Ingersoll, Robert

Ingersoll, Robert (Green)

(1833–99) lawyer, orator; born in Dresden, N.Y. This son of a Congregational minister had little formal education; he read law on his own and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1854. He commanded a volunteer cavalry regiment during the Civil War; from 1867 to 1869 he served as Illinois attorney general. He then took to the lecture circuit to promote a secular religion of scientific rationalism that Thomas H. Huxley called "agnosticism." Many of his lectures such as "Superstition" were widely reprinted. He was also active in the Republican Party and at the 1876 convention he nominated James G. Blaine as "the Plumed Knight." He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1879 and to New York City in 1885, continuing to practice law and propound his social views until his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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