Mohawk Liberal (1833-1834)

 The Mohawk Liberal (1833-1834)

“He that will not reason is a bigot, he that cannot is a fool, and he that dares not is a slave.”

Prospectus: In morals, the Liberal will support whatever may tend to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and condemn whatever may have a contrary tendency. . . . [The Liberal] will condemn superstition and fanaticism in whatever shape it may be found, as calculated in its tendency to bring, not “peace on earth and good will toward men,” but discord, oppression, and the sword, under pretence of doing God service. . . . As an Intelligencer, it will give all the interesting News of the Times, both foreign and domestic, political, moral and religious. It will take no part, however, in partisan warfare, neither will it support the creed of any religious sect, but it will confine its labors to the affairs of this world and those things which may promote the well-being of man upon earth.

Examined: 1:3 (June 14, 1833); 1:33 (Jan. 9, 1834) – 1:37 (Feb. 6, 1834); 1:42 (Mar. 13, 1834) – 1:43 (Mar. 20, 1834).

Publication Information: L. Windsor Smith, Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York, 1:3 (June 14, 1833) – 1:43 (Mar. 20, 1834).

Frequency: Weekly.

Contributors: Dubio, Medicus, and Veritas.

Subjects/Features: Bible Criticism, New York Legislative Activities, Competency of Witnesses, Church Property Tax Exemption, Appointment of Chaplains to Congress, Abner Kneeland’s Blasphemy Case, and Poetry.

Periodical Reprints from: Boston Investigator, Liberal Advocate (Rochester), Western Examiner (St. Louis), and Free Enquirer (New York).


The Movement

Objects, Initiatives, and Status

“Clinton Liberal Institute.” 1:34 (Jan. 16, 1834): 1. Reprinted from the Religious Inquirer; this article reports on the establishment of a liberal school in Clinton, New York, aimed at providing youth with an education “untrammeled by the superstitious dogmas of the age, and where they should be permitted to enjoy their own private opinions, without being reproached or taunted for the sentiments they chanced to embrace.”

“The Mohawk Liberal.” 1:3 (June 14, 1833): 2. The editor exams the notice given by the Montgomery Republican to the Mohawk Liberal and, in so doing, describes liberals as “the foremost advocates for the inalienable rights of human kind, for mental emancipation and the spread of reason, and for the great principle of reform in all things. . . . [T]he firm supporters of pure republicanism, the freedom of the press and religious toleration.”

Church and State

James D’Wolf. “General Assembly of Rhode Island. Report of the Committee on Religious Corporations.” 1:37 (Feb. 6, 1834): 2-3. D’Wolf observes “The effect of the wisdom of our forefathers was to keep religion as distinct as possible from law and all temporal affairs; to make it what it ought to be, a spiritual concern; and we are far from being convinced that the protection which religion has of late years received from the Legislature has been of any advantage to the moral character or political security of our citizens.”


J.C. Bennett. “Chaplains to Congress.” 1:3 (June 14, 1833): 3. Reprinted from the New Albany Gazette, Bennett expresses opposition to the use of public funds to support chaplains, but contends that congressmen have a right to use their own funds to employ chaplains. In reply, the editor of the Working Man’s Advocate argues that congressmen “have no more right to appropriate the people’s time than their money for their own private uses. Congressmen ought to attend to their devotions before business hours, or else they ought to be “docked a quarter.””

Reprint of a Remonstrance presented by Mr. Lyon of Kentucky against the appointment of Chaplains to Congress. 1:36 (Jan. 30, 1834): 2. The remonstrance argues that “hiring preachers officially, and paying them out of the people’s money, are acts of supererogation, unauthorized by the constitution, and transcending the powers delegated to the National Legislature.”

Judicial Oaths

“Legislature of New York.” 1:35-36 (Jan. 23-30, 1834). The editor reports on a debate in the New York House of Representatives regarding a bill “providing that no person shall be incompetent as a witness on account of his religious opinions.”

Tax Exemption

“Memorial.” 1:36 (Jan. 30, 1834): 1. The memorial calls for a repeal of the law, exempting the property of churches from taxation, and argues that, “The law in question is unjust and unequal in its operation; is hostile to the free exercise of the inalienable rights of conscience, which are guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen; and being founded on considerations exclusively of a religious character, it is an act of religious tyranny and oppression.”

Freedom of Speech

Abner Kneeland – Blasphemy Case

Editorial on the Prosecution of Abner Kneeland for Blasphemy. 1:35 (Jan. 23, 1834): 1. The editor contends that, “The spirit of our constitution recognizes not the crime of blasphemy, nor any crime against God, but only civil offenses; and they who assume to punish such crimes, are unconstitutional usurpers and oppressors, and impious intermeddlers with the prerogatives of their own God.”

“Abner Kneeland’s Sentence.” 1:37 (Feb. 6, 1834): 3. The editor announces Kneeland’s sentence of three months imprisonment for blasphemy and asks, “Is this the freedom of speech and religious opinion which our national constitution guarantees to us? . . . . Oh, what are paper constitutions where tyrants and priests bear rule in the land, by corrupting and enslaving the mind.”


“Systems of Religion.” 1:34 (Jan. 16, 1834): 1. The author begins, “Creeds, or systems of Religion, are mainly the speculative works of human contrivance, like other inventions. To devise some scheme that would look plausible, and finally enable the chief projectors and managers to realize an object or advantage- to gain an ascendancy and maintain a controlling power over their fellow beings, has generally been the ruling policy or motive of creed makers.”


A letter to the editor signed “Infidel.” 1:35 (Jan. 23, 1834): 1. Speaking on the Bible, the author observes, “The book is surely something like the fiddle; as there are some texts to suit almost all the doctrines founded thereon, each performer can play a tune for himself; the contradictions of scripture are so many discords, each pulpit pettifogger can tune them by screwing up the pegs of ‘spiritual discernment,’ and figuratively make their own music; to which their audience may dance.”

Harold. “The Maniac Girl.” 1:42 (Mar. 13, 1834): 1 Reprinted from the Liberal Advocate. The author describes the derangement and death of a young lady by religious excitement.


The editor reports that the Colonization Society of New York is preparing to establish a new settlement of blacks in Africa, to be named New York, “upon the principles of the Christian religion and of the American Temperance Society.” 1:33 (Jan. 9, 1834): 2.

Worldcat Accession Number: 20298570.