Ingersoll Day is an annual celebration on or around August 11th, the birthday of Robert Green Ingersoll, to celebrate the life and works of one of the most popular freethinkers in US history. Heard by more Americans than any human being before the advent of motion pictures and radio, Robert Ingersoll was the most successful orator in nineteenth century America. A leading political figure, he campaigned against slavery and for the rights of women and minorities. Known as the "Great Agnostic," he attracted huge crowds to lectures that criticized religion and promoted free-thought.
Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a lawyer, a Civil War veteran, political leader, and orator of United States during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed "The Great Agnostic".
"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds."
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "Why I Am An Agnostic"
Robert Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York. His father, John Ingersoll, was an abolitionist-leaning Congregationalist preacher, whose radical views forced his family to move frequently. For a time, Rev. John Ingersoll filled the pulpit for American revivalist Charles G. Finney while Finney was on a tour of Europe. Upon Finney's return, Rev. Ingersoll remained for a few months as co-pastor/associate pastor under Finney. The elder Ingersoll's later pastoral experiences influenced young Robert negatively, however, as The Elmira Telegram described in 1890:
Though for many years the most noted of American infidels, Colonel Ingersoll was born and reared in a devoutly Christian household. His father, John Ingersoll, was a Congregationalist minister and a man of mark in his time, a deep thinker, a logical and eloquent speaker, broad minded and generously tolerant of the views of others. The popular impression which credits Ingersoll's infidelity in the main to his father's severe orthodoxy and the austere and gloomy surroundings in which his boyhood was spent is wholly wrong. On the contrary the elder Ingersoll's liberal views were a source of constant trouble between him and his narrow-minded parishioners. They caused him to frequently change his charges, and several times made him the defendant in church trials. His ministerial career was, in fact, substantially brought to a close by a church trial which occurred while he was pastor of the Congregational Church at Madison, Ohio, and at which his third wife appeared as prosecutor. Upon this occasion he was charged with prevarication and unministerial conduct. The evidence adduced—the trial is one of the abiding traditions of the dull little town of Madison—was of the most trivial and ridiculous character, but the committee which heard it decided that though he had done "nothing inconsistent with his Christian character," he was "inconsistent with his ministerial character," and forbade him to preach in the future. Elder John went before the higher church authorities and was permitted to continue his clerical labors. However, he soon removed to Wisconsin, going from there to Illinois, where he died. The Madison trial occurred when young Robert was nine years old, and it was the unjust and bigoted treatment his father received which made him the enemy, first of Calvinism, and later of Christianity in its other forms.
In 1853, "Bob" Ingersoll taught a term of school in Metropolis, Illinois, where he let one of his students, the future Judge Angus M. L. McBane, do the "greater part of the teaching, while Latin and history occupied his own attention". At some point prior to his Metropolis position, Ingersoll had also taught school in Mount Vernon, Illinois.
While in Marion, he studied law under Judge Willis Allen and served as deputy clerk for John M. Cunningham, Williamson County's County Clerk and Circuit Clerk. In 1855, after Cunningham was named registrar for the federal land office in southeastern Illinois at Shawneetown, Illinois, Ingersoll followed him to the riverfront city along the Ohio River. After a short time there he took the deputy clerk position with John E. Hall, the county clerk and circuit clerk of Gallatin County, and also a son-in-law of John Hart Crenshaw. On November 11, 1856, Ingersoll caught Hall in his arms when the son of a political opponent assassinated his employer in their office.
When he moved to Shawneetown, he continued to read law under Judge William G. Bowman who had a large library of both law and the classics. In addition to his job as a clerk, he and his brother opened their law practice under the name "E.C. and R.G. Ingersoll". During this time they also had an office in Raleigh, Illinois, then the county seat of neighboring Saline County. As attorneys following the court circuit he often practiced alongside Cunningham's soon-to-be son-in-law, John A. Logan, the state's attorney and political ally to Hall.
As the trial of Hall's assassin dominated the scene and with his earlier mentor Cunningham having moved back to Marion following the land office's closing in 1856, and Logan's move to Benton, Illinois, after his marriage that fall, Ingersoll and his brother moved to Peoria, Illinois, where they finally settled in 1857.
Ingersoll was married, February 13, 1862, to Eva Amelia Parker (1841-1923). They had two daughters. Ingersoll was a great believer in the importance of family life.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he raised the 11th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and took command. The regiment fought in the Battle of Shiloh. Ingersoll was later captured, then released on his promise that he would not fight again, which was common practice early in the war.
After the war, he served as Illinois Attorney General. He was a prominent member of the Republican Party and, though he never held an elected position, he was nonetheless an active participant in politics. According to Robert Nisbet, Ingersoll was a "staunch conservative Republican." His speech nominating James G. Blaine for the 1876 presidential election was unsuccessful, as Rutherford B. Hayes received the Republican nomination, but the speech itself, known as the "Plumed Knight" speech, was considered a model of political oratory. (Franklin Roosevelt probably used it as a model for his "Happy Warrior" speech when nominating Alfred E. Smith for president in 1928). His radical views on religion, slavery, woman's suffrage, and other issues of the day effectively prevented him from ever pursuing or holding political offices higher than that of state attorney general. Illinois Republicans tried to pressure him into running for governor on the condition that Ingersoll conceal his agnosticism during the campaign, which he refused to do on the basis that concealing information from the public was immoral.
Ingersoll was involved in several prominent trials as an attorney, notably the Star Route trials, a major political scandal in which his clients were acquitted. He also defended a New Jersey man charged with blasphemy. Although he did not win acquittal, his vigorous defense is considered to have discredited blasphemy laws and few other prosecutions followed.
Ingersoll represented the noted con-artist, James Reavis, the 'Baron of Arizona' for a time, pronouncing his Peralta Land Grant claim airtight.
Ingersoll was most noted as an orator, the most popular of the age, when oratory was public entertainment. He spoke on every subject, from Shakespeare to Reconstruction, but his most popular subjects were agnosticism and the sanctity and refuge of the family. He committed his speeches to memory although they were sometimes more than three hours long. His audiences were said never to be restless.
Many of Ingersoll's speeches advocated freethought and humanism, and often poked fun at religious belief. For this the press often attacked him, but neither his views nor the negative press could stop his rising popularity. At the height of Ingersoll's fame, audiences would pay $1 or more to hear him speak, a giant sum for his day.
In a lecture entitled "The Great Infidels," he attacked the Christian doctrine of Hell: "All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew blossomed, and bore fruit in this one word—Hell."
Ingersoll died from congestive heart failure at the age of 65. Soon after his death, his brother-in-law, Clinton P. Farrell, collected copies of Ingersoll’s speeches for publication. The 12-volume Dresden Editions kept interest in Ingersoll's ideas alive and preserved his speeches for future generations. Ingersoll's ashes are interred in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 3, Lot 1620, Grid S-16.5).
In 2005, a popular edition of Ingersoll's work was published by Steerforth Press. Edited by the Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Tim Page, "What's God Got to Do With It: Robert Ingersoll on Free Speech, Honest Talk and the Separation of Church and State" brought Ingersoll's thinking to a new audience.
National Raspberry Bombe Day
Today's food holiday is the bombe: August 11 is National Raspberry Bombe Day, so put on your sassiest waist apron and dig out the retro dishes!
A bombe glacée or simply a bombe in English, is an ice cream dessert frozen in a spherical mould so as to resemble a cannonball, hence the name. Escoffier gives over sixty recipes for bombes in Le Guide culinaire. A recipe for "chocolate & meringue bombe" is given in Mary Berry's Complete Cook Book. The dessert appeared on restaurant menus as early as 1882.
According to this newspaper clipping, a typical bombe combines sherbet, ice cream, heavy cream, chopped nuts, candied fruit and even a spot of rum. When you layer up this little beauty in a mold and freeze it overnight, you've got a centerpiece-worthy dessert that was made for summer.
Play in the Sand Day
Play in the Sand Day is celebrated on August 11. Even adults may dig in the sand on this day! It does not matter where you play in the sand - whether on the beach, in the sand pit or on a construction site. The important thing is that "baked" cake consists of sand composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. Have fun by building sandcastles and digging holes!
One of the main attractions of a sandy beach, especially for children, is playing with the sand, as it presents more possibilities than an ordinary sandbox. Sand art is the practice of modelling sand into an artistic form, such as a sand brushing, sand sculpture, sand-painting, or sand bottles. The two basic building ingredients, sand and water, are available in abundance on a sandy beach, so most sand play takes place there, or in a sandpit.
A sand castle is a type of sand sculpture resembling a miniature building, often a castle. Sand castles are typically made by children, simply for the fun of it, but there are also sand-sculpture contests for adults that involve large, complex constructions.
Presidential Joke Day
Presidential Joke Day is celebrated on August 11th of each year.
On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan makes a joking but controversial off-the-cuff remark about bombing Russia while testing a microphone before a scheduled radio address. While warming up for the speech, Reagan said “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Although the press throng and his aides in attendance laughed at the obvious joke, the comment unnerved Democratic opposition leaders and those already fearful of the hard-line posturing Reagan had displayed toward the USSR since assuming office in 1981. Others simply dismissed his remark, which came at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as a moment of poor taste.
Reagan’s tough, anti-communist rhetoric and his policy to increase American defense spending contrasted with the Soviet policies of former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, who had tried to cultivate improved relations with Soviet Russia on friendly terms, offering cultural and technology exchanges. In retrospect, many analysts view Reagan’s get-tough policies as responsible for scaring the Russians into spending more on their military just to keep pace with American military expenditures—a fact that likely led to the collapse of the Russian economy and, by extension, the country’s communist political system.
Although Reagan, a former actor, was known for his clever way with words, the “bombing Russia” joke was considered by many to be an embarrassing political gaffe—not the first of his career. In 1969, while serving as governor of California, Reagan responded to student protesters at the University of California at Berkeley by saying “if there has to be a bloodbath then let’s get it over with.” Some of his more witty comments include a comparison between politics and prostitution and the 1980 campaign quip “a recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Even after an attempted assassination in March 1981, Reagan never lost his sense of humor. The first thing he said to his wife Nancy when she arrived at the hospital was “honey, I forgot to duck.” (This quote was originally attributed to boxer Jack Dempsey after losing a championship match to Gene Tunney in 1926.)
Although it is not known what Soviet leaders thought of Reagan’s joke, the comment did color some Americans’ opinion of Reagan, whose approval rating dropped in the aftermath of the incident, temporarily boosting the electoral hopes of Democratic presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. Reagan recovered and beat Mondale; he began his second term in 1984.