The Right Honorable Baronet has said there has been no word of recantation. The Right Honorable Baronet speaks truth. There has been no recantation, neither will there be. You have no right to ask me for any recantation. You have no right to ask me for anything. If I am legally disqualified, lay the case before the courts. When you ask me to make a statement, you are guilty of impertinence to me, of treason to the traditions of this House, and of impeachment of the liberties of the people. I beg you now, do not plunge me into a struggle I would shun. The law gives me no remedy if the House decides against me. Do not mock at the constituencies. If you place yourself above the law, you leave me no course save lawless agitation, instead of reasonable pleading. It is easy to begin such a strife, but none knows how it would end. You think I am an obnoxious man, and that I have no one on my side. If that be so, then the more reason that this House, grand in the strength of its centuries of liberty, should have now that generosity in dealing with one who tomorrow may be forced into a struggle for public opinion against it.
—Bradlaugh to the House of Commons
Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll and Charles Bradlaugh form a trinity of names inseparably linked. The memory of Paine was for many years covered beneath the garbage of prevarication. In order to find the man, we had to excavate for him. Happily, with the help of the Reverend Moncure D. Conway, we found him.
Ingersoll’s life lies open to us, and the honest, loving, and gentle nature of the man is beyond dispute. The pious pedants who tried to traduce him were self-indicted. No one now even thinks to answer them. The man who said, “In a world where death is, there is no time to hate,” needs no defense. We smile. With Bradlaugh it is the same. His biography in two volumes, by his daughter, is a very human document. The work is worthy of comparison with that most excellent book, the life of Huxley by his son.
The essence of good biography lies largely in indiscretion. This loving daughter’s tribute to her father tells things which some might say do no honor to anybody. Quite true, but these are the corroborating things which inform us that the book is truth.
Charles Bradlaugh performed for England the same service that Robert Ingersoll did for America. Both presented the minority report. Through their influence the Church was able to renounce the devil and all his works.
These men were both born in the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-three, about a month apart. In many ways they were very much alike. In physique they were heroic; both were lawyers; both were natural orators.
Bradlaugh, however, began his radical career before he was of age, while Ingersoll was nearly forty before he set aside diplomacy and ceased wooing bronchitis.
Charles Bradlaugh was the first child of a worthy clerk married to a housemaid. His father never earned more than two guineas a week. All these parents ever did for their son was to supply him with physical life, and teach him by antithesis. No trace can be found that he in any mental characteristic resembled either. Parents are evidently people who are used for a purpose by a Something.
Bradlaugh’s parents were wedded to the established order, and never doubted the literal inspiration of the Scriptures. They also believed in the divine origin of the prayer-book, a measure of credulity which, although commendable, is, I believe, not required. These parents were severe, exacting, imperious–not bad nor exactly cruel–simply “consistent.” They believed that man was a worm of the dust, and stood by the traditions. They believed in the dogma of total depravity and lived up to it.