not the book of Genesis a collection of absurd and frivolous tales? And where is the history to be found to corroborate the statements of the book of Exodus, or of any other of the books composing the Pentateuch? Can anyone, possessing common sense, believe that the Almighty would dictate such ridiculous things concerning himself as are narrated in these books? . . . . . [that] God had nothing to do but to be constantly at the elbows, and to attend to the wants and wishes, of the most savage, barbarous, and ignorant nation of which we have any account in history.”

“The Indian’s Letter- No. 1.” 3:11 (Apr. 5, 1828): 163-65. The author remarks, “One thing surely is plain to the ignorant and the most learned; none of us know anything about the formation of this world, or when it was made. Here we are all alike, except the most stupid, ignorant, fanatic Christian; he knows to a moment of time, when the vast globe was launched from the heavenly slip, and put in motion; or, rather, anchored in the heavens; for his sacred book tells him, that it stands still, and that the sun, moon, and stars all dance around it. This one single instance ought to destroy the authority of the Bible, as it certainly would that of any other book; but the infatuated can believe nothing but falsehood.”

Observator. “Mysteries, Prophecies, &c.” 3:12 (Apr. 12, 1828): 181-84. The author asks, “I have been endeavoring . . . . to ascertain why the “word of God” . . . . should be harder to understand than the word of man? Why should that be mysterious which is most necessary to be plain? . . . . How is revelation unrevealed consistent with divine wisdom or goodness, or the marks of evidence of either? Does God delight to puzzle and distract human minds; and purposely, as by wile, to deceive men’s understandings? Is this consistent with the character of goodness and truth?”

“The Indian’s Letter.- No. IV.” 3:14 (Apr. 26, 1828): 211-14. The author states, “The idea of a spirit, without form and void of matter; creating something out of nothing; composing worlds for his own amusement, and destroying them for his spite, is unaccountably inconsistent and ridiculous, and savours strongly of monastic conception and monkish puerility. It is strange that the character of the Gods in general is that of the worst tyrants among men. Delighting in flattery, homage and supplication; irritable, unappeasable, sacrificing everything to their lusts and resentments; childish and fickle in their friendships; curious, cautious, and jealous in their dispositions, and most detestable in all their proceedings.”

Clio. “Natural Ideas.” 3:16 (May 10, 1828): 242-43. The author observes, “According to the principles of Christianity, poverty itself is a virtue. It is a virtue which sovereigns and priests oblige their slaves most rigorously to observe. . . . The species of poverty most esteemed by revealed religion, is poverty of mind. The fundamental virtue of all religion, that is, the most useful to ministers, is faith.”

Another Lover of Truth. “Existence of Jesus Christ.” 4:12 (Oct. 11, 1828): 197. The author points out that Philo Judaeus, an historian and contemporary of Jesus Christ, “speaks of the state of the Jews and their afflictions under Augustus, Tiberius, and Caius; the very period embracing the whole extent of Christ’s life; but not a word of Christ.”

J.F. “Limited Extent of the Christian Religion.” 4:16 (Nov. 8, 1828): 266-68. Reprinted from the Liberal Press. The author asks, “Is it probable, or possible, that a wise and powerful Deity would make a special revelation for the benefit of mankind, and yet permit five-sixths of his creatures to remain in ignorance of it?”

Another Lover of Truth. “The Existence of Jesus.” 4:23 (Dec. 27, 1828): 373-75. The author avers that the opinion that Christ was God “was not an opinion distinctly maintained by any of the Antinicene fathers.

Philo Veritas. “Evidences of Christianity,” “On Historical Evidence.” 5:14-16, 20-26 (Apr. 25-May 9, June 6-July 18, 1829): 209-13, 225-32, 241-46, 305-15, 321-24, 337-46, 353-58, 369-74, 385-91, 401-06. Veritas proposes to: “investigate the evidence on which Christianity exists, as founded on the passages in Pliny, Tactitus, and Suetonius . . . . to investigate whether there be any and what evidence for the authenticity of our present gospels over contemporary and acknowledged forgeries; to show the general character of the ancient fathers of the Christian church, on whose evidence, the authenticity of the four gospels, mainly rest; to inquire how far that evidence is binding on the men of the present day; [and finally,] to compare in a general way, the value of religion, with the evils that arise from the abuse of it: and to enquire whether religion be of any use whatever in a social community: and whether prayer, praise and thanksgiving be not mere folly and absurdity, when addressed to what is called God, or the supreme being.”

Religion and Morality

 Mentor. “Truth.” 1:2 (Feb. 3, 1827): 21. The author remarks, “It is also frequently asked, what we “intend to give the people if we take religion from them?” If by religion is meant those contradictory and incomprehensible systems, which no one has been able to reconcile; those dogmas which, without examination, are everywhere received as truths; I reply, that, in place of these absurdities, we recommend the cultivation of Reason, a gift undeniably conferred by the author of our being, and the study of the Code of Nature, which that same being has conferred on all the nations of the earth.”

Observator. “Religion and Morality.” 1:4 (Feb. 17, 1827): 53-55. Observator argues that “A system which commands us to imitate the conduct of a despot, who delights to ensnare mankind, who is implacable in his vengeance, and who devotes to everlasting destruction all who have the misfortune to displease him, cannot be otherwise than subversive of justice, humanity, and benevolence.”

“Give us a Better Religion!” 1:20 (June 9, 1827): 312-13. The author notes that “It is truly ridiculous to hear men pretending to common sense, maintaining that religion is necessary to restrain the mass of the people; and asking us, “what substitute we mean to offer in its place?”- So far from religion being a restraint on the vicious, its whole history demonstrates the contrary. Are not our criminal records lasting memorials of enormities committed by the religious?”

“Professors and Believers.” 2:1 (July 28, 1827): 3-5. The author contends that disbelievers continue to zealously support religious institutions to avoid persecution from bigots, but also because they believe it is the only way to keep “raggamuffins” in order.

H.A. Fay. “On the Assertion that “Religion is the Bond of Society.”” 3:1-2 (Jan. 26-Feb. 2, 1828): 5-9, 25-30. Fay announces that “”The true fear of God in the heart” is not the bond of society called “The Free Press Association.” They do not profess to live in fear, but in pleased admiration of, and calm resignation to, the controlling principles of Nature. Their bond is the love of knowledge; and it has hitherto been found sufficient to keep them united.”

Charles Knowlton. “On Religion, as an Affection of the Human Mind.” 5:19, 21 (May 30, June 13, 1829): 293-300, 329-33. Knowlton proclaims, “I consider religion and morals as two distinct things. Morals relate to our happiness in this life. They consist in precepts, and principles of conduct, which tend to promote the happiness of the human family; they are founded on experience and observation: in a word, they are taught by that universal book, which is worthy of its author, the book of Nature; whoever acts in conformity to these principles is a moral man. Religion consists in speculative notions concerning things beyond the sphere of observation, and beyond our present life.”

Religion and Science

 Robert L. Jennings. “On Natural Philosophy.” 3:4-5 (Feb. 16-23, 1828): 55-59, 75-78.Defining natural philosophy as “the consideration of the powers and properties of natural bodies, and their actions on one another,” Jennings begins his lecture with the following syllogism: “The study of natural philosophy dispels ignorance and superstition. The Christian religion is based on ignorance and superstition: therefore, the increasing study of natural philosophy will eventually destroy the Christian religion.”

George Houston. “On the Vital Principle.” 3:16 (May 10, 1828): 246-52. Houston begins, “To me it appears that most of the opinions prevailing on this subject are radically wrong, inasmuch as they assume the existence of a separate and substantive being, which they term the mind, in contradistinction to matter, as if man was composed of two natures, an ethereal or spiritual one, and a material one. This I hold to be an illusion.”

“On the Origin of Man.” 4:3-7 (Aug. 9-Sept. 6, 1828): 40-43, 55-58, 71-73, 89-91, 104-07. The author endeavors to show that “the whole human race was not derived from one common stock. That in the first place, from his structure, man could not be classed with any of the other animals.” The author also endeavors to show that “the varieties of the human species go to prove, that they could not be derived from the same stock, the same Adam and Eve.”

“On Death.” 4:14-15 (Oct. 25-Nov. 1, 1828): 236-40, 250-54. The author remarks, “From our observation of the operations of the laws of Nature, which mean nothing but matter, we know that death, or dissolution, constantly occurs . . . .  Beyond this, we know nothing, we can discover nothing. Can we suppose the order of nature is to be changed, the eternal laws of matter are to be reversed, cause and effect to cease? We may indulge in such fantasies, and the weakness of the human mind may be pardoned for such indulgence, but it will not change the motions of the universe, by which the continual succession of beings must take place on this globe; it will not revive the identity which each enjoys; it will not produce immortality, but in idea. But so far from being alarmed at this, we should rejoice; we will no longer then be terrified at what we cannot avoid: we will learn that it is in vain for man to deceive himself; and a knowledge of his true condition in nature, and his relationship with all existence, will furnish a consolation, superior to all the theological ideas of antiquity.”

 Argument from Design

E.L. Jr. “Creation-Deity.” 4:13 (Oct. 18, 1828): 213-15. The author poses a challenge to the paper’s correspondents, “When they can demonstrate to me, that anything created made itself, and that a thing evidently designed, was produced by an undesigning cause, I may be induced to give up the idea of the world, and the things therein, having been created by an intelligent being.”

Q.X. “Creation-Deity.” 4:14 (Oct. 25, 1828): 229. The author responds to E.L.’s challenge by asking “where is the utility or the necessity of resorting to another incomprehensible object, to explain the nature or origin of one which we already have staring us in the face, and which our intellects are confessedly unable to grasp? How much nearer do we approach the accomplishment of our desire, to understand the mystery of this world’s existence, by supposing another still greater mystery?”

Clytus. “Creation-Deity.” 4:15 (Nov. 1, 1828): 248-49. Replying to EL, the author remarks “I think it quite as philosophical to suppose that the universe and its order could exist from eternity to eternity without a Creator, as for your “intelligent being,” or uncreated cause, to exist without a prior cause.”

E.L. Jr. “Creation-Deity.”4:20 (Dec. 6, 1828): 325-26. The author reveals, “I pretend not to say what God is, nor in what manner he exists or operates; but my senses, my philosophy, will not allow me to say that undesigning and unthinking, blind, inert matter, produced the wonderful pieces of mechanism- the wonderful effects which are constantly looking us in the face.” The author also asks Clythus, “Did the first male and female of the human family exist from all eternity?”

X. “Creation-Deity.” 4:21 (Dec. 13, 1828): 348-49. In response to E.L. Jr., the author argues that “man is a natural being, composed of part of the four elements, which we have no reason to believe ever had a beginning, or can ever have an end. As we rationally conclude that the four elements have always existed, and knowing that man is a modified part of these elements, proceeded from them, and is sustained by them, and at his death is again diffused amongst them, it irresistibly follows that our species must also have always existed as part of the great family of nature.”

E.M. “Creation-Deity.” 4:22 (Dec. 20, 1828): 357-60. The author contends that “human beings must have been, and are now produced according to some invariable laws- that however they may have been, or are produced, (even supposing they were created) the transformation from inanimate, to animate matter, the act by which they became living souls, must have taken place then, and ever since then, in precisely the same manner; that the vital principle must have been evolved, acquired, or communicated in the same way- “that the human family possess the power of propagating their species will not be questioned;”-but, that this fact necessarily supposes the existence of an omnipotent creator is denied- it is only a proof of the aptitude of material substances to generate organized beings.”

Clytus. “Creation-Deity.” 4:22 (Dec. 20, 1828): 360-61. The author asks, “shall we perplex ourselves with a maze of conjectures about a supernatural agency, still more inexplicable than the difficulty we desire to solve? . . . . Must we believe because we do not know?”

E.L. Jr. “Creation-Deity.” 4:25 (Jan. 10, 1829): 409-11. In reply to X, the author writes, “I have never denied that man is material; but have supposed that nothing but an intelligent and designing cause could form the elements into man. It appears to me an absurdity, and a gross one . . . . to suppose that the elements, in the absence of an intelligent principle, should produce so astonishing an animal as man. It is demonstrated to us that every human being that has ever existed, (excepting the first pair) must have been produced by generation- a process that could not have been gone into previous to the existence of a pair of the species. If this pair were produced by accident, by nothing, without an intelligent cause, as X. supposes, why are they not in this day produced in the same manner?”

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Paine’s Birth Day.” 1:2-3 (Feb. 3-10, 1827): 26-29, 43-47. This report features addresses from Benjamin Offen, Mr. Carver and Mr. Slater delivered at the Bank Lodge, William Street, New York City. Offen asks Paine’s detractors, “[w]hat dreadful crime did Thomas Paine commit, that his name and memory should be so hateful to you, that he should be mentioned with so much horror from the pulpit, and be made, by bigoted priests, a scare-crow to frighten your children?”

“Paine’s Birthday.” 3:2-3 (Feb. 2-9, 1828): 23-25, 42-46. This article features an address from Benjamin Offen delivered at the Academy, on the corner of Reed Street and Broadway, New York City; a letter from Joseph Lawton, and toasts, including “May revolutions never cease until tyranny is extinct.”

“Paine’s Birth Day.” 5:3-4 (Feb. 7-14, 1829): 42-45, 56-59. Paine’s birthday was celebrated at the New York Coffee House in New York City. This summary of the events includes Benjamin Offen’s address, an “Ode to the Memory of Thomas Paine,” George Houston’s address commemorating the anniversary of the New York Free Press Association, and toasts, including from the chairman, “May Christians abandon slavery, though their founder had not the humanity to forbid it.”

“Celebration of Mr. Paine’s Birth-Day at New Hartford, Oneida County, New York.” 5:5 (Feb. 21, 1829): 71-77. This article includes an address from James McElroy and toasts including the following, “Robert Owen, Francis Wright, George Houston, and Richard Carlile, who have faced the whole artillery of the superstitionists of Europe and America- may they continue the bold and undaunted champions of liberal principles.”

Law and Government

“Fourth of July.” 1:24-25 (July 7-14, 1827): 369-80, 397-400. Features addresses from Robert L. Jennings, Benjamin Offen and George Houston. Offen noted, “God, and nature, disowns the exercise of political power, which does not proceed from the people. In them, is the right to make laws, and to appoint proper persons to execute them: to them it belongs to reward or punish those who have been thus appointed. The public are, in every sense of the word, the masters, the sovereign.”

“Fourth of July.” 3:25 (July 12, 1828): 390-96. This article features addresses from Benjamin Offen and George Houston and dozens of toasts commemorating national independence. Offen remarks that until “the citizens of this republic laugh at all priestly dominion, and oppose it according to the constitution of this free country, the people will not be the pure source of political power.” Houston asks, “When this vast continent was languishing under a foreign despotism; when its inhabitants were destitute of the talent or energy to stimulate opposition to the common enemy, was it the finger of God or of Paine, that was conspicuous in guiding the “tempest torn vessel,” and steering her through the rocks and breakers, into a safe and commodious harbor?”

Education

“Rational Education.” 1:9 (Mar. 24, 1827): 136-38. This article details the curriculum offered to young scholars at the Institution of Practical Education recently established in Philadelphia.

“Practical Education.” 1:17-18 (May 19-26, 1827): 269-71, 285-87. The author identifies the deficiencies of the present system of instruction and then outlines the proposed curriculum of a school of practical education to be established in New York City under the superintendence of Robert L. Jennings.

“Institution of Practical Education.” 2:3 (Aug. 11, 1827): 46-48. The author points out that the Institution provides no instruction in religion.

Notes:

Agents for the Correspondent: John Turner (Philadelphia), Robert L. Jennings (Cincinnati), Matthew Macey (Kendal, Ohio), Robert Chiswell (Paterson, NJ), John Webster (Portsmouth, NH), Erastus Marshal, (Red Hook, NY), Moses Younglove (Hudson, NY), D.J. Morris (Utica, NY), Henry Heald (Wilmington, De.), Benjamin Offen (NYC), R.S. Orvis (Geddisburg, NY), E. Geddens (Rochester, NY), J. Perceval (Lawrenceburg, Ind.), Joseph Savage (Syracuse), J. Curtis (Salina, NY), Joseph Lawton (Dover, NH), Isaac Smith (Buffalo, NY), Robert Hewes (Hamilton, Ohio), Jeramiah Zander (Troy, NY), J.D. Dagett (St. Louis), S.P. Griffin (Lowell, Mass.), Nahum Haskell (Woodstock, Vt.), Eli Wellington (Troy, NY), A. Hamlin (Durham, NY)

 Worldcat Accession Numbers: 4482051, 7216010, 639961146, 175306582, 647922226.

Endnotes:

[1] After one year of publication the Correspondent was reported to have about 600 subscribers. Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850 (New York: Octagon Books, 1974), 47.

[2] Latin phrase meaning Truth is mighty, and it shall prevail.

[3] Prior to serving as the editor of The Correspondent, Houston had spent two years in Newgate prison in London for publishing a translation of d’Holbach’s Historie de Jesus Christ under the title Ecce Homo in London.  Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850, at 45.

[4] Philo Veritas was the pen name of Thomas Cooper. Id. at 46.

[5] A refutation of Richard Watson’s (bishop of Llandaff) An Apology for the Bible; first published in Edinburgh in 1796.

[6] Attributed to Lord Bolingbroke.

[7] George Houston served as both editor of The Correspondent and as Secretary of the New York Free Press Association. Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850, at 45; The Correspondent 1, no. 10 (March 31, 1827): 158.

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