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17 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file page GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. 1 RUSSELL CASE. 9 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. THE Governor of New Hampshire, undoubtedly a good and sincere man, issued a Fast-Day Proclamation to the people of his State, in which I find the following paragraph: "The decline of the Christian religion, particularly in our rural communities, is a marked feature of the times, and steps should be taken to remedy it. No matter what our belief may be in religious matters, every good citizen knows that when the restraining influences of religion are withdrawn from a community, its decay, moral, mental and financial, is swift and sure. To me this is one of the strongest evidences of the fundamental truth of Christianity. I suggest to-day, as far as possible on Fast-Day, union meetings be held, made up of all shades of belief, including all who are interested in the welfare of our State, and that in your prayers and other devotions and in your mutual councils you remember and consider the problem of the condition of religion in the rural communities. There are towns where no church bell sends forth its solemn call from January to January. There are villages where children grow to manhood unchristened. There are communities where the dead are laid away without the benison of the name of the Christ, and where marriages are solemnized only by Justices of the Peace. This is a matter worthy of your thoughtful consideration, citizens of New Hampshire. It does not augur well for the future. You can afford to devote one day in the year to your fellow-men, to work and thought and prayer for your children and your children's children." These words of the Governor have caused surprise, discussion and danger. Many ministers have denied that Christianity is declining, and have attacked the Governor with the malice of meekness and the savagery of humility. The question is: Is Christianity declining? In order to answer this question we must state what Christianity is. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. Christians tell us that there are certain fundamental truths that must be believed. We must believe in God, the creator and governor of the universe; in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son; in the Holy Ghost; in the atonement made by Christ; in salvation by faith; in the second birth; in heaven for believers, in hell for deniers and doubters, and in the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. They must also believe in a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God, in special providence, and in addition to all this they must practice a few ceremonies. This, I believe, is a fair skeleton of Christianity. Of course I cannot give an exact definition. Christians do not and never have agreed among themselves. They have been disputing and fighting for many centuries, and to-day they are as far apart as ever. A few years ago Christians believed the "fundamental truths" They had no doubts. They knew that God existed; that he made the world. They knew when he commenced to work at the earth and stars and knew when he finished. They knew that he, like a potter, mixed and molded clay into the shape of a man and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life. They knew that he took from this man a rib and framed the first woman. It must be admitted that sensible Christians have outgrown this belief. Jehovah the gardener, the potter, the tailor, has been dethroned. The story of creation is believed only by the provincial, the stupid, the truly orthodox. People who have read Darwin and Haeckel and had sense enough to understand these great men laugh at the old legends of the Jews. A few years ago most Christians believed that Christ was the son of God, and not only the son of God, but God himself. This belief is slowly fading from the minds of Christians, from the minds of those who have minds. Many Christians now say that Christ was simply a man -- a perfect man. Others say that he was divine, but not actually God -- a union of God and man. Some say that while Christ was not God, he was as nearly like God as it is possible for man to be. The old belief that he was actually God -- that he sacrificed himself unto himself -- that he deserted himself; that he bore the burden of his own wrath; that he made it possible to save a few of his children by shedding his own blood; that he could not forgive the sins of men until they murdered him -- this frightful belief is slowly dying day by day. Most ministers are ashamed to preach these cruel and idiotic absurdities. The Christ of our time is not the Christ of the New Testament -- not the Christ of the Middle Ages; -- nor of Luther, Wesley or the Puritan fathers. The Christ who was God -- who was his own son and his own father -- who was born of a virgin, cast out devils, rose from the dead, and ascended bodily to heaven -- is not the Christ of to-day. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. The Holy Ghost has never been accurately defined or described. He has always been a winged influence -- a divine aroma; a disembodied essence; a spiritual climate; an enthusiastic flame; a something sensitive and unforgiving; the real father of Jesus Christ. A few years ago the clergy had a great deal to say about the Holy Ghost, but now the average minister, while he alludes to this shadowy deity to round out a prayer, seems to have but little confidence in him. This deity is and always has been extremely vague. He has been represented in the form of a dove; but this form is not associated with much intelligence. Formerly it was believed that all men were by nature wicked, and that it would be perfectly just for God to damn the entire human race. In fact, it was thought that God, feeling that he had to damn all his children, invented a scheme by which some could be saved and at the same time justice could be satisfied. God knew that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin. For many centuries he was satisfied with the blood of oxen, lambs and doves. But the sins continued to increase. A greater sacrifice was necessary. So God concluded to make the greatest possible sacrifice -- to shed his own blood, that is to say, to have it shed by his chosen people. This was the atonement -- the scheme of salvation -- a scheme that satisfied justice and partially defeated the Devil. No intelligent Christians believe in this atonement. It is utterly unphilosophic. The idea that man made salvation possible by murdering God is infinitely absurd. This makes salvation the blossom of a crime -- the blessed fruit of murder. According to this the joys of heaven are born of the agonies of innocence. If the Jews had been civilized -- if they had believed in freedom of conscience and had listened kindly and calmly to the teachings of Christ, the whole world, including Christ's mother, would have gone to hell. Our fathers had two absurdities. They balanced each other. They said that God could justly damn his children for the sin of Adam, and that he could justly save his children on account of the sufferings and virtues of Christ; that is to say, on account of his own sufferings and virtues. This view of the atonement has mostly been abandoned. it is now preached, not that Christ bought souls with his blood, but that he has ennobled souls by his example. The supernatural part of the atonement has, by the more intelligent, been thrown away. So the idea of imputed sin -- of vicarious vice -- has been by many abandoned. Salvation by faith is growing weak. People are beginning to see that character is more important than belief; that virtue is above all creeds. Civilized people no longer believe in a God who will damn an honest, generous person. They see that it is not honest to offer a reward for belief. The promise of reward is not evidence. It is an attempt to bribe. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. If God wishes his children to believe, he should furnish evidence. He should not endeavor to make promises and threats take the place of facts. To offer a reward for credulity is dishonest and immoral -- infamous. To say that good people who never heard of Christ ought to be damned for not believing on him is a mixture of idiocy and savagery. People are beginning to perceive that happiness is a result, not a reward; that happiness must be earned; that it is not alms. it is also becoming apparent that sins cannot be forgiven; that no power can step between actions and consequences; that men must "reap what they sow;" that a man who has lived a cruel life cannot, by repenting between the last dose of medicine and the last breath, be washed in the blood of the Lamb, and become an angel -- an angel entitled to an eternity of joy. All this is absurd, but you may say that it is not cruel. But to say that a man who has lived a useful life; who has made a happy home; who has lifted the fallen, succored the oppressed and battled to uphold the right; to say that such a man, because he failed to believe without evidence, will suffer eternal pain, is to say that God is an infinite wild beast. Salvation for credulity means damnation for investigation. At one time the "second birth" was regarded as a divine mystery -- as a miracle -- a something done by a supernatural power; probably by the Holy Ghost. Now ministers are explaining this mystery. A change of heart is a change of ideas. About this there is nothing miraculous. This happens to most men and women -- happens many times in the life of one man. If their happens without excitement -- as the result of thought -- it is called reformation. If it occurs in a revival -- if it is the result of fright -- it is called the "second birth." A few years ago Christians believed in the inspiration of the Bible. They had no doubts. The Bible was the standard. If some geologist found a fact inconsistent with the Scriptures he was silenced with a text. If some doubter called attention to a contradiction in the Bible he was denounced as an ungodly and blaspheming wretch. Christians then knew that the universe was only about six thousand years old, and any man who denied this was an enemy of Christ and a friend of the Devil. All this has changed. The Bible is no longer the standard. Science has dethroned the inspired volume. Even theologians are taking facts into consideration. Only ignorant bigots now believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible. The intelligent ministers know that the Holy Scriptures are filled with mistakes, contradictions and interpolations, They no longer believe in the flood, in Babel, in Lot's wife or in the fire and brimstone storm. They are not sure about the burning bush, the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. plagues of Egypt, the division of the Red Sea or the miracles in the wilderness. All these wonders are growing foolish. They belong to the Mother Goose of the past, and many clergymen are ashamed to say that they believe them. So, the lengthening of the day in order that General Joshua might have more time to kill, the journey of Elijah to heaven, the voyage of Jonah in the fish, and many other wonders of a like kind, have become so transparently false that even a theologian refuses to believe. The same is true of many of the miracles of the New Testament. No sensible man now believes that Christ cast devils and unclean spirits out of the bodies of men and women. A few years ago all Christians believed all these devil miracles with all the mind they had. A few years ago only Infidels denied these miracles, but now the theologians who are studying the "Higher Criticism" are reaching the conclusions of Voltaire and Paine. They have just discovered that the objections made to the Bible by the Deists are supported by the facts. At the same time these "Higher Critics," while they admit that the Bible is not true, still insist that it is inspired. The other evening I attended Forepaugh & Sell's Circus at Madison Square Garden and saw a magnificent panorama of performances. While looking at a man riding a couple of horses I thought of the "Higher Critics." They accept Darwin and cling to Genesis. They admit that Genesis is false in fact, and then assert that in a higher sense it is absolutely true. A lie bursts into blossom and has the perfume of truth. These critics declare that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and then establish the truth of the declaration by showing that it is filled with contradictions, absurdities and false prophecies. The horses they ride, sometimes get so far apart that it seems to me that walking would be easier on the legs. So, I saw at the circus the "Snake Man." I saw him tie himself into all kinds of knots; saw him make a necktie of his legs; saw him throw back his head and force it between his knees; saw him twist and turn as though his bones were made of rubber, and as I watched him I thought of the mental doublings and contortions of the preachers who have answered me. Let Christians say what they will, the Bible is no longer the actual word of God; it is no longer perfect; it is no longer quite true. The most that is now claimed for the Bible by the "Higher Critics" is, that some passages are inspired; that some passages are true, and that God has left man free to pick these passages out. The ministers are preaching Infidelity. What would Lyman Beecher have thought of a man like Dr. Abbott? He would have consigned him to hell. What would John Wesley have thought of a Methodist like Dr. Cadman? He would have denounced him as a child Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. of the Devil. What would Calvin have thought of a Presbyterian like Professor Briggs? He would have burned him at the stake, and through the smoke and flame would have shouted, "You are a dog of Satan." How would Jeremy Taylor have treated an Episcopalian like Heber Newton? The Governor of New Hampshire is right when he says that Christianity has declined. The flames of faith are flickering, zeal is cooling and even bigotry is beginning to see the other side. I admit that there are still millions of orthodox Christians whose minds are incapable of growth, and who care no more for facts than a monitor does for bullets. Such obstructions on the highway of progress are removed only by death. The dogma of eternal pain is no longer believed by the reasonably intelligent. People who have a sense of justice know that eternal revenge cannot be enjoyed by infinite goodness. They know that hell would make heaven impossible. If Christians believed in hell as they once did, the fagots would be lighted again, heretics would be stretched on the rack, and all the instruments of torture would again be stained with innocent blood. Christianity has declined because intelligence has increased. Men and, women who know something of the history of man, of the horrors of plague, famine and flood, of earthquake, volcano and cyclone, of religious persecution and slavery, have but little confidence in special providence. They do not believe that a prayer was ever answered. Thousands of people who accept Christ as a moral guide have thrown away the supernatural. Christianity does not satisfy the brain and heart. It contains too many absurdities. It is unphilosophic, unnatural, impossible. Not to resist evil is moral suicide. To love your enemies is impossible. To desert wife and children for the sake of heaven is cowardly and selfish. To promise rewards for belief is dishonest. To threaten torture for honest unbelief is infamous. Christianity is declining because men and women are growing better. The Governor was not satisfied with saying that Christianity had declined, but he added this: "Every good citizen knows that when the restraining influences of religion are withdrawn from a community, its decay, moral, mental and financial is swift and sure." The restraining influences of religion have never been withdrawn from Spain or Portugal, from Austria or Italy. The "restraining influences" are still active in Russia. Emperor William relies on them in Germany, and the same influences are very busy taking care of Ireland. If these influences should be withdrawn from Spain there would be "mental, moral and financial decay." Is not this statement perfectly absurd? The fact is that religion has reduced Spain to a guitar, Italy to a hand organ and Ireland to exile. What are the restraining influences of religion? I admit that religion can prevent people Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. from eating meat on Friday, from dancing in Lent, from going to the theater on holy days and from swearing in public. In other words, religion can restrain people from committing artificial offenses. But the real question is: Can religion restrain people from committing natural crimes? The church teaches that God can and will forgive sins. Christianity sells sin on a credit. It says to men and women, "Be good; do right; but no matter how many crimes you commit you can be forgiven." How can such a religion be regarded as a restraining influence! There was a time when religion had power; when the church ruled Christendom; when popes crowned and uncrowned kings. Was there at that time moral, mental and financial growth? Did the nations. thus restrained by religion, prosper? When these restraining influences were weakened, when popes were humbled, when creeds were denied, did morality, intelligence and prosperity begin to decay? What are the restraining influences of religion? Did anybody ever hear of a policeman being dismissed because a new church had been organized? Christianity teaches that the man who does right carries a cross. The exact opposite of this is true. The cross is carried by the man who does wrong. I believe in the restraining influences of intelligence. Intelligence is the only lever capable of raising mankind. If you wish to make men moral and prosperous develop the brain. Men must be taught to rely on themselves. To supplicate the supernatural is a waste of time. The only evils that have been caused by the decline of Christianity, as pointed out by the Governor, are that in some villages they hear no solemn bells, that the dead are buried without Christian ceremony, that marriages are contracted before Justices of the Peace, and that children go unchristened. These evils are hardly serious enough to cause moral, mental and financial decay. The average church bell is not very musical -- not calculated to develop the mind or quicken the conscience. The absence of the ordinary funeral sermon does not add to the horror of death, and the failure to hear a minister say, as he stands by the grave, "One star differs in glory from another star. There is a difference between the flesh of fowl and fish. Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners," does not necessarily increase the grief of the mourners. So far as children are concerned, if they are vaccinated, it does not make much difference whether they are christened or not. Marriage is a civil contract, and God is not one of the contracting parties. It is a contract with which the church has no business to interfere. Marriage with us is regulated by law. The real marriage -- the uniting of hearts, the lighting of the sacred flame in each -- is the work of Nature, and it is the best work that nature does. The ceremony of marriage gives notice to the world that the real marriage has taken place. Ministers have no Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. real interest in marriages outside of the fees. Certainly marriages by Justices of the Peace cannot cause the mental, moral and financial decay of a State. The things pointed out by the Governor were undoubtedly produced by the decline of Christianity, but they are not evils, and they cannot possibly injure the people morally, mentally or financially. The Governor calls on the people to think, work and pray. With two-thirds of this I agree. If the people of New Hampshire will think and work without praying they will grow morally, mentally and financially. If they pray without working and thinking, they will decay. Prayer is beggary -- an effort to get something for nothing. Labor is the honest prayer. I do not think that the good and true in Christianity are declining. The good and true are more clearly perceived and more precious than ever. The supernatural, the miraculous part of Christianity is declining. The New Testament has been compelled to acknowledge the jurisdiction of reason. If Christianity continues to decline at the same rate and ratio that it has declined in this generation, in a few years all that is supernatural in the Christian religion will cease to exist. There is a conflict -- a battle between the natural and the supernatural. The natural was baffled and beaten for thousands of years. The flag of defeat was carried by the few, by the brave and wise, by the real heroes of our race. They were conquered, captured, imprisoned, tortured and burned. Others took their places. The banner was kept in the air. In spite of countless defeats the army of the natural increased. It began to gain victories. It did not torture and kill the conquered. It enlightened and blessed. It fought ignorance with science, cruelty with kindness, slavery with justice, and all vices with virtues. In this great conflict we have passed midnight. When the morning comes its rays will gild but one flag -- the flag of the natural. All over Christendom religions are declining. Only children and the intellectually undeveloped have faith -- the old faith that defies facts. Only a few years ago to be excommunicated by the pope blanched the cheeks of the bravest. Now the result would be laughter. Only a few years ago, for the sake of saving heathen souls, priests would brave all dangers and endure all hardships. I once read the diary of a priest -- one who long ago went down the Illinois River, the first white man to be borne on its waters. In this diary he wrote that he had just been paid for all that he had suffered. He had added a gem to the crown of his glory -- had saved a soul for Christ. He had baptized a papoose. That kind of faith has departed from the world. The zeal that flamed in the hearts of Calvin, Luther and Knox, is cold and dead. Where are the Wesleys and Whitfields? Where are the old evangelists, the revivalists who swayed the hearts of their hearers with words of flame? The preachers of our day have lost the Promethean fire. They have lost the tone of certainty, of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 GOVERNOR ROLLINS' FAST-DAY PROCLAMATION. authority. "Thus saith the Lord" has dwindled to "perhaps." Sermons, messages from God, promises radiant with eternal joy, threats lurid with the flames of hell -- have changed to colorless essays; to apologies and literary phrases; to inferences and peradventures. "The blood-dyed vestures of the Redeemer are not waving in triumph over the ramparts of sin and rebellion," but over the fortresses of faith float the white flags of truce. The trumpets no longer sound for battle, but for parley. The fires of hell have been extinguished, and heaven itself is only a dream. The "eternal verities" have changed to doubts. The torch of inspiration, choked with ashes, has lost its flame. There is no longer in the church "a sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind;" no "cloven tongues like as of fire;" no "wonders in the heaven above," and no "signs in the earth beneath." The miracles have faded away and the scepter is passing from superstition to science -- science, the only possible savior of mankind. END **** **** NOTE: Russell vs. Russell, before Martin P. Grey. V. C. Camden, N. J., June 21, 1899. This was Colonel Ingersoll's last appearance in public. The report of this argument has been made from the stegnographer's notes and therefore of necessity incomplete. It was delivered without notes and the proofs were not seen or corrected by the author. No decision in this case has as yet been rendered, at this date, August 1, 1900. ARGUMENT BEFORE THE VICE-CHANCELLOR IN THE RUSSELL CASE. If your honor please: I agree with Mr. Pancoast at least in one remark that he made -- I think about the only one -- that John Russell is dead. I think there is no controversy about that. But as to the other remarks made and the positions taken by him, I fail to agree. In the first place, for several hundred years the courts of England, and for more than a hundred years the courts of this country, have very jealously guarded the right of dower; and wherever a woman has by antenuptial agreement given up her right of dower, all the courts have decided -- and I know of no exception, and Mr. Pancoast has brought forward none -- that at the time she made the contract waiving her dower she must have been in the possession of all of the facts, so that she could act with absolutely full knowledge. And where a man seeks to make an agreement by virtue of which the wife, or the supposed wife, shall waive her dower, decision after decision says that he must tell the truth, and the whole truth, and that it is just as fraudulent to suppress a fact as to manufacture one. He must tell the absolute Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 THE RUSSELL CASE. truth. The relation of the parties is such, and the dower right is such, that the courts will not take the right away from the woman unless she gives it freely, and, at the time she gives it, knows all the facts bearing upon the question as to whether she should or should not release or waive her dower. Now, on that same line the courts have taken another step. They do not put upon the wife the burden of showing that the husband was guilty of fraud directly; they simply put the burden upon the wife of showing what his property was and what the consideration was in the agreement; and then the court steps forward and says that if the amount is disproportionate when you take into consideration his wealth, then the burden is immediately shifted, and the person seeking something under his will, or seeking his property, must show that when the woman signed the antenuptial agreement she had been put in possession of all the facts; that she then knew, and knew from him, what he was worth; and that if she did not and the amount in the agreement is disproportionate to his estate, the agreement is null and void. Then gentlemen who represented the heirs of the testator, or the legatees, said: "Well, it was generally known that he was a rich man; that was his reputation in the neighborhood; and she, if she had taken any pains or acted with reasonable discretion, could have ascertained the fact." The Court then took another step in advance and said that it was not her duty; she was not bound to inquire as to his wealth; and yet Mr. Pancoast talks as though the maxim of caveat emptor applies in this business -- as though it had been a bargain between two sharpers, she making what she could out of his admiration, and he cheapening her to the extent of his power, driving the best possible bargain, saying that she should have looked out for her rights; that she should have investigated and found out about his property; that she should have called in a detective to ascertain what it was, and that the courtship should have been carried on in that commercial spirit. But the law says: NO; she is not obliged to ask a question. She is not obliged to take into consideration anything that is said in the neighborhood. She relies upon one source for her information, and that is the man whom she is going to marry. And the law says he shall meet her with perfect candor, and there shall pass from his lips nothing but words of truth; and then if, being in full possession of all the truth, she makes the contract, that contract shall stand; otherwise, that it Shall not. There is no use of my quoting these decisions -- there is no decision any other way. The first question that arises is as to the condition of this contract under evidence -- this antenuptial contract. Is the amount disproportionate to his estate? If we are to try this case relying on the notions of Mr. Russell, and say that his opinion shall govern, why, it may be said that Russell imagined that he was generous, That would be astonishing, but hardly as astonishing as the fact that Mr. Pancoast thinks he is generous. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 THE RUSSELL CASE. Mr. PANCOAS: You don't know me very well. Mr. INGERSOLL: I don't think you would do so badly as that. It may be that Russell imagined that one thousand dollars in stock of some bank was a liberal provision in his will. I don't know whether he did, and I do not care whether he did or not. The question is not for Mr. Russell; it is not a question for Mr. Pancoast, and it is not a question for myself; it is for your Honor to decide. Is the amount mentioned in this antenuptial contract, taken together, if you please, with the fifteen hundred dollars in the will -- is the amount made by the addition of the two amounts -- disproportionate to this estate? There is a case here from Illinois Achilles vs. Achilles (which ought to be a strong case), in which I believe the man was worth seventeen or eighteen thousand dollars; and my recollection is that he provided an annuity of three hundred dollars for his wife, with rent free of a house; also rent free of a vacant lot for a garden. That is what he gave her -- what would be about four hundred dollars or five hundred dollars a year; and he had eighteen thousand dollars. The Supreme Court of Illinois thought that amount so disproportionate to the value of the estate that the provision was set aside. Now, in this case, five thousand dollars or six thousand dollars -- we will say five thousand anyhow -- is the amount; and there is an estate worth a quarter of a million or, to come even within their own testimony, worth two hundred thousand dollars. The first question for your Honor to decide is whether that amount is so disproportionate to his estate that -- unless the other side show that she was put in possession of all the facts -- it must be set aside. The defendants in this case have not endeavored to show that Mr. Russell ever informed the complainant what he was worth. The only evidence we have on that point is what he said with regard to his poverty -- not one word about how much he had, and as to his poverty, only indirectly. And here is the way the old man's mind worked. They were first engaged to be married. Mr. Pancoast believes, or at least he has expressed himself as though he thought, that a man of seventy-five could not be in love (I do not know what his experience is, but I hope no fate like that will overtake me), and that a woman of fifty could not feel the tender flame. I do not know enough about biology to state with accuracy how that is, but I heard a story once about a colored woman having lived to be one hundred and twenty-five, and a man interested in the question that Mr. Pancoast has raised asked this aged lady how old a woman had to be before she ceased to have thoughts about love? And the old woman said: "I don't know, honey; you will have to ask somebody older than I is." And I guess that is about the experience of the race. Mr. Russell said to this woman; "I want to make a contract with you, and I will give you fifteen thousand dollars." She said Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 THE RUSSELL CASE. that was satisfactory, and Russell -- having a little stingy blood in his veins, I guess -- said to himself, "I must have offered too much, she accepted so readily." So the next time he saw her he said, "I do not think I can make it more than ten thousand dollars." "Well," she said, "all right; ten thousand dollars will do." In the meantime he was getting a little older, and the last time he came he said he could not make it more than five thousand dollars, because his estate was so entangled that he did not know that he would be able to pay it -- that it would be a pretty difficult job to pay that amount within six months. Well, she accepted, and in order that she should accept it, he said that, in addition, he would provide well for her in his will -- that he would make a liberal provision. There is the contract. No evidence in the world that he told her what he was worth; the only evidence is that he pleaded poverty. And right at this point, I say that all the decisions I know of declare the contract void unless the defence, on their part, show that she was put in full possession of all the facts; and that the defence in this case did not do. Now, so far as this contract is concerned, on the evidence it is void, and void notwithstanding the fact that the trustees paid her five hundred dollar; and Mr. Pancoast, according to my recollection, is mistaken when he says that she demanded the balance. He offered her the balance, and she stated that she had been informed that she had some rights against the estate, and therefore refused to receive it. That is the fact about it. He sent her five hundred dollars, and wanted to send her the balance, but she would not have it. Then he asked her to take it, and showed her a receipt to be signed, in which she waived everything, and she refused to sign it. Under those circumstances I do not think it is possible for your Honor to say that she has been estopped. The next point raised by Mr. Pancoast is that the oral agreement to provide well for her in the will is void under the statute of frauds. Well, I am free to say that I do not know how it is in New Jersey, but in every other State in which I am acquainted with the law, the statute of frauds, to be operative, must always be pleaded. I do not know how it is here. That statute has not been pleaded in this case, and I never heard of it until the argument to-day. If it is to be pleaded before it can be invoked, it is too late to cite it now. But let us go on the supposition that he is right, that the antenuptial contract is void, and that the other contract to provide for her in the will is also void. Then where does that leave us? That leaves us exactly as though no contract had been made. That leaves us without any antenuptial contract, without any agreement to provide liberally for her in the will. Then what is our condition? Then the wife is entitled to her dower in the real estate; that follows as a necessity. She loses her interest in the personaity, because that is given away by the will, but if the antenuptial contract and parole agreement are both dead -- one because disproportionate to the estate and because of the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 THE RUSSELL CASE. fraud of Russell, and the other on account of the statute of frauds, then she is left with her dower in the real estate. It is impossible, it seems to me, to arrive at any other conclusion. It certainly would be inequitable to say that she had been estopped on account of what was done with the five thousand dollars in the hands of the trustees. There is another view of it. There has been, if the contracts are good, a partial performance; and that of itself would take it out of the statute of frauds, is out of the statute of frauds, and if it is out because the contract has been partially performed, the next question, and, it seems to me, the only question that arises, is, has a court of equity the right to determine what the words "You shall be well provided for," "I will provide for you liberally in my will," or "I will make a liberal provision for you in my will" -- what those words mean? According to the idea of counsel on the other side, the Court is bound to decide according to the meaning that was in the mind of Mr. Russell. But there comes in here another principle. The only way we can find the meaning in his mind is by finding the words that he used; and we are not to import his meanness into the words, if he had meanness; neither would we import his generosity, if he had generosity. We would give to those words their natural meaning, apart from the thought of the one who used them, and apart from the thought of the one who heard them, because the words are known, their meaning is known and can be ascertained by the Court. Now, the word "reasonable" is about as hard a word to define as a court was ever called upon to define, and yet courts of law and courts of equity, in hundreds and thousands of instances, have passed upon the meaning of the word "reasonable," and have not only passed upon its gleaning, but have given it from time to time definitions. A man must give reasonable care to the property of another given into his keeping. Well, what is reasonable care? Is it reasonable for him to take such care of it as he does of his own? Not if he is unreasonably careless of his own. And the law takes another step, and says you must take such care of it as is reasonable, as a reasonable man would, and the courts then go on to define what a reasonable man under the circumstances would do. Now, there is no word in the language that courts have been called upon to define that is vaguer -- where the line between dawn and dusk, between light and dawn, has to be drawn with greater care or greater intelligence -- than that word "reasonable." The word "appropriate" has been decided again and again. The word "necessary," the word "convenient," the word "suitable" -- "suitable to his or her condition in life" -- "suitable to the condition of the party" -- all these words have been given judicial meaning hundreds and thousands of times. And now we come to the word "liberal," is that a hard word to define? Everybody in the world has his notion of what liberal means. Given the circumstances and the actions of the man, and everyone Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 THE RUSSELL CASE. you meet is ready to decide whether he is liberal or illiberal. A man loses his pocketbook; five thousand dollars in it; a boy finds it, returns it to him, and he gives the boy five cents. There is not a man in the world, no matter whether he is a judge or not, who would say that was liberal -- nobody. If there was only a dollar in the pocketbook and he gave him half of it, you would say that was liberal. You would have to take the circumstances into consideration. You also take into consideration the circumstances of the man who found it. If he is a poor man you can not be liberal unless you give him more than you would give the man who did not need it. What is a liberal provision for a wife that has no means of making her own living? If the man is able, nothing less than a sufficient sum to take care of her. Suppose Mr. Vanderbilt, who is worth two or three hundred millions -- I do not know what he is worth, and I do not care, but I suppose he is worth a hundred millions -- should agree to make a liberal provision for his wife, and make it so that he gets away from the statute of frauds, and thereupon leaves her twenty-five hundred dollars. Nobody would say that was liberal. Why? Because that word is capable of a clear and reasonably exact definition. To be liberal, he would have to leave enough to live in the same style that she has been living in with him, and enough to keep her during her life. Anything less than that would be illiberal, mean, contemptible. So I might go through all the actions of men in regard to contracts, payments, divisions. We all know what liberal means, and it always means a little more than the law could compel you to do. If a man hires another and says, "I will give you five dollars a day," and the other works twenty days, and he gives him one hundred dollars; nobody says be is liberal, and nobody says he is mean. But when the man goes further and says, "You have worked well; I am very much pleased with what you have done; there is fifty dollars (or twenty-five dollars) as a present," everybody says, "Why, that is liberal, that is generous." But no man ever yet got the reputation of being generous by doing exactly what he was bound to do. He may have the reputation of being just, honest, of keeping his contracts, of being a good, fair, square man, but he never got the reputation of being generous, and he never got the reputation of being liberal, by simply doing what the law compelled him to do, or what his contract compelled him to do, or what he did in consideration of that for which he had received value. In this case Russell said, "I will make a liberal provision for you in my will." If he had made no will the law would have given her one-third of his personal property. That would not have been liberal. That would simply have been the law. That is the law, and that is what the law has said is just. Whether the law is right or not, I do not know, but that is what the law says. That is just, and no man can be liberal unless he goes just a little beyond justness -- just a little. So when he says, "I will provide for you liberally in my will," in order to comply with that agreement he has got to go somewhat beyond the law, and the law says one-third; it is impossible for him to be liberal without going a little beyond Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 THE RUSSELL CASE. one-third, and then he is only liberal to the extent that he does go beyond what the law fixes. Now, it seems to me that there is no escape from that. Neither does it seem to me that there is the slightest difficulty in your Honor fixing what is liberal -- no more difficulty than you would have in saying what is right; and we have hundreds of cases where a man has said, "If you will do so and so I will do what is right," and it has been enforced -- has been enforced thousands and thousands of times. "I will do what is right," "I will do what is just," "I will do what is liberal," "I will do what is necessary and proper" -- all these words have been judicially determined and their meaning fixed by hundreds and thousands of decisions. I do not see the slightest trouble in that. So, in this case, looking at the parole contract as bad -- and it is bad -- the woman is at the very least entitled to her dower; and the only way that she can be robbed of it is by holding that a contract is good which was made by her without any knowledge of the value of the property that he held. But every decision says that makes the contract void, and that she is not bound to make examination herself; he is bound to give her that information. The law says that when two hearts come together in that way, and there is supposed to be affection, they must be candid. He must conceal nothing. His hands must be open; not only must what he says be the truth, but he must tell it all, and she cannot be bound by any contract that she does not make in the full blaze of all the facts. She must have them all, and if he keeps back any, if he makes himself poorer than he is, he destroys the contract. If he tries to take advantage of her the law says he only takes advantage of himself. The Court is her attorney; the Court appears for her for the preservation of her dower right; and the Court will not allow a man to take advantage of any misstatement, of any suppression, of fraud, no matter whether active fraud, or a fraud that rests in non-action. The Court is her attorney and says the contract is bad, and if you try to deceive her you deceive yourself; and if you fail to put her in possession of all the facts the consideration of the contract fails and it is dead and done. If these decisions have any meaning, that is the law, and if there is a decision on the other side, I should like to hear it. I haven't found one, not one; and in all the cases where applications have been made to set aside an antenuptial contract, I have not found one where the disproportion was as great as it appears in this case. The difference is between six thousand five hundred dollars and an estate of a quarter of a million. I have not found one that had anywhere near that disproportion, and yet case after case is set aside on the disproportion of about four hundred dollars or five hundred dollars a year and the fortune of eighteen thousand dollars -- one where it is thirty thousand and she gets about five hundred dollars. I do not know of a solitary case where the deception was as great as in this. I do not say that he intentionally deceived, because I do not know, and, as Mr. Pancoast remarked, he is dead. We simply go on the facts that are shown. Now, as to the value of the property, I do not think there is any real dispute about that. Mr. Russell is one of the executors, and when he went over the real estate here on the stand he had in Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 THE RUSSELL CASE. his hand a list of all that real estate, with the values put upon it by our two witnesses; and he was asked the value, and he looked at the parcel, and he looked at the amount, and I tried it here myself, just to see if I could guess what his answer would be. I deducted in my own mind fifty per cent. sometimes, sometimes thirty per cent., sometimes forty per cent., and I hit it within five dollars in fifteen cases, just guessing by myself what he would say, because I knew that he was going by the figures without the slightest reference, in many cases, to what the property was worth. He estimated one parcel at two thousand two hundred dollars; I think it was worth about five thousand dollars. He fixed another at three thousand two hundred and fifty dollars; I think it is worth about five thousand dollars. He fixed a third at four hundred dollars; I think it is worth about six hundred dollars. When he was asked about those same parcels, without the figures he sometimes went beyond the price that our experts had fixed; sometimes he doubled his own price, and sometimes he fell below his price. I think in one or two instances he even fell below; but that at the time he had in his mind, any knowledge apart from the figures that had been made by the experts, I do not believe. The VICE CHANCELLOR: Is it of any significance? If your argument is right the disproportion is so great that it makes no difference. MR. INGERSOLL: Perhaps not. Then his co-executor was not called at all. So I take it that we can safely say that the property was worth in all two hundred thousand dollars, taking it according to their own estimate. The estimate of the man who fixed it on account of the inheritance tax, I do not think is of any weight. He did not go over it all and did not see it, I say the disproportion is so great -- they having failed to show that the knowledge was in her possession, put there by him -- that the contract must be set aside. That we insist upon. One of two things has to be done, it seems to me: Both those contracts set aside and her dower in the real estate given to her, or both contracts allowed to stand and the court to fix what is a liberal provision in the will -- and in that, for one, I see no difficulty. "Liberal" is a word as easily understood at least as the word "reasonable" -- certainly as the word "necessary," certainly as the word "convenient," certainly as the word "suitable," and in fact I might say as almost any other word except some scientific term that limits its own definition. Now, we have already said that a liberal provision could not be less than the law gives us. In that view of the case, she should have, in lieu of her dower, the five thousand dollars, and, on account of the will she should have at least whatever one-third of the personal property is worth. It seems to me that one of those two courses must be pursued. Here is an old man who wants to get a woman some twenty-five years younger than he is. just think how Mr. Pancoast's blood would throb at a woman twenty-five years younger than he. Think what visions would haunt his brain. Think of the Cupids that, with outstretched wings, would follow in the darkness of the night as he contemplated Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 THE RUSSELL CASE. his happiness. Here was a man of that age who wanted this woman, and taking into consideration his ideas of money -- a man that considered a thousand dollars a liberal provision; one worth two hundred and thirty thousand dollars or two hundred and forty thousand dollars, offering her five thousand dollars -- he wanted her badly. You can hardly think of a more wonderful thought visiting his brain than that of giving all that money for a woman nearly twenty-five years younger than himself. I want to be kind to Mr. Russell; I want to say that he was honestly in love with this woman. I want to be respectful to her by saying that the affection was reciprocated, and that on her part it was absolutely honest. But I do say that Mr. Russell withheld from her the information as to his property. Mr. Russell endeavored to drive the best bargain he could, and I say that by keeping back the facts that he was bound to make known to her, he defeated himself -- that while he did deceive her, he destroyed his contract. Now, by no way of reasoning I can think of can you arrive at any different conclusion. All matters of this kind of course, should be dealt with from a high standard, the highest standard we have, the very highest. The affection that man has for woman is, in my judgment, the holiest and the most beautiful thing in nature; the affection that woman has for man -- that affection, that something that we call love -- has done all there is of value in the world. It has civilized mankind; made all the poems, painted all the pictures, and composed all the music. Take it from the world and we shall be simply wild beasts -- far worse than wild beasts, for they have affection for each other and for their young. So I say this should be treated from the highest possible standpoint, and treating it in that way your Honor must say that a woman must act with a full knowledge of every fact that had any bearing upon the question to be decided by her; and if she was not put in possession of all of these facts, by the man who said he loved her, then the contract is void. On the other hand, if the contract is held valid, and with it the agreement to provide liberally for her in his will, then I say that there can be no liberality that does not go beyond the law. In the one case she is entitled to five thousand dollars and one-third of the personaity, and in the other case she is entitled to her dower. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom Inc. is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17


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