Tribute to Isaac H. Bailey
Robert Green Ingersoll
MY FRIENDS: When one whom we hold dear has reached the end of life and laid his burden down, it is but
natural for us, his
friends, to pay the tribute of respect and love; to tell his virtues, to express our sense of loss and speak
sculptured clay some word of hope.
Our friend, about whose bier we stand, was in the highest, noblest sense a man. He was not born to wealth
-- he was his own
providence, his own teacher. With him work was worship and labor was his only prayer. He depended on
himself, and was as independent as it is possible for man to be. He hated debt, and obligation was
a chain that scarred his flesh. He lived a long and useful life. In age he reaped with joy what he had sown in
youth. He did not linger "until his flame lacked oil," but with his senses keen, his mind undimmed, and with
his arms filled with gathered sheaves, in an instant, painlessly, unconsciously, he passed from happiness
and health to the realm of perfect peace. We need not mourn for him, but for ourselves, for those he loved.
He was an absolutely honest man -- a man who kept his word, who fulfilled his contracts, gave heaped and
rounded measure and discharged all obligations with the fabled chivalry of ancient knights. He was
absolutely honest, not only with others but with himself To his last moment his soul was stainless. He was
true to his ideal -- true to his thought, and what his brain Conceived his lips expressed. He refused to
pretend. He knew that to believe without evidence was impossible to the sound and sane, and that to say
you believed when you did not, was possible only to the hypocrite or coward. He did not believe in the
supernatural. He was a natural man and lived a natural life. He had no fear of fiends. He cared nothing for
the guesses of inspired savages; nothing for the threats or promises of the sainted and insane.
He enjoyed this life the good things of this world -- the clasp and smile of friendship, the exchange of
generous deeds, the
reasonable gratification of the senses -- of the wants of the body and mind. He was neither an insane
ascetic nor a fool of pleasure, but walked the golden path along the strip of verdure that lies between the
deserts of extremes.
With him to do right was not simply a duty, it was a pleasure. He had philosophy enough to know that the
quality of actions
depends upon their consequences, and that these consequences are the rewards and punishments that no
God can give, inflict, withhold or pardon.
He loved his country, he was proud of the heroic past, dissatisfied with the present, and confident of the
stood on the rock of principle. With him the wisest policy was to do right. He would not compromise with
wrong. He had no respect for political failures who became reformers and decorated fraud with the pretence
of philanthropy, or sought to gain some private end in the name of public good. He despised time-servers,
trimmers, fawners and all sorts and kinds of pretenders.
He believed in national honesty; in the preservation of public faith. He believed that the Government should
obligation -- the implied as faithfully as the expressed. And I would be unjust to his memory if I did not Say
that he believed in
honest money, in the best money in the world, in pure gold, and that he despised with all his heart financial
frauds, and regarded
fifty cents that pretended to be a dollar, as he would a thief in the uniform of a policeman, or a criminal in
the robe of a judge.
He believed in liberty, and liberty for all. He pitied the slave and hated the master; that is to say, he was an
In the dark days of the Rebellion he stood for the right. He loved Lincoln with all his heart -- loved him for
his genius, his courage and his goodness. He loved Conkling -- loved him for his independence, his
manhood, for his unwavering courage, and because he would not bow or bend -- loved him because he
accepted defeat with the pride of a victor. He loved Grant, and in the temple of his heart, over the altar, in
the highest niche, stood the great soldier.
Nature was kind to our friend. She gave him the blessed gift of humor. This filled his days with the climate
of Autumn, so that
to him even disaster had its sunny side. On account of his humor he appreciated and enjoyed the great
literature of the world. He loved Shakespeare, his clowns and heroes. He appreciated and enjoyed Dickens.
The characters of this great novelist were his acquaintances. He knew them all; some were his friends and
some he dearly loved, He had wit of the keenest and quickest. The instant the steel of his logic smote the
flint of absurdity the spark glittered. And yet, his wit was always kind. The flower went with the thorn. The
targets of his wit were not made enemies, but admirers.
He was social, and after the feast of serious conversation he loved the wine of wit -- the dessert of a good
story that blossomed
into mirth. He enjoyed games -- was delighted by the relations of chance -- the curious combinations of
accident. He had the genius of friendship. In his nature there was no suspicion. He could not be poisoned
against a friend. The arrows of slander never pierced the shield of his confidence. He demanded
demonstration. He defended a friend as he defended himself. Against all comers he stood firm, and he
never deserted the field until the friend had fled. I have known many, many friends -- have clasped the
hands of many that I loved, but in the journey of my life I have never grasped the hand of a better, truer,
more unselfish friend than he who lies before us clothed in the perfect peace of death. He loved me living
and I love him now.
In youth we front the sun; we live in light without a fear, without a thought of dusk or night. We glory in
excess. There is no
dread of loss when all is growth and gain. With reckless hands we spend and waste and chide the flying
hours for loitering by the way.
The future holds the fruit of joy; the present keeps us from the feast, and so, with hurrying feet we climb
the heights and
upward look with eager eyes. But when the sun begins to sink and shadows fall in front, and lengthen on
the path, then falls upon the heart a sense of loss, and then we hoard the shreds and crumbs and vainly
long for what was cast away. And then with miser care we save and spread thin hands before December's
half-fed flickering flames, while through the glass of time we moaning watch the few remaining grains of
sand that hasten to their end. In the gathering gloom the fires slowly die, while memory dreams of youth,
and hope sometimes mistakes the glow of ashes for the coming of another morn.
But our friend was an exception. He lived in the present; he enjoyed the sunshine of to-day. Although his
feet had touched the
limit of four-score, he had not reached the time to stop, to turn and think about the traveled road. He was
still full of life and
hope, and had the interest of youth in all the affairs of men.
He had no fear of the future -- no dread. He was ready for the end. I have often heard him repeat the
words of Epicurus: "Why
should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist
when I do?"
If there is, beyond the veil, beyond the night called death, another world to which men carry all the failures
and the triumphs
of this life; if above and over all there be a God who loves the right, an honest man has naught to fear. If
there be another world
in which sincerity is a virtue, in which fidelity is loved and courage honored, then all is well with the dear
friend whom we have
But if the grave ends all; if all that was our friend is dead, the world is better for the life he lived. Beyond
the tomb we
cannot see. We listen, but from the lips of mystery there comes no word. Darkness and silence brooding
over all. And yet, because we love we hope. Farewell! And yet again, Farewell!
And will there, sometime, be another world? We have our dream. The idea of immortality, that like a sea
has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, beating with its countless waves against the sand and rocks of
time and fate, was not born of any book or of any creed. It was born of affection. And it will continue to
ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness, as long as love kisses the lips of death.
We have our dream!Browse all articles.
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