Liberal Press (1828)

Liberal Press, or, Anti-Superstitionist [1]

“Knowledge is Power.”

Prospectus: The objects of the journal here proposed to be published, are the development of the human intellect- the dissemination of the truth- the promotion of happiness and virtue. It will utter the shibboleth of no party; for the creed of Reason is coextensive with illimitable nature- but it will be open to all parties so long as their communications are conducted with candor, good temper, and kindly feeling. Vulgarity, indecency, and personal abuse, will find no place in this journal. Vice and immorality, in whatever attractive shape they may appear, whatever seductive form they may assume, shall always be discountenanced and condemned. Avowing in the onset an entire disfranchisement from all sectarian dogmas, the main design of this journal will be to remove all those party walls of partition, which not only keep man apart from his fellow man, but the erection and continuance of which have so often excited the baser passions of our nature, “hatred, malice and all uncharitableness,” and have not unfrequently deluged the nations of the earth with human blood. This journal then announces tidings of great joy- it proclaims universal benevolence, peace and good will to man- it proclaims glory to the God of Nature- to the God of unnumbered worlds, and incalculable myriads of intelligent beings- it proclaims light to them who sit in mental darkness, and to the miserably enslaved life, and liberty and joy- It will, if it can, accelerate the halcyon age when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb,” and when there shall be nothing human to hurt or destroy throughout the habitable globe.

Examined: 1:1 (June 21, 1828) – 1:8 (Oct. 16, 1828).

Editor: Edward Thompson.

Publication Information: Society of Liberal Friends, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Frequency: Semi-monthly.

Contributors: John Fellows (J.F.) and Julian.

Subjects/Features: Blasphemy, Evidences of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, Oaths and Affirmations, History of Drama, Poetry, and Correspondence.

Extracts from: Elihu Palmer’s writings.

Selections:

The Movement

Objects, Initiatives, and Status

“Free Press Association, and Society of Liberal Friends.” 1:2 (July 3, 1828): 27-28. Under this title is a letter from George Houston congratulating Thompson on forming the Society of Liberal Friends and reporting on the formation of a Free Press Society in Paterson, New Jersey and the anticipated formation of Free Press Societies in Baltimore and Upper Red Hook, near Albany.

“Oration on the Anniversary of American Independence, delivered before the Society of Liberal Friends, at the Old Masonic Hall, in this city, by E. Thompson, on July 4th, 1828.” 1:3 (July 19, 1828): 35-39. Thompson asks, “And to the mighty workings of whose powerful mind – to the electric flashes of whose vivid pen, are Columbians and the world more than any other individual indebted for that glorious revolution? Who, more than any other individual, mentally inspired the ardent youth, the manly hero, and the venerable sage with his own patriotic fire? Who, louder than any other individual through the medium of the press, proclaimed, and with a voice more potent than the fabled ram horns before the walls of Jericho – Liberty or Death? My friends, you have anticipated the hallowed name, the once neglected, persecuted, and, I am sorry to add, even to this very day, calumniated Thomas Paine! A name, to the real lovers of national and mental Independence, ever sacred and ever dear.”

Freedom of Speech

Blasphemy

“Trial for Blasphemy.” 1:2-4 (July 3- Aug. 2, 1828): 21-24, 39-42, 50-53. This article concerns Robert Taylor’s incarceration for blasphemy and features Taylor’s speech delivered after the verdict against him was handed down.

Religion

Christianity

J.F. “Evidences of the Christian Religion.” 1:3 (July 19, 1828): 42-44. The author states, “Franklin, in his life, tells us that when he doubted the truth of the Christian religion, he was advised to read the works written in its defense. He did so, and he assures us that the result was still farther to confirm his conviction of the spuriousness of the scriptures: I confess it surprises me that such a consequence does not follow the perusal, in the case of every candid and reflecting man. Surely, never was there any system of imposture that admitted of so little argument in its defense; and I would recommend to every liberal man, who had a little leisure, to take up Tillotson, Watson, Paley, or Simpson, and give either or all of them an attentive reading. Let him mark their unfair and sophistical manner of reasoning – their gratuitous assumptions and their most illogical deductions – their uniform omission to meet the substantial objections to Christianity, and their propensity to dwell upon small matters, which touch not the real question, and if he does not arrive at the conclusion which forced itself upon the mind of Franklin, then will I acknowledge myself to have misapprehended the matter most materially.”

Edward Thompson. “On the Internal and External Evidence of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.” 1:4-8 (Aug. 2- Sept. 13, 1828): 57-60, 65-68, 82-85, 97-101, 113-17. A course of lectures delivered before the Society of Liberal Friends. The first lecture, “On the Origin of the Earth,” was delivered June 22, 1828. The second lecture, “The Fall of Man,” was delivered July 6, 1828.

J.F. “The Limited Extent of the Christian Religion.” 1:8 (Oct. 16, 1828): 126-28. The author concludes, “Christianity cannot therefore be the religion of God, or he would have communicated it to all the world. To suppose he would render the salvation of mankind dependent upon the observance of laws which they never heard of, would be an absurdity too gross to require refutation; and if it be argued that these laws are only binding upon those who have received them, then it results that they are not essential, since the majority can do so well without them.”

Religion and Morality

J.F. “The Influence and Effects of Christianity.” 1:5 (Sept. 6, 1828): 69-71. The author begins, “It has been frequently asserted by the advocates of Christianity, that even though religion be altogether false, yet its influence in the world has been eminently beneficial; and that, therefore, it should be upheld by all who desire the happiness of mankind. . . . that religion is necessary to restrain the vulgar from the commission of crime; and that each individual unbeliever ought therefore to confine his views of the matter to himself.”

In an untitled letter to the editor, Julian cautions the Album writer against calling on civil power to suppress religious liberty and points out that “Deists oppose Christianity, because of its pernicious effects. First, because it has in all ages and in all countries persecuted, both publicly and privately, those who have opposed and could not believe in its dogmas. Second, because it has substituted faith for morality!” 1:7 (Sept. 27, 1828): 106-08.

Religion and Science

J.F. “The Supremacy of Human Reason.” 1:7 (Sept. 27, 1828): 102-04. The author contends, “Orthodox believers frequently involve themselves in a dilemma, when they speak of the degree of confidence to be reposed in the dictates of human reason. They are full well aware that it will not answer their purpose to decry it altogether, for they would then deprive themselves of the argument that Christianity is a more reasonable and credible religion than Mahometanism or Idolatry; and yet they hesitate to give their consent to the unrestricted operation of Reason in matters of religion, since they cannot shut their eyes to the inevitable result that would follow the adoption of such a principle; it would work the total overthrow of their pernicious doctrines, and man would be liberated from the debasing thralldom of priestcraft.”

Joseph Lawton. “What is God?” 1:8 (Oct. 16, 1828): 117-20. Reprinted from The Correspondent, Lawton argues, “The existence and form of Man, is considered as decisive in proof of the existence and form of a God-Man. Apply this argument, to Deity, and we have an ad infinitum of Gods; each increasing successively in magnitude of powers. If a thing cannot exist in form without being designed, then neither can Deity; and as the word design cannot be separated from its connection with intelligence, to allow natural organization to be termed design, and not the form of Deity, would be accepting the proposed proof as truth, without discussion or demonstration. The Theist, in this instance, surely strains at a gnat, yet swallows a camel, as that must be in some form or other that possesses intelligence, having a conscious state of his own existence and the whole of the Universe.”

Women’s Rights

“Woman. Essay I.” 1:6 (Sept. 13, 1828): 89-90. The editor begins, “I base all the positions I mean to advance, on this one broad and general principle; the capabilities of mind; that there is not – that there cannot be mentally, any sexual distinction or inequality – that the natural helplessness, and ignorance, are the same in female and in male; and that the medium of communicating knowledge, and the powers of intellect are the same.”

Accession Numbers: 475934523, 15146901.

Endnote:

[1] Liberal Press; Devoted to General Literature, and Political and Religious Liberty was the title for the first four numbers before it was changed to Liberal Press, or Anti-Superstitionist with the fifth number to better reflect its principal object.

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