Free Enquirer (1828-1835)

The Free Enquirer (1828 – 1835)[1]

Prospectus: We exact from our correspondents, what we promise for ourselves, courtesy and moderation. While there is no doctrine so sacred that we shall approach its discussion with apprehension, there is none so extravagant that we shall treat its expression with contempt. We will insert any spirited, well written communication, be it religious or infidel, orthodox or heterodox, if it be dictated by good taste and expressed in the spirit of charity. We will reject no creed but the creed of force, nor any system of morality but that which teaches intolerance. . . . To the believer, as to the heretic we say “He who will tolerate others shall himself be tolerated; exclusive pretension only shall be with us a cause of exclusion.”

Examined: Second Series: 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828) – Third Series: 2:26 (June 28, 1835).[2]


Frances Wright, Second Series: 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828) – 4:51 (Oct. 13, 1832).[3]

Robert Dale Owen, Second Series: 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828) – 4:51 (Oct. 13, 1832).[4]

Robert L. Jennings, Second Series: 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828) – 2:28 (May 8, 1830).[5]

Orestes A. Brownson, Second Series: 2:2 (Nov. 7, 1829) – 2:12 (Jan. 16, 1830).

Amos Gilbert, Second Series: 3:37 (July 9, 1831)[6] – 4:52 (Oct. 20, 1832)[7].

Benjamin H. Day, Second Series: 5:1 (Oct. 27, 1832) – 5:10 (Dec. 29, 1832).

H.D. Robinson, Second Series: 5:9 (Dec. 22, 1832) – Third Series: 2:26 (June 28, 1835).[8]

Publication Information: New York, New York.

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors: Origen Bacheler, Ferris Benjamin, G.B.C., Maria Edgeworth, Amos Gilbert, Maria Imlay, Abner Kneeland, Benjamin Krapac, Alexander Ming, Benjamin F. Powell, Menzies Rayner, H.D. Robinson, Thomas Skidmore, Nathaniel Very, and Josiah Warren.

Subjects/Features: Theology, Philosophy, Secularism, Skepticism, Sunday Mail Question, Temperance, Bible Society, Marriage, Women’s Property Rights, National Education, Cooperative Societies, Equalization of Property, Equal Exchange of Labor, Labor Saving Machinery, Working Class Associations, Slavery, French Revolutions (1789-1799, 1830), Evidences of Christianity, Authenticity of the Bible, Life of Mahomet, Saint Simonism, Debt Collection, Bank Chartering, Population Question, Murder Trial of Ephraim K. Avery, Mormonism, Phrenology, Greek Mythology, Christian Missions, Abner Kneeland Blasphemy Case, Letters, and Book Reviews.

Reprints/Extracts: Edmund Hickeringill, Priest-Craft, Its Character and Consequences.

Periodical Reprints from: Delaware Free Press (Wilmington, De.), Workingman’s Advocate (New York, N.Y.), Spirit of the Age (Alabama), New York Daily Sentinel, Boston Investigator, and the Mohawk Liberal (Little Falls, N.Y.).


The Movement

R.D.O. “Our Title.” 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828): 6. Owen states, “The disciple of free enquiry works not out his salvation in fear and trembling, but in boldness and self-possession. Fear may be the friend of religion, but he is the foe of truth. Before the throne of Heaven, we may kneel, our eyes closed and our reason prostrated; before the throne of Truth we must stand erect, our eyes open and our judgment awake. As believers we may tremble and submit; but as enquirers we must arise and examine.”

R.D.O. “Our Motto.” 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828): 6-7. Owen pronounces, “Our search, as free enquirers, is after just practice. We will seek it wherever it may be found; within the pale of orthodoxy or without it; in religion or skepticism; under the form of popular virtue or of moral heresy; in the histories of all ranks, as of all countries. Our single object is, not to find it in this creed or in that system, not in the code of one country or the custom of another, but, wherever it be, to find it.”

“Our Prospects.” 1:3 (Nov. 12, 1828): 22-23. The author declares, “The institutions of the country are in our favor; the independence of its inhabitants is in our favor; the awakening spirit of enquiry is in our favor; and, though prejudice be strong and intolerance powerful, yet prejudice and intolerance are diminishing, in proportion as light spreads and intelligence increases.”

R.D.O. “Of Free Enquiry.” 1:14 (Jan. 28, 1829): 110-12. Owen argues, “The great ones and the holy ones of this earth may tell us, that it is for our sakes, they fear free enquiry. It is not for ours, believe me, my readers; it is for theirs. They fear free enquiry; because it might take from them their crowns, and their mitres and their treasury boxes. They fear free enquiry, because they are sometimes inconsistent, and sometimes dishonest, in their principles. They do well to fear it; it is not their friend. But it is ours; it will check us when we are in error, and encourage us when we are right. Kings and priests may be false friends; free enquiry is a true one. They bid us shut our eyes, she bids us open them: they would have us believe, she but request us to examine.”

I.P. “Atheism.” 1:40 (July 29, 1829): 317. The author claims, “No word perhaps in the whole vocabulary of priestcraft is more potent in its effect upon the ear of the ignorant and credulous or more alarming even to the conscientious and humble enquirer after truth than that of atheism, and many, no doubt of the honest votaries of truth, have been frightened from the most agreeable and useful investigation, have surrendered the noblest attribute of their being, sunk into imbecility and yielded themselves the willing dupes of the designing and the fanatical merely through dread of this magic word.”

F.W. “Infidelity: What is It?” 2:44 (Aug 28, 1830): 251. The author observes, “If infidelity mean the rejection of religious opinions, he alone is not an infidel who admits all religions, and believes in every creed and every fable ever devised by craft or swallowed by ignorance. If his faith be short of this, he must be an infidel to some one, or to many, or to myriads, of his fellow creatures. Surely, then, if men will use the word, they ought not to think evil of it.”

Frances Wright. “Address: Containing a Review of the Times as first delivered in the Hall of Science.” 2:41-42 (Aug. 7-14, 1830): 321-23, 329-30. Wright asks, “Would not the American people do better to seek the opinions of their great men in their own works . . . . than in the trash of the tract house and the libels of the pulpit? Would they not do well to understand, before they take alarm at the senseless cry of “infidel,” that Washington, that Jefferson, that Franklin, that Ethan Allen, that Horatio Gates, and all the nobler host of worthies, who secured this country’s independence, were all, according to the priestly acceptation of a meaningless word, infidels- that is, all disbelieved the compound Jewish and Christian system, and looked upon its mysteries and miracles as upon nursery tales.”

Robert Dale Owen. “To Thomas Whittemore.” 3:29 (May 14, 1831): 229-30. Written for the Trumpet (Boston). Concerning his expression of disbelief in God, Owen asserts “As to the name, infidel, skeptic, atheist, it matters little. I am one who has no unearthly knowledge, and who pretends to none. Men may call me what they please.”

H.D. Robinson. “To the Readers of the Free Enquirer.” 5:9 (Dec. 22, 1832): 65. Robinson states that “our sole ambition is to be useful, and that we shall look for no other reward beyond the consciousness of having endeavored to uproot the various systems of religion which still retard the improvement of society.”

Nathaniel Very. “Gatherings, Quotations, and Remarks, Showing that Almost All Really Great Men have been Infidels.” 5:11-14, 17-19, 21- 23, 38-42 (Jan. 5-26, Feb. 16- Mar. 2, 16, 30, July 13- Aug. 10, 1833): 86-87, 91-92, 98-100, 107, 131-32, 139, 146-47, 162, 171-73, 178-81, 298-300, 307-08, 315-16, 322-23, 330-31.

“A Treatise Partly Theological, Partly Political, to Prove that the Liberty of Philosophizing, that is making use of Natural Reason, cannot be prejudicial, and that the loss of public peace and religion itself must follow where liberty of reasoning is taken away.” 5:30-32, 34-35 (May 18-June 1, 15-22, 1833): 237-38, 243-44, 252-53, 266, 275-76.

“The Importance of Philosophical Lecturing Establishments. A Discourse- By the Lady of the Isis.” 5:33 (June 8, 1833): 258-61. The author explains that “For questions of science, you must come to a philosophical lecturing establishment; where you might not only hear curious questions discoursed, but you may rise and ask them. You may raise debate on whatever requires explanation, and not only hear but answer, without the danger of a beadle to put you in the stocks; or of magisterial interference to commit you to prison for misdemeanor.”

Editor. “Free Enquiry.” 5:34 (June 15, 1833): 272. Defending the editorial stance of the Free Enquirer, the editor explains, “we make no pretensions to half-way proceedings in stemming the progress of superstition, nor shall we ever consult the fears of the pusillanimous, or pious qualms of the “almost Christian and almost infidel . . . . In our editorial communication, we have ever rallied around the banner of atheism.”

Ben Krapac. “Cogitations of an Infidel.” 1:2, 5, 7 (Nov. 4, 24, Dec. 8, 1833): 12-13, 34-36, 49-51. The series addresses the following topics: On the Soul, On Faith, and On Prejudice.


“Proceedings of the Friends of Liberal Principles and Equal Rights, in Rochester [N.Y.], January 1831.” 3:16-17 (Feb. 12-19, 1831): 121-22, 130-32. The authors announce their opposition to the test of witnesses with regard to their religious beliefs, resolve to counteract all efforts to sanctify Sunday by law, and declare their motto to be “Equal Rights – Equal, practical, moral (but not sectarian) Education- Perfect freedom of opinion- No legislation for or against religion.”


In this exhaustive exchange of letters Origen Bacheler, former editor of the Anti-Universalist (Boston), and Robert Dale Owen debate the existence of God and the authenticity of the Bible. 3:13-52; 4:13-15 (Jan. 22- Oct. 22, 1831; Jan. 21-Feb. 4, 1832). Vol. 3 pages: 102-03, 110, 117-18, 126-27, 134-35, 140-43, 148-49, 156-59, 162-65, 17274180-81, 193-95, 201-02, 210-11, 214-16, 225-27, 230-32, 242-44, 249-50, 256-58, 264-65, 274-76, 280-81, 290, 295-97, 305-07, 311-12, 321-23, 328-30, 336-38, 342-45, 352-55, 359-62, 368-71, 375-78, 383-86, 389-92, 398, 422-23. Vol. 4 pages: 97-102, 106-10, 114-18.

Objects, Initiatives and Status

National Tract Society. “Report.” 2:19 (Mar. 6, 1830): 148-50. Announcing the formation of a society which intends to “prevent a union of ecclesiastical and political power, and to guard the rights of conscience in religious matters, the freedom of opinion and speech, and the right of free discussion on that and every other subject” guaranteed by the letter and spirit of the constitution of the United States.

Biographical Sketches

“Voltaire.” 4:2 (Nov. 5, 1831): 10-12.

“David Hume.” 4:3 (Nov. 12, 1831): 17-20.

“Percy Bysshe Shelly.” 5:21-26 (Mar. 16-Apr. 20, 1833): 161-62, 169, 177-78, 185-86, 193-94, 201-02.

Church and State

R.D.O. “Religion a State Engine.” 1:6 (Dec. 3, 1828): 45-47. Owen contends, “The scriptural penman, when he writes of doctrines and mysteries, often writes in parables, that we may hear, yet not understand; but when submission to kings and governors is his theme, his words are plain as truth itself. There is nothing left to conjecture, no eastern metaphor to solve, nor dark saying to unriddle. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.” Ignorance itself cannot misinterpret the command.”

E. Haydock, Joseph Wood and James Taylor. “A Meeting of Free Men [convened in Philadelphia, July 21, 1829].” 1:43 (Aug. 19, 1829): 339. Reprinted from the Democratic Press. Authors resolved inter alia that “We consider the exhortations given by certain sectarian leaders, to their different congregations, to promote a “Christian Party in Politics” . . . that we may obtain power to enforce the observance of the Sabbath; and “make sound and wholesome laws, such as would crush Heretics and Infidels” . . . [to be] beneath the dignity of men professing Republican principles.”

Frances Wright. “Address delivered at the New York Hall of Science the 18th October 1829.” 2:1 (Oct. 31, 1829): Wright examines the growing counter-revolutionary movement to unite church and state and concludes, I will confess it to be my primary object to overthrow priestcraft;- to hasten the downfall of the clergy, to empty their coffers, to sap their influence, to annihilate their trade and calling, and to render the odiousness of their profession apparent to all eyes- even, if possible, to their own. That such is my object I am willing that all sects should understand. With their faith, I meddle not, and would counsel them not to meddle with the faith of each other. But with the craft of their priests, I must meddle, and that for the good of those who are its victims. No man is answerable for an error of opinion. Let us believe little, or believe much, we believe according to the evidence present to our understandings; and better, methinks, it were to bear with each other’s ignorance, and labor to enlarge each other’s knowledge, than to hire priests to blind our eyes, stop our ears, stupefy our understandings and estrange our hearts from the sympathies generated by a common country and a common nature.”

A.G. “Memorial.” 4:15 (Feb. 4, 1832): 119-20. This article features extracts from a memorial addressed to the New York legislature that, “disclaims the right of legislative bodies to set apart any day, or days, to be religiously observed-to make religious creed a requisite on the part of a witness- to prevent exemption of church property, or that of the clergy, from taxation- to make laws by which priests can be appointed to civil and military offices; and also to taking money from the public treasury to pay for services which a portion of community do not wish to have performed.”


“Report of the Select Committee of the Several Memorials Against Appointing Chaplains to the Legislature, Submitted to the Assembly of New York, April 16, 1832.” 4:30-31 (May 19-26, 1832): 234-36, 244-45. Report pledges to show “that the legislature possess no legitimate authority to associate religious prayers with legislative proceedings, nor to appoint legislative chaplains, nor to appropriate the public money to pay for any religious service.”

“Chaplains. Remarks of Mr. Herttell.” 5:15 (Feb. 2, 1833): 116-17. Herttell’s remarks were made in the New York assembly, Jan. 3, 1833. He opposed the appointment of chaplains as “ecclesiastical functionaries of our legislative bodies” contending that their appointment affected an unconstitutional union of church and state.

Judicial Oaths

R.D.O. “Honesty.” 1:7 (Dec. 10, 1828): 52-53. Commenting on the judicial oath in the courts, Owen concludes, “Let us seek worthier motives to action than [fear of eternal punishment]; let us look to a love of truth, to a spirit of conscientiousness, to a noble contempt of falsehood and deceit; and let us cultivate these in our children. When a man tenders his testimony, let us test our claim to his belief, not by his fears of another world, but by his life and conduct in this. For the orthodox test is inefficient to secure its object, and degrading, even though it did secure it.”

“Communications.” 2:34 (June 19, 1830): 271-72. Junius reports Connecticut’s passage of a religious freedom bill which guarantees to “all persons who recognize a Supreme Being the right of testifying” and asks “Now if the “Supreme Being” conceals himself from his creatures, and gives them no evidence by which they can rationally believe in his existence, are such to be disenfranchised by their fellow men, and in a republic too which professes to acknowledge the equal rights of all?”

R.D.O. “Connecticut Religious Freedom Bill.” 2:34 (June 19, 1830): 272. Owen recognizes that, “It is unfortunately the case that public bodies too often imagine they are leading public opinion, when, in fact, they are scarcely following it. . . . I venture the prediction, that next session the obnoxious proviso will be struck off, and the citizens of Connecticut will regain the constitutional rights which the timidity, or the carelessness, of their representatives, has, for the time being, lost to them.”

F.W. “New Fangled Doctrine.” 2:35 (June 26, 1830): 278-79. Wright states, “We may indeed be told that such bills, and consequently, such unconstitutional “doctrines” as give rise to them are not new, and in proof thereof we may be directed to a certain ordinance of the Supreme Court of Pittsburgh declaring the Christian religion to constitute a part of the law of the land, or we may be shown some half dozen Sabbath protecting bills from as many legislatures, bankrupt in sense and honesty, or some score of corporation ordinances appointing certain officers styled marshals . . . “to enforce the due observance of the Sabbath”  . . . . But we must be bold to tell . . . . the amenders of Connecticut’s religious freedom bill that, for true orthodox doctrine, we go no farther and no less far back than the declaration of ’76: “All men” “are endowed with certain inalienable rights,” and that, among these, undoubtedly is that of professing any religion or no religion at all . . . . and all short of the same we do pronounce “new fangled,” treasonous, heterodox and of no account.”

“Right of Conscience.” 3:8 (Dec. 18, 1830): 63-64. In introducing a letter from “An American Citizen,” originally published in the N.Y. Daily Sentinel concerning the rejection of a witness for refusing to kiss a bible and take an oath, Owen remarks, “What a contemptible and degrading idea the law must have of human nature! She can think of nothing to trust, to make men honest, but cowardice. Principle, it seems, she leaves altogether out of the calculation. A man’s heart must sink and his nerves must tremble; or she presupposes him a liar.”

“Tammany Hall.” 5:18 (Feb. 23, 1833): 143-44. This article features Benjamin Offen’s remarks following the Maine legislature’s reporting of a bill intended to “secure to witnesses freedom of opinion in matters of religion.”

“Competency of a Witness.” 5:47 (Sept. 14, 1833): 375. The author doubts “the right of any court to interfere, or to reject any man’s testimony because he cannot conscientiously say he believes in the God of this or that sect, as no two acknowledge the belief in one of the same character.”

Rights and Competency of Witnesses. Speech of Mr. Herttell.” 2:20-26 (May 17-June 21, 1835): 156-57, 167, 173, 181-82, 188-90, 198-99, 205-06. A speech delivered in the New York Assembly. Herttell spoke on the following bill which he submitted” “No person shall be deemed incompetent as a witness in any court, matter or proceeding, on account of his or her opinions on the subject of religion; nor shall any witness be questioned, nor any testimony be taken or received, in relation thereto, either before or after such witness shall have been sworn.”

Sabbath Observance

U.S. Senate Committee Report submitted by Senator Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky concerning the several petitions submitted on the subject of the Sunday mails. 1:4 (Nov. 19, 1828): 30-31.

R.D.O. “Liberty of the Citizen.” 1:13 (Jan. 21, 1829): 102-03. Owen reports an “attempt to prevent barbers from carrying on their avocations on the first day of the week [in Cincinnati].”

F.W. “Public Outrage.” 1:49 (Sept. 30, 1829): 391. Wright expresses outrage over the arrest and subsequent fine of Bostonian Joshua Temple for keeping open his shop on the Sabbath.

F.W. “Introductory Remarks.” 1:51 (Oct. 14, 1829): 401-02. Delivered at the Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia, September 25, 1829, after she was prevented from lecturing on Sunday. Wright exclaims “Surely it is time, in this land at least, to leave the conscience free and to secure the rights of individuals and those of the people at large, against the intermeddling of priests and the tyranny of unconstitutional statutes. With the free agency of the clergy no law and no influence interferes. . . . And if the people see good to assemble on their day of leisure for the study of their interests, let none presume to question their liberty!”

“Sunday Mail Question.” 2:22 (Mar. 27, 1830): 169-72. Features the Report on Sunday Mails issued by Richard M. Johnson, chairman of the House Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, followed by Rep. William McCreery’s Adverse Report.

Freedom of Speech

A.G. “Proscription.” 4:11 (Jan. 7, 1832): 87. The author states, “It requires no little exercise of the virtue of forbearance, or feelings of commiseration when thinking of those who professing to be the promoters of science and useful knowledge, reject the man justly celebrated for his devotion to them, because he will not hypocritically profess belief in that which neither he nor they can demonstrate; and which themselves say are among the secret mysteries of an incomprehensible Being.”

“The Case of Thomas Cooper, M.D.” 4:27 (Apr. 28, 1832): 209-10. Extract of a pamphlet thought to be written by Dr. Cooper.

“Religious Persecution.” and “William Rees.” 5:4, 6 (Nov. 17, Dec. 1 1832): 32, 48. These articles report on the arrest of Rees, a street preacher, for vagrancy.  The editor notes, “[W]hile we deplore the state of society that nourishes such an excrescence upon its bosom, we deprecate the injustice that would punish and stigmatize as a vagrant, the unoffensive and conscientious, though perhaps deluded, promulgator of the same dogmas for which his more fortunate competitor, in a pulpit not his own, reaps honor and emolument.”

“Trial of Dr. Cooper, Before the Trustees of South Carolina College, 4th Dec., 1832.” 5:10 (Dec. 29, 1832): 78. Cooper stood accused of “inculcating the folly of keeping the Sabbath, of public prayer, of preaching, and of all outward appearances in religion, denying the divine authority of the Old Testament, and of the greater part of the New; and sometimes directly, often by sneers and insinuations, attempting to bring into contempt Christianity, as taught by the sects most prevalent in this State.”

“Doctor Cooper.” 5:10 (Dec. 29, 1832): 73. The editor comments that Dr. Cooper’s acquittal “is a most encouraging event, as it indicates the certain triumph of reason and justice over the dull resistances of intolerance and superstition, the offspring of ignorance and timidity, which, though wanting a name, is an extensive and active agent in obstructing the advances of society.”

“Persecution of Richard Carlile.” 5:30 (May 18, 1833): 239. Carlile, the editor of The Lion (London), a deistical periodical, was imprisoned for his writings in support of insurgent agricultural laborers’ campaign of property destruction in response to starvation wages and government indifference.


“Re-Establishment of the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition in Boston, Mass., in the Year of Our Lord, 1834!!!” 1:13 (Jan. 19, 1834): 97. The editor begins his remarks, “Ephemeral scribblers are incessantly occupied in praising or censuring countries of which they know nothing; and such are a majority of the small fry of politicians who shout of the Government of this country Holy! Holy! Holy! Not a book is printed, not a journal circulated, not a conversation ever entered upon descriptive of the laws of each United State, but all are enthusiastic in praising a land whose proudest boast is liberty and where, “every man may follow in matters of religion the dictates of his own conscience, protected by that Constitution which is cemented by the lives, the fortunes, and the sacred honours of the venerable heroes of the Revolution.” Pompous trash!”

The Defence of Abner Kneeland.” 1:16 (Feb. 9, 1834): 125. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator.

Abner Kneeland. “My Philosophical Creed.” 1:16 (Feb. 9, 1834): 126. Kneeland professes, “I believe that the whole universe is nature, and that the word nature embraces the whole universe, that God and nature, so far as we can attach any rational idea to either, are perfectly synonymous terms. I am not an atheist, but a pantheist, that is, instead of believing there is no God, I believe that in the abstract, all is God; and that all power that is, is in God, and that there is no power except that which proceeds from God.”

B.W. “The Item.” 1:16 (Feb. 9, 1834): 127. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator. W challenges the “Christian party in politics” to provide a legal definition of blasphemy that does not violate the constitution which declares “that no religious preferences shall ever be granted to any corporate body or set of men whatever.”

“The Indictment of the Editor for Blasphemy.” 1:17 (Feb. 16, 1834): 134. Reprinted and abridged from the Boston Investigator.

“Kneeland’s Sentence.” 1:18 (Feb. 23, 1834): 134. Announcing that Kneeland was sentenced to three months imprisonment in the county jail, the author exclaims, “That a jury of full grown men, in this day, could be found to convict a man of blasphemy, for avowing his disbelief in the existence of a god, is truly astonishing; and that a judge should be suffered to pass a sentence as the above, without being laughed to shame by an insulted and indignant people is still more so. Is this the freedom of speech and of religious opinion which our national constitution guarantees to us!”

“Trial for Blasphemy.” 1:23 (Mar. 30, 1834): 181. Reprinted from the American Manufacturer. The author asserts that, “The trial and conviction of Mr. K for publishing [an extract from Voltaire’s writings] show clearly that Massachusetts has not advanced a step in liberality or tolerance since the days of witchcraft, when she burnt and drowned honest Quakers for their religious opinions.”

“Trial of the Editor.” 1:33 (June 8, 1834): 264. Reprinted from the Boston Investigator.

An Honest Unbeliever. “To the Hon. Judge Wilde.” 2:4-9 (Jan. 25- Mar. 1, 1835): 30-31, 37-38, 45-47, 52-53, 62, 70. The author attempts to show that the Massachusetts’s blasphemy law “is a violation of the Constitution, and the natural rights of man,” that Judge Wilde’s charge to the jury was “inconsistent and dictatorial,” and that “law makers are frequently as ignorant as their fellow citizens.”



Richard Carlile. “To the Committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” 1:4 (Nov. 19, 1828): 26-28. Reprinted from The Lion (London). Carlile seeks to refute the Society’s “Outline of General History,” by, among other things, arguing “That it is preposterous to assume a period for the creation of the earth, or of man . . . .” and “That to put forth the Bible, as an historical authority, is a scandal to a society professing to diffuse useful knowledge. . . .”

R.D.O. “Paradise.” 1:17 (1829): 135-36. Owen remarks, “I shall perhaps be told, that man would faint and sink under temporal afflictions, but for the consolations derived from spiritual hopes. I admit that the anticipation of a heaven of bliss excite, and give pleasure for the moment. Perhaps the opium eater, in his ecstatic reveries, was never more perfectly blessed than some enthusiasts have been in their dreams of paradise. But opium, though it offers a seducing mode of escaping from present pain, is yet exceedingly pernicious in its after effects. Depression succeeds to unnatural excitement; and moments of bliss are followed by days of misery. Visions of another world seem to me to act as a sort of moral opium, often no less injurious to the Christian than his favorite solace is to the Turk.”

Hannibal. “A Coloured God.” 1:37 (July 20, 1834): 294.On learning of the Rev. Dr. Cox’s assertion that Jesus Christ was a coloured man, the author states, “I shall no longer consider myself degraded on account of my colour.”

R.D.O. “Evidences of Christianity.” 2:17- 20 (Feb. 20- Mar. 13, 1830): 129-30, 137-38, 145-47, 153-54. Owen critically reviews Thomas Chalmers’ The Christian’s Defence Against Infidelity.

“Opinions of Celebrated Authors as to the Effects of the Christian Religion.” 4:8-9 (Dec. 17-24, 1831): 58-60, 66-68.

“Opinions of Celebrated Authors as to the Effects of the Christian Religion.” 5:10-12, 14, 17-19, 22 (Dec. 29- Jan. 12, 26, Feb. 16- Mar. 2, 23, 1832): 76-77, 87-88, 92, 108-09, 132-34, 140-41, 150-51, 171-73.

G.B.C. “On the Likeness of God and the Devil.” 5:43 (Aug. 17, 1833): 338-40.

Religion and Morality

F.W. “The Reign of Nonsense and the Reign of Sense.” 3:19 (Mar. 5, 1831): 151. Wright asks, “Might not the assertion be hazarded, that all the vice and the crime and the suffering with which earth is filled have their source, directly or indirectly, in the nonsense which has been palmed upon the popular mind under the name of religion?” and adds, “The reign of nonsense has been that in which men have been cheated through their imaginations; that of sense will have commenced when they shall enter the world of fact, see all the things as they are, and judge all actions by their consequences.”

R.D.O. “Religion and Morality.” 3:32 (June 4, 1831): 252. Responding to William Lloyd Garrison’s assertion that “skepticism is immoral in its tendency,” Owen asks, “Is there no still, small voice, no monitor within the breast, that would stir up virtuous impulse within him, even though he ceased to believe that a God commanded virtue? Is there nothing in the odiousness of vice itself, nothing in the debasing nature of licentiousness, in the groveling tendency of selfish avarice, nothing in all the crooked ways and dark paths of crime, to warn back a generous nature?  or is it the fear of eternal fire alone that saves us from being brutes?”

Lady of the Isis. “On the Origin of Evil.” 5:43 (Aug. 17, 1833): 340-43. A discourse delivered at the Burton Street Theatre. The Lady of The Isis exclaims, “I find superstition to be the root of all evil, the foundation of all political disorder, the fountainhead of all misery in society, and the great impediment to human improvement.”

Other Religions

“Life of Mahomet.” 3:11- 19 (Jan. 8- Mar. 5, 1831): 81-82, 91-92, 99-101, 106-08, 115-17, 122-24, 132-33, 138-39, 146-48. Reprinted from a Library of Useful Knowledge (London) tract. Owen introduces the tract with the following challenge, “I doubt whether any Christian can read it, without applying some of the arguments so cogently urged against the revelations of the Arabian prophet to those of a more familiar, and therefore more favored, superstition.”


An Enemy of Slavery. “Slavery.” 1:34 (June 15, 1834): 270-21. The author reports on the Anti-Slavery Society’s first anniversary meeting, the rancor which existed between the Emancipationists and the Colonizationists, and concludes “so long as there are so many sectarians and clergymen engaged in this thing, just so long the difficulty will be in agreeing as to the best mode of emancipating them, because they are more anxious to make them sectarians than they are to rescue them from personal bondage and mental degradation.”

An Enemy to Slavery. “Declaration of War.” 1:38 (Aug. 3, 1834): 302-03. The author questions the efficacy of certain abolitionists’ assertion that Jesus was a coloured man as a reason for their opposition to slavery.

Women’s Rights

R.D.O. “Independence of Women.” 1:46 (Sept. 9, 1829): 364-65. Owen argues that “pecuniary dependence is the chief cause why women are often exposed to the capricious tyranny, and sometimes to the brutal ill usage, of men . . . [and] that it ought to be a woman’s . . . first endeavor, if she have not pecuniary independence, to obtain it; and that, if she have it, it should be her care, in case she marries, to secure her property, by a marriage settlement, to herself.”


F.W. “On the Rights and Wrongs of Women.” 1:27 (Apr. 29, 1829): 213. Wright asks “every father not absolutely dead to all human feeling, how he can permit his daughters blindly to immolate all their rights, liberties, and property by the simple utterance of a word, and thus place themselves in their tender, ignorant, and unsuspecting youth, as completely at the disposal and mercy of an individual, as is the negro slave when bought for gold in the market of Kingston or New Orleans?”

R.D.O. “Marriage.” 1:2 (Nov. 5, 1828):12-13. Owen asks, “Whence does the discord of married life derive its sharpest sting, if not from the law that stamps its permanency?”

Vindicia. On Marriage” followed by F.W. “In Answer to Vindicia.” 1:5 (Nov. 26, 1828): 39- 40. Wright asks, “What matter is it to the state, to the people at large, individually or collectively, whether two human beings seek their happiness in union or separation?”

R.D.O. “On Matrimonial Dependence.” 1:15 (Feb. 4, 1829): 117-18. Owen concludes, “Money, unfortunately is the passport to influence, even to independence of body and mind. When we debarred you, as wives, from the right to acquire and possess it, we struck at the root of your social and political rights. Until we repeal that injustice, you will never occupy the rank that in equity belongs to you.”

R.D.O. “Of Divorces Domestic and Governmental.” 4:18 (Feb. 25, 1832): 141. Owen asks, “Are not all women “endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Are not governments (both matrimonial and legal) “instituted among men, to secure these rights?” Do not marriages as well as governments “derive their just powers from the consent” of the contracting parties? “Whenever any marriage” (be it of a king to his subjects or a husband to his wife) “becomes destructive of these ends; is it not right that it should be dissolved?” Has not “all experience shown that women (and subjects) are more disposed to suffer while evils are endurable than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed?” And is not the abolition of these forms often right, desirable, a virtuous wish? Is not a divorce, is not a revolution, a virtuous act, when kings and husbands play the despot?”

Thomas Paine

Birthday Celebrations

“Address.” 2:17 (Feb. 20, 1830): 131-134. An address delivered at the village of New Hartford, Oneida Co., New York, on January 29, 1830, to commemorate the birth of Thomas Paine. The speaker recognizes Thomas Paine as the great champion of mental liberty for his “attacks on the master-tyrant of the human mind, Revealed Religion” and encourages the audience to, “Think for yourselves; you need not priests to think for you. Receive nothing as true, which is not susceptible of proof, of demonstration, and, above all, receive nothing as true, which contradicts both proof and demonstration-at the same time that it outrages reason. Do this, and you will be as truly mentally free as you already are politically so.”

Law and Government

F.W. “The Devil.” 1:3 (Nov. 12, 1828): 17. Wright concludes, “The devils were clearly disloyal subjects, seditious whigs, stirring republicans, daring democrats, who cared not a fig for crowns, sceptres, golden thrones, and right divine; and who, moreover, objected to kneeling, were averse to praying, and disliked psalm singing. Of course, in Europe such characters should be unpopular; but that this should be the case in America seems an anomaly.”

F.W. “On the Causes of Existing Evils.” 1:21-23, 25-26 (Mar. 18-Apr. 1, 15-22, 1829): 166, 174-75, 183-84, 198-99, 205-6. Wright contends that the great existing evils throughout the world are “government by violence and inequality of condition. . . . Law and religion are the two forms in which government by violence exists in countries styled civilized. . . . [and] is, at this day, as admirable a pamperer of the few, at expense of the many, as was ever, in the days of feudal vassalage, the sword or the rights of Seigneur or Suzerain.”

Frances Wright. “To the Intelligent of the Working Classes and Generally to all Honest Reformers.” 2:6 (Dec. 5, 1829): 46-47. Wright concludes, “Bear in mind, men of industry! that you are the people; and that here, by acknowledged right and acknowledged law, the people govern, Govern then for yourselves and your children, and for the nation of which you now form the hands, and the feet, and the trunk, and of which you must form the head before the head can be in union with the body it regulates. Govern as fathers as well as citizens, as citizens as well as fathers. Bear in mind that the stay and prop of liberty is knowledge; that the basis of just government is rational education, and, that the life of a republic is equal education. Lay then the true foundation of practical republicanism. Bind all your efforts to the one great measure of a uniform plan of education for all the children and youth of your several states;- and let that plan be in perfect unison with the nature of man, the nature of things, and with the declaration of your country- all men are free and equal.”

Frances Wright. “Parting Address as delivered in the Bovery Theatre to the People of New York in June, 1830.” 2:43-44 (Aug. 21-28, 1830): 337-39, 345-47. Wright testifies, “Upwards of half a century has “Liberty and Equality” been the motto of this nation. Upwards of half a century has this motto existed in words, these principles in theory; and now that the people have resolved the practical development of the same, we hear them, at this hour, in this city, denounced as visionary, impeached as iniquitous, and their advocates and vindicators blasphemed as incendiaries and infidels. Is it come to this? Has treason gone so far in this land, for Equality to be denounced as a dream of enthusiasts, an innovation of foreigners, and a doctrine of Marats and Robespierres? Fathers of this nation! well are ye asleep in your graves!”


R.D.O. “Cause of the People.” 1:43-46 (Aug. 19-Sept. 9, 1829): 337-38, 345-47, 353-54, 361. Owen proposes that the working class unite to create a system of equal, universal education.

Land and Labor

R.D.O. “The Revolution of 1830.” 2:47 (Sept. 18, 1830): 369-75.

R.D.O. “Revolutionary Details.” 2:48-49 (Sept. 25- Oct. 2, 1830): 377-79, 385- 87. Articles included in this feature are: “Female Heroism,” “Children during the Revolution,” “The Polytechnic School,” “Miscellaneous Anecdotes,” and “The Court and Its Troops.”

“From France,” “From Europe,”“France,” and “Letter 12.” 3:1-2, 4-7, 10-11, 21 (Oct. 30-Nov. 6, Nov. 20- Dec. 11, Jan. 1-8, Mar. 19 1830-31): 1-2, 9-12, 25-26, 33-34, 41-42, 49-50, 73, 83, 162. Features 12 letters written by a Parisian correspondent, reprinted from the N.Y. Daily Sentinel.

F.W. “The People at War.” 3:5 (Nov. 27, 1830): 38. Wright describes the present struggles in Europe as open class warfare, “it is labor rising up against idleness, industry against money, justice against law and against privilege” and concludes “It is to be feared that the people will win no redress but what they carry by force. Yet has it ever been otherwise? or can it ever be otherwise until all are people and the people are everything.”

Amos Gilbert. “A Sketch of the Life of Thomas Skidmore.” 1:23-25 (Mar. 30 – Apr. 13, 1834): 179-80, 186-87, 199-200.

Cooperative Associations

R.L.J. “On Social Equality.” 1:31 (May 27, 1829): 245-47. Jennings advocates the formation of cooperative associations “based upon the rational foundation of free and universal enquiry, and on the principle that the action of individuals, whether their own happiness or misery is concerned, if not productive of misery to others, is the business of none but themselves.”

J.W. [Josiah Warren]. “Correspondence: Social Experiment.” 3:18 (Feb. 26, 1831): 137-38. Warren discusses some of the accomplishments of a community founded on the principles of individual liberty and the equal exchange of labor.


R.D.O. “France. The St. Simonians.” 3:13 (Jan. 22, 1831): 97-99.

R.D.O. France. St. Simonian Political Economy.” 3:14 (Jan. 29, 1831): 105-06.

“France. Political and Religious Doctrine of Saint Simon.” 3:15 (Feb. 5, 1831): 113-15.

R.D.O. “The St. Simonian Phenomenon.” 3:15 (Feb. 5, 1831): 119-20.

F.W. “A Few Notes of Attempted Explanation of St. Simonianism.” 3:32 (June 4, 1831): 259.

A.G. “St. Simonians.” 4:21 (Mar. 17, 1832): 166.

“Hints for St. Simonians.” 4:25 (Apr. 14, 1832): 196-97.

“Letters from the Transatlantic. Visit to the St. Simonians.” 5:1 (Oct. 27, 1832): 2-3.

Frances Wright’s Lectures on Knowledge

“On the Nature of Knowledge.” 1:19-21 (Mar. 4-18, 1829): 145-47, 153-54, 161-63.

“Of Free Enquiry Considered as a Mean for Obtaining Just Knowledge.” 1:22-23 (Mar. 25-Apr. 1, 1829): 169-71, 177-79.

“Of the More Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge.” 1:24-25 (Apr. 8-15, 1829): 185-87, 193-95.

Benjamin F. Powell, Bible of Reason

“Additional Verses.” 3:22 (Mar. 26, 1831): 169-70.

Communicated by B.F.P. Additions to  . . . The Bible of Reason.” 3:47-48, 4:7, 17-18, 21-24 (Sept. 17-24, Dec. 10, Feb. 18-25, Mar. 17- Apr. 7, 1831-32): Vol. 3 pages: 373-75, 381-83; vol. 4 pages: 49-50, 132, 138-39, 163-65, 169-70, 177-79, 185-86

“Further Additions to ‘The Bible of Reason.’” 5:26-29, 34-35, 49 (Apr. 20- May 11, June 15- 22, Sept. 21, 1833): 203-04, 209-10, 218-19, 226-28, 266-67, 273-75, 377-78.

Further Additions to ‘The Bible of Reason.’” 3rd Series: 1:1, 30-35, 2:3, 14 (Oct. 27, May 18- June 22, Jan. 18, Apr. 14, 1833-35): vol. 1 pages: 3-5, 238-40, 245-47, 251-52, 259, 266-67, 277-78; vol. 2 pages: 18-19, 106-08.


Henry Broughman. “Objects, Advantages and Pleasure of Science.” 4:44-52 (Aug. 25- Oct. 20, 1832): 346- 49, 355-56, 362-64, 370-72, 378-80, 386-88, 395-96, 403-04, 413-14. Reprinted from a Library of Useful Knowledge (London) tract. Broughman explains that, “The Sciences may be divided into three great classes: those which relate to Number and Quantity- those which relate to Matter- and those which relate to Mind. The first are called Mathematics, and teach the properties of numbers and figures; the second are called Natural Philosophy, and teach the properties of the various bodies which we are acquainted with by means of our senses; the third are called Intellectual or Moral Philosophy, and teach the nature of the mind, of the existence of which we have the most perfect evidence in our own reflections; or, in other words, they teach the moral nature of man, both as an individual and as a member of society.”


Our Motto: “Just opinions are the result of just knowledge, just practice of just opinions.” Second Series: 1:1 (Oct. 29, 1828) – 4:52 (Oct. 20, 1832).

“He that will not reason, is a bigot: he that cannot reason, is a fool: and he that does not reason, is a slave.” Third Series: 1:1 (Oct. 27, 1833) – 2:26 (June 28, 1835).

Worldcat Accession Numbers: 10313543, 6506266, 22536169, 220407467, 9167109, 183399951, 43558840, 271633368, 298438291.


[1]Under Owen’s management, the Free Enquirer “boasted one thousand paying subscribers bringing in three thousand dollars annually.” Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850 (New York: Octagon Books, 1974), 40.

[2] The full run of the Free Enquirer is available from Proquest’s APS (American Periodical Series) Online.

[3] R.D.O. & F.W. “Proposed Changes.” 4:51 (Oct. 13, 1832): 406-07. Owen and Wright officially “relinquish their editorial responsibilities.”

[4] Id.

[5] “Notice.” 2:28 (May 8, 1830): 224. Notice announces that Robert L. Jennings would no longer serve as editor and proprietor of the Free Enquirer.

[6] R.D.O. “Accession of Strength.” 3:37 (July 9, 1831): 299. Owen announces that Amos Gilbert “will henceforth unite his labors to mine and my sister editor’s.”

[7] A.G. “Valedictory.” 4:52 (Oct. 20, 1832): 415-16.

[8] Albert Post has described the Free Enquirer under Robinson as “probably the first atheistical paper ever published in the United States.” Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850 (New York: Octagon Books, 1974), 43.