Moral Courage

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Benjamin Ricketson Tucker

Moral Courage.

Mr. O. B. Frothingham has moral courage, independence, and candor, as well as ability. If anyone doubts our assertion, let him read the following proof of it from Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, given by a correspondent of that paper who witnessed the incident he relates:-

Boston, Jan. 4, 1874.

Editors Weekly:-I suppose it is generally known to your readers that the hall recently erected in this city in honor of Theodore Parker, and known as the "Parker Memorial Hall," was lately refused by its owners (the Parker Fraternity and individuals belonging to it) to Mrs. Woodhull for a lecture on the labor question. The same parties, who thirty years ago secured free speech, for Mr. Parker, now deny it to Mrs. Woodhull. They received to-day a fitting rebuke to their cowardly course from the lips of Rev. O. B. Frothingham, of New York, whom they had invited to preach their Sunday-morning discourse. He chose as his subject, "The Soul of Truth," and treated it under the three heads of truth-seeking, truth-speaking, and truth-living, in a very masterly manner. He spoke extemporaneously, as is his wont. Under the second head (truth-speaking) he spoke substantially as follows:

"A great preacher, perhaps the greatest in the country, once said, 'if I should be convinced of the mortality of the soul, I would shut and seal my mouth forever after.' Why should he say this? If the doctrine of immortality is false, in his opinion, why should he not say so? How does he know that a better faith would not take its place? Why should he look out for consequences? If the doctrine is true, will it fall because of his disbelief in it? If false, will it stand an hour longer because of his belief in it? Such talk betrays a lack of faith in the truth. See what it leads to. It leads to attempts to shut up and conceal the truth, to smother inquiry, to stifle investigating committees; not only this, it leads to shutting up the truth-tellers, to denying them halls, to refusing them audiences." [At this point applause broke out, followed by a loud hiss. Mr. Frothingham went on:] "I apologize to no one. Let the truth out, regardless of consequences! Consequences? On whom do the consequences fall? On the one who cries 'Fire' or on the one who kindles it? On the discoverer of evil or on the doer of it?"

Mr. Frothingham had the courage to rebuke these pseudo-Liberals to their face. It was a brave action and one which the occasion loudly called for. He spoke so eloquently and manfully that the owners of the hall must, I think, already be ashamed of their course. If they are not, they soon will be.

Benj. R. Tucker.


  • Benjamin R. Tucker, “Moral Courage,” The Boston Investigator 43, no. 38 (January 14, 1874): 6.