The Watkins Glen Freethinkers Convention

Selection from Proceedings of the Freethinkers Convention, Watkins, New York, August 23-25.

Spiritualists listed here as active in the convention as “Freethinkers” included: James M. Peebles, John H. W. Toohey, Mary E. Tillotson, Frederick W. Evans, Ella E. Gibson, John W. Truesdell, Laura Kendrick, Theodore B. Taylor, George Albert Lomas, William E. Copeland, Amy Post, Lucy K. Colman, William S. Bell, Jacob H. Harter, Joshua K. Ingalls, and Courtlandt Palmer.  In addition, some had been active in the new Theosophical Movement—A. L. Rawson, T. C. Leland, T. B. Wakeman, as well as Taylor, Peebles, and Copeland.—JB

The Proceedings and Addresses at the Freethinkers’ Convention Held at Watkins, N. Y., August 22d, 23d, 24th, and 25th, ‘78(New York: D. M. Bennett, 1878): 5-25.



It may be proper, by the way of explanation, to give a brief history of the New York Freethinker’s Association.  Its first general meeting, under the name of “The Freethinker’s Association of Central and Western New York,” was held at Wolcott, Wayne county, N. Y., Aug. 17, 18, and 19, 1877.  H. L. Green, of Salamanca, was instrumental in getting the meeting together, and essential aid was rendered by J. M. Cosad of Wolcott, upon whose ground the meeting was held.  A large tent was erected in which twenty-five hundred people could easily be seated; in this tent, the meetings were held.  The attendance was large, the speaking good, and everything passed off pleasantly.  On the last day the tent was completely filled.

The following officers were elected for the year: T. L. Brown, M. D., President; Edgar M. Sellon, Recording Secretary; H. L. Green, Corresponding Secretary; Amy Post, Treasurer.  Executive Committee—C. D. B. Mills, Charles A. Gurley, Sigmond Block, David Cosad, Jr., T. L. Brown, M. D., N. G. Upson, C. W. Austin.  Thirty Vice-Presidents were also appointed, one to represent each central and western county forming the Association.


First. To stimulate free thought and investigation among the people in relation to their civil, religious, [6] and political rights, and encourage the investigation of questions relating to religion, science, and reform, and to that end sustain Freethought speakers, hold Liberal meetings, and circulate Liberal, scientific, and reform papers and periodicals.

Second. To act as an auxiliary to the National Liberal League in its efforts to accomplish the total separation of Church and State, and to organize Local Liberal Leagues in the State in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the National Liberal League.

PLATFORM—Universal Mental Liberty.

The second annual meeting, at which the following addresses were delivered, was held at Watkins, Aug. 22, 23, 24, and 25, 1878.  Among the earlier proceedings was the changing of the name of the Association to “The New York Freethinker’s Association,” embracing the entire State in place of the central and western counties only.

The following addresses are not given in the precise order in which they were delivered, as the manuscript was not procured in all instances in time to be inserted in its regular place.  A few short remarks made by different persons are omitted, no adequate notes having been taken of them.  Two speeches or sermons by clergymen are omitted as no report was made of them, the manuscript of their sermons not being procurable.  Some of the addresses are given from phonographic reports made on the ground by E. B. Foote, Jr., M. D., and some are from the original manuscripts.  It is hoped that all are reasonably correct and will prove satisfactory to the Liberal public.

D. M. B.
New York, Oct. 25, 1878.



[The following brief description of Watkins and the Convention is from The Truth Seeker of Aug. 31, 1878]:

It is not improbable that our readers will be glad to hear something of the proceedings of the Freethinkers’ Convention at Watkins.  A company of six of us left New York on the evening of Tuesday, the 20th, that we might have time to view some of the natural beauties in the vicinity of Watkins previous to the holding of the Convention.

We had a pleasant night’s ride over the Hudson River and New York Central road, via Albany, Syracuse, and Geneva, being fourteen hours on the road.  The same sleeping-cars that we took at the city brought us to the beautiful village of Watkins, of three thousand five hundred inhabitants, located in a lovely valley in Schuyler county, at the head of Seneca Lake, a body of water forty miles in length and from two to five miles in width, splendid farming lands lying on either side.

We found upon arrival that but few had preceded us.  Hon. Geo. W. Julian and a few others from a distance had taken rooms at the hotels.

In the afternoon of Wednesday, the 21st, in company with G. L. Henderson and A. L. Rawson, we passed through the celebrated Watkins Glen.  There is hardly to be found in the country a more strikingly [8] wonderful and beautiful work of nature, possessing, as it does, characteristics differing entirely from other natural curiosities in the country.  The Glen consists of series of glens or gorges cut through the laminated slate rocks in this locality.  The course of the Glen is nearly east and west, extending over two miles in length, and has a total ascent of eight hundred feet.  It is the channel of a clear, limpid stream, which follows its eccentric course, making its descent from section to section by a great number of cascades and rapids, unequaled in beauty and variety.

The Glen has been accessible to visitors for only some twelve years past.  It has, of course, been known a long time, but the difficulty of entering it and getting through it was a formidable barrier against its exploration; but within the last few years extensive improvements have been made in building stairs and bridges, putting up railings, cutting passages in the rocks, etc.  It is now visited by from twelve to twenty thousand persons every season.

In the “Entrance Amphitheater” the rocks rise in immense walls in the form of beetling cliffs on either side.  As one looks forward, the vision and passage seem barred, with the exception of a narrow rift, as if, by some mighty power, they had been torn asunder.

The “Entrance Cascade” is a narrow thread of water, shooting out from an angle in the rocks sixty feet above, and dashing into a dark, cavernous pool below.  As we climb on, we pass through “Glen Alpha,” cross “Sentry Bridge,” from which we look down through the “Amphitheater” below, and between the jagged rocks, to the deep blue basin, [9] resting in repose.  As we look forward and upward, a grand sight bursts upon our vision.  Towering and irregular cliffs of dark rocks rise one above another till they almost appear to meet in the clouds.  A narrow thread of sky is all that can be seen between them—sufficient to keep in remembrance the world outside we had left.

Crossing the “Sentry Bridge,” we ascend a short flight of steps on the south side, and before us is a pathway, cut in the solid rock, leading along under the cliffs, fifteen to twenty feet above the stream.  This brings us to “Stillwater Gorge,” where the façades of the high-extending rocks spread new beauties before our gaze.  Next comes the laughing cascade, called “Minnehaha,” beautiful, irregular, and full of grace.  Thirty feet above is “Fairy Cascade,” which leaps into “Neptune’s Pool.”  Next is “Cavern Gorge,” where the tall rocks, extending upward nearly two hundred feet, come so near together at the top as to give the gorge much the appearance of a cavern.  Further on, after ascending a long stairway and crossing a bridge, we come to “The Grotto,” of strange wildness and grandeur.  Next comes the “Cavern Cascade,” where the fall of the water in the partially closed cavern gives a reverberating sound.  Next is “Whirlwind Gorge,” which presents new beauties to the eye.  More climbing and winding brings us to the “Mountain House,” where many visitors sojourn while stopping here, and leading to which is a roadway for carriages outside the Glen.  In connection is a building where refreshments are dispensed and Glen views and curiosities are kept for sale.  The suspension bridge spanning the chasm here is a good point for taking [10] observations of the surrounding wildness and beauties.  Passing on to “Point Lookout,” splendid additional views are obtained.  Soon we reach Hope’s Art Gallery, where resides an excellent artists, Mr. J. Hope, formerly of New York.  In his gallery are many specimens of his workmanship, comprising views of the most attractive points in the Glen, together with other works of art.  Some of his paintings are very large and are valued at thousands of dollars.

The next noticeable point in the journey is “Sylvan Gorge,” where many new beauties of wildness and grandeur are presented.  After passing “Sylvan Rapids” we come to the “Glen Cathedral,” where the gorge expands into an immense oblong amphitheater nearly a quarter of a mile in length, with walls nearly three hundred feet in height on either side.  The width of the Cathedral is some hundreds of feet.  The stream, which in other places leaps down precipices, here passes placidly and smoothly over the flat stones that form the floor of the Cathedral.  What a grand spot, thought we, in this vaulted room with the sky for a dome, to hold a large Liberal meeting!  On the floor of the Cathedral is a photographer’s apparatus, and here many groups of six or more, with the rocks for a background, are taken.  At a subsequent visit we sat with a group of several friends and had a picture taken.

Next we passed “Central Cascade” and “Baptismal Font;” then by the “Grand Staircase” to “Cliff Platform” to the “Glen of Pools,” so named from the number of the large basins in the rock worn out by the water.  “The Poet’s Dream” is a truly magnificent scene.  “The Mermaid’s Pool” is [11] a point of attraction.  “The Triple Cascade,” where the stream leaps in three nearly equal bounds from one platform of rocks to another, is regarded as one of the marked beauties of the Glen.  Near this are the celebrated “Rainbow Falls,” where a mountain stream leaps over the shelving rocks forming the sides of the Glen.  The sun’s rays falling upon the spray thus produced form a beautiful rainbow; and it is one of the most attractive beauties of the Glen.  The pathway leads under the shelving rocks behind the falls.

Above this are “Shadow Gorge,” “Frowning Cliff,” “Palace of Beauty,” “Glen Arcadia,” “The Artist’s Dream,” “Narrow Pass,” “Pluto Falls,” “Cavern Pool,” “Pool of the Nymphs,” “Elfin Gorge,” “Glen Facility,” “Glen Horicorn,” “Glen Elysium,” and “Glen Omega,” two miles from the entrance, but we cannot take the time to describe their beauties.  Suffice it to say, the Glen in its entirety is one of the grandest curiosities we ever beheld, rivaling Niagara Falls and the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky.  In passing through it one is thoroughly impressed with the conviction that it must have taken many thousand years for the water to cut and wear away the solid rocks here in the manner it has done.  Far more than six thousand years evidently have thus been employed.


A brief description only must suffice of the great Watkins meeting.

It was called to order in the beautiful grove in the center of the village on Thursday morning at 10 o’clock, by the President of the Association, Dr. T. L. Brown [12] of Binghampton, who made a few appropriate remarks, after which a motion was made that a business committee be appointed.

The President then delivered an address of more than an hour in length, which dwelt considerably upon the different phases of Materialism.

Secretary H. L. Green made his annual report, after which a conference was held in which ten minute speeches were in order, Mr. Green leading off.  Among the speakers were Prof. Toohey, of Chelsea, Mass.; Elder Frederick Evans, of Mt. Lebanon; Mrs. L. K. Colman, Syracuse; Mrs. Tillotson, of Vineland, N. J.; J. M. Peebles, of Hammonton, N. J.; A. L. Rawson, New York, and Dr. Brown—when the meeting was adjourned for dinner.

Perhaps one thousand persons attended the first meeting.


At 2 P. M. the meeting re-assembled.  Albert Lomas of Watervliet read a good address, using up an hour in the same, after which addresses were delivered by Ella E. Gibson and J. H. Harter.  We had during the meeting several excellent pieces of vocal music by Prof. Hudson, Mrs. Harter, and Mrs. Harvey, accompanied by the melodeon, played by the latter.  They sang in all the meetings.

At 4 P. M. a conference of ten-minute speeches was again held.  Among the speakers were G. L. Henderson, Mrs. P. R. Lawrence, Prof. Toohey, and several others.  Mrs. Bristol recited an original poem, “When this Old World is Righted.”

In the evening meeting addresses were delivered by Dr. T. B. Taylor, Mrs. L. K. Colman, and Mr. A. L. Rawson.  About 9 o’clock Messrs. Seaver and [13] Mendum of the Investigator arrived upon the grounds.  Mr. Seaver was called forward, and he delivered a short address which was well received.  The evening meeting was estimated to have an audience of nearly three thousand persons.  The day had been beautiful and everything passed off pleasantly.


The morning meeting was addressed by Giles B. Stebbins of Detroit, who read selections from the teachings of Buddha and others of the old sages, with selections also from the “Poems of the Beyond.”  His remarks were in advocacy of spirit life.  Mrs. P. R. Lawrence gave a splendid address on the effects of superstition young.  Her speech was able and eloquent; it produced an excellent effect, and was warmly approved.

Elder Frederick Evans followed with a very good address, during which he showed the wrong of non-taxation of church property, the supporting by government of chaplains, etc., etc.

The afternoon meeting opened with an address by W. S. Bell, followed by an able speech by Mrs. Laura Kendrick, also a discourse by the Rev. J. L. Alcott, and was followed by Prof. Toohey, who refuted many of the positions taken by the reverend gentleman.  In the conference short speeches were made by Dr. T. B. Taylor, Dr. Davis (orthodox), G. L. Henderson, Verity, and Seaver.

The evening meeting was held in the Opera House.  The principal address was given by W. E. Copeland, from Lincoln, Neb., and was followed by a [14] poem read by Mr. Clara Neyman, as well as speaking by others, after which a dance came off, lasting for several hours.


At 8 o’clock, as per previous announcement, a few hundred took a pleasant steamboat ride of about twenty miles down the lake and back.  A meeting was also organized in the grove before the return of the boat, and was addressed J. M. Reynolds of Chicago, G. B. Stebbins, J. M. Peebles, Mrs. Colman, Mrs. Tillotson, and Mr. Reynolds again.  The excursionists returned between eleven and twelve A. M.

In the afternoon meeting Mr. G. L. Henderson led off, his subject embracing the principles of heredity and the transmission of qualities from parents to children, together with the modes necessary to be employed to perfect the human race.

The next speaker was Rev. E. W. Abbey of Terre Haute, Ind., Presbyterian.  He showed up the excellencies of the Bible and endeavored to present the superiority of Christianity over all other forms of religion.  He condemned Ingersoll, and criticised his utterances.  This sermon was followed by an able refutation by Prof. Toohey, who showed that Christianity is chargeable with immense persecutions, tyranny, and oppression; that it has retarded civilization and human advancement.

At this point an event took place which affection to some extent the editor of this paper.  While the Liberals were courteously extending to Rev. Mr. Abbey the privilege of engaging the attention of the Liberal audience for the space of an hour, the legal and ecclesiastical dignitaries of Watkins were getting [15] up a vile scheme to throw certain persons attending the Convention into prison.  A constable and a police officer appeared upon the grounds and arrested D. M. Bennett, W. S. Bell, and Josephine S. Tilton, and took them before Justice A. C. Kingsbury upon the charge of selling obscene and other indecent books, to wit: “Cupid’s Yokes” and other similar works.  The movement was said to have been instigated by the ultra orthodox sentiment in the town, and especially in the person of Frederick Davis, Jr., a leading member of the Episcopal church.  Persons were employed to buy copies of “Cupid’s Yokes,” upon which complaint was made.  The arrested parties, when arraigned before the court, pleaded “not guilty,” and were held to bail to await the action of the Grand Jury in the sum of one thousand dollars each.  Mr. Fox Holden of Watkins and Mrs. Amy Post of Rochester went on the bail bond of Bennett and Bell.  They were arrested half an hour before Miss Tilton was, and when bail was required for her, Mrs. Miller, daughter of Gerrit Smith, was offered and accepted.

When the intelligence was given to the meeting that the arrests had been made, the greatest indignation was manifested by the several speakers, Mrs. Colman and Prof. Toohey being especially emphatic in their disapproval of the conduct which had been evinced by the illiberal people of Watkins.  Upon the return of Bennett and Bell to the meeting-ground, they were received with demonstrations of sympathy and friendship.  Hundreds of the audience were eager to shake hands with them, and assure them of their warmest sympathy.

In the evening a meeting and council was held at [16] the Opera House, Mr. Courtlandt Palmer presiding and making a short address.  Mr. James Parton delivered a most excellent address on the subject of “The Coming Man’s Religion; will he have any?”  Mrs. Bristol recited a beautiful original poem, and spoke some fifteen minutes.  Speaking was also done by Mrs. Colman, Mrs. Laura Kendrick, Mrs. P. R. Lawrence.  Mr. C. D. B. Mills read several letters to the Convention from Professor Oliver, and others.  Among the letters was one from Mrs. Miller, apologizing for having gone on the bail bond of Miss Tilton.  She had since read the pamphlet, “Cupid’s Yokes,” and found she did not approve of it in tone and temper.  On account of Mrs. Miller’s regret for having gone bail, Miss Tilton announced her determination to surrender herself on Monday.  At this juncture a gentleman offered himself as bail, but Miss Tilton declined the same, saying if she could not have a woman for bail she would accept none.  At this moment, Mrs. J. K. Ingalls offered herself as bail, and was accepted.  The audience was munificently supplied with music by the Hudson Troupe.


A profuse rain fell in the night, in consequence of which the first meeting was held in the Opera House.  Some remarks were made by the Secretary, H. L. Green.  He spoke of the proposition to publish the proceedings of the meeting, and asked that those who wished a copy would rise.  Some two hundred rose from their seats.

J. M. Peebles addressed the audience for some forty minutes.  His subject was Spiritualism.  He was followed by Elder Frederick Evans, who spoke [17] in condemnation of the rule of ecclesiasticism, the wrongs of priestcraft, the union of Church and State, etc.  He gave interesting reminiscences of the origin of the land reform movement, originated by his brother, George H. Evans, nearly half a century ago.  He denounced land monopoly and many of the connecting evils.

Elizur Wright of Boston read an able paper on the untruthful claims of Christianity.

A committee was appointed in part and elected in part on lectures and lecturers for the next year’s meeting, consisting of Horace Seaver, G. L. Henderson, J. M. Peebles, D. M. Bennett, H. L. Green, Mrs. L. K. Colman, Mrs. Amy Post, Mrs. Laura Kendrick, Mrs. Clara Neyman, and Mrs. and F. W. Titus, to which was added the name of the President, T. L. Brown, M. D.

G. L. Henderson, Chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, read the fifteen resolutions which the committee had agreed upon, and which are given in this paper.  They seemed to give satisfaction, and would doubtless have been passed unanimously by the meeting, but at the request of Mrs. Gage they were laid over till evening, when Mr. Mills, a member of the Committee, and who in common with her was not fully satisfied with all the resolutions, objected to some portions of them.

T. C. Leland, of New York, read an excellent paper on “Organization.”  It contained many important suggestions, and gave much satisfaction.  At the close of the meeting some pointed and excellent remarks were made by Horace Seaver.

In the afternoon, the weather having cleared off, the meeting was held in the Grove.  Hon. George [18] W. Julian led off with an able paper in which theology, politics, and finance were duly considered.  Prof. Toohey followed in a half-hour speech, when T. B. Wakeman gave an address of some forty minutes.

A large portrait of Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, drawn by Mr. J. H. Harter of Auburn, was presented to Mr. H. L. Green as an appreciation of his labors as Secretary of the Association, in an appropriate speech by Dr. T. L. Brown.  The picture had been subscribed for by various persons unknown to Mr. Green.  The presentation took him by surprise.  He was evidently affected, and made some very feeling remarks by way of returning thanks.  Several other short speeches were made.


The last meeting was held in the Opera House.

Mrs. Clara Neyman of New York delivered the only regular address of the meeting, after which the Hutchinson family, four in number, gave a concert of several of their unequaled songs.  They were repeatedly applauded.

After this the resolutions were taken up and warmly discussed.  With very slight exceptions, they gave full satisfaction save the third—in relation to the Comstock laws.  The debate was participated in by G. L. Henderson, C. D. B. Mills, T. B. Wakeman, T. B. Taylor, J. P. Mendum, Horace Seaver, Prof. Toohey, Mr. Cabot of Boston, Mrs. Gage, Mr. Colman, Mrs. R. S. W. Briggs, Mrs. Amy Post, Mrs. Kendrick, C. H. True, and others.  The bone of contention seemed to be the obscenity question.  Mr. Mills said the Liberals [19] were on trial, and they should take an elevated stand and discountenance everything that might possibly be construed as having any sympathy with indecency or immorality.  Mr. Cabot thought there was no more necessity for Liberals to take the trouble to announce their opposition to obscenity than to larceny, house-burning, or sheep-stealing.  Of course they are opposed to wrongs of all kinds, but it is not necessary for them to proclaim it on every occasion.  Mr. Wakeman’s clear explanation produced a unity of purpose that led to a passage of the entire series.

A late hour had arrived and the larger part of the audience had left, when Prof. Toohey called attention to the matter of raising a defense fund for meeting the necessary expenses of defending Bennett, Bell, and Miss Tilton.  Announcement was made that the following subscriptions were made:

James Parton, $25.00
Courtlandt Palmer, $25.00
T. B. Wakeman, $10.00
E. M. Sellon, $10.00
Mrs. F. W. Titus, $5.00
H. Seaver, $5.00
S. Bremmer, $2.00
Mrs. E. Wilcox, $10.00
T. S. Verity, $2.00
F. S. Cabot, $2.00
J. K. Ingalls, $25.00
T. R. Smith, $10.00
R. S. Shoemaker, $1.00
R. L. Myers, $2.00

On account of the lateness of the hour and the consequent smallness of the audience, the matter of [20] taking the names and residence of persons who were disposed to make donations was left to a committee, consisting of G. C. Hubbard, Fox Holden, T. L. Griswold, F. W. Evans, J. K. Ingalls.  The remaining portion of the audience departed at 11 ½ P. M.

Thus closed the Watkins Convention, which had been in its main features a decided success, and it is to be hoped will be productive of much good.  It has been a pleasant reunion of Liberals from all parts of the country.  A great number of excellent speeches have been listened to, and many will return to their homes greatly cheered by the opportunities enjoyed.

In the morning meeting it was decided by unanimous vote to hold the next yearly meeting again at Watkins.

It should be stated that at a meeting of the Business Committee, the Association was enlarged so as to embrace the whole State, and the officers of last year were re-elected for another year, to wit.: T. L. Brown, M. D., President; H. L. Green, and E. M. Sellon, Secretaries.

The following are the resolutions passed on the last day of the Convention:

Whereas, It is proper that some of the more important practical objects and general views of this Convention of Liberal citizens should receive formal expression, therefore,

1. Resolved, That we believe that the security of our liberty, and the progress and welfare of our country, require the thorough separation of the Church, and of all Religions, from the State; the abolition of theological chaplaincies and the use of the Bible and other theological books in the Army, Navy, Courts, and Public Schools; the taxation of all Church property; and the equality of all citizens before the law and [21] the departments of the Government; and the competency of all persons as witnesses in courts of law, without regard to religious belief or total absence of such belief.

2. Resolved, That the attempts to amend the Constitution of the United States so as to include God and the Christian or any other religion, are fundamentally opposed to the very liberty and rights of man which the Constitution was framed to secure, and to the solemn compromise of the States and of all sects and peoples by whom it was adopted; and that we look upon the efforts of theological partisans to practically reestablish the union of Church and State with the deepest concern and regret, and as fraught with imminent danger.

3. Resolved, That in this view we regard the enactment and enforcement of the Comstock Postal Laws as the work of the same influences that procured twenty-eight votes (within two of two-thirds) in the U. S. Senate in favor of the amendment to place God and the Christian religion in the Constitution; and that since these votes were Republican, and since these Comstock laws were passed by Republicans, and since he was appointed and retained as a United States official by Republican administrations, we cannot but regard him as religiously a creature of the Church, and politically of the Republican party; that, if it has not been done, we demand his immediate dismissal from office by the President; that any laws found on the Statute Books of either the General or State Governments that enable any person or persons to arrest and punish other citizens for the honest expression of their opinions on questions relating to religion, morals, or science should be at once repealed; that we recommend that all Liberals and all independent citizens should refuse to act further with the Republican party until this is done or some party assurance is given that such laws shall be repealed; that all other political issues should stand aside until the liberties of thought, speech, and the press are secured.

4. Resolved, That we make this demand for the repeal of these United States laws, and the dismissal of this Special Agent of the Postal Department, from the conviction that these laws are clearly unconstitutional, impolitic, and [22] subversive of the liberties and morals of the people; that this Agent is a bigot or fraud, and unit to be intrusted with any duty of an important public character; and that he has been guilty of gross outrages and immoral practices, the infamy of which only should preserve his name from oblivion.

5. Resolved, That in this view we regard the arrest, trial, conviction, and sentence of Ezra H. Heywood, the editor of The Word, now published at Cambridge, Mass., as an outrage upon the freedom of speech and the press, in which the Federal Judiciary, from the Trial Judge even to the Supreme Court of the United States, have come to share the responsibility; that we protest against the decisions of the U. S. Supreme Court, and the rulings of the minor courts by which these laws have been sustained and enforced; and we declare that in our convictions they are not, and that they can never be made, “law of the land.”

6. Resolved, That the arrest of Messrs. D. M. Bennett, W. S. Bell, and Miss Josephine S. Tilton while attending this Convention and on its grounds was an inhospitable act and without any just or reasonable cause; that the pamphlet complained of had only been sold to adults attending the Convention and only at its meetings, and was necessary to enable them to judge of the questions before it in regard to the Comstock Laws and Mr. Heywood’s arrest; that these arrests were prompted, as we are informed and believe, by over-zealous theological partisans, simply as a mode of harassment and persecution, and that the general circulation of the book is their work, for without these arrests very few copies would have been left in the village, if any at all.

That while this Convention has no interest in, nor responsibility for any one of the hundreds of books offered for sale by private parties at its meetings, it has no hesitation in declaring that any person under the Constitution of our State has the right to express and publish his opinions on all social and moral questions freely, and to sell such publications to adult citizens of this State; and that the State Comstock Laws, under which these arrests are made, are unconstitutional, indefinite, and partial, and should be [23] repealed or radically modified at the next session of the Legislature.

7. Resolved, That we regard the power to suppress obscenity and indecency to be one of those powers reserved in the U. S. Constitution to the People and the States, and that it should be exercised by them, not by the passage of laws surreptitiously for religious sects and partisans, but by laws passed under general consent and after public notice, and which can apply only to unequivocal and well-defined cases; that we regard the true cure for obscenity and all danger therefrom to be the care of children by their parents and guardians, and their truthful education, at the proper age, as to the nature and duties of the sexual relations; that profanity, obscenity, and debauchery are the sure results of retrograde and repressive theologies; that the Liberal cause is the cause of knowledge, liberty, and purity, which are the best guarantees of each other, and that this Convention hereby emphatically puts itself upon record as in no sense sympathizing with, but as holding in severe reprobation, those who seek, by the circulation through the mails or otherwise of literature of an obscene spirit and character, to corrupt, debauch, and inflame the public, and especially youthful minds; and it hereby declares its emphatic approval of the use of all such means as may within the legitimate scope of the Government to secure the repression both of the issue and circulation of such matter by the press.

8. Resolved, That we sympathize most heartily with the Laboring Classes in their efforts to obtain a more equitable distribution of the products of their labor, by which they should have the means and time to rise from the position of wage-serfs to that of educated, independent, and useful citizens of the Great Republic; that the union of theologians with the people’s oppressors is a natural alliance which has continued for ages, and which can be broken only when the working people resolve to become free in soul, and refuse to sustain “Religions” which keep them in the hands of those who, by legal and political forms, morally rob them of the results and benefits of their toil. [24]

9. Resolved, That we also sympathize most heartily with the efforts of Woman to obtain the right and duty of the suffrage; that we regard it as the first and most imperative duty of all Liberals, of every kind and class, to do all they can by voice and vote to remove the subjection of woman, and to advance her social, political, and material emancipation.  That to give her political power seems to us the first step towards her education and material independence by which only we believe she can worthily perform her indispensable duties to the Race.

10. Resolved, That in this view we regard with deep concern the retrograde action of the leading theological sects among us, as, for example, the action of the Episcopal Convention in Boston last year, looking to the Church control of marriage and divorce by law, the recent decision of the Presbyterian General Assembly sustaining the action of the New Jersey Synod in the condemnation of Rev. Isaac See, for admitting women to speak in his pulpit; the refusal of the Methodist Church to ordain their acknowledged effective co-worker Mrs. Van Cott; and the withdrawal by the North Carolina Diocesan Convention of the right of woman to vote upon Church questions—that we regard these and similar instances as showing the continued alliance of Theology with the oppression of woman which began when the Christian Church took away her equality and independence under the laws of the Roman Empire.

11. Resolved, That we hail with cheer and gratitude the noble stand taken by Mr. Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant of England in favor of the emancipation of the common people from theology; and particularly her efforts to advance sexual purity by bringing to bear upon the most vital and delicate of subjects the light of science; that we sympathize with her in her efforts to resist the outrage of tearing her daughter from her for theological reasons, and we join in consigning to infamy the Hebrew judge whose rulings in Christian hands would deprive Hebrew parents of the custody of their own children.

12. Resolved, That we regard as a happy omen of future success the perfect harmony with which Liberals of every [25] variety of origin and thought have met and co-operated in this Convention; that we earnestly urge upon all Liberals the duty of organization in every city, town, and village, so that a general co-operation of all for general Liberal, or, if need be, political purposes may be had; and also for the reason that it is evident that Liberalism is no longer simply negative, but also constructive, and that it has social, educational, and political duties that require every emancipated man and woman to become a member of some Liberal society.

13. Resolved, That we give our hearty thanks and encouragement to the Liberal press, and urge upon all its liberal and grateful support; that in the absence of other modes of union and communication it has been the life of the Liberal cause; and that its field of usefulness needs to be enlarged by persistent canvassing for it by every one, as an individual duty; that only by cordial contribution of material aid and moral support can we expect our editors to keep pace with the times and give the people still greater benefits from their labors.

14. Resolved, That we recommend the confederation of all Liberal societies and associations under a general League, and the holding of annual Conventions of the character of the present gathering, to the end that each may be sustained and encouraged by all.

15. Resolved, That our thanks are eminently due, and are gratefully tendered, to H. L. Green, Esq., the Secretary of the Freethinkers’ Association of Western New York, for his untiring efforts in organizing this Convention and securing its successful result.


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