Personal Secretary of Fourteen Years Remembers Ingersoll
I. Newton Baker
Since the passing of this great and good, this loving and lovable man, many eloquent tributes to his memory have been written and spoken. These tributes have come from all parts of the world and from all classes and conditions of men. They have reflected through the press, the platform, the pulpit and private correspondence the general and genuine esteem and admiration in which Mr. Ingersoll was held.
Many who opposed, or seemed to oppose, his religious views, and resented, or seemed to resent, his manner of expressing them, have in their finer moods, unheated by the fires of controversy, admitted and admired the strength and sincerity of his convictions, the wonderful way in which he maintained them, and the purity and exaltation of his character and purpose. Even theological bitterness was silenced in the presence of death, or turned, as in some instances, into generous eulogium. Magnanimous foes whom he had defeated in the forum of debate, conceded the greatness and goodness of the man and acknowledged the magnitude and value of the work he did in the world.
Selected Vignettes From Ingersoll’s Personal Secretary:
His Method in Composition
Mr. Ingersoll’s method in the composition of his written and spoken words was singularly spontaneous and unmechanical. He was not a phrase-tinker or word-carpenter. His pictures flashed from his brain as finished products. They were fixed on the canvas without correcting touches of form or color, completed as created.
A Wonderful Memory
His memory, as we have noted it in his career as a lawyer, was truly a marvelous gift. Whatever once left its impress on the tablets of his sensitive brain seemed fixed there for all the future, to be retained until recalled.
His Manner of Speaking
So many thousands have seen and heard him, in so many places and on so many subjects, that it seems hardly worth while here to speak of his manner and method on the platform – only to say that as an orator he was the embodiment of natural ease and grace, poise and power.
His Versatility of Talent
Keeping abreast of the times as he did, he knew the latest theories, discoveries, and inventions, – all that was going on in the world of science and art, of men and measures. Nothing seemed to escape his notice, or to be beyond his grasp. His range of information was truly encyclopedic. It was said of him, as of another eminent publicist – I think it was of Col. Theodore Roosevelt: – “He had the greatest and most accurate knowledge on the largest number of subjects, of any man I ever knew.”
As a Conversationalist
In conversation, whether in private or social circles, he was beyond expression delightful, versatile, great. The favored guests at his fireside often found themselves dumb in his presence – struck into listening silence – so that only the one magnetic voice was heard.
Mr. Ingersoll was physically a handsome man. His form was large and well proportioned, his carriage erect and firm. His manners were unaffected, easy and natural, gracious and engaging.
A Memorable Scene – The Tribute to His Beloved Brother
The tribute paid by Mr. Ingersoll to his beloved brother Ebon was everywhere acknowledged to be the most profoundly tender and beautiful in English literature. It has become classic.
In His Office
Interruptions when he was busy in his office, did not seem to disturb or distract him. In the midst of dictation of correspondence or argument he would welcome a caller and after a chat or “interview” resume his dictation at the point of leaving it.
Most Americans are familiar with his speech nominating Mr. Blaine for the Presidency, in which he invested that brilliant statesman with the title “Plumed Knight,” a sobriquet that remained with him to the end of his career.
The lectures that perhaps most fully satisfied him were: “The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child,” “The Gods,” “The Ghosts,” “Orthodoxy,” “Some Mistakes of Moses,” “Which Way?” “Myth and Miracle,” “What Must We do to be Saved?” “The Great Infidels,” “Some Reasons Why”‘ “About the Holy Bible” and “Shakespeare,”
The late Judge Jeremiah Wilson, one of the, brightest lights of the Washington bar, said to the writer: “What most impressed me in Col. Ingersoll’s course throughout the trial and compelled my profound admiration, was not his legal learning, wide and accurate as I knew that to be, but his inimitable tact, his unerring judgment of the course to be pursued day by day, the witnesses to be examined, the weight to be given to their testimony, the points to be included and emphasized as vital and the parts to be excluded as irrelevant, incompetent and immaterial, – in short, his marvelous management of the entire case.
His Early Religious Training
They greatly err who think and say that Mr. Ingersoll as a child was not, could not have been, properly trained in religious truths and duties. He was the son of loving and praying parents. His father was a Presbyterian and Congregational minister, beloved and honored by all who knew him.
Dictating Serious Pieces While Playing Billiards
His famous Replies to Judge Black in The North American Review were dictated at the billiard table in his home, with cue in hand.