Short Biography

(From Council for Secular Humanism)

Ingersoll & The Law

Ingersoll’s law practice added to his fame. Starting in 1880, he defended Thomas J. Brady and Stephen W. Dorsey in the famous Star Route Trial. The Star Route affair, which concerned the misassignment of rural postal routes, was the Watergate scandal of its day. The nation watched Ingersoll deftly weave what would become the longest trial defense in American history. After months of testimony, Ingersoll secured acquittals for his clients. Cartoons of the time suggested that Star Route made Ingersoll rich. In fact, he was paid only with a New Mexico ranch of dubious utility.

In 1886, Ingersoll offered himself pro bono to defend Charles B. Reynolds, a prominent freethinker who had been arrested in Boonton, New Jersey under an archaic blasphemy law. Reynolds was convicted and Ingersoll paid the $50 fine himself. But so effectively had Ingersoll mocked the idea of blasphemy laws in a free society that few states have attempted a blasphemy prosecution since.