by Robert G. Ingersoll

New York, July 26, 1888.


MY FRIENDS: A thinker of pure thoughts, a speaker of brave

words, a doer of generous deeds has reached the silent haven that

all the dead have reached, and where the voyage of every life must

end; and we, his friends, who even now are hastening after him, are

met to do the last kind acts that man may do for man — to tell his

virtues and to lay with tenderness and tears his ashes in the

sacred place of rest and peace.


Some one has said that in the open hands of death we find only

what they gave away.


Let us believe that pure thoughts, brave words and generous

deeds can never die. Let us believe that they bear fruit and add

forever to the well-being of the human race. Let us believe that a

noble, self-denying life increases the moral wealth of man, and

gives assurance that the future will be grander than the past.


In the monotony of subservience, in the multitude of blind

followers, nothing is more inspiring than a free and independent

man — one who gives and asks reasons; one who demands freedom and

gives what he demands; one who refuses to be slave or master. Such

a man was Courtlandt Palmer, to whom we pay the tribute of respect

and love.


He was an honest man — he gave the rights he claimed. This

was the foundation on which he built. To think for himself — to

give his thought to others; this was to him not only a privilege,

not only a right, but a duty.


He believed in self-preservation — in personal independence

— that is to say, in manhood.


He preserved the realm of mind from the invasion of brute

force, and protected the children of the brain from the Herod of



He investigated for himself the questions, the problems and

the mysteries of life. Majorities were nothing to him. No error

could be old enough — popular, plausible or profitable enough —

to bribe his judgment or to keep his conscience still.


He knew that, next to finding truth, the greatest joy is

honest search.


He was a believer in intellectual hospitality, in the fair

exchange of thought, in good mental manners, in the amenities of

the soul, in the chivalry of discussion.


He insisted that those who speak should hear; that those who

question should answer; that each should strive not for a victory

over others, but for the discovery of truth, and that truth when

found should be welcomed by every human soul.


He knew that truth has no fear of investigation — of being

understood. He knew that truth loves the day — that its enemies

are ignorance, prejudice, egotism, bigotry, hypocrisy, fear and

darkness, and that intelligence, candor, honesty, love and light

are its eternal friends.


He believed in the morality of the useful — that the virtues

are the friends of man — the seeds of joy.


He knew that consequences determine the quality of actions,

and “that whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.”


In the positive philosophy of Augusts Comte he found the

framework of his creed. In the conclusions of that great, sublime

and tender soul he found the rest, the serenity and the certainty

he sought.


The clouds had fallen from his life. He saw that the old

faiths were but phases in the growth of man — that out from the

darkness, up from the depths, the human race through countless ages

and in every land had struggled toward the ever-growing light.


He felt that the living are indebted to the noble dead, and

that each should pay his debt; that he should pay it by preserving

to the extent of his power the good he has, by destroying the

hurtful, by adding to the knowledge of the world, by giving better

than he had received; and that each should be the bearer of a

torch, a giver of light for all that is, for all to be.


This was the religion of duty perceived, of duty within the

reach of man, within the circumference of the known — a religion

without mystery, with experience for the foundation of belief — a

religion understood by the head and approved by the heart — a

religion that appealed to reason with a definite end in view — the

civilization and development of the human race by legitimate,

adequate and natural means — that is to say, by ascertaining the

conditions of progress and by teaching each to be noble enough to

live for all.


This is the gospel of man; this is the gospel of this world;

this is the religion of humanity; this is a philosophy that

contemplates not with scorn, but with pity, with admiration and

with love all that man has done, regarding, as it does, the past

with all its faults and virtues, its sufferings, its cruelties and

crimes, as the only road by which the perfect could be reached.


He denied the supernatural — the phantoms and the ghosts that

fill the twilight-land of fear. To him and for him there was but

one religion — the religion of pure thoughts, of noble words, of

self-denying deeds, of honest work for all the world — the

religion of Help and Hope.


Facts were the foundation of his faith; history was his

prophet; reason his guide; duty his deity; happiness the end;

intelligence the means.


He knew that man must be the providence of man.


He did not believe in Religion and Science, but in the

Religion of Science — that is to say, wisdom glorified by love,

the Savior of our race — the religion that conquers prejudice and

hatred, that drives all superstition from the mind, that ennobles,

lengthens and enriches life, that drives from every home the wolves

of want, from every heart the fiends of selfishness and fear, and

from every brain the monsters of the night.


He lived and labored for his fellow-men. He sided with the

weak and poor against the strong and rich. He welcomed light. His

face was ever toward the East.


According to his light he lived. “The world was his country —

to do good his religion.” There is no language to express a nobler

creed than this; nothing can be grander, more comprehensive, nearer

perfect. This was the creed that glorified his life and made his

death sublime.


He was afraid to do wrong, and for that reason was not afraid

to die.


He knew that the end was near. He knew that his work was done.

He stood within the twilight, within the deepening gloom, knowing

that for the last time the gold was fading from the West and that

there could not fall again within his eyes the trembling lustre of

another dawn. He knew that night had come, and yet his soul was

filled with light, for in that night the memory of his generous

deeds shone out like stars.


What can we say? What words can solve the mystery of life, the

mystery of death? What words can justly pay a tribute to the man

who lived to his ideal, who spoke his honest thought, and who was

turned aside neither by envy, nor hatred, nor contumely, nor

slander, nor scorn, nor fear? What words will do that life the

justice that we know and, feel?


A heart breaks, a man dies, a leaf falls, in the far forest,

a babe is born, and the great world sweeps on.


By the grave of man stands the angel of Silence.


No one can tell which is better — Life with its gleams and

shadows, its thrills and pangs, its ecstasy and tears, its wreaths

and thorns, its crowns, its glories and Golgothas, or Death, with

its peace, its rest, its cool and placid brow that hath within no

memory or fear of grief or pain.


Farewell, dear friend. The world is better for your life —

The world is braver for your death.


Farewell! We loved you living, and we love you now.